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How to Lock a Kayak to Your Roof Rack? – 4 Methods

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

how to lock a kayak to your roof rack

Knowing how to lock a kayak to your roof rack is a crucial skill for owners of small recreational boats. It’s a must-have competency to safeguard kayaks against potential fall-related damage and theft, saving you hundreds of dollars and ensuring continued watercraft enjoyment.

Securing kayak to roof rack is a cinch with a detailed plan. Consider this article your blueprint if you’re clueless about where to start and how to proceed. We will share three easy ways and bonus tips to secure kayaks from theft and damage. 

Let’s start if you’re raring to learn.

Steps Lock a Kayak to Your Roof Rack


What to prepare

The resources needed to secure kayak to roof rack are method- or technique-dependent. We will identify these tools and materials as we discuss the different ways of securing a kayak on a roof rack by yourself or with an assistant.


You can pick any of the following methods to ensure and improve kayak security on your roof rack.

Method 1. Use a lasso-style lock.

A lasso is one of the best tools for securing kayaks because it features a running noose for hassle-free tightening of the kayak to a trailer or car roof rack. Here’s how to use it.


  1. Purchase a lasso kayak lock. You’ll find the best ones on Amazon or other leading e-commerce sites. We recommend checking customer reviews to determine product quality and real-world performance.
  2. Read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to set up this kayak locking system.
  3. Inspect the lasso-style lock, ensuring the two ends lock and the cables don’t have fraying.
  4. Put kayak on roof rack and place one lasso over the boat’s tapered front end. Do the same for the kayak’s other end.
  5. Grab the cables and wrap them around the kayak roof racks. Take your time and make the wounding as complicated as possible to deter would-be thieves.
  6. Get the roof rack lock and join and secure the cables. Tug the restraints, ensuring the connection is tight.

Method 2. Secure the kayak with lockable tie-down straps

This technique is perfect for locking kayak to roof rack and safeguarding it against knife-wielding thieves. You can get the KanuLock Lockable Reinforced Stainless Steel Tie-down Straps, although other brands might be available.


Here’s how you lock kayak to roof rack with this technology.

  1. Place the kayak on roof rack upside down to prevent damaging the hull.
  2. Put a strap over the kayak, positioning the buckle about a quarter of the boat’s width.
  3. Grab the strap’s long end and wound it around a roof rack bar.
  4. Cross the strap to the other side and loop it around a bar.
  5. Repeat the three previous steps for the second tie-down strap.
  6. Hold the straps’ free ends and insert them through the buckle.
  7. Loop the straps around any roof rack bar before securing them with your preferred knot.
  8. Secure the strap lock by inserting and twisting the key. This setup looks like an improvised lockable kayak rack.

Note that you can improve kayak security by reinforcing the tie-down straps with metal chains and a heavy-duty padlock (a DIY kayak lock).

You can also use this method to tie down 2 kayaks on roof rack.

Method 3. Safeguard the kayak with a tamper-resistant chain.

You can try tamperproof chains or cable locks for kayaks if tie-down straps aren’t available. Expert kayakers recommend the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Chain, featuring superior-reinforced double deadbolt lock and 14-mm-thick 3T manganese steel chain links.


Although we’re unsure if Superman can break this chain, kayak thieves will think twice. Unfortunately, the longest chain is only five feet, limiting its use. It should still be great on a J-rack, though.

  1. Place the kayak on the roof rack and position the tamperproof chain across the boat’s width.
  2. Loop the chain around a bar and extend it over the kayak.
  3. Wound the cable around the opposing cable and connect the end to the deadbolt lock.
  4. Secure the kayak locking cable with the accompanying key.

Bonus Method. Use a rope to secure the kayak on the car roof without a roof rack.

The first three methods focused on how to attach kayak to roof rack and secure it with a locking mechanism. But what if your car doesn’t have a roof rack?  Don’t fret. We will show you how to secure the kayak with rope and pool noodles.


Here are the steps for strapping kayak to roof without rack.

  1. Buy at least three heavy-duty pool noodles wide enough to cover the car’s width.
  2. Insert rope through each of the pool noodles.
  3. Position one pool noodle in the car roof’s midsection, one near the front windshield, and the third near the rear window.
  4. Ask an assistant to help you lift and place the kayak onto the pool noodles. Rest the hull onto the pool noodles. Position the kayak upside down if the hull is curved.
  5. Open the car doors and connect the rope’s ends. You can also use spring-loaded or ratchet straps for this.
  6. Use a secure knot to tighten the kayak against the pool noodles and the car roof.
  7. Tie a rope on the kayak’s bow and stern and secure the ends on the car’s front and rear tow points.

Importance of Securing a Kayak During Transportation


Securing a kayak during transportation is crucial to prevent the recreational boat from falling off while the vehicle moves.

Bumps and potholes can make for a shaky ride, increasing the risk of the kayak falling off the roof rack. Driving conditions (i.e., errant motorists, slippery roads, and other obstacles) can also increase the likelihood of damaging or breaking the kayak if it falls.

Moreover, parking your car outdoors or in public spaces increases the risk of kayak or roof rack theft. Securing the boat on the roof rack should help mitigate theft risk.

Types of Kayak Locks and Security Accessories

Locking mechanisms for kayaks come in three types.


  • Cable locks – A heavy-duty steel cable integrates a lock at opposite ends, requiring kayak owners to pull the mechanism to secure the boat.
  • Padlocks – This kayak lock is like the padlock we have at home. Most kayak owners use padlocks to secure their boats because it’s straightforward to use. The padlock requires a key to operate (open and close), although some might feature a combination code.
  • Combination locks – A subtype of padlocks, combination locks ditch the key for a combination code. Kayak owners must create and memorize the code to open the lock.

Aside from the items above, tie-down straps and ratchet straps are the most common security accessories for kayaks.

Additional Tips for Kayak Theft Prevention

Securing your kayak on a rack is essential to prevent theft and damage. Here are bonus tips on theft mitigation.

Tips to prevent/countermeasures against theft


  • Consider installing a tracking device on the kayak. It might not prevent roof rack theft, but the technology can enhance boat recovery.
  • Record the kayak’s essential identification numbers (i.e., serial number and hull identification number) and engrave the information in a “hard-to-spot” area of the boat.
  • Keep photos of your kayak so that the police can recognize it.
  • Monitor Craigslist, eBay, and other e-commerce sites catering to second-hand units.
  • Buy insurance for your kayak to help cover theft-related expenses.

Make your kayak more secure


  • Lock a kayak to a storage rack in your home using the methods we discussed in this article.
  • Install an alarm to help deter thieves from pushing through with their plans.
  • Although locking kayak rack can secure your boat, you can improve kayak security by asking the police whether you can park your car in their compound.
  • Don’t skimp on the straps. One or two ropes won’t deter thieves. Adding metal chains and heavy-duty cables to the ropes should make the kayak more challenging to steal.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can I leave my kayak locked on the roof rack overnight?

Yes, you can leave your kayak locked on the roof rack overnight. However, we recommend parking the car in well-lit open areas with CCTV cameras and heavy foot traffic (even at night).

Are there any legal requirements for securing a kayak on a roof rack?

Yes, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Act (NHTSA) has specific provisions about “motor vehicle equipment” carriers (i.e., roof rack). You should also check the load of your rack in its manual before putting a kayak on the vehicle.

How often should I check the security of my kayak while it’s on the roof rack?

Most kayakers recommend stopping the car to check the kayak’s straps 15 minutes after starting the journey. You can also assess the straps’ security whenever you stop at a gas station or food store.

What to do if my kayak is stolen?

Contact the police if somebody stole your kayak and supply the necessary boat information, including the hull serial number, colors, and model. You can also provide law enforcers photos of the kayak, if any. Monitor classified ads because your kayak might show up there. Inform your kayak insurer of the theft if you have one.


You have three options on how to lock a kayak to your roof rack. Most kayak owners use lockable tie-down straps, although lasso-style locks and tamperproof steel chains also work. Whatever method you pick, it’s crucial to secure the kayak to prevent damage and theft.

Alarms, security cameras, and device tracking systems can help mitigate boat theft issues. These tricks should help you safeguard your kayak and ensure more fun-filled boating adventures.

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