Should I Load My Kayak Upside Down?

Kayak fishing is a fast-growing activity. However, owning and transporting a kayak may cause a few challenges. Transporting your kayak can be one of those challenges that pose the greatest frustration. So what is the best way to transport your kayak?

Always transport kayaks made from composite materials upside down to prevent the tension in the tie downs from deforming the hull and causing it to crack. Kayaks made from plastic-type materials can be transported in any orientation convenient for your vehicle or the type of carrier system you have.

The orientation in which you load your kayak on top of your car will mostly depend on your car, whether you have a roof rack or not, and the style and composition of the kayak.

Some kayaks can be safely transported in any orientation that makes sense, but other kayaks can be damaged if they are transported incorrectly.

If you’re interested in checking out some of the best gear to transport your kayak with, you can find them here on Amazon!

Should I Load My Kayak Upside Down (Hull Up)?

The best method to transport your kayak will depend on the type of kayak, the transport accessories (tie-downs or racks) on your car, and how far you need to transport the kayak.

How you carry the kayak on your car may also be influenced by transporting a single kayak or multiple kayaks.

Photo of Kayak on Vehicle

Let’s take a look at the types of kayak first to see how best to transport them to minimize the stress placed on the kayak and prevent any possible damage.

There are a few types of materials that most modern kayaks are made from, and each one has different characteristics that will determine the best method for transporting the kayak.

How To Transport a Plastic Kayak

Kayaks made from any form of plastic – or that are rotomolded or made from a rigid foam material – are very sturdy. 

These types of materials will handle the tension placed on them by securing ropes or tie downs without deforming or cracking and causing damage to the kayak structure. 

Kayaks made from these materials kayaks can be transported right side up or upside down or on their sides to fit multiple kayaks on the roof of the car

When transporting a sit-in kayak, it would be advisable to invest in a cockpit cover to seal the opening in the kayak to prevent rain from getting in and improve the aerodynamics of the kayak on the vehicle’s roof.

In addition, a cockpit cover will stop the wind from entering the kayak and trying to push it off the roof rack.

How To Transport a Composite Kayak

Kayaks made from composite materials are usually very lightweight kayaks that are most often used for racing rather than any other recreational activity.

The composite material is light and provides little resistance to the water, which increases the speed with which the kayak can move through the water.

This composite material is strong, but it is thin and rigid and not intended to flex. Therefore, when you tie this type of kayak hull down onto the roof rack of your car, you may tighten the securing straps too far.

This will cause a composite hull to flex against the roof rack, and because the material is not made to flex, it will develop cracks in the hull.

These cracks can be extensive enough to result in water leaking into the kayak when it is on the water and reduce the streamlined profile of the hull and limit the speed with which the kayak can move through the water.

Composite kayaks should always be transported upside down or hull up to prevent the tension of the tie downs from causing damage.

Specialized roof racks can be used to transport these types of kayaks in the upright orientation if needed. The Lifetime Warranty TMS® 2 Pairs J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier is probably one of the most popular and easy on the wallet too!

Lifetime Warranty TMS J-Bar HD Kayak Carrier

Tips For Hauling Your Kayak

We have some simple guidelines that will give you some tips on how to safely transport your kayak on your car, but before we get to those ideas, there are some basic tiedown rules you should consider as well.

If you only have a single kayak to transport, tie it down in the middle of the roof rack, not to one side. This will improve the overall aerodynamics, helping with fuel consumption and the effect of winds on the car and kayak.

Tie the kayak to the roof rack and also tie down the nose and the stern. Tying the nose and stern will help to keep the kayak secure from winds trying to lift the nose or the stern of the craft.

If you are transporting a single kayak, it is best to load it with the nose of the kayak pointing to the front of the car. This makes the load on top of the roof aerodynamic and limits the drag from wind resistance. If you have multiple kayaks to transport, it is best to load them with the nose forward, but you can top-and-tail them if necessary.

The following are ways that you can transport your kayak safely.

  • Roof rack. A horizontal bar-style roof rack is the best and most common way of transporting kayaks on the roof of a car. In addition, accessories such as saddles and cradles will hold the shape of the kayak better on the flat bar of the roof rack. These roof rack mountings are great if you need to drive long distances or at highway speeds. 
  • Foam block racks. These come in styles to fit on a flat bar roof rack and fit flush on the roof of a car. They are only suitable for transporting your kayak for short distances at slow speeds and low winds.
  • No roof racks. In this instance, you can use the foam block racks directly on the roof of your car. However, you will need to find a way to tie the kayak down through the car’s windows and tie down the nose and stern. This method is not safe and not recommended for long distances or high speeds. Never tie the kayak directly to the roof of your car without foam blocks; it could damage your vehicle or the kayak, and the kayak will not be secure.
  • Travel speed. You should always limit your travel speed when you have a kayak on the roof. The kayak will affect how the car handles, and strong winds and high speeds could be problematic. As a result, it is best to limit your maximum speed to around 60 to 70 mph on the highway.
  • Bad weather. Bad weather, such as storms with strong winds and rain, can be problematic if you are not transporting your kayak correctly.
  • Fuel consumption. A kayak or two strapped on your car’s roof will undoubtedly affect your vehicle’s fuel consumption negatively. However, if you travel at slightly slower speeds, the effect of the additional fuel consumption can be reduced quite significantly.

Don’t miss these two articles of mine for more ways to transport your kayaks!

Final Thoughts

To sum up, if you have a kayak made from composite material, you should always transport it upside down, hull up, on your car’s roof rack unless you have specialized roof racks that will protect the fragile hull of the composite kayak.

If your kayak is made from any other material such as plastics or rigid foam, you can transport your kayak in any orientation on the roof of your car that makes sense for the type of transportation gear and accessories that you have on your car.

Remember to always tie down the nose and stern of the kayak, strap it to the roof rack, and always drive at a reduced speed to minimize the effect of the wind and improve fuel efficiency!

Have fun and stay safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing. When he has spare time, he'll be found at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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