When I was shopping for my first truck in 2013, the first thing I asked the sales associate was: How many kayaks fit in a truck bed?
Answer: two or three kayaks (sometimes even four) depending on the size of the pickup.
Do you want to learn how to transport kayaks on a truck bed properly?
If you own a pickup, knowing how to position a kayak and tie it down is invaluable.
There are many ways to move your boat to the water, though, and whether you’re looking to load your kayak onto a roof rack, invest in a truck bed extender, or even use a kayak trailer, the fundamental question remains: How many kayaks can I fit?
Below we delve deep into this topic, giving insights on everything from the best ways to transport a kayak to protecting your prized possessions from highway debris.
Table of Contents
Understanding Kayak Transportation
Over the years, I’ve experimented with various ways to transport kayaks. There are only a few ways to do it.
Kayak rack: a standard roof rack can hold one or two kayaks comfortably.
Kayak in the truck: in a smaller truck, two kayaks in a truck bed might be the maximum, while larger trucks might haul two to three kayaks.
Kayak trailer: for people who regularly transport multiple kayaks, investing in a kayak trailer might be the ideal solution. These trailers can carry from two to even four boats depending on their design.
(For more information, see our article “How to Transport a Kayak: A Guide for Hassle-Free Travel.”)
No matter which method you choose, securing your kayak properly is paramount. We’ve witnessed instances where improperly secured kayaks have caused accidents, damaging the kayaks or even colliding with vehicles.
Always use tie-downs so your boats don’t slide around.
How to Load Your Kayak or Multiple Kayaks on a Truck Bed Safely
First, open your truck bed with the tailgate down. The easiest method to load your kayak is to place one end of the boat onto the tailgate, then slide the kayak smoothly into the bed.
When trying to fit two or three kayaks in a truck bed, strategy matters. To haul two kayaks, place them side by side.
If you’re dealing with more than two, it might be advantageous to stack them. Always be mindful of the size of the kayaks and the truck bed’s dimensions.
Securing your kayaks is, without a doubt, the most vital step in the process. After all, you wouldn’t want the kayaks to become airborne missiles on the highway.
First, place your kayak on foam blocks (if you have them)–these will help a lot to keep your boat in place.
Place a bed liner down or bed protection if you want to protect the bed from scratches.
Consider using a boat cover to protect your kayak from debris.
Use tie-down straps on the bow and stern and attach them to anchor points in the corners of your truck bed. I prefer ratchet straps, but any well-made kayak straps will do.
These straps should be fastened tightly so that the kayaks don’t shift during transport. But don’t overdo it–straps that are too tight can damage your kayaks, especially during longer journeys.
Afterward you can opt to lock the kayak if you’ll be leaving it in the truck using a cable and a padlock, and you should strongly consider placing a flag on your truck to warn other drivers about the kayak in the back.
Roof Racks vs. Truck Beds: Two Great Ways to Transport a Kayak
Among my friends, the debate between using roof racks or truck beds has persisted for many years. Both have their advantages. Which is the better option?
Capacity and Setup
The number of kayaks you can fit on a roof rack varies, but most racks accommodate one to two kayaks comfortably, while a truck beds provides a ground-level advantage and more storage.
Roof racks are cheap and effective, but more difficult to use.
A truck bed is shorter, making it easier to load your kayak. Boats in a truck bed also benefit from the bed’s sidewalls, which offering additional protection.
But here’s the main thing: using a truck bed is much easier and will save you a lot of time.
With roof racks, you have the added challenge of lifting the kayak onto your car’s roof, which can be strenuous and annoying, especially for longer kayaks (and especially if you’re alone). It’s harder to tie them down and harder to keep them secure due to how exposed they are while you’re on the road.
On the other hand, truck owners have to be cautious about the kayaks protruding from the back of the truck, especially if the truck bed with the tailgate open doesn’t fully accommodate the length of your kayaks. There’s also the potential risk of damage if the kayaks aren’t adequately secured.
If you’re curious about pickup truck aerodynamics, check out this excellent article from Grand Valley State University.
Maximizing Transport Capacity: Tools and Techniques
Transporting multiple kayaks isn’t just about piling them into your truck. It’s an art that sometimes requires a special tools and techniques–but once you’ve figured out how to do it, you can transport kayaks safely without damaging your boat or vehicle.
Bed Extenders: A Kayaker’s Best Friend
The pickup truck bed extender is a godsend, especially when looking to fit two or three kayaks. This simple attachment protrudes from the back of your truck bed, offering additional space to load longer kayaks.
It’s particularly useful for those who don’t want the kayaks hanging precariously off the back of the truck.
Advanced Techniques and Modifications
Some enthusiasts go the extra mile, investing in truck modifications to increase their transport capacity. Adjustments range from specialized roof racks to integrated bed storage solutions.
How to Transport Multiple Kayaks in a Truck Bed
The bed of your truck can be the MVP when it comes to kayak transport. For instance, longer kayaks can be slid into the truck bed, with the tailgate down, extending from the bed of the truck.
The back of the truck provides a secure platform, and using tie-downs will make it so that the kayak remains stable throughout the journey.
Going the Extra Mile with 4 Kayaks
For those looking to transport 4 kayaks, using your truck efficiently becomes even more crucial. For many truck owners, combining the use of a roof rack and the bed offers a versatile solution. You can load two kayaks on the roof and another two in the truck bed with the tailgate down, ensuring they’re well-secured with appropriate tie-downs.
Protecting the Lengthy Load
Longer kayaks present their own set of challenges. But I remember a trip where my group and I had to get creative.
We used both the kayak roof rack for the smaller ones and truck bed extenders for the lengthier ones so that they didn’t stick out dangerously.
Harnessing the Power of a Truck Bed Extender
Investing a truck bed extender can make all the difference. These tools not only increase the number of kayaks you can transport but also make the process of loading and unloading significantly easier.
Pickup Considerations (Truck Bed Extender and Tie-Down Techniques)
The size of your truck is an important consideration–if you’re looking to kayak a lot with several boats, get a large truck if you can afford it! The spacious bed in larger trucks offers more room for placement, whereas a smaller truck might require you to invest in a truck bed extender.
The Bed of Your Truck: A Safe Harbor
Stowing a kayak in your truck bed is a common approach. Make sure it’s not just thrown in there. Angle the kayak diagonally if necessary, and always use the corners of your truck bed as anchor points. These corners often provide solid tie-down spots and guarantee your kayak won’t shift during transport.
Tie-Down Techniques for Maximum Security
To secure a kayak effectively, it’s not just about the number of tie-downs, but how you use them. Cross-tie the kayaks together for added stability, especially when carrying multiple boats.
I had to slam on my breaks with three kayaks in my truck bed recently, and none of the boats moved at all thanks to the secure tie-down techniques I had employed. These small measures make a big difference.
Mindful Loading and Unloading
This might sound basic, but the process of loading and unloading your kayak can impact its longevity. Avoid dragging the kayak onto the bed truck or the roof, as this might damage the kayaks or the vehicle.
It’s always a good practice to lift and slide the kayak carefully–I’ve seen a quick load or unload result in unnecessary dents and scratches. Don’t rush; prioritize safety.
How to Put Kayaks In Truck Bed: An Overview
Researching and comprehending the ways to transport a kayak can be daunting for some people. Trucks, cars, and SUVs come with their unique strengths and weaknesses.
You might easily fit more kayaks in a spacious pickup truck bed than a sedan, and you might have even more success with a kayak trailer. The question most beginners ask is: Where should I begin?
Truck Beds: Not Just for Tools
Pickup trucks, with their roomy beds, are an obvious choice for kayak enthusiasts. Loading the kayaks onto the bed, especially if you know how to fit a kayak in a truck bed properly, is easy and quick. I once managed to stack three kayaks in a truck bed for a cross-country trip, an experience that went smoothly because of the tie-down strategies I employed.
Regardless of the vehicle or method, make sure the kayaks are securely tied down. No one wants to damage their boat and put others at risk. From personal experience, using tie-downs to secure the kayaks, especially when transporting multiple boats in your truck, is an absolute requirement.
With the right techniques and equipment, you’ll be able to transport kayaks safely and maximize your vehicle’s carrying capacity. From placing kayaks on a roof rack to using every inch of a truck bed safely, the possibilities are as vast as the open waters awaiting you.
Transporting a kayak isn’t as hard as it seems; knowing how to position boats in your truck bed and tie them down is knowledge earned with time and experience. I remember my early days, struggling to load a two kayaks into my pickup alone. Fast forward a few years, and I’m guiding others on how to carry 4 kayaks with ease.
You’ll get there. And do yourself a favor: invest in some high-quality straps!
How many kayaks fit in a truck bed?
The number of kayaks that can fit in a truck bed depends on the size of the bed and the size of the kayaks. However, with proper stacking and securing, you can usually fit 2-3 kayaks in a truck bed.
Can I transport 4 kayaks in a truck bed?
It is possible to transport 4 kayaks in a truck bed, but it may require special equipment like a kayak truck rack or the use of a roof rack.
How can I transport two kayaks in my truck?
To transport two kayaks in your truck, you can stack the kayaks on top of each other in the bed of the truck. It is important to secure them properly to prevent any movement or damage during transportation.
How many kayaks can fit on a car? How many kayaks fit on a roof rack?
Yes, you can transport kayaks on a roof rack, and how many kayaks can fit on a roof rack depends on the make and model–most accommodate at least two and sometimes more. This is a popular method that works well.
How many kayaks on roof rack are too many?
You’d have to consult the user’s manual for this, but it should be pretty obvious based on the connections and width of the bars.
How do I secure two kayaks in a truck bed?
To secure your kayaks in a truck bed, you can use straps or bungee cords to tie them down. Make sure to place padding between the kayaks and the truck bed to prevent any scratches or damage.
Can I secure a kayak to my truck without a roof rack?
Yes, you can secure a kayak to your truck without a roof rack. There are various methods available such as using foam blocks or pool noodles to create a makeshift rack.
How many kayaks can you fit on a SUV and what are the best kayak roof racks for an SUV?
At least two, sometimes more. The best kayak roof racks for an SUV will depend on the make and model of your vehicle, as well as personal preferences. Some popular options include Thule, Yakima, and Malone roof racks.
Photo 2 by Mark Reynolds
Photos 3 and 4 by Alan Levine