How to mount/put/carry a kayak on a car roof: 6 easy steps with pictures

Kayaking is a great sport for fun and for fitness. It gives you opportunities to get on the waters and view the nature in a different angle than hikers do. While having fun, you are exercising every muscle in your upper and lower body, without putting pressure on your knees. For me, I am a nature lover and I sit in front of a computer for a long time every workday. By kayaking on waters, I relax my mind, reduce my stress, strengthen my back, and burn a lot of calories happily – isn’t that fun and healthy?! Now let me show you how I carry a kayak (Pelican Unison 136T Tandem) on a small car (Ford Focus 2013).

Here’s the final result after securing a kayak on a small car:

Kayak on a car
How to put/carry a kayak on a car (features a Pelican Unison 136T tandem kayak on a Ford Focus 2013)

What you’ll need:
1. A basic roof rack. In this case a Rhino Rack 2500 series 2 bar roof rack system (2 bars with a specific clam kit for the Ford Focus shown above). Make sure you buy the roof rack AND the clam kit. They are usually sold separately.
2. A kayak carrier. In this case a Thule 881 Top Deck Rooftop Kayak Carrier. Ratchet webbing and  ropes are included.
3. One meter (3 feet) or two (7 feet) utility cords.
4. A cutter/scissor/knife.
5. A lighter or match.

Step 1: Follow manufactures instructions to install the basic roof rack (if you don’t have a built-in one) and the kayak carrier kit.

Step 2: Open your hood and tie some utility cord (about 100 lb capacity) to some metal parts of your car (see picture below). Make a loop with your utility cord. You may want to burn the two ends of the cord with a lighter or match a little bit so that the fibers hold together nicely. Close your hood after you are done with the loop.

Kayak tying down
How to tie a kayak to the car front (hood)

Step 3: Open your trunk and tie some utility cord to the truck lock metal loop. Also form a loop with your utility cord. Make sure the utility cord do not cover the top part of the lock loop, so that your trunk can still lock properly.

Kayak tying down
How to tie down a kayak to the car rear

Step 4: Put the kayak on the carrier. Make sure it’s nice and snug on the carrier. Try to keep the center of weight of the kayak right in the middle between the two roof rack bars. This will provide maximum stability. Tie the kayak down with the ratchet tie down included in the kayak carrier kit. The center of weight is approximately at the center point of the kayak. You can try to lift the kayak from the bow (front) and the stern (rear) separately with your hand, just to feel the weight distribution.

Kayak on a car
How to secure a kayak on the car roof (Pelican Unison 136T Tandem kayak on a small car Ford Focus 2013)

Step 5: Tie the front and rear of the kayak to the loops you made in Steps 2 and 3.

Tie down a kayak to a car
Tie down a kayak to the car front (hood)
Kayak on a car
How to put/carry a kayak on a car: final result (a tandem Kayak Pelican Unison 136T on a small car Ford Focus 2013)

Step 6: Go out and have a test drive before your first trip. Check the tiedowns during your breaks in your trip.

Camping Kayaking
Camping with a kayak on a car (Waterton Lakes National Park, May 2015. Features a Coleman Crestline 8 Person Tent)
Kayak on a Car
How to carry a kayak on a car (near Waterton Lakes National Park, May 2015. Features a small car Ford Focus 2013 and a tandem kayak Pelican Unison 136T)

Hope you enjoyed reading this post!

Read more:
Cheap and effective kayak carriers:

Interested in highly portable inflatable kayaks? No kayak carriers needed! Check the products below. They are from reputable companies having great track records in making outdoor products.

A 3-Day Trip Plan to Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks

Back in 2012, I had a 3-day trip to the National Parks in Western Canada. My schedule was very tight and I wanted to visit as many places as possible, with a mixed activities of hiking, canoeing, and sightseeing. The trip was actually organized by a friend of mine in Edmonton and it was very successful. So, I decided to share some photos and the places I and my friends visited. Hope this will help you plan for your next trip 🙂

A. 1. Beauvert Lake: calm and peaceful in early mornings, almost like a mirror.
B. 2. Patricia Lake: not far from Beauvert Lake, you’ll pass by Patricia Lake before you reach Pyramid Lake.
C. 3. Pyramid Lake: the lake and the Pyramid Island is one of the most visited destination in Jasper National Park.
D. 4. Maligne Canyon: a wonderful deep canyon and a good hiking trail.
E. 5. Athabasca Falls: great water falls that you never want to miss.
F. 6. Columbia Glacier Icefields: not many glacier icefields are left in the world, be sure to check this one out. Bring a water bottle with you and try the glacier water.
G. 7. Lake Louise: a beautiful lake and very popular place for visitors.
H. 8. Takakkaw Falls: the waterfalls and the mountains make great pictures.
I. 9. Emerald Lake: a peaceful lake that is great for canoeing.
J. 10. Natural Bridge Yoho National Park: come and see the nature’s carvings.
K. 11. Moraine Lake: nice lake and nice hiking.
L. 12. Johnston Canyon Water Falls: one of the most popular and best hiking trails.
M. 13. The Fairmont Banff Springs (Castle): luxury historic resort and conference centre.
N. 14. Sulphur Mountain: great hiking trails, Banff gondola, sight viewing platforms, panorama and bird view of Banff Town, Bow River, Minnewanka Lake, and many more.

Grizzly and Black Bears in Banff and Jasper National Parks

Banff and Jasper National Parks offer great opportunities for wildlife viewing. Bear-watching offers both adults and children exiting moments in travel. This posts summarizes locations I have seen grizzly or black bears. Note that I never tried hiking to a remote area just to see bears. Actually, the bears I’ve seen are all found not far away from highways. See pictures below for more detailed information.

Further reading:

Tips for safe travel in bear country