Step 1. Clear all items from the bed of your pickup.
Kayaks are large and the last thing you want to deal with is damaging your boat or your load while loading it up. If you need to use the remaining space in your pickup bed for storage you will need to load it in after the kayak is tied down.
Step 2. If you have a fiberglass or plastic Kayak you will want to put some sort of padding down to protect your boat.
We keep old blankets for this task but cardboard or anything soft and expendable you have will do. If you have a soft bed liner this step may be unnecessary.
Step 3. Figure out if your boats center of gravity will allow it to sit in the bed while you strap it down.
If you are alone and have a big kayak this is a critical step. Grab a measuring tape and figure out how long your boat is.
Then figure out how long your truck bed is. Don’t forgot to account for the kayak hitting your toolbox or tailgate. If more than half of your kayak will hang over your bed you will have a harder task.
If you have a kayak with a center of gravity in your pickup bed you can skip ahead to step 4.
You will have to keep force on the kayak to prevent it from dumping out while you strap it down. Make sure all of your straps are in order before you start. Its also important to already have a plan to tackle the center of gravity issue discussed above.
If you have a loop on the end of your kayak you can tie it down in the other end of your bed before you start. Then loop it through the attachment point on the opposite side of the kayak.
This will help secure it while you strap it down. If you have a kayak with a center of gravity in your pickup bed you can skip step 3.
Step 4. Use ratcheting straps to secure your kayak to truck.
This is the most important step. It is crucial you execute this well and have a very secure kayak before driving away. This is an easy time to make a bad decision. Unless you live in the northern climates it is likely hot when your tying down a kayak. That makes it that much easier to shortcut this step and end up with your kayak skidding down the road!
You want to make sure you secure the straps onto the actual frame of the kayak. Some kayaks will have built in holes designed to put your straps through but I have never owned one that made it that easy!
You do not want to use the handles used to carry your kayak unless they are new. These generally become weather rotted fairly quickly and will snap if you try and use these to anchor your kayak down to the bed of your trunk.
It is best if you can loop the strap around the bow of your kayak which will likely be hanging over your tailgate. Make sure and keep the strap on the top side of your kayak. You then want to connect the straps down inside your bed ideally. If you dont have any anchor points in your bed you will have to hook the end of the strap under your wheel well or down around your frame if possible.
You will need at a minimum two ratcheting straps in order to tie down a canoe securely. You may have to tighten the stern and aft of the boat a couple of clicks at a time alternating between straps. This will prevent the boat from being pulled from one side or the other. Once you have enough downward pressure on your boat it will not try and shift from side to side.
Step 5- Check your kayak and tie downs after you have driven a mile or two.
This is a critical step that is often missed by people who have not watched a kayak bouncing down the highway. That is a sight you will generally only see once. Pull over and manually try and move the kayak to see if it shifts easily. If there is any movement you should tighten all of your straps. If it has significantly loosened you may need to tighten the straps in an alternating fashion again.
Its possible you realize here that you messed up something beyond repair. In this case take a deep breath and think about why your tie down failed. Tying down a kayak can be a real challenge but it is a critical skill to master in order to enjoy your new kayaking lifestyle.