how to carry a kayak by yourself

How to carry a kayak by yourself | Expert Guide for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Are you going to hit the water with your kayak but are worried about how to carry it all by yourself? Don’t worry. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll walk you through the tips and tricks of how to carry a kayak by yourself.

Thinking of lugging around a seemingly heavy kayak might sound daunting, but with the proper techniques and creativity, you’ll be gliding across the water in no time.

So, let’s dive in and learn how to transport a kayak easily!

Table of Contents

Can I lift a kayak by myself?

If you’ve never kayaked before, you might be curious about how you can move and carry your kayak to the edge of the water by yourself. I was concerned about the same things because I’m a little lean with very few upper-body strength muscles.

But physical strength is typically not a barrier to kayaking. If you are concerned about moving your kayak alone, there are a few things you can do to make the process go more smoothly:

  • Pick a lightweight kayak. Look for places to paddle where you will be able to carry your kayak for a short distance.
  • Choose an inflatable kayak or a kayak that is short enough to fit in your car so you don’t have to put it on a roof rack. On the other hand, it could be feasible to store your kayak near the water’s edge (for example, in a boat hovel).

Kayaking strengthens your upper body; you will feel this after practicing lifting your kayak by yourself for a few months. However, you must not work beyond your physical constraints.

How Do You Carry a Kayak by Yourself? A Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners

First and foremost, practice carrying a kayak on your shoulder. It will be simpler if you start with the bow facing forward. Smaller kayaks are considerably simpler to lift than larger ones and can easily be mastered with some practice.

How do You Carry Kayak Step by Step guide
How do you a Carry Kayak: A Step-by-Step guide

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to carry a kayak by yourself.

Step 1:

Set your kayak down on the ground with the bow pointing in the direction you’re heading.

You will lift the kayak from the area of the cockpit closest to you, so position the boat such that the cockpit is facing you.

But if you have a sit-on-top kayak, lifting it by yourself will be difficult as it does not have a cockpit rim that can be rested on your shoulder.

Step 2:

Now, bend your knees and crouch a little while standing in a forward-lunge position. Then, hold the closed edge of the cockpit.

Step 3:

Extend your legs straight so the kayak may slide up them. Kneel a little and let the kayak rest on your thighs.               

Pro Tip: During the lift, lean back slightly to increase balance.

Step 4:

Pull it onto your shoulder and reach the cockpit’s other side.

You will lift the kayak onto your right shoulder if the bow is on your left (and onto your left shoulder if it is on your right).

At the same time, turn your body in the direction you want to go. The bow will now be facing away from you.

Pro Tip: To reduce the swaying of the kayak, brace the inside of the cockpit with your elbow.

Step 5:

You should have the rim—also known as the “coaming”—resting on your shoulder. At this point, you can move forward.

Pro Tip: Wear your personal flotation device (PFD) while carrying a kayak; the lifejacket’s shoulder strap makes the craft easier to carry.

Step 6: 

Reverse the procedure to lower the kayak to the ground.

Pro Tip: A box, bench, or can lift your kayak onto your shoulder if you find it challenging to rest it on your thighs.

The task is easy when you decide to take help from your friend. Here is how you can carry a kayak with your friend.

How two People Should Lift a Kayak

If you are a beginner and want to carry your kayak from one place to another. In that case, you should take your friend’s help. After some time when you start going out frequently, so you will eventually be a pro at lifting a kayak by yourself and enjoy paddling on your own. 

But remember, longer and heavier kayaks, such as tandems and some touring kayaks, require a two-person carry. This technique also allows you to carry a fully-laden kayak, as you don’t have to flip it on its side.

This is how two people can carry a kayak.

Step 1:

Have one person stand at the bow of the kayak and one at the stern.

Step 2:

Both people should face each other on opposite sides of the kayak, with one person standing at the front and the other at the back.

Step 3:

Locate the balance point of the kayak, which is the point where it rests evenly. Usually, this is near the center of the kayak.

Step 4:

Both people should lower themselves into a squatting position to lift with their legs.

Step 5:

They should lift the kayak off the ground using their leg muscles while keeping their backs straight and close to the kayak. Slowly tilt it towards them and position it on the car’s roof rack.

So you see, it’s pretty easy. You just need to practice, and gradually you will become perfect at lifting a kayak with your partner.

Tools for Carrying a Kayak

Well, when there is a will, there is a way. If you still want to carry your kayak alone, some sports goods manufacturers create and market products that make lifting and carrying it on your own slightly simpler.

Tools for Carrying A Kayak
Tools for Carrying A Kayak

So what are some tools for carrying your kayak? Let’s take a look

Kayak Carry Strap

A kayak carry strap is a T-shaped/portable handle we can use to carry a kayak easily.

Here’s how to use the kayak carry strap:

1. Position the strap

Place the middle of the T in front of the cockpit while the two straps hang on either side of the kayak.

2. Lift and place the kayak on your shoulder

 Lift the kayak by grasping the straps securely, then slide the straps over your shoulder and across your chest.

3. Adjust the strap

Adjust the strap so that it fits snugly across your shoulder and chest and you are not leaning too far to one side.

4. Carry the kayak

Begin to walk with the kayak resting on your shoulder and practice keeping your spine straight, to avoid fatigue.

Kayak Cart

A kayak cart is a wheeled frame, often with removable straps, that makes it easy to transport a kayak over long distances.

Here’s how to use Kayak Cart:

1. Position the kayak cart

Position the kayak cart under the kayak Slide the kayak onto the kayak cart, then lift and position it centrally.

2. Fold Down The Kayak Cart

Fold down the kayak cart and secure your kayak. Attach the straps to the kayak and the cart so that the kayak stays in place.

3. Start to move the kayak

Start to move the kayak, hold the handle, and move the kayak to your desired location, with the cartwheels doing most of the work.

3. Kayak Yoke

A kayak yoke is a padded frame that sits across your shoulders, helping to distribute the kayak’s weight evenly across your body.

Here’s how to use a kayak yoke:

1. Position the yoke on your shoulders

 Position the kayak yoke around your neck and shoulders so that both pads are resting on your shoulders.

2. Lift and balance the kayak

Lift the kayak and rest it on the yoke while holding it in place with your hands.

3. Make adjustments and check balance

Adjust the yoke position for maximum comfort and balance before walking with the kayak.

J Cradles and Stackers 

J- shaped cradles generally attach to factory roof racks, so you do not require towers. J-cradle is made to support the boat on its side. On the other hand, stackers help to stack boats on their sides against one another.

Here is how to use J-Cradles and Stackers

1. Positioning the Kayak

Stand with the kayak on the ground on its edge, with the cockpit facing out and against your shins. Bend your knees to lower your center of gravity for better stability.

2. Lifting the Kayak Onto Your Thighs

With one hand, grip the front of the cockpit, and with the other hand, grip the back of the cockpit.

Slide the kayak up onto your thighs while keeping your knees bent. This helps you gain more control over the kayak.

3. Raising the Kayak Over Your Head

Lift one knee to support the boat as you prepare to lift it. Gradually lift the kayak over your head using your hands and supporting knee.

4. Placing the Kayak on the J Cradles

Carefully place the kayak into the J cradles attached to the factory roof racks. Ensure the kayak is securely nestled in the J-shaped holders.

5. Securing the Kayak

Once the kayak is in the cradles, use appropriate tie-down straps to secure it to the roof racks. Ensure the kayak is tightly fastened to prevent movement during transportation.

6. Using Kayak Stackers

  1. For additional kayak storage, consider using kayak stackers.
  2. Stackers allow you to stack multiple kayaks on their sides against one another, maximizing roof rack space.

7. Loading Whitewater, Rec, and Touring Kayaks

J cradles are suitable for various kayaks, but stackers are commonly used for whitewater kayaks.

Stackers can also work well for recreational and touring kayaks.

8. Seeking Assistance

If you find it challenging to lift the kayak above your head, ask a friend for help during the loading process. Safety should always be a priority, so don’t hesitate to seek assistance.

How To Tie Down a Kayak

Properly securing the tie-down straps is essential to ensure your kayak remains stable and secure during transportation. Follow these steps to secure the tie-down straps correctly

Tying down a kayak is essentially a three-step process:

Step 1: Position

Position the kayak in the middle of your vehicle with the cockpit facing the front.

Step 2: Thread the Straps

Throw one end of the strap through the J cradle or stacker’s anchor point near the front of the kayak.

For stackers, thread the strap through the designated anchor points on the stacker’s arms.

Step 3: Secure the kayak

Place two tie-down straps over the kayak, one at the front and one at the back. Tightening the straps slightly will help keep them secure.

Step 4: Double-check everything

Ensure all straps are secure and the kayak is tightly in place.

Is it hard to carry a kayak by myself?

Kayaks are not very hard to transport, but it’s important to ensure you load your boat onto your car correctly to keep it safe.

Here is how you lift a kayak by yourself without any hassle.

How do you lift a Kayak by Yourself

Learning how to lift and carry a kayak by yourself is tricky, as I mentioned above, but by following these few more tips and practicing them, you can be an expert. Are you ready to be one? So the details are given below:

1. Position the kayak

Place the kayak on the ground before you, with the cockpit facing you and the bow facing up.

2. Adjust your grip

Place one hand on either side of the cockpit, with your palms on the exterior.

3. Stand up with the kayak

Move in close to the kayak, grasp the outer edge of the cockpit, and put one knee on the cockpit seat, lifting the kayak using your legs and arms simultaneously.

4. Balance the kayak

Keeping the kayak close and tied to your body, will make it easier to carry over long.

So, it was not that hard, right? Just practice, practice, and practice, and you will be pro at carrying a kayak on your own without any hassle.

How can you Lift a Kayak on a Car by yourself

Knowing how to securely stack your kayak onto the top of your vehicle can be useful for you, your kayak, and your vehicle and can assist with preventing any harm when you transport a kayak.

1. Assess Your Strength

Check your physical strength before lifting a kayak onto a car. If you have any medical or physical conditions, it is advisable to seek assistance.

2. Prepare The Kayak

Position the kayak near the car and remove any loose gear obstructing your path. Ensure that the kayak is lying flat on the ground.

3. Find A Balance Point

Locate the balance point of the kayak, which is the point where it rests evenly. Usually, this is near the center of the kayak.

4. Squat Down

Place both hands on the kayak and lower yourself into a squatting position to lift with your legs.

5. Lift The Kayak

Lift the kayak off the ground using your leg muscles while keeping your back straight and close to the kayak. Slowly tilt it towards you and place it on the car’s roof rack.

Here you go. After these steps, your kayak is on the rooftop of your car. Now kayak inside your vehicle is more convenient. Want to know how.

Carrying a kayak Inside Your Vehicle 

If you’re rowing solo, transporting your kayak inside your vehicle is much simpler.

This option’s feasibility will depend on the type of vehicle you drive; however, smaller kayaks generally fit inside most trucks, vans, and large vehicles. More compact boats are also easier to carry and maneuver on the water.

Carrying a Kayak Inside Your Vahicle
Carrying a Kayak Inside Your Vahicle

1. Open the Storage Compartment

Access the storage compartment of your vehicle, such as the trunk or rear door.

2. Lift the Bow

Grasp the bow (front) of the kayak and lift it carefully, positioning it to rest on the edge of the storage compartment.

3. Lift the Stern

Now, lift the stern (rear) of the kayak while gently pushing it forward into the vehicle. Guide the kayak to ensure it is properly aligned.

4. Adjust the Kayak

Adjust the kayak’s position inside the vehicle until it is secured and properly placed.

5. Protect the Lip

To prevent any damage to the vehicle or the kayak, consider placing a towel or a piece of old rug on the lip of the storage compartment where the kayak rests.

What are some common mistakes people make when carrying their kayaks alone?

Do not pay attention to their surroundings

One of the most common mistakes people make when carrying their kayaks alone is not paying attention to their surroundings.

Get Distracted

Many accidents happen when people get distracted or lose their balance while carrying the kayak.

Uneven weight distribution

Another mistake is not distributing the kayak’s weight evenly, which can cause damage to the kayak or strain your muscles.

Does not Take Breaks

Ensure you use proper technique when lifting and carrying the kayak, and take breaks if you need to rest.

Not Physically able to lift a kayak by themselves

Lastly, make sure you can carry the kayak’s weight before attempting to do so alone.

Final thoughts | How to carry a kayak by yourself

Whether going out on the lake or navigating through calm streams, carrying a kayak alone can be challenging.

But with these helpful tips, you can confidently transport your kayak solo and enjoy the freedom and relaxation that comes with being one with nature.

I hope these details help ease your challenges of lifting a kayak by yourself. So enjoy your kayaking adventures; there’s so much more to explore!

frequently Asked questions | how to carry a kayak by yourself

q. What’s the easy way of moving a kayak?

To move a kayak easily, use a kayak cart or dolly to roll it.

q. How to drag a kayak?

To drag a kayak, flip it over and drag it by the toggle handle or use a rope.

q. How to roll a kayak?

Rolling a kayak takes practice, but it can become easy with proper techniques and experience.

q. Can I use a kayak sling to carry my kayak?

Yes, a kayak sling can be a useful tool when carrying your kayak.
A sling is designed to wrap around the kayak and balance its weight evenly, so you can carry it with one shoulder or over your back.

q. What is a J-rack ?

A J-rack is a type of kayak roof rack that holds the kayak on its side, saving roof space for other gear.

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