One of the best parts about kayaking is that we get to spend time in Nature with the people we love. But, sometimes, our friends let us down or we simply take to the waters in our kayak to find peace and solitude.
In these times, it’s critical that you know how to carry a sit on top kayak by yourself. But even some experienced kayakers become overly-reliant on always having a paddle partner to help them get their kayak down to the water’s edge.
Unfortunately, not every launching or landing point makes it easy to park your vehicle right next to where you’ll put your kayak in the water. More often than not, you’ll end up having to carry your kayak some distance to start your paddle.
The good news is that there are multiple answers to this all-important question: how to carry a sit on top kayak by yourself?
And you’ve found yourself in the right place today to learn several new methods for carrying sit on top kayak without any assistance (at least from another person!).
- How To Carry A Sit On Top Kayak By Yourself?
- Why It Makes Sense To Pick A Lightweight Kayak
- Best Kayak Carry Straps
- Best Kayak Carts
- Final Thoughts
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How To Carry A Sit On Top Kayak By Yourself?
There are several methods you can use to carry a sit on top kayak by yourself. So let’s start by covering each in greater detail before we move on to anything else.
The Basic Method
The photo above details the basic method for carrying a sit on top kayak by yourself. But even some of the best sit on top kayaks don’t come with the kinds of convenient carry handles that the Lifetime kayaks in the photo above offer.
In those cases, you’ll have a get a little more creative, but most sit on top kayaks will have some sort of handles on the gunwales. Sometimes these handles are molded-in and sometimes they are riveted on.
Regardless of the design of the handles on the gunwales of your kayak, the basic method involves turning your kayak on its side and picking it up by those handles. But this can be especially difficult if your kayak is heavy or you are a shorter paddler.
If you don’t have any other option at your disposal, a pro tip to make this basic method easier is to utilize one of the scupper holes to provide additional lift for your kayak with the hand that’s not grabbing the side handle.
Start by leaning your kayak onto its side and position your body facing towards the bow.
Lean the hull of your kayak against the leg that’s closest to it and then lightly grip the handle on the gunwale with the hand on that side of your body (right leg and right hand for righties and probably left leg and left hand for lefties).
Next, locate the scupper holes directly in front of you and closest the gunwale that’s facing towards the sky (in other words, not the one resting on the ground). With two or three fingers, lightly grasp inside that scupper hole and lift with both arms at the same time.
This will help to more evenly distribute the weight of your kayak so that the hand and arm gripping the kayak’s handle aren’t doing all of the work. It will also help you more easily balance the weight of your kayak as you carry it down to the water.
Using a Kayak Carry Strap
If your kayak is too heavy or awkward for the basic method to work comfortably, the next technique you can consider it to utilize a kayak carry strap.
This method is also great when you have to carry your kayak over a little more distance than you’d feel comfortable with when simply using the basic method.
Many of these kayak carry straps have different designs, which means that the exact method for using them will depend on the manufacturer’s unique instructions. That being said, the vast majority will work adequately with the method we’re about to describe in this section.
These carry straps are designed to be threaded through the scupper holes in the bottom of your kayak or secured around the entire hull of your kayak.
For the former application, the front strap will thread through one of the scupper holes toward the bow of your kayak while the other will thread through a scupper hole closer to the stern.
Setting these straps up is most easily done when the kayak is resting on one of its gunwales and up against a tree or the side of your vehicle.
Depending on your height and the size of your kayak, you can either use the scupper holes closest to the sky or those closest to the ground.
If you’re shorter, we’d recommend using the lower set of scupper holes so that your kayak isn’t dragging on the ground and defeating the entire purpose of setting up a kayak carry strap to help you move your boat with ease.
That being said, the method for how your specific kayak carry strap will fasten depends on the model you choose. Some offer buckles with tightening straps and others offer a design that’s more similar to the kind of cam strap you’d use for strapping a kayak to a roof rack.
Once you have the straps on either end threaded through the scupper holes and secured, it’s time to lift. And contrary to what you see in the image above, the recommended technique is actually to put the shoulder strap over the shoulder on the opposite side of your body from where your kayak is located.
Doing this will more evenly distribute the weight across your body’s center of gravity and it will also help you balance as you carry your kayak. It also reduces the likelihood of hurting your shoulder because too much weight is resting on one side of your body.
A pro tip for using this method is to also strap your kayak paddle into your kayak before you lift it up. These will keep both of your hands free to help you balance or carry other essential kayaking accessories down to the water.
Putting It On a Kayak Cart
If you have to carry your sit on top kayak over a long distance, the best method to do so is to get a kayak cart, wheels, or trolley. These kayak carts allow you to roll your kayak down to the water and they really don’t take up much space in your vehicle when you’re not using them.
Plus, you can always strap your kayak cart right into one of the stern or bow storage areas in your kayak if you don’t want to walk back to your car to put it away before you hop on the water and start paddling.
There are actually a couple of different schools of thought when it comes to the best way to use a kayak cart. Some people swear that it’s best to pull your kayak from the front toggle handle once it’s secured to the cart and others believe it’s best to grab the rear toggle handle and then push your kayak from the stern.
Whichever method you ultimately find is best for you, the way to strap your kayak onto the cart will remain the same.
And the best way to do that is to start by setting the kayak cart up leaning in the direction you’ll be coming from when you go to load your kayak onto it.
Most of these carts come with a tripod leg that allows you to lean them in one direction before you load your kayak on.
By leaning it in the direction you’ll be coming from, you’ll make it easier to place the kayak on the forward rail and have the rear rail come up into proper position.
When using a kayak cart, you should shoot to have it under the center of your kayak as close to the midpoint of your kayak as possible. This makes it easy to keep your kayak balanced when you’re rolling it and also places less strain on the cart itself.
Once your kayak is leaning on your cart, you’ll take the strap and place it over the top of your kayak. Then, you’ll thread it through the buckle on the opposite side and tighten it down.
The exact strap security method used by your cart may vary depending on the exact cart you choose. But you’ll still need to make sure that strap is tightened down adequately before you begin rolling your kayak.
The nice part about a kayak cart is that you’ll be able to load your kayak paddle, PFD, and any of your paddle gear into the cockpit before you make your way down to the water. This means you won’t have to carry it separately or make any additional trips.
The ‘Drag’ Method
If you really have no other option at your disposal, you can use the drag method to get your kayak down to the water. But we really only recommend using this method if you’ll be dragging your kayak on a relatively friendly surface such as grass or sand.
We never recommend dragging your kayak across rocks, concrete, pavement, or any other surfaces that can cause damage to your kayak’s hull. This is a surefire way to damage your kayak and drastically reduce its lifespan.
If you do use the drag method, make sure you are bending your knees and lifting with your legs to get the bow or your kayak off the ground.
From there, we recommend allowing your arm to stay straight so that you’re mostly using your leg and core muscles to move the weight of your kayak.
Why It Makes Sense To Pick A Lightweight Kayak
Now that you have several methods at your disposal next time you need to carry a sit on top kayak by yourself, let’s talk about a few important reasons why it makes sense to pick a lightweight kayak in the first place.
It Saves Your Back
The first great reason to choose a lightweight kayak is to reduce torque and strain on your back every time you have to move it. A lighter kayak will help you keep your back feeling healthy so that you can spend more time out on the water.
Some people even find prolonged stints in the cockpit of a kayak to be troublesome on their backs. That is all the more reason to reduce the strain on your back during the process of just getting your kayak down to the water’s edge.
Your Kayak Will Last Longer
When you’re moving around a heavy kayak, the likelihood of dropping it or having it slip out of your hands is much higher than when you’re carrying a lighter kayak. Those drops or slips can often lead to dents, dings, or cracks that ultimately compromise the longevity of your kayak.
So another great reason to choose a lightweight kayak is to actually maximize the lifespan of the kayak itself. Because a lighter kayak is much easier to move, the chances of you keeping it in great condition for many years is going to be higher.
You’ll Paddle More Often
When it’s easier to move your kayak and your kayak stays in great shape for a longer stint, the odds are higher that you’ll be more motivated to paddle more often. If the process of just getting your kayak to the water is a hassle, it’ll be much easier to back out of your friend’s invitations to hit the lake.
Best Kayak Carry Straps
The Tactical Single Element Kayak Carry Strap is designed to go all the way around the hull of your kayak. It utilizes quick-release buckles to keep the straps in place and then those straps tighten down around the entirety of your kayak.
The sling and shoulder strap on this model also adjusts so that it can be comfortable for paddlers of all heights. And it includes a removable shoulder pad that makes it more comfortable to carry but can be removed if you decide you don’t need it.
The Pelican Universal Kayak Strap is adjustable to fit any size kayak and it can also be used to carry standup paddleboards. It includes a more ergonomic padded strap that also adjusts to your height and provides a more comfortable carrying experience.
This strap also includes its own built-in paddle loop to make it easier to carry your kayak paddle without your hands. And it’s constructed with 1.5-inch polypropylene webbing with a 3.5” x 13” shoulder pad.
The SUP Sling Kayak Schlepper Strap is designed to hold kayaks up to 70 pounds and with diameters measuring up to 80 inches. The strap itself is adjustable depending on the size of your kayak and can also help you carry your paddle without using your hands.
Best Kayak Carts
The ABN Universal Kayak Carrier is an excellent option because it’s both affordable and trustworthy. This kayak cart can hold a maximum weight limit up to 200 pounds, which means it’s even strong enough to carry two smaller kayaks if you ever need it to.
The knobby tires on this kayak cart measure 9.5 inches in diameter and they can easily inflate to your desired pressure. The cart itself is constructed from anodized stainless steel, which gives it plenty of strength and corrosion-resistance for saltwater environments.
The Suspenz Smart Airless DLX Cart has the added benefit of coming with two straps to hold your kayak more secure once you set it in place. It can handle a maximum weight capacity up to 125 pounds and includes airless tires that are ten inches in diameter.
The airless tires on this kayak cart are one of its best features because it means they will never go flat. And this cart also folds down to compact dimensions of 27” x 13” x 3” and stores in its own mesh carry bag to keep it protected and in great condition when you aren’t using it.
The Bonnlo Universal Kayak Carrier is built of high-strength anodized steel and boasts a maximum weight capacity of 150 pounds. It also includes airless tires that measure 10 inches in diameter and will never go flat and let you down.
This kayak cart also comes with two 7.75-foot ratchet straps to help you secure your kayak to it. And when you collapse it down for storage, the strap that runs between the two cart rails serve as a convenient carry handle.
Once you’ve moved many kayaks many times over, you’ll find extra motivation to make the carrying process as easy as possible. For our final thoughts, we can’t stress enough how much the investment into a kayak cart is going to be worth it.
Don’t hesitate to spend that little bit of extra money to make the process of carrying your sit on top kayak as easy as possible. And then enjoy the health benefits of kayaking for many more years to come!