Throwing your kayak in your truck bed can be easier and simpler than transporting than on a roof rack or a trailer.
But even hauling kayaks in a truck can be tricky due to their length and shape.
That’s particularly true of fishing kayaks.
But there are ways to easily secure your kayaks for long and short-distance travel, and in this post, we will show you how.
Step 1: Position Kayaks in the pickup bed
Before we talk about proper kayak positioning, we must discuss straps. Ratchet straps are what you will always want to use, and you want to get them ready and in place, before you position your kayak in a truck bed.
The first thing is to find the best anchor point in your truck bed and hook your first strap into that.
Take your ratchet straps and get them hooked and ready with the ratchet sides in an open area where the kayak won’t impede you from easily tightening them. Be sure to remove or roll up your Tonneau cover if you have one as well.
This will obviously be an easy task if your truck bed is completely empty and there are no obstacles to impede you from ratcheting or for kayak placement.
You will want to determine if you will leave your tailgate open or closed when strapping in your kayak, and if you have a shorter kayak, it is probably best to leave it closed.
If you are leaving it open, your straps need to do more than just go across the top of the kayak, as road bumps and movement can cause the kayak to flex and wiggle its’ way out from under your straps.
Look for attachment points or something to either wrap the strap around or go through to ensure there is some sort of fastening to lock the kayak to the strap and your truck bed. One good spot that comes to mind would be to mind to thread your straps under any kayak handles/ grab handles on top of the kayak.
If you have a longer kayak in a truck and plan on leaving your tailgate down, be sure that the kayak is centered in the middle of the truck bed and not at an exaggerated angle. having your kayak positioned at an angle can be a safety issue for oncoming, or it could hit obstacles like trees or signs.
Step 2: Place Straps Across the Kayak
Once you have ensured your kayak is in the truck bed properly, you can start strapping it down using tie down points that are either built into your truck box or that you have attached.
It’s a great idea to have the ratchet straps (also called cam straps) alternating with ratchets on opposite sides of the kayak, but this isn’t always necessary.
With your straps across the kayak, you can start ratcheting it down but be sure not to tighten one without doing the others, you should get each ratchet strap snug and then do the final tightening.
You can get some serious leverage and tightness with a ratchet strap, and while this is good for some materials like wood, there is such a thing as too tight. Be sure you are not over-tightening your kayak and causing large amounts of flex or damaging it.
Step 3: Tie down the Straps
Once the straps are sufficiently tightened, you need to tie down the loose ends.
Ratchet straps are made with generous amounts of strap length, and you down want these blowing around when driving down the road, getting caught in things, or even worse, undoing your ratchets (it can happen.)
Many ratchet straps have a Velcro holding strap to contain your loose ends, and you will have to roll up the loose ends. You should place the Velcro attachment across the rolled end section, but in my experience, this isn’t always a reliable feature. You can roll up the loose end, wrap it with the strap itself, and then tie it off using a knot on the main strapline as well.
More Tips for Transporting Kayaks in a Pickup Bed
Many angling kayaks are longer than your average pleasure kayak and can be up to 14 feet long. These longer kayaks will likely overhang quite a bit, and leaving the tailgate down is usually your best option.
For kayaks with too much overhang and extend past the tipping point, consider purchasing a truck bed extender to set your kayak on. Not only is a truck bed extender much safer, it also is a great option for securing the kayak to your truck bed.
You likely won’t need wide ratchet straps to secure your kayak; it’s not some heavy piece of industrial equipment, so the standard 1.5″ wide strap will suffice, and they can be found at any hardware store and most chain department stores.
Be sure you have a red flag fastened to the end of the kayak that overhangs behind the truck; not only is this a great safety idea, but it’s also a regulation in most places.
Most truck boxes have some sort of tie-down points built into the box itself, these are usually Ring type attachment points on the box floor or on top of the box sides. If you don’t have suitable attachment points, you might have to buy some that you can clamp onto your truck box.
Transporting Multiple Kayaks in Pickup Bed
When transporting more than one kayak in a truck bed, you might have to get a little creative with your strapping.
The easiest way to transport two kayaks is to put them side by side, but if your truck bed isn’t wide enough to lay the kayaks in the truck bed while they lay on their bottom, you might have to tip them on their sides or lean them at an angle along the truck bed sides.
It might be possible to use the same number of tie down straps for two kayaks as you would for one kayak, along with the same few truck bed anchor points, if the kayaks are the same height or both your kayaks have handles to run the tie down straps through.
In most cases, we would not recommend stacking the kayaks in a truck bed, as they may slide or shift and it could result in the loss of the kayaks, and cause accidents.
One way to avoid this is using a rubber mat. Some truck bed liners are also better than the actual bed of your truck when it comes to preventing sliding.
It is a good idea when transporting two kayaks or more to put foam blocks or foam padding between them.
Using A Pickup Truck Bed Extender
Pickup truck bed extenders are easy to install and simple to use and are great for transporting a kayak in a truck.
Most pickup truck bed extenders can be installed in your ball hitch receiver, and you then add the pin like you would if you were attaching a removable ball hitch.
A pickup truck bed extender will likely also have attachment or anchor points for a ratchet strap so you can secure the kayak in a truck bed using the truck bed extender safely.
Be sure you use a red flag on a clamp or by attaching one to the kayak somehow when using a bed extender. A red flag is needed by law for anything that hangs out from the tailgate.
It is also worth putting a light and some reflective stickers on the end of the kayak or on the bed extender if you are driving at night with your kayak in a truck.
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Using a Truck Bed Rack to Transport Kayaks
If your kayak is just too long (say you have a short bed truck), or you don’t putting it diagonally across the truck bed or using a bed extender, there is one more option.
Truck bed racks attach to the sides of the trucks and provide two cross bars that function much like a roof rack system. You need to get a truck bed rack that can be elevated above the cabin height so that the front of the kayak can hang over the truck cab.
Securing your kayak in a truck might seem simple, and that’s because it is, but it still has to be done correctly to avoid any accidents or damage. Once you secure your kayak properly a few times, it will be a breeze to safely haul kayaks, and can be done in a matter of minutes.
One final thing to remember with kayak transportation is to use a cable lock if you are going to leave your kayaks in the truck bed in places where they might get stolen – say if you have to park your truck on the street overnight. There is nothing worse than going out for a day’s kayak fishing and finding your kayak is missing!