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Transporting Kayaks and Canoes Long Distances

May 25th, 2018 - 10:42 AM

Moving? Don’t forget your kayak! 

Do you prefer a calm lake or a raging river? Are you a solo rafter or do you head out with friends? No matter your style, you’ve probably had amazing experiences inside your boat. So, if you’re moving across the country, you’ll want to make sure it stays protected. After all, what fun is a new state if you can’t explore the water? Check out these tips for moving a kayak or canoe — it’s a lot easier than you might think. 

moving a kayak or canoe

How to transport kayaks and canoes cross country

Kayaks, canoes and other paddle sports equipment are designed to be sturdy, which is good news when it comes to transporting them. While there are some precautions you’ll need to take, most boats can be moved long distance without incident. For a move across the country, there are two transport options: taking them with you or shipping them. The choice you make will depend on factors like the type of boat you have and your overall move details.  

Not sure what moving company to use? Get a quote from U-Pack to see how affordable our long-distance rates are. 

Bringing the boat with you

If you’re used to traveling with your boat, you may feel most comfortable keeping it with you for the move. However, larger boats like canoes may be better to ship, as they can weigh down your vehicle, impair sights while driving and impact fuel efficiency. Keeping the boat with you is typically best for shorter drives, smaller boats or more expensive items that you want to keep an eye on. If you have multiple boats, make sure you have a rack that will hold them all. If not, shipping may be a better option.

Taking the boat with you involves either placing it in the back of a pickup truck, putting it on a trailer or hauling it on top of a car using racks or mounts. If you don’t already have a trailer or vehicle prepared for transport, talk with your local sporting goods store about the best type for your situation. You might need crossbars, a rack or padding — check out this post about choosing a car top mount for a boat. After installing the proper equipment, it’s time to tie-down. Before loading, make sure your straps and rope are in good condition by checking for signs of fraying or dry rot, especially in the seams. 

How to load a boat on a car

1.    Apply a cockpit cover. This will help prevent drag from air going into the hold. 
2.    Place the boat on the rack or mount. Check the manufacturer instructions for the correct placement (some may suggest loading it upside-down or on its side).
3.    Use ratchet or cam straps to tie down the boat across the middle. Attach a wide strap across the middle of the boat, making sure the metal ratchet is not in a position to damage the vehicle or boat. Use the widest straps you have because the bigger surface area will help distribute the pressure. Tighten the strap well, but don’t overtighten — too much tension could deform the plastic or cause cracks. Tie off loose ends to prevent the straps from flying around while driving.
4.    Tie the ends at the bow and stern to the vehicle. Use rope or a ratchet strap to secure the front and back of the boat to the car. Many vehicles have loops welded onto the frame for hauling, but you can install a hood loop strap (found at sporting goods or auto parts stores) if yours doesn’t. These straps should not be too tight; they’re just for stability.  
5.    Add a red caution flag. If the boat hangs over the end of your vehicle, let other drivers know by putting a red flag on the end. Many states have laws requiring them, so it’s best to use one. 

If you’re used to tying down a boat to take it on trips, this process will seem very familiar. The biggest difference for a long distance move is to make sure to add bow and stern straps for extra stability.

Driving with the boat loaded

Because straps can loosen while driving, pull over and check them after about 15-20 minutes or before you get on a major roadway. Give them a gentle tug to ensure everything is secure, and check them periodically when you stop. Drive carefully when hauling a boat, and always stop if anything feels off. Be mindful of any visual obstructions caused by the boat or straps, and make sure to pay extra attention to those areas. 

If you stay overnight at a hotel, be conscious about where you park. Park in a well-lit area. The safest thing to do is unstrap the boat and bring it inside (easier for a kayak than a large canoe). You could also use locking straps, but they can be cut, so they aren’t 100% secure.  

Shipping kayaks and canoes

If you’re not driving, are hauling other things, or have large or multiple boats, shipping is another possibility. U-Pack® is a great option: you do the packing and loading, but we handle the driving, so you’re in control of how the boat is packaged, loaded and secured. And if you’re moving long distance, you can transport kayaks, canoes and your belongings inside the same equipment. 

Two equipment options are available. ReloCube moving containers are 6’ x 7’ x 8’, so they will hold boats up to 10’ (if loaded and tied down diagonally). The moving trailer is 28’ long, so just about any boat will fit. Trailers are 8’ wide and 9’ tall, and you can use as little as 5 linear feet or up to the entire trailer, depending on the size of your shipment. 

Prepping for transport

While they’re built to withstand rocks and other water obstacles, boats should still be wrapped thoroughly to ensure they arrive intact. 

Ask a friend to help and gather these supplies:

How to pack a kayak or canoe for moving:
1.    Place the boat on saw horses to allow for easy access.
2.    Keep it empty, since placing items inside could cause damage during transit.
3.    Wrap the entire thing in Bubble Wrap®, securing it with packing tape (be careful to only apply tape to the Bubble Wrap®, so you don’t damage the finish).
4.    Place sheets of cardboard under it, and create a custom-fitted box, wrapping as closely to the boat as possible. Create creases in the cardboard to easily fold it into the odd shape.
5.    Use tape to secure the cardboard, wrapping it tightly.

You can load it on top of furniture or stacked boxes, but make sure to secure it with tie-downs or rope. Don’t stack anything on top of it, as it could crush or crack. 

Have questions about kayak and canoe transport?

Leave a comment below or call us with any questions, and we’ll help you find an answer. Or if you need assistance getting a U-Pack quote, don’t hesitate to comment or call us at 800-413-4799. We’re happy to help!