In this feature, team member Bobby Ulrich offers his perspective on transporting a Feelfree kayak in the bed of a truck. If you own a truck that has a bed capable of properly holding a kayak, consider yourself lucky, as this is quite possibly the most affordable and efficient method of kayak transportation, read on...

“Nervous” does not begin to describe the feeling I felt as I pulled off the lot with my first Feelfree Kayak in the back of my truck.

“Did I tie it down right?”
“Will the straps hold?”
“What if it falls out the back on the highway?”

I want to help you prepare for how to best transport your kayak while making that first trip a memorable one for all the right reasons.

There are three main ways to transport your kayak:

  • Truck bed transportation
  • Trailer transportation
  • Car top transportation

This blog will specifically cover truck bed transportation. If you are interested in either trailer transportation, or car topping we will be covering those in upcoming blogs. So without further ado, here are some of the best practices for transporting your kayak using the bed of a truck.

Loading Your Kayak

The first step in getting that new kayak in the water is to get it into the bed of your truck. Before you load it, you want to be sure that the weight will be properly supported by your truck bed. Given that many Feelfree kayaks are between 10’-12.5’ long, supporting the kayak may take some planning.

You want at least 70% of your kayak’s length to be supported from beneath the hull. When only a small percentage of the hull is supported, it can lead to problems from hull deformation to losing your kayak on the highway.

If you are transporting a Lure 10 in a 6’ truck bed, with the tailgate down, you should be fine. But if you have a longer kayak, or a short bed (5’ bed) truck, you may want to add a bed extender. Purchasing a bed extender for your truck doesn’t have to break the bank. Most bed extenders range form $50-$200 such as the one below from Harbor Freight.

Once you have ensured that your kayak will be well supported, it is time to load the kayak into the bed of your truck. Luckily you have it easier than most with Feelfree’s patented Wheel in the Keel. Simply roll your kayak to the side of where you will load it. You will most likely want the front (bow) of the kayak to be against the cab of the truck as it is the easiest way to load it with the wheel in the Keel in the rear (stern). If you have a rudder, this is also how you will want to load it to avoid damaging the system. However, there is nothing wrong with loading it rear end first if you don't have a rudder just make sure you don't drag the front (bow) of your kayak on the concrete or asphalt. 

Before lifting the front of your kayak, you need to stop the Wheel in the Keel from moving freely. After all, you don’t want to load the front, only to have the rear roll away. Some people wedge a towel or doorstop against the wheel to keep it in place. Others keep a flag mounted on the back of their kayak for transportation, and roll the Wheel in the Keel back over the flag to act as a brake. You can also have someone assist you and hold the kayak in place. However you choose to immobilize the wheel, the idea is to keep it from spinning freely during loading.

Once your Wheel in the Keel is locked into place, lift the front of the kayak onto the tailgate or bed extender. Before moving to the rear, make sure your kayak is well balanced. You don’t want it tipping over and dumping all your gear.

I like to run my hand along the side of the hull as I move to the rear of my kayak, just in case it shifts and begins to tip. When you reach the rear of your kayak simply lift it and slide the kayak into your truck bed. Placing a piece of padding between the truck cab and the front of your kayak will protect both your kayak and truck.

Special instructions for the Beaver Tail and Overdrive

If you own a kayak with an Overdrive, be sure to remove it before loading the kayak into the truck bed. Do not transport your kayak with the Overdrive installed as it will place undue stress on the hull.

If your kayak is equipped with a Beaver Tail rudder, it is recommended that you load and unload the kayak from your truck using a cart. Without using a cart during loading and unloading, the Beaver Tail will drag on the ground and put undue stress on the rudder, the rudder cables and the kayak hull.

If you are looking for a great cart, the C-Tug Kayak Cart by YakGear works well for Feelfree Kayaks. While there are two different wheel options, the “sand wheels” will depress a bit, and not roll back on you when trying to load your kayak, eliminating the need for a brake. See Figure 2 below.

Securing your kayak

The three main things you want to keep in mind when securing your kayak in the bed of your truck are these:

  1. Keep your kayak from falling out of your truck
  2. Keep your kayak from falling out of your truck
  3. Keep your kayak from falling out of your truck

While this may sound like a joke, this has got to be the one thing on your mind. For this reason, it is recommended that you use three straps. If one of the straps fails, the other two straps must keep your kayak from falling out on the highway. If two of your straps fail, you want to ensure that the third strap will keep your kayak in place. Be sure that any one of the three straps would prevent total disaster.

When deciding on straps, there are two primary types; ratchet straps and cam straps. Ratchet straps work by tightening the strap as you repeatedly move a ratchet mechanism back and forth. Cam straps work by simply pulling the tag end of the strap through the cam mechanism until it is tight.

It is recommended that you use cam straps, as ratchet straps are easy to overtighten and can lead to hull deformation. Also, cam straps take a fraction of the time to tighten and loosen. 

When deciding how to tie your kayak down, it works well to run one strap on each side, and one through the rear. For the side straps, connect to a cleat or tie down in the bed of your truck. Run the strap from the anchor point, through a moulded in handle or rail, and back to the anchor. Run the strap through the cam, and cinch it down. Do the same for the other side. Either of these straps should keep the kayak in your truck should the other straps fail. Run a third strap from either anchor points inside the truck bed, or on the bed extender, through the rear of your kayak and to the anchor point on the opposite side of the kayak. If you are able to pass through a moulded handle it will add even another level of security for your kayak. Should (heaven forbid) both of the side straps come undone, the rear strap should hold it in place without any problems. See Figure 3 below.

Safety on the road

Be aware that most states require you to tie a flag onto anything protruding beyond a couple feet from the bed of your truck. Check your local regulations, but also know that a flag cannot hurt. Even a simple red caution flag (available at most local kayak shops) attached to your kayak with a carabiner works great, and makes your kayak more visible to other vehicles on the road.

Unloading your kayak

When you are ready to unload your kayak, try to park somewhere flat; meaning both free of large rocks, and not sloped. A boat ramp may seem ideal at first, but often it means that your kayak has a greater chance of rolling away from you while unloading.

Remove the straps, and brake the Wheel in the Keel (see above) if not using a cart. Gently slide the kayak back out of the truck bed and bed extender, until it reaches its tipping point, and lower the back end to the ground, or onto the cart. Walk again to the front end and lift the nose out of the truck, and sit it on the ground. Using either the Wheel in the Keel, or your cart, wheel your kayak to the water. If you own the Overdrive, attach it once the hull of the kayak is in the water.

Before you know it, you will be able to load and unload your kayak in just a few minutes, and squeeze every last second out of your time on the water.

Written by Bobby Ulrich, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member

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