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How to Transport a Canoe or Kayak

There is nothing like hitting the water with a kayak or canoe during the warm months of spring and summer. Lakes, rivers, and oceans are all great places to explore by small boat or vessel. That said, transporting a canoe or kayak can be challenging if you do not have the right equipment or know-how. Luckily, this kayak and canoe transport guide will teach you the various ways to properly ship one with ease.

How to Transport a Canoe or Kayak

Depending on the type of kayak or canoe you own, there are many ways to transport it. You can use a roof rack, load it into the back of a truck, stuff it into a van, or hire a moving company like uShip. In this guide, we will go over how to transport a canoe or kayak with a roof rack, without a roof rack, in a truck bed, and with uShip.

How to Transport a Canoe or Kayak on a Roof Rack

The most popular way to transport a canoe or kayak is with a roof rack. Roof racks are nice because they offer a safe and secure way to transport any small vessel. They are readily available for many types of cars, trucks, and vans. On the other hand, roof racks can get expensive. It would be much more cost effective to hire a transport company for a one-time move.

That said, to transport a canoe or kayak on a roof rack you will need the following materials:

  • A roof rack and kayak/canoe kit: If your vehicle does not have a roof rack, you will need to first purchase and install one. You will also need to purchase a canoe or kayak roof rack kit. These kits come in various formats – foam pads, clamps, crossbars, loops, hoops, and more. It is important to choose a kit that best works for your vehicle and roof rack.
  • Tools: If you are installing a new roof rack you will need to gather the appropriate tools to do so. Refer to your user manual for precise tool and material requirements.
  • Straps: Use cam straps if you can as they do not require tying any special knots. Alternatively, you may use strong rope in place of cam straps.
  • Lifting partner: Rounding up a partner is a good idea to assist with lifting and carrying the canoe or kayak.

After gathering the proper materials, follow these simple steps:

  1. Install roof rack: If you already have a roof rack installed, you may skip this step. Otherwise, refer to your roof rack user manual for complete installation steps. It also may be necessary to seek professional installation.
  2. Install canoe shipping kit: There are different approaches to installing a canoe or kayak kit on your roof rack depending on the type you purchase. Refer to your specific kit’s installation instructions to proceed.
  3. Lift the canoe and place it on the roof of your car: With your partner’s help, lift the canoe or kayak by its carry handles and gently place it on top of your car making sure that the body is lining up with the shipping kit’s specifications. For example, if you have a foam block kit, ensure that the bow and stern line up and sit snugly within the V or J shape cut out.
  4. Tie down: Center the canoe or kayak and begin to tie it down using cam straps or rope. Rest the buckle of the cam strap on one side of the boat so that it hangs right above the bar of the roof rack. Toss the other end over the vessel, walk over to the other side, and loop it under the rack’s bar. Then, toss the strap back over the boat, loop it under the bar, and secure it with the cam buckle. Repeat this for both the front and back of your canoe or kayak. Do the same for ropes, but use secure knots.
  5. Secure the bow and stern: Use rope to secure the bow and stern of the canoe or kayak to your vehicle. This is highly recommended if you will be traveling at high speeds down a freeway. For the bow, loop the rope under your front bumper, through the front of the boat, and tie off. Repeat this process for the stern.

As always, refer to your specific roof rack owner’s manual for precise setup and loading instructions. Fasten and secure all straps, ropes, and tie-downs before heading to your destination. If you are planning to transport your canoe or kayak long distance, be sure to stop often to check on it.

How to Transport Canoe or Kayak without a Roof Rack

We do not recommend transporting a canoe or kayak in a car without a rack. As an alternative to a rack, you can purchase or rent a special trailer meant to haul one or many vessels at a time. This is obviously the most expensive option, however, it’s the most convenient for those with multiple canoes and kayaks, or those who boat often.

Transporting a canoe or kayak without a roof rack is mostly unsafe and not recommended. That said, if you have a truck you may be in luck. Use your best judgement before proceeding with shipping a canoe or kayak without a roof rack.

How to Ship a Canoe Across the Country

The best way to ship a canoe or kayak across the country is to use a company like uShip. It is likely that cross country moves will involve high-speeds, unpredictable weather conditions, and other hazards. To keep both you and your vessel safe, hiring a professional transporter for cross country moves is a good call.

Kayak and Canoe Shipping Costs

The cost to transport a canoe or kayak depends on many factors such as:

  • Distance: The further the kayak or canoe travels, the higher the price.
  • Service Type: Certain service types, such as open or closed transport, will affect the price.
  • Gas Prices: Current gas prices are a huge factor when it comes to shipping a canoe or kayak.
  • Size of Shipment: The amount of space your shipment takes up in a trailer determines the price you will pay for shipping.
  • Pickup and Delivery Locations: If your pickup or delivery location is difficult for a service provider to access you expect higher shipping rates.
  • Additional Services: If your kayak or canoe shipment requires additional shipping services, such as storage or inside delivery, shipping rates will be more expensive.

For a better look at what it might cost to ship your kayak or canoe, see our cost to ship a kayak index.

Shipping a Kayak or Canoe with uShip

Whether you are shipping a kayak or canoe locally, out of state, or across the country, uShip’s online shipping marketplace makes it easy. Simply create a listing to start receiving multiple competitive quotes from many transportation companies in your area.

With uShip, you have the freedom to pick and choose the perfect carrier. Each carrier has their own unique uShip profile which contains information about their equipment, service types, photos, and reviews from past shipments. The best part is that it’s 100% free to get a quote and there is no obligation to book. If you have any questions about  canoe or kayak transport, please contact us.