Kayak Transportation: Getting Ready

JayLow racks folded down
Today we’re headed out for some kayaking on a lake in the next town over. Time for some kayak transportation. The JayLow racks are still on the 4Runner from last time out so we just need to unfold them and put the straps in position.
Image of Yakima JayLow with strap in position
For ease, I lay the straps over the top of the upright part of the rack. Then I run the ends towards the front for the front rack and back for the back rack. Next, I put the kayak in the rack and swing the ends over the kayak. Then I run them around the bottom of the cross bar and cinch the buckles. If you don’t pre-position the straps, it is harder to reach them and you end up trying to lift the kayak slightly away from the rack to get them to the top of the upright. Or, worse, you don’t get the strap to the top and it ends up doing nothing to hold the kayak in place because it isn’t tight!
Kayak on racks with straps cinched
Once the kayak is up top and the rack straps are cinched tight (but not so tight they deform anything), I proceed to attach bow and stern straps. These are important safety straps. Our 4Runner has tow rings under the front bumper and towing chain loops on the trailer hitch in back so attachment points are not an issue. On other vehicles you may find the need to buy gear loops straps to bolt under the hood or EZ Straps to close under the hood and or trunk lid. (Links are to Yak Gear brand straps which work fine and are about 1/3 the cost of major rack vendor brands).

Bow strap in place

Stern strap in place

Stern strap in place

The only thing left to do is get out on the water.
Kayak bow on water


Swans swimming

Not the only one on the water today

Rack Carrying Tip #1: Always remember which direction the straps go through the buckles! You might even want to take a permanent marker and make a mark on the buckle as a reminder. For most buckles, the correct way is from the opposite side of the release lever. If you lay the buckle flat and the part you press to release the strap is facing up, the strap goes in from the bottom side.

Rack Carrying Tip #2: Just a few twists in straps that are exposed is enough to prevent or at dramatically reduce the dreaded hum that straps can make when oscillating in the wind. If you want to keep your, and your partners, sanity, add 2 – 3 twists before running the strap through the buckle and cinching it down tight.