Can You Put Kayaks on Top of a Pop Up Camper?

For many campers, there is nothing more enjoyable than finding a beautiful lake or a serene river near their campsite to paddle a kayak into and explore.

However, campers often find that in some of their favorite parks, they are unable to rent kayaks and instead need to bring their own. One problem those with pop up campers are faced with is how to haul large gear, like a kayak, on top of their camper.

So, can you put kayaks on top of a pop up camper? Kayaks can be carried on top of pop up campers using a roof rack and at least one of the following items:

  • Saddle Style Carrier
  • Foam Blocks
  • Cam Buckles or Ratchet Straps
  • Bow and Stern Lines

While it will require some extra equipment and planning, it will be very rewarding when you are able to paddle out into a vast lake that few have the chance to explore.

What’s A Roof Rack?

The first piece of equipment you will need to transport a kayak on top of your pop up camper is a roof rack.

A roof rack is a set of steel crossbars that you can attach to the roof of your pop up camper. There are several different kinds of roof racks to choose from, and you will need to carefully consider each option before making a decision on the best rack for your kayaks.

Does Your Roof Have Rails?

You will first need to determine whether the roof of your pop up camper has rails. If it does, you should be able to find a roof rack that fits onto those rails and does not require you to drill into the roof of your camper to install.

This is also an added benefit because the rack can often be removed and attached to other vehicles that also have roof rails, like an SUV.

Tip: If you want to move the roof rack between vehicles, look for a model with adjustable bars.

If Not, Start Drilling….

If your camper does not have rails, you will need to look for a different kind of roof rack. These racks require you to drill into the roof of the camper and install the rack permanently.

Since the rack cannot be easily removed, make sure that will not be a problem for your camper in the future.

Tip: When you decide on which roof rack to purchase, enlist the help of a professional before drilling into the roof of your pop up camper.

Saddle Style Carrier

There are many different ways to attach your kayak to a roof rack, and one of those is by using a saddle style kayak carrier.

A saddle style carrier attaches to your roof rack to cradle your kayak and prevent it from coming unattached during travel.

There are many different options for saddle style carriers, so make sure you choose one that will both fit on your roof rack and hold your kayak securely.

Tip: If the finish of your kayak is important to you, you may want to consider rubber pads on your carrier that will protect the surface of the kayak and prevent it from being scratched.

Foam Blocks

Another solution for securing kayaks to your roof rack is using foam blocks. Foam blocks are sometimes a more affordable solution than a saddle style carrier, and they can often work just as well for transporting your kayaks. This will also prevent the top of your camper from being scratched or damaged by the kayak.

Cam Buckles or Ratchet Straps

One of the most important things you will need for transporting your kayak is something to secure it to the roof rack with. It is possible to use cam buckles or ratchet straps, and there are pros and cons to each.

Ratchet straps are some of the strongest straps on the market and come in a variety of sizes for securing loads of different weights.

Cam buckles are not as strong as ratchet straps, but they do still have the strength to secure a number of loads, depending on the weight.

A cam buckle is notably easier to use than a ratchet strap. Anyone who has used a ratchet strap before knows how frustrating they can be!

If you have ensured a cam buckle is strong enough to withhold the weight of your kayak, it can be a great decision. A cam buckle also prevents you from over-tightening, which can put too much tension on your kayak.

Bow and Stern Lines

Use bow and stern lines to tie down each end of your kayak. This step may seem unnecessary, but it will prevent strain on your roof rack and protect you and other drivers in the event of a collision.

How To Secure Your Kayak To Your Camper

Step 1:

Put your kayak onto the roof right side up. Once you have installed your roof rack and carrier/foam blocks, lift the kayak onto the roof of your pop up kayak. You will want to ensure that the kayak is centered on your roof rack and that there are at least 18 inches of space between the bow and the back of the vehicle you will be using to haul the camper—otherwise the front of the kayak could collide with your vehicle when you turn.

Step 2:

Secure the kayak to your roof rack. Using your ratchet straps or cam buckles, secure the kayak to the bars of the roof rack. You will want to strap down the middle of the kayak in at least one area, and tighten the strap enough so that your kayak is secure while driving but not so tight that you damage it.

Step 3:

Tie down your bow and stern lines. Thread the hooks on the end of the bow and stern lines through the loop on the carrying handle and secure them down on either side of your pop up camper. Ensure that the hook is secure and that the lines are tight. Tie the loose ends to the lines and ensure that they will not come undone. If the loose ends were to become tangled in your tires, they could bring down your kayaks and your roof rack.

Or you can just build your own rack….

In Conclusion

While hauling your kayak on top of a pop up camper can require some forethought and planning, you will be rewarded with the ability to explore many lakes or rivers in the area you are camping in.

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