Kayaking solo as a woman is super gratifying. And, knowing how to load, transport and unload your kayak is essential to having the freedom to kayak on your own. I give you my tips, tricks and advice right here!
I was so excited to get a kayak this year. My kids combined their money from Mother’s Day and my birthday and bought me a kayak. It was especially nice to get outside with all that has been going with the Corona Virus.
I knew that I didn’t want to be constrained to using my kayak only when I had one of the fellas with me. So, my priority was to make sure that I was going to be able to load, unload and launch it all on my own.
I had not owned a kayak before. So, I didn’t know what I was getting into, really. I am someone who likes to invest in reading instructions and doing things the right way. So, I went online to several kayaking sites to see what other people were doing and how they were doing it. After doing research, I made a plan on how I was going to implement what I had learned.
TRANSPORTING A KAYAK SOLO
To start, it is important to have a vehicle that can transport your kayak. Once you purchase the kayak, how do you intend to get from home to the water? As a mom of five sons, I have always owned a rugged, heavy duty vehicle. My ex-husband and I had trailers and a sailboat. So, we had purchased a Suburban with a top rack and with a tow package built into it, which I still drive to this day. Not everyone has the funds for such a car–I wouldn’t be able to invest in a new Suburban now. So, I understand that.
Whatever vehicle you own, it needs to be able to carry the kayaks on top of the vehicle or, in the case of a truck, in the bed or be hauled in a trailer behind your vehicle. Not all vehicles have top racks. In those instances, you would have to purchase equipment that will make your vehicle kayak-friendly.
Some cars have racks on top. If yours does, you are golden. If not, you can still manage to transport your kayak, if you are up to the task. Here is a great website that goes into how to modify a car for transporting your kayak: Kayakhelp.com
I, oftentimes, see people just throwing their kayaks in the beds of their trucks. Some lay the tailgate down and some do not. If you do not lay the tailgate down, you may not need to use any straps—but, for safety purposes, I would always secure the kayaks to your vehicle! If the tailgate is laid down, you will most definitely need to strap the kayaks down securely.
An SUV will typically have a top rack, like my Suburban. My SUV is long enough that I do not have to secure the front and back end of the kayak. If your SUV is shorter and the front end of your kayak extends out over your hood, you will have to secure it so that it does not bounce or tip forward while driving. Even if you did not have a top rack, you could modify your vehicle the same as with the CAR example above.
Another option is to pull a trailer and have the kayak(s) down inside of the trailer. EASY-PEASY
Even with the top rack of my Suburban, I had the option to buy several pieces of equipment designed specifically for kayaks. The J-style accessory would be nice and make carrying our kayaks easy, but it wasn’t a necessary expense for me. It essential to buy some ratchet straps, though. I would not have the confidence to transport our kayaks without my ratchet straps. Ratchet straps do as their name implies: they ratchet down so that you pull it to the tightness that you can physically obtain and then you can manually ratchet the item down even more tightly and secure.
REI has a great post with step-by-step instructions on securely and safely tying a kayak down for transportation. View that post at www.REI.com
WHICH KAYAK TO BUY
Another beginner decision to make is which kind of kayak you want to purchase. Mine was a gift. So, I didn’t really get to add any input into that decision, but I think that the correct decision was made. There are kayaks specifically made for fishing, ocean kayaking, river rapids and so on. I even met a couple last weekend who had purchased kayaks that had a big hole where you put your bottom. So, their rear-ends were in the water the entire time that they kayaked. The poor couple thought that all kayaks were like that, somehow. And, to this day, I am not sure what the purpose of those kayaks are. So, check into that if you buy one!
Either way, my kayak is not too long. I like the length of it. It has a nice cushioned seat and has plenty of room for me to bring camera equipment, coolers, speakers and other items along. All of my compartments are protected with bungee cords so that I can attach my belongings to the kayak in the event that it was to flip over.
LOADING AND UNLOADING YOUR KAYAK SOLO
Clearly, I haD someone (my son) with me on this trip; I needed someone to take pictures of me for the blog. However, I told him that he was not allowed to help me—even if I looked like I was struggling or looked like I was going to drop the kayak. Not just so that I was doing it on my own for the pictures, but I wanted to know that I could take a trip without the assistance of another person, as well.
It should be noted that I wouldn’t advise going kayaking on your own, unless you are going onto a body of water that you are familiar with or that you have kayaked at least once before.
I have witnessed my mother get caught on a fallen tree and flip her kayak. If I had not been there to rescue her kayak, it would have sank (she was able to swim to shore, by the way). So, there are situations, even in still waters, that can cause extreme danger. After watching her flip her kayak, I realized the swift and sudden danger that a lone kayaker could find themselves in and the reality of it has placed a lot of caution in me.
LOADING SOLO AS A WOMAN
You would typically be starting at your home, taking the kayaks from a garage or other outbuilding and placing them on your car. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos while at the house. So, we started by loading the kayaks after our trip down the creek and unloaded at the house. It is all, pretty much, the same.
The key for me lifting the kayak was approaching the kayak at it’s center point so that the weight was equally distributed and then lifting it onto my thigh before transferring it onto my shoulder.
In the images below, I already had the kayak to the back of my Suburban and once I was able to get the nose of the kayak against the back of the roof, my top rack had a roll bar that made it easy for me to walk the kayak onto the roof of the vehicle using.
I place the nose of the kayak up to the roof, then lift the back of the kayak and walk forward; the roll bar does the rest!
UNLOADING SOLO AS A WOMAN
Removing the kayaks is just as easy…or easier. I grab the rear of the kayak, walk out until I can drop the kayak to the ground or onto my thigh, as I mentioned above. Then, I can roll the kayak onto my shoulder. Once it is on my shoulder—centered—it really is easy to carry. I have to have a towel on my shoulder though. If I carry the kayak against my bare shoulder, the plastic cuts into my skin and it is very uncomfortable.
After a day on the water, I make sure to bring the kayak home for a good cleaning. If not, kayaks can really start to stink. I don’t know what it is…bacteria, maybe…but it has to get cleaned off prior to being store. I give it a good once over with fresh water, wash it, tip it on it’s end to empty out the remaining water and then it is fine. Following a good cleaning, store it away with my paddle and life jacket stuffed inside until my next boating trip!
Do you have additional tips for kayaking solo as a woman? If so, please comment in the comment section.
And if you like a lot of adventure, check out my post about traveling to Colorado in an RV.