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How To Transport An Inflatable Kayak Long Distances

Nicola Burridge
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There are plenty of wild places out there that are just waiting to be explored. Remote waters that have been unspoiled and remain surrounded by wilderness.

Paddling in these waters can sometimes only be done with an inflatable kayak.

To help you reach these secluded waters, we have put together a guide with tips on how to transport inflatable kayaks, even if you have to go off the beaten track to get there.

How To Transport An Inflatable Kayak Long Distances - Pinterest ImagePin

Why Transport Your Inflatable Kayak To Far Flung Places?

Being able to travel easily with your inflatable kayak is probably one of the great reasons why you bought an inflatable kayak in the first place. Inflatable kayaks tend to be much more portable and travel-friendly than traditional hardshell kayaks.

This means you usually don’t need any additional transportation accessories to get your kayak from point A to point B. So it could prove to be cheaper to transport an inflatable kayak a long distance than a hardshell one.

Less People, More Peace And Quiet

Girl kayaking on inflatable kayak at peaceful lake at dawnPin

Taking your inflatable kayak with you on your traveling adventures and road trips means you can explore new waters. And you can discover exciting new places that you might not otherwise be able to find without an inflatable kayak.

Most inflatable kayaks can be carried pretty easily. So you can hike into remote destinations to find secluded lakes and quiet river launches with no roads or people nearby.

This can let you surround yourself with nature for a relaxing and stress-free paddle on peaceful waterways. And you don’t have to deal with other people trying to launch their kayaks or SUPs at the same time.

You could also find some great new camping spots, provided you’re on public land and not private land. It’s a good idea to make sure that camping is allowed in that particular area before you set off for an overnight stay.

However, not all inflatable kayaks are lightweight enough to be able to carry them a great distance, especially if you’re on your own. So if you plan to hike with an inflatable kayak in a backpack, you’d best make sure it’s lightweight. Remember, you’ll probably also have additional gear to carry as well.

Untouched Fishing Waters

A great benefit of taking an inflatable kayak into remote waters is that you could find virgin waters that have been untouched by other anglers. This could give you the upper hand when fishing, as the fish won’t be expecting you and could be easier to catch.

In overly fished lakes and rivers, fish tend to be wary of anglers and lures. So fishing in unfished waters could mean the fish are less likely to be spooked by your bait compared to busy waters. 

How To Transport An Inflatable Kayak (3 Different Ways)

With A Backpack

Weight distribution and spacing can be important considerations when you pack an inflatable kayak into a backpack. If your inflatable kayak comes with its own backpack, this could be easier to load than trying to fit an inflatable kayak into a different style or shape of backpack.

Remember, when you’re packing the deflated inflatable kayak into the backpack, think about the placement and shape of the kayak that will be directly against your back. You don’t want to have any hard or sharp folds of the kayak digging into your back while you’re hiking.

Try to distribute the weight evenly and vertically across the length of the backpack.

Remember to think about the placement of the paddle pieces and the pump so that this is not going to cause you discomfort while you’re hiking.

It can also be a good idea to make sure the shoulder straps are a suitable length for your body. The pack should be at a comfortable position on your back, not too high or too low (this isn’t a 90s school backpack).

Most compact inflatable kayaks that come with a backpack-style carrying bag are generally within the size limits for aircraft holds. So you could potentially check the backpack onto an airline if you’re looking to travel to foreign lands or you want to get across the country faster.

If you plan to check your kayak on a plane, make sure the case or bag is tough enough to protect the kayak inside. It will likely be tossed around with the rest of the baggage. You might want to store it inside a hardshell suitcase for added protection.

On Car Roof Racks

While it can be easier to transport your inflatable kayak when it’s deflated, it is possible to transport an inflatable kayak on a roof rack on top of your car. To do this, the kayak should be fully inflated.

First of all, you should lift the inflated kayak up and slide it on top of your car roof rack from bow to stern. The kayak can be the right way up to do this. Center the kayak on top of your roof rack.

Video: How To Car Top An Inflatable Kayak

Grab your set of cam straps. Starting at one side of your car, hold the buckle end of the cam strap and throw the other end over the top of the kayak to the other side of your car. This should be close to one of the crossbars on your roof rack. Do the same with the other strap.

Walk around to the other side of your car and take the end of the first cam strap and loop it under the crossbar. Once this is done, throw the end back over the kayak to the original side of the car. Repeat this with the second cam strap.

Let a little bit of air out of your kayak if the kayak is going to be in the sun or heat. It’s best to do this step anyway, since an inflatable kayak can lose pressure when it’s left outside, which could result in your straps no longer being tight enough to hold the kayak on the roof rack.

Remember to put the cap back on the valves after you’ve let some pressure out.

Once you’ve let the pressure out a little, you can loop the cam straps under the crossbar at the side where you first started. You can then thread the strap through the cam buckle and tighten both of the cam straps, making sure the kayak is fully secure.

Remember to secure the loose ends of the straps so they don’t blow around in the wind while you’re driving.

You should also use bow and stern lines to secure the bow and stern to the front and back of your car. Because inflatable kayaks are so light, they could easily get caught in the wind if they are not tied down properly.

Inside Your Car

This is probably the easiest way to transport an inflatable kayak over long distances. Because it can fit inside a compact storage bag, it can easily fit in the trunk of your car.

It’s best not to store heavy items on top of the deflated kayak, as this could damage the materials.

If the trunk of your car is packed with other equipment and luggage, the kayak could be placed on the back seats. If you have to stack items, make sure the inflatable kayak sits on the top to avoid getting crushed.

Video: How To Pack An Inflatable Kayak Back In The Bag

What Else Should I Bring, And Why?


No matter where you plan to kayak, a PFD is always recommended while paddling. In most cases, it’s the law to have one for each person on your kayak.

But it’s better that you wear the PFD at all times because if you capsize it’s unlikely you’ll be able to grab your PFD from the boat while you’re falling out.

Your PFD should fit you correctly and be suitable for the paddling activity you plan to do.

Spare Paddle

You don’t want to be up a remote creek without a paddle if you lose your original one. So bringing a spare paddle can be a good idea so that you don’t get stranded.

You should be able to find plenty of four-piece paddles that can be ideal for traveling with inflatable kayaks. These paddles can fit more compactly in your gear bags for traveling.

Camping Gear

If you plan to spend a few days or weeks on the road or on the water, you’re going to need some camping gear. This should include a shelter, such as a tent. You should also bring along a sleeping bag suitable for the climate.

Bring along enough clothing for your trip, with layers to suit the conditions and waterproof or water-friendly clothing for paddling. Remember to think about dry clothing to wear at your camp.

If you plan to cook, you’ll also need a camping stove (campfires are not allowed in some locations), cooking utensils and crockery.

Spare Pump

It can be useful to bring along a spare hand pump if you’re taking your kayak into remote spots. This is even more important if your usual pump is an electric one.

If you plan to be off the grid for a while, you will likely need a manual pump to inflate your kayak and keep it topped up with air during your trip.

> The best inflatable kayak pumps

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit can be even more important when you’re heading into remote waters as you might be a long distance from any help.

Make sure your kit contains antiseptic and antibacterial wipes, bandaids, bandages, and surgical tape.

Plenty Of Food And Water

Food and water can be essential for any paddling trip. When you’re heading into backcountry areas, you will probably have limited access to facilities where you can top up water bottles. So it’s important that you bring enough drinking water to support your entire trip.

You should also bring enough snacks and meals to sustain you for your entire trip, with extra in case your trip gets extended for any reason.

You may want to bring a cooler to keep some of your food fresher for longer.

Dry Bags

An essential on most kayaking trips, dry bags can help you keep some of your gear dry while you’re out on the water. Inflatable kayaks tend to have no dry storage and limited covered storage.

Dry bags can be used to store your camping gear, such as your tent and sleeping bag, as well as your clothing. You can also store food and valuables inside a dry bag to keep them protected from rain, splashes, and spray. 

Safety Equipment

If you’re heading into remote areas, it’s always a good idea to be prepared with kayak camping safety equipment that’s relevant to your adventures. A GPS device that works without a cell phone signal is a good idea in remote spots.

Your phone may have GPS built into it but this usually requires a cellular signal to work. And if you’re in backcountry zones, you’re unlikely to have cell service so your phone’s GPS may not work effectively or at all.

Other items, such as rope or a throw line, can be useful to bring, as well as a paddle float or other gear that can be used in a self-rescue situation. A flashlight and a whistle can also be beneficial accessories to have with you in an emergency. The flashlight can also be useful at night at your campsite.

> Rated flashlights for kayaks

Wrapping Up: Safe And Secure Transport Of Your Inflatable Kayak, Any Distance

Maybe you’re heading to an isolated beach or traveling across the country (or the world). Or perhaps you plan to hike to a remote put-in on a pristine river.

You should now know how to transport your inflatable kayak no matter how far you plan to travel.

Exploring remote waters in your inflatable kayak can be an immersive experience in nature. Wherever you plan to go, make sure your kayak is packed safely in your bag or securely in or on your car.

And remember to take enough supplies with you to enjoy your adventure and stay safe. Don’t forget your PFD.

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