How To Tie Down A Kayak In A Truck Bed – A Complete Step-By-Step Guide

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Sam OBrien

If you happen to own a truck with a bed spacious enough to properly accommodate and support a kayak, feel free to consider yourself lucky:

You’re getting instant access to one of the most efficient, affordable, and convenient methods of kayak transportation. Well, almost instant.

Before hitting the road, you need to take a moment to learn how to tie down a kayak in a truck bed – and that’s where this step-by-step guide I prepared for you can help!

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Importance Of Properly Securing A Kayak To A Truck Bed

Kayak Transport Safety

A massive hunk of plastic sticking out of your truck’s bed – unsecured, may I add – while you’re going down the highway; does that sound particularly safe to you? Or like a recipe for disaster?

Yeah, I thought so, too.

Any responsible driver – whether they’re a kayak owner or not – should understand the risks of hauling any cargo that’s not adequately secured to the truck’s bed. You’d be surprised how fast a kayak could turn into a potentially deadly projectile.

So, if you doubt the importance of properly securing a kayak to a truck bed, here are a few things to consider:

  • Cargo securement rules are a thing; transporting unsecured cargo – such as a kayak that isn’t tied down – is generally regarded as illegal 
  • Transporting cargo that’s properly secured and tied down minimizes the risk of it flying off and is safer for everyone involved
  • The risk of damaging the kayak – by dropping it or letting it slide around in the truck’s bed – is significantly reduced

How To Tie Down A Kayak In A Truck Bed In 8 Easy Steps 

kayaking being transported in the bed of a truck

When it comes to transporting a kayak in a truck, the three crucial rules you need to keep in mind at all times are:

  1. Make sure the kayak doesn’t fall out of your truck 
  2. Make sure the kayak doesn’t fall out of your truck 
  3. Make sure the kayak doesn’t fall out of your truck 

You may see this as a poor attempt at a joke, but I do mean it. Make sure the kayak doesn’t fall out of your truck.

Yes, I said it again.

Before we get started, make sure you gather all the necessary equipment – besides your actual kayak and the pickup truck, that is. You’ll generally need the following to tie down a kayak in a truck bed successfully:

Ratchet Tie Down Straps

  • Ratchet tie-down straps – Used to secure the kayak to the bed anchor points.  Can be substituted with a cam buckle for shorter journeys

ECOTRIC Pick Up Truck Bed Hitch Extender

  • Truck bed extender – This one’s optional and depends on the length of your kayak and the truck’s bed

Master Lock - Two 6 ft Python Adjustable Cable Locks

  • Cable lock – Looped through each kayak handle and an anchor point it protects your pride and joy from thieves, and acts as the last line of defiance should a strap or tie down break

Dee Zee DZ87005 Heavyweight Bed Mat

  • Truck bed mat – A thin rubber mat that lies on top of an open pickup truck bed. Also known as a bed liner; they are designed to act as a barrier between the metal bed and any items that could be lying on top – such as your boat!

Seattle Sports Sherpak Universal Kayak Foam Block Carrier

  • Non-skid kayak foam blocks – Raises the kayak off the bed floor, above the tie down anchors, helps prevent slippage and provides cushioning to your ‘yak.

Best Marine Kayak Cover

  • Kayak cover – Basically clothing for your kayak, it helps protect your investment from harmful weather condition, UV Rays and road debris

VULCAN Safety Flag

  • Safety flag – A legal requirement if your kayak overhangs the rear axle more than your state’s legal limit.  It’s used to make other drivers aware of your abnormal load

Step #1 Prepare The Truck Bed

First and foremost, you need to make room for the kayak by cleaning out your truck bed. Any debris and unsecured cargo – anything that could damage the kayak – needs to go. Ideally, you should remove everything from your truck’s bed.

Next, lay down the truck bed mat – a non-slip liner that will prevent the ‘yak from sliding around, sustaining scratches and other hull damage, or banging up your truck bed.

Lower the tailgate and move on to the next step. 

Step #2 Position & Secure The Foam Blocks

The next thing to do is place the kayak foam blocks into the truck’s bed.

The foam blocks will give you a soft, padded area to rest the kayak’s hull on, rather than placing it directly on the not-so-cushioned surface of the truck bed mat. 

Again, it’s essential that you use foam blocks with non-slip bottoms; you don’t want them to slide out from under your kayak.

Step #3 Prepare The Kayak

There’s one more thing to do before loading the kayak onto the truck bed – prepare it for transportation.

As with preparing the truck bed, you need to remove any loose accessories, like the paddle and kayak seat. Store the smaller items inside the hull or one of the hatches, use bungee cords to secure the paddle to the side of your kayak, and fold down – or remove – your seat.

Once you’re done, place the cover over the kayak and tighten it using the included straps. It’s an inexpensive way to prevent bugs and debris from getting in, and it protects the kayak from being affected by the wind.

Step #4 Load The Kayak 

And now for everyone’s favorite part – heavy lifting. Use a kayak cart if you can’t manage to lift the kayak by yourself or get someone to help you with it. 

Loading a Kayak on a Truck - Heavy Kayak Loading Tips

Think diagonal: 

Slide the kayak onto the truck bed, hull side down, with the bow in the front corner, against the cab of your truck. The stern should rest on the opposite side, by the tailgate. If possible, close the tailgate. 

When positioning the kayak, make sure that the truck bed supports its weight. You want at least 70% of the kayak’s length to sit inside the truck bed and be supported by it.

Too much overhang – with only a tiny portion of the kayak’s hull supported by the bed – could cause hull deformation or, worse yet, send the kayak flying. 

If you have a particularly long kayak – or a shorter truck bed – you’ll have to use a bed extender for added support. 

Step #5 Secure The Kayak

I don’t have to repeat how vital it is to make sure that the kayak doesn’t fall out of your truck, do I?

In terms of what to use to secure the ‘yak, your options come down to ratchet straps and cam straps. The former uses a ratchet mechanism to tighten the strap, which some folks prefer. But cam straps, which are much easier to use – by pulling the tag end through the cam closure until tight – and faster to set up, are a better choice for short drives.

How To Tie Down Your Kayak to Your Truck Bed

Either way, be sure not to over-tighten the straps, or you may end up with a deformed hull.

You’ll need two tie-down straps for this; one for the kayak’s bow and one for the stern. Run the straps through the handles, perpendicular to the kayak, tighten them, and tie them to the anchor points on the truck bed’s wall.

Step #6 Lock It

If you’ve already secured the kayak using ratchet straps, why should you bother with the cable locks?

Well, for one, it’s going to act as another layer of safety. And two, it’s going to prevent the kayak from getting stolen the moment you make a stop along the way and leave it unattended.

So, take my advice on this:

Once everything’s in place, lock the kayak using simple cable locks before you hit the road.

Don't transport your kayak without doing this first (QTT #7)

If you have a sit-on-top kayak, it’ll be as easy as threading the cable through one of the scupper holes before locking it. As for sit-in kayaks, check for dedicated cable bars or use Lasso locking cables instead. 

Step #7 Attach The Red Flag

Attaching a brightly colored safety flag – usually orange or red – on any oversized cargo will generally be required by law in most states. The same goes for hauling cargo at night when the visibility is relatively limited.

My advice is to use the red flag as a safety measure, whether required by law or not. It will cost you next to nothing, but it will improve overall safety. But, as always, it’s best to check what the state’s DOT laws have to say on the matter – and act accordingly. 

Step #8 Double-Check Everything & Wrap Any Loose Ends 

Before you pull off your driveway with your kayak loaded in the back of your truck, take the time to double-check everything and make sure the kayak’s secured. It’s better to check now than to realize something’s not tight or secure enough once you’re already on the road.

It might be too late by then.

Also, while you’re at it, wrap up the loose ends of the ratchet straps if there are any; don’t leave them flapping in the wind.

How To Tie A Kayak In The Truck Bed: Quick Summary

Fishing Kayak Transported in Truck Bed

There may be some variations in the process depending on the kayak you’re transporting and the truck bed’s length. For instance, if you’re hauling a tandem or an ocean kayak, or the truck bed is relatively short, you’ll have to add a truck bed extender into the mix.

And if you’re transporting more than one kayak, you might want to skip this and go with a kayak trailer, or invest in a truck roof rack system, instead.

But generally speaking, the answer to how to tie down a kayak in a truck bed is summed up in a few simple steps:

  • Clean out the truck bed and use a liner 
  • Add non-slip foam blocks for support 
  • Prepare and load the kayak 
  • Secure it with straps and use cable locks 
  • Attach a red flag
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Sam OBrien

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.