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How to Lock a Kayak to a Roof Rack in 4 Simple Steps

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

how to lock a kayak to a roof rack

Kayaking or kayak fishing is more fun if you don’t have to deal with any hassles along the road. Figuring out how to transport your kayak or keep it safe can be quite the headscratcher as proven by “solutions” that get defeated either by thieves or by their own innate weakness.

That being said, anyone who wants to learn how to lock a kayak to a roof rack properly should read this guide.

Method Featured Here


  • Using a KanuLock then reinforcing it with a padlock and metal chain

The success of locking a kayak rack depends mainly on how you tie and lock the kayak in place. I’m going to go ahead and highlight the importance of using sturdier, uncuttable (by a knife) straps.

Out of all the tie-down straps I’ve tried, I can only vouch for the one offered by KanuLock since it’s specifically designed for these vessels and to address the problems that arise when you’re securing a kayak to a roof rack. It also works for any type of roof rack .

I assume you’re like me who settles for no less than maximum security. Well, know that if I’m feeling extra leery of where I’m at currently, I also add in a metal chain and padlock combination to the mix as additional deterrence.

Tools to Prepare

  • KanuLock lockable tie-downs
  • Corrosion-resistant padlock
  • Thick metal chain

Using KanuLock Straps


KanuLock straps offer top-notch durability since they include stainless steel. I’ve tried other tie-downs and these are the only ones that managed to withstand shears and bolt cutters (at least, for a time).

I can’t say the same for the small keys they include, but the way they lock up a kayak outside is solid, especially when I compare it to a standard Lasso lock that tends to break over time.

These instructions are assuming you’ve already positioned your kayak on top of your car’s roof rack.

Step 1: Position Two of the Straps on Top of Your Kayak

The straps should be positioned so that you can easily access their buckles with the locking mechanisms and loop the end of each strap around the bars of your roof rack.

In my case, I just position the buckles a quarter of the way through the kayak’s entire width, head over to the other side and loop the end on the bar, then return to the other side to loop it again on that side. Do these steps for the two straps and make adjustments accordingly.

Feel free to use the tying method that works for you. The key is that the kayak is tied down securely using the strap’s locking mechanism.

Step 2: Loop the Strap at the Other End of the Bar Then Lock the Kayak in Place


Grab the end of the strap then loop it at the other end of the kayak roof rack bar. Afterward, insert the end into the strap buckle. Loop it again at the bar and use any secure knot that you know to keep the straps nice and tight.

The straps should tighten down securely like a Thule kayak lock strap, assuming you’ve given that product a try.

Incidentally, while Thule products are arguably good, I prefer KanuLock tie-downs when locking a kayak to a roof rack because they are less expensive and more secure .

Step 3: Use the Key to Lock the Strap Securely

The keys that KanuLock tie-downs come with are the closest you can get to a lockable kayak rack. You literally turn the key and lock the strap in place, after all.

Do that after you’re sure that you’ve gotten the kind of tie-up you want with the straps. Test the locking mechanism by pulling the straps. The strap should not loosen at all AND you should not be able to slide your kayak sideways.

Step 4: Reinforce with a Metal Chain and Padlock


If you prefer a DIY kayak lock, using a chain is the safest recommendation I can make, but you’ll have to do some modifications to your kayak, like the case shown in this video.

You can tie the chain around the bars similar to how you did it with the straps. I suggest you get a chain that’s as thick and heavy as possible, so it won’t be as flimsy as a standard kayak cable lock that only takes a standard bolt cutter to remove.

Again, feel free to use any number of loops, assuming the chain can accommodate the length. You can even wrap it around any nearby sturdy post if there’s one near your car or loop through the chassis.

Once you’re satisfied with how you’ve tied the chain, lock it in place with the padlock.


Following this methods on how to lock a kayak to a roof rack should delay any possibility of theft and give you the peace of mind you need when transporting your kayak. There’s no 100% guarantee that they can secure kayaks from theft. But out of all the methods I’ve tried, this is the one that directly prevents cutting, which is the quickest and most common way stealers do it.

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