How to Strap a Kayak to a SoftTop Jeep for Transport

Updated on June 1, 2016

My dream of owning a Jeep Wrangler came true a few years ago.  In my opinion, there is only one slight drawback to driving a Wrangler and that is the limited space for hauling passengers and items. Otherwise, I have not a single complaint about my Jeep.  There is no other mode of transportation that suits me better.

When I suddenly purchased a kayak, I didn't think about the possible difficulties of hauling it with my soft top Jeep. Especially given that I'm a mature woman, with little arm strength, who stands 5' 4" tall.

We hauled the kayak home from the sporting goods store in the truck and only then (with it sticking over the tailgate of the truck) did I realize that I'd have to do some work to figure out how to haul it with the Jeep. And I'd have to find a way that I could do it alone. The Mister and the truck work long hours and won't always be available when I want to go kayaking. How in the world was I going to be able to put my 10' long kayak in, or on, the Jeep alone?

Are you a Jeep Wrangler owner? Do you want a kayak but haven't a clue how you would haul it because you have a soft-top Wrangler and most racks are made for hard tops?  Don't worry.  I have the solution for under $50. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I had expected.  

Required Items:

I have decided that the only items I really needed were the ratchet straps and the foam padding.  I also purchased a ring and paracord so that I could make a "leash" in order to help pull the kayak forward if I needed. Thus far, I have not used the leash at all for loading and unloading the kayak but it has come in handy for keeping the kayak from floating off while I'm getting in and out of it in the water.

After reading many online forums about hauling kayaks with Jeeps, I purchased my items from a local DIY store.  I had initially planned on putting my kayak inside the Jeep and allowing it to hang over the top of the spare tire. But I was worried about breaking my brake light.  With the items I purchased for a total $30.17, I am glad that I haul my Kayak on top. 

Disclaimer:

I worry quite a bit about damaging my soft top.  I cannot afford to replace it. I load and unload my kayak carefully in order to try to protect the top, paint, and windows (both glass and removable).  I currently use only two straps to haul the kayak to a local area.  If I were going to travel via the beltway or interstate highways, I would add a strap to the front of the kayak and attach it to my bumper as an extra precaution at the highway speeds. Thus far, at 50 mph, I have not had any shifting of the load or changes to my soft top.

You will have to decide for yourself whether or not you are comfortable with this way of hauling your kayak.

Materials:

  • 12' Ratchet Straps with rubberized handles and Coated Hooks
  • Multipurpose 2' x 2' foam cushion
  • paracord (optional)
  • coated spring hook with eyelet (optional)

Tools:

  • 1 pair of sharp, heavy-duty sewing shears

Instructions:

1. I was too impatient to order a kayak foam block and wait for it to arrive. So I purchased a 2' x 2' x 2" piece of "multipurpose" foam at the local DIY store. I cut it in half with a pair of old-fashioned, heavy-duty sewing shears. I may still order that kayak foam block because I like the shape, but this foam is doing a great job in the interim.

2. I purchased these ratchet straps from a local DIY store. They are the store brand. There are also very similar straps available on Amazon. The HDX brand has a break capacity of 1320 lbs. and a working load of 440 lbs. The straps are both strong enough and thin enough to do what I needed.

3. I place a piece of foam cushion at the rear soft-top roof support bar. I place another piece of foam on the front, on top of the windshield brace. I allow them to hang over the front and back edges just a bit.

4. You can either remove your side, rear window panels or unzip around the back and several inches across the top of the window. I choose to completely remove my windows and leave them at home but I read on the forums that some folks just unzip.

5. From the rear, slide the kayak onto the rear foam. Take care not to slide your kayak across the soft top itself. Slide the kayak forward until the front edge of the Kayak is past the windshield, centered on the front piece of foam.I made a paracord "leash" to help me pull the kayak forward. But I have not yet needed it. I have been able to slide the kayak from the back and then make adjustments by standing on one of the front door jams. I do not slide the kayak directly on the soft top.

6. Using one ratchet strap, strap the rear end of the kayak down. Ratchet until snug. There is no need to really crank on that strap. The strap fits perfectly in the inside curve of the roll bar.My kayak has a curve just between the seat and the water-proof well. I place the strap between those two curves in order to help hold it in place.

7. Using the other ratchet strap, and with front doors of the jeep open. I ratchet around the kayak, with the strap resting just past the sun visors. The doors will easily shut on the straps. Again, no need to crank those straps too tightly. Snug holds the kayak in place and doesn't risk bending either my top or the kayak.

8. With the thin straps that I purchased, the doors of the Jeep open and close no differently than they usually do.

9. Please note, I made sure to buy ratchets with rubberized handles and coated hooks in order to try to reduce accidental scratching of my paint. I also make sure to leave the strap handle in the space between the kayak and the Jeep top.

10. How it appears going down the road. This was my first trip and the Mister followed in the truck to keep an eye on things. It went perfectly.

I would love to hear your thoughts about Jeeps, kayaks, or life outdoors in general.

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    • profile image

      Mark 

      6 months ago

      Cool

    • DawnRae64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dawn 

      8 months ago from Maryland, USA

      I have not experienced any damage to the top. Initially, I thought that I would not drive at highway speeds or long distances with this set-up. But then again, I see people with mattresses tied to their car roofs, driving at highway speeds! So maybe I'm just too cautious. If I were going to go long distance, I'd definitely add a strap from the front of the yak to the front bumper. For extra stability.

    • profile image

      Krackstl 

      8 months ago

      A couple of years behind ya, but this solves a big problem for me when considering getting a kayak. How is this way of tying down the yak working? Any damage to the soft top or Jeep? Thoughts on long journeys - Midwest to Florida??? The roof racks are to expensive and cumbersome. Thanks.

    • DawnRae64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dawn 

      14 months ago from Maryland, USA

      Enjoy! (both the Jeep and the Kayak!) Keep on eye on it when you have it loaded, I've still never driven a main road/highway with it loaded like that. So take care. Hope you have a blast with the kayak.

    • profile image

      Mia 

      14 months ago

      Thank you for solving this problem!! Love Love love my jeep and recently got into kayaking.

    • profile image

      Virginia 

      17 months ago

      Oh wow, I am so glad I found your posting! I also recently realized the dream of owning a Jeep and as a middle aged, shorty I was wondering about how to carry a kayak with the soft top. God bless your ingenuity!

    • profile image

      sawndramichelle 

      18 months ago

      love this idea! My jeep is the mango sport like yours!!

    • profile image

      joo 

      2 years ago

      This is awesome! I had an idea similar to this but didn't know if it would work! Looking forward to trying this. Loved the step by step but a youtube would be even better ;)

    • profile image

      runningcrow@gmail.com 

      2 years ago

      Thanks honey. I've had my jeep for a while, but just got my mitts on a kayak for nearly free. (just couldn't pass this deal up) I too didn't want to stick the kayak in the back fearing damage to light, or launching the yak down the highway. This looks like it's gonna work just great. See ya'all, I'm off to Home Depot.

    • profile image

      Cindy 

      2 years ago

      Thank you!! I own my second jeep wrangler and just bought a kayak. Thank you for saving me and my Jeep hours of trying to figure out how to transport it!!

    • DawnRae64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dawn 

      4 years ago from Maryland, USA

      @Ruthi: Thank you Ruthi, it has been such great fun.

    • DawnRae64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dawn 

      4 years ago from Maryland, USA

      @ColettaTeske: Oh wow, Jeep pickups are awesome!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 

      4 years ago

      No doubt about it that you will fulfill the need of many Jeep owners needing to know how to transport their kayak in an inexpensive manner! Great how-to job and great fun you are sure to have kayaking, Dawn Rae!

    • DawnRae64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dawn 

      4 years ago from Maryland, USA

      @Diana Wenzel: Happy paddling to you too! Kayaking is one of the best adventures I've ever taken.

    • DawnRae64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dawn 

      4 years ago from Maryland, USA

      @Sylvestermouse: Thank you, Mouse. If your husband is that protective of his "play pretty" (and I totally understand!) he still may not want to load the 'yak like this. I still go backroads instead of highway and highway speeds because I'm still a bit paranoid. But I've been on many trips and there are no marks or problems at all (on the Jeep, that is)

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      4 years ago from United States

      What a fabulous step by step tutorial on loading a kayak on a soft top jeep! We do own a jeep. It is my husbands play pretty, but he lets me ride around with him :) Knowing the proper way to load and transport a kayak on a jeep will be essential when he gets a kayak. He is extremely protective and careful with his jeep. I think the man would faint dead away if he messed up his jeep. Thank you for sharing the proper precautions and instructions in advance.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      4 years ago from Colorado

      That's a great DIY solution. Currently, I'm hauling my kayaks in the back of my Sport Trac (overhanging the tailgate). I need to come up with a system that is better for the kayaks. It's great that you took the initiative to coming up with a safe way of securing your kayak by yourself. Way to go! Happy paddling.

    • profile image

      ColettaTeske 

      4 years ago

      I miss my kayak, but I do have a Jeep pickup. I love your innovative approach, Dawn Rae! So simple and inexpensive.

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