How To Strap Two Kayaks To A Roof Rack (It’s Easier Than It Seems)

Unless you’re absolutely new to kayaking, the chances are that you’ve transported a kayak on your car’s roof at least once. 

But what if you throw in a second kayak into the equation? 

Most roof racks can accommodate two full-sized kayaks, so that shouldn’t be a problem – but it’s going to take some practice until you get the hang of it. 

That’s where this guide comes in: 

I’ve laid out the ground rules and put together step-by-step instructions on how to strap two kayaks to a roof rack for you!  

Follow these and you will soon be the king or queen of carrying kayaks – all hail the royal of kayak haul. 

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Things You’ll Need To Strap Two Kayaks To A Roof Rack 

ar with two canoes on top roof in green norwegian mountains.

When it comes to what you need to transport a kayak, you can’t expect to do a good job of strapping two kayaks to a roof rack if you don’t have the right equipment at hand. 

On that note, here’s what you’ll need: 

  • Roof Rack – You’ll need a roof rack – be it a factory-installed or an aftermarket one – with two side rails and a set of railings, known as crossbars, running between them. There are many specialist dual kayak roof racks available on the market, which will come with everything you will need for transporting kayaks on your car roof.
  • Roof Rack Accessories – The roof rack is the foundation, but the accessories make the whole process easier. Two J-Hooks for kayaks racks or, better yet, a stacker, can come in handy when you want to strap two kayaks to a car roof rack. 
  • Two Sets Of StrapsRatchet straps will act as the tie-down mechanism for the kayaks. You want them to have a few feet of extra length; if possible, get a few differently-sized sets. 

Rope will do, too, but only if you know how to tie a trucker’s hitch

Also, while having someone to help with loading the kayaks on your car’s roof isn’t necessary – depending on how heavy the kayaks are, anyway – it’s more than welcome. 

If your car can’t accommodate a roof rack, or you need a kayak rack for a car without rails, don’t panic, we have still got you covered.  Just check out our guide on how to transport a kayak without a roof rack.

Additional Considerations & Things To Check Before Strapping Kayaks On A Roof Rack

Two yellow kayaks strapped to a car roof rack

While you’re at it, consider the following before you get started: 

  • The Law & “Rules Of The Road” – Always check what the local laws have to say regarding overhang, unsecured loads, and general kayak transportation safety. It’s illegal to drop things from a moving vehicle, you know? 
  • Available Space On The Roof Rack – How much you can fit is determined by the distance between the side rails and the crossbar spread, or distance between the front and rear crossbars. You’ll need a minimum crossbar spread of 24 inches for kayak transportation. 
  • Your Car’s Capacity – Every vehicle, be it an SUV, a sedan, or coupe, has a rooftop weight limit – and it’s nowhere near as much as you’d expect. Most can only carry around 165 pounds on average, counting the weight of the roof rack itself.
  • Roof Rack’s Capacity – Roof racks can fit large and unwieldy stuff that couldn’t possibly go inside your car, but the car’s maximum roof load is still a limit. Even if your roof rack system has a 200-pound capacity, you can’t load more than what the roof can handle. 

How To Strap Two Kayaks To A Roof Rack: Step-By-Step Instructions 

Green Kayak Transportation on the Car Roof Rack.

Okay, let’s get down to business! 

Step #1: Place Two Sets Of Tie-Down Straps On The Roof Rack

You’d assume that the first step is loading the kayaks on the roof rack, but it’s easier to set up the straps first with two kayaks. 

So, grab two straps;

Thread one under the front crossbar and the other under the rear crossbar – aim to have them sitting in the middle – and go from there. The front crossbar set of straps should rest against the middle of the windshield, with the rear ones handing down the middle of the rear window.

Step #2: Loading The First Kayak On The Roof Rack

You’ll have to do this one kayak at a time – so, pick up the first kayak and lift it onto one side of your roof rack

Place it as far off to one side – be it driver’s or passenger’s – as possible to leave room for the second kayak. Try a few different positions and do some readjusting until you get it right. 

Step #3: Strap Down Kayak No. 1 

Once you’ve figured out the best position for the first kayak, throw the front and rear tie-down straps around it and secure them – but leave them relatively loose. 

You don’t want to over-tighten the straps yet, as you might need to make additional adjustments to the first one once the second kayak is up there on the car roof rack.. 

Step #4: Loading The Second Kayak On The Roof Rack

Load up your second kayak and push it against the first one

If there’s enough space up there for both kayaks, leave a gap between them. It’s better than having them rub against each other. If not, readjust the first kayak to make room. 

Either way, they should sit side by side in the center of the roof rack. 

Step #5: Strap Down Kayak No. 2

Once the second kayak is in position, follow the same steps to secure it

Throw the second set of front and rear straps over the kayak and secure the buckles. But this time around, you can tighten them all the way to ensure that the second kayak is adequately secured to the roof rack. 

The last thing you want is the kayak flying off the roof as you’re going down the highway. 

Step #6: Go Back To Kayak No. 1 & Tighten The Straps 

Go back to where you started and ensure that the other kayak’s positioning on the roof rack is still good. If not, make the necessary adjustments – even if it means loosening the two straps on the first kayak and resetting them both. 

Once you’ve checked everything, you can tighten the tie-down straps on the first kayak for a secure fit. 

Step #7: Double-Check Everything & Wrap The Loose Ends

Always take a moment to go over everything and double-check if both kayaks are correctly strapped down and secured. Both sets of tie-down straps should be tight and secure enough to prevent the kayaks from moving around on the roof rack. 

Also, remember to wrap up the loose ends of the straps around the crossbars. You don’t want them flapping in the wind. 

Two Common Mistakes To Avoid When Strapping Two Kayaks To A Roof Rack

convoy of three cars carrying kayaks on their roofs

When you know what the two most common mistakes are, it’s much easier to avoid them, right? 

  • Mistake #1 – Loading both kayaks onto the roof rack first and then setting the tie-down straps up makes things more complicated than they should be. Get the straps into place and tie the kayaks one by one, instead. 
  • Mistake #2 – Trying to tie two kayaks down using a single set of straps can result in the kayaks shifting – or flat-out slipping out of the straps – during transportation. You can end up with damaged kayaks or, worst-case scenario, endanger others on the road.

It’s crazy how many paddlers continue to make these same mistakes when strapping two kayaks on the roof rack. So, if anything, I hope you break the cycle. 

Wrapping Things Up 

Now that we’ve gone over how to strap two kayaks to a roof rack together, it doesn’t seem as complicated as you assumed it would be, huh? 

The trick is mostly to find the right position for your kayaks and arranging them securely. But other than that, you still have to follow a lot of the same rules and procedures as with tying one kayak on your car’s roof – although in a slightly different order. 

With that said, feel free to revisit the steps as often as you need: 

It might take a few practice runs to get the hang of it – but once you do, getting your kayaks to the water will be a piece of cake!