How Far Can a Kayak Safely Hang Out of a Truck?

Kayaking is one of the best ways to enjoy nature. It’s good exercise, fun, and an opportunity to learn about the surrounding environment. However, it could be a disaster if you don’t transport your kayak properly. 

Your kayak should never hang out of your truck more than four feet by law. Additionally, some states require that your kayak be marked with an orange flag to let drivers know it’s there. If you hang it on your car, it cannot extend more than three feet past your vehicle’s roof.

Below, I’ll go over how to properly transport your kayak in a truck. If done right, you won’t worry about getting pulled over or ruining your kayak!

your kayak should hang out

Properly Transporting Your Kayak in a Truck

Your kayak should never hang more than four feet out of the back of your truck. This is the law (always check your state’s laws for a more accurate number). 

As a kayaker, you are undoubtedly familiar with the challenges of transporting your vessel. Finding the right rack that fits your car and allows for easy loading and unloading is one thing. However, once you’re on the road, things can get more complicated. Depending on where you live, specific state laws regarding oversized loads may affect how you transport your kayak in a truck or SUV. 

The first thing to consider when transporting a kayak for any distance is the height of your truck. You are good to go if you have a high-bed truck (open-top). 

However, if you are using a regular cab and have the tailgate down, it’s time to get creative! You can either remove all of the items from your truck bed, or strap them down so they don’t move around while driving.

The second thing to consider is how big/heavy your kayak is and how far away from home/destination point it needs to be transported. The heavier and longer your kayak, the more likely it will be damaged during transport because there may not be enough room inside any given vehicle for such equipment without damaging it in transit.

Get the Right Racks

If you go the rack route, get the right ones. These are the parameters you need to consider when purchasing a rack:

  • Racks must be strong enough to hold your kayak. 
  • It must be able to withstand the kayak’s weight.  
  • It should fit easily on your truck. 

If you’re unsure about anything, it’s best to ask a professional who knows what they are talking about!

Have a friend help you secure your boat inside the rack. Trying to balance it while getting it into position can be very tricky, so having someone there makes things easier and safer.

Transports Kayak With Needed Equipment Only

The best way to transport your kayak is on a trailer, but not everyone has a trailer they can haul off to the lake.

If you must use a truck, ensure you only take what’s needed and don’t overload the vehicle. Make sure that any equipment that could potentially fall off is strapped down firmly.

Use a Tie-Down

Secure your kayak in the truck by using a tie-down strap. 

There are several options for tie-downs. You can use: 

  • Ratchet straps 
  • Cam buckles 
  • Webbing straps 

Make sure to get one that is rated for the weight of your kayak. Tie each corner at an equal distance from the center of the hull (the bottom). 

A good rule of thumb is to have a minimum of four points tied down when transporting a kayak; however, it’s always best to be safe than sorry, so you may want to secure more points on your kayak if possible.

Tighten all four corners until they are snug against your vehicle’s floorboards or walls before securing any loose ends with safety clips if necessary. It’s important to ensure everything is secure and regularly checked throughout your trip because wind resistance could loosen these straps over time!

Practice Safety While Driving

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: you have to be more careful than normal when using your vehicle to transport something large. 

While driving, it’s important to be as safe as possible. This is especially true when transporting a kayak in your truck. 

The extra weight of the kayak could throw off your steering and cause accidents, so you should always practice safety while traveling with a kayak in your vehicle. You may consider taking an advanced driver’s course or getting additional training before heading out on the open road with your vessel.

For more information, you can check out my article on the recommended speed-limit for cars with kayaks on their roofs. It highlights the best and safest ways to travel with a kayak attached to your vehicle. [How Fast Can You Go With a Kayak on the Roof?]

Be Aware of the Weight and Length of the Kayak in Relation to Your Truck’s Length

The next step is to be aware of the weight and length of your kayak and your truck’s length. 

You must know the laws and regulations regarding transporting kayaks in your state, but generally speaking, ensure you have the right equipment for safely loading it into your vehicle. This includes a ramp or a trailer hitch if it’s large enough (or both). 

The size of truck that can handle carrying your kayak is also important: a small pickup might not be able to safely transport even a small one-man boat; conversely, a large truck may not fit on narrow city streets, so thinking about where you will take it from there is important as well. All kayaks are built differently, so keep this in mind. 

You’ll want to consider these factors when deciding what kind of vehicle will carry your vessel properly; check out our guide here for more information on how various sizes compare when compared side by side!

Learn Your State’s Laws 

Some states have strict rules regarding the transportation of any object sticking out of vehicles’ trunks; others require that any large object protruding from a vehicle’s trunk be marked with an orange ribbon for visibility during daylight hours (even if it’s folded down). The laws are different everywhere, so do some research before hitting the road!


Generally, keeping your kayak out of the way is best, and it may be worth investing in the proper equipment to tie it down. However, if you need a little help transporting your kayak and don’t want to purchase a trailer, the truck bed should do okay in a pinch.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry! Just remember to follow the above safety rules and check out your state’s laws for transport. Additionally, you can call your local park ranger to see what they do and do not allow when it comes to kayak transport.

Two kayaks in pick-up truck