teal kayak secured on top of black sedan using retractable ratchet straps from Strapinno

How to Tie down a Kayak or Two With Ratchet Straps

Here’s a quick guide for tying down kayaks of any weight or size to car tops with retractable kayak tie down straps.

tie down a kayak on a moving red sedan car top secured by retractable ratchet straps on the highway

Wondering if you can secure a kayak to your sedan or any type of cars with ratchet straps? Absolutely! These sturdy, adjustable tools ensure your kayak stays put during transport. Retractable ratchet straps, made of durable polyester webbing, retract automatically and allow for easy adjustment to achieve the perfect tension.

This article will guide you through eight simple steps to load and tie down a kayak or TWO using these straps, boosting your confidence for your next aquatic adventure. Let’s hit the road!

How to tie down a kayak?

Step 1: Prep the Roof Rack 

We’re about to get creative here. Take the ratchet strap and run it through the middle of a hollowed foam roller or pool noodle, connecting it to the base of your roof racks. Tension the straps up for a nice taut surface to rest your kayak on the bars. This hack avoids rubbing the kayak against your car paint. 

Step 2: Lift That Kayak

Make the kayak’s nose the pivot point. Lift up the back of the kayak and place it on the foam roller while maintaining a hand on the kayak for stability. Proceed to carefully lift up the front of the kayak, keeping control and support throughout the process.

Step 3: Center The Kayak 

Scoot that kayak onto the roof racks, making sure it’s nicely centered and aligned. We don’t want a lopsided look ruining your sleek sedan vibes. Once everything looks A-okay, bid farewell to the foam roller or pool noodle – its mission is complete for now.

Step 4: Tie-Down Time

Attach the retractable ratchet straps to the anchor points on your roof rack. Make sure they’re tightly fastened. Loop the tie-downs around your kayak, passing them under the roof rack bars. Give the straps a little twist to avoid annoying vibrations while you zoom down the road.

Step 5: Ratchet Action!

Once the straps are in place, it’s time to secure the kayak. Activate the ratchet mechanism by pulling the loose end of the webbing while firmly holding the kayak. This allows progressive tightening, ensuring a secure and snug fit. Avoid over-tightening, as it may cause damage to the kayak or the car roof.

Step 6: Check Stability

Give the kayak a gentle shake to check for any excessive movement or shifting. The goal is to have a secure and immobile kayak throughout the journey. If needed, readjust and tighten the straps to ensure optimal stability.

Step 7: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

While retractable ratchet straps offer excellent stability, driving responsibly is important to minimize potential risks. Avoid excessive speeds and sudden braking, as these actions can put additional stress on the straps and potentially compromise their effectiveness. A smooth and controlled driving style will ensure a safe and worry-free journey.

Step 8: Stay Alert and Enjoy

Keep an eye on those tie-downs during your journey. Vibration and external factors can loosen them up. Adjust as needed, and enjoy the ride knowing that your kayak is by your side, securely fastened and ready for aquatic adventures.

Unloading the Kayak From The Car Top

You’ve reached your destination, and it’s time to set your watercraft free from its roof-mounted throne. We need to control the release and loosen the straps gradually. Remember to hold onto your kayak securely when doing so.

Once the tie-downs are completely loosened, repeat Step 1 with your foam roller or pool noodle and retractable ratchet strap. As you lift the kayak off the car top, take note of its position and surroundings. Be mindful of obstacles like the side mirror or obstructions in the immediate area to avoid collisions or accidents. It’s important to prioritize the safety of both yourself and the kayak during this unloading process.

How to tie down 2 kayak on roof rack?

“Should I put both kayaks on the roof rack and strap them down together, or is it better to strap them individually? Do I need separate straps for each kayak?” These might be the questions that pop into your head when you have two kayaks (or canoes) to tie down on your car roof. 

A common mistake people make is thinking that simply throwing a couple of straps over both kayaks will do the job. But this can lead to instability and potential danger while driving. 

And we certainly don’t want any of your gear taking flight on the highway. To make sure your trip is as safe as it is fun, we have included every info you need to know about to tie down 2 kayaks on your car roof rack safely. Let’s dive in! (Spoiler: experts recommend using four retractable ratchet straps. Two for each kayak!)

What do you need to tie down 2 kayaks?

Tie down 2 kayaks on roof rack

Step 1: Prepare your roof rack and kayak stackers

Make sure your car’s roof rack is properly installed and can support the weight of two kayaks. (Optional) Place the kayak stackers on the roof rack to provide support and stability for the kayaks. 

Step 2: Load the first kayak onto the roof rack

With the help of a partner, lift the first kayak onto the roof rack and position it on its side against the kayak stacker or foam block.

Step 3: Pull out the strap

Press the release button and pull the handle to the release slot around 80-90° depending on the straps you use.

Step 4: Hook the strap on the roof rack

If there’s no obvious place to hook the strap, use a soft loop strap for an anchor point. Hook the strap onto the roof rack or the soft loop strap, then gently carry it over to the other side and secure it by hooking it there as well. Do the same thing for both the front and rear tie-downs.

Step 5: Tighten the strap

When you feel good about how the kayak is placed, you can start tightening the straps. Press the release button, and pull the ratchet handle up and down until it feels tight enough!

Step 6: Lock the ratchet strap

Pull down the handle to lock position to make sure it’s locked in!

Step 7: Load the second kayak onto the roof rack

Repeat the process with the second kayak, placing it next to the first kayak. Both kayaks should be positioned on their sides, leaning against the stackers or blocks.

Step 8: Strap down the second kayak

Hook the strap, tighten it, and lock it in!

Final Checks

Shake each kayak gently to ensure they are securely fastened. There should be minimal movement.

Tips from our experts

1. Two straps for one kayak

Tying down two or more kayaks with just one strap might seem easier and more economical, but it’s risky. The kayaks can shift during transport, and trust us, it’s not worth putting your safety on the line!

2. Avoid Over-Tightening

We definitely don’t want anything happening to your kayaks, like seeing them fly off the highway because they weren’t tied tight enough, or getting cracked from being strapped down too hard. If you’re unsure about how tight the straps should be, try giving your kayak a gentle shake before you set out. Ideally, it shouldn’t move much at all — that’s when you know it’s just right.

3. Factors to consider when choosing kayak tie down straps

  • Length and width
  • material and durability
  • strength and load capacity

Best kayak tie down straps

Best for

Securing motorcycle, kayak, furniture, and general cargo

Securing motorcycle, kayak, ATV, and general cargo

Breaking strength





Let’s sum it up!

We hope you find this guide helpful, and are ready for your kayak journey. Strapinno’s retractable ratchet strap is like no other- it automatically retracts, built to last a lifetime. Grab yourself a pair, and secure your kayaks with no more threading straps or tying ends off! And remember to check the kayak tie down straps periodically. That way, you’ll keep both your car and your kayak (and yourself!) safe and sound.


1. Can you stack two kayaks on a roof rack?

Yes! Just make sure your roof rack is designed to support the weight and size of two kayaks. 

2. How tight should the straps be?

The straps should be tight enough to secure the items without allowing movement but not so tight that they damage them.

3. What straps are best for tying down a kayak?

We would recommend using retractable ratchet straps because they automatically retract! And they are safer than the regular ratchet straps because there’s no excessive strap flopping around when you drive on the highway!

4. Can you use ratchet straps to tie down a kayak?

Yes! Ratchet straps make it easy to adjust the strap’s tension for the perfect tightness.

You can even consider using retractable ratchet straps to save you some time tying off the excessive straps or threading the straps before use. After tightening the retractable straps, try flicking the strap and test out the resilience!

5. Can you strap a kayak without a rack?

Yes, you can strap a kayak to your car without a rack, but you’ll need to take extra precautions to ensure it’s secured safely. Here’s how you can do it:

1. Use Foam Blocks or Pool Noodles: These act as a makeshift rack to cushion the kayak and protect the roof of your car. Place them under the kayak to distribute its weight evenly.

2. Position the Kayak: Center the kayak on the roof of your car, hull up, ensuring it’s stable on the foam blocks or noodles.

3. Secure with Straps: Use cam buckle straps, ratchet straps, or retractable ratchet straps to tie down the kayak. Run the straps over the kayak and through the car doors or windows (not through the car if you can help it, as this can compress and damage the door seals or affect window operation).

4. Tighten and Check: Tighten the straps so that the kayak is snugly fit without being overly tight, which can deform the kayak. Close the doors and give the kayak a gentle shake to check stability. It shouldn’t shift when you move it.

5. Use Bow and Stern Lines: For added security, tie lines from the front and back of the kayak to the towing hooks or under the car’s bumper to prevent the kayak from shifting forward or backward.

Going on a kayaking trip soon? Ensure the safety of your vehicle and watercraft with Strapinno’s retractable ratchet straps! Shop them now at Strapinno.com.

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