Can You Put Kayaks on Top of a Pop-up Camper?



The invention of pop-up campers has made outdoor adventures more interesting and convenient than ever before. These recreational vehicles allow you to take books, food, picnic, and sports equipment to the campsite and have home-like comfort outdoors. But pop-up campers do not accommodate large equipment, especially kayaks. 

You must be thinking, what if we put a kayak on top of the camper? Well, that’s a valid question! 

The short and precise answer to this is yes. You can place a kayak on top of a pop-up camper, but there are many factors to take into account first. Stick to the article to learn everything you should know about putting a kayak atop a pop-up camper. 

Things To Consider Before Putting Kayaks On A Pop-up Camper Top

Pop-up campers add tons of flexibility to your storage and traveling needs. But not all campers are durable enough to survive heavy loads on their top. Similarly, not all kayaks can fit the top of a camper. Therefore, it is essential to consider certain aspects that help determine whether you should put a kayak on top of a pop-up camper. 

How Heavy Is Your Kayak?

The roof of full-blown campers can support kayaks well. But you can not expect the same from pop-up campers as they are comparatively less durable. Their roofs can bear a particular limit of weight. So, you need to ensure your kayak does not exceed that limit.

Kayaks come in many types, each having a different weight depending on factors like design, construction material, and seating capacity. For example, solo kayaks weigh anywhere between 24 to 60 lbs. Fishing kayaks are a bit heavier and can weigh up to 120 lbs. The heavier models include racing kayaks and tandem kayaks with a maximum weight of 225 to 300 lbs. 

Similarly, fiberglass kayaks make the lightest option, while thermoform kayaks are medium-weighted with great durability. Wood kayaks weigh much heavier compared to other materials.  The inflatable kayaks weigh around 18 to 52 lbs. 

These kayaks may also be heavier due to their bigger designs and seating capacity. Overall, they are great for their space-saving design rather than being lightweight. So, make sure you know the exact weight of the kayak you plan to put atop a pop-up camper to ensure the vehicle’s safety. 

How Long Is Your Kayak?

Besides weight, consider the length of the kayak as well. Your kayak must fit the roof length-wise. Kayaks longer than the roof are likely to hang from the rear end or hit the vehicle when it turns, which may result in additional damage and a ruined trip. Moreover, securing a kayak with a tie-down becomes challenging if it is too long to accommodate. 

The size and length of kayaks vary with the purpose of use. Most recreational kayaks come in a length of 8 to 10 ft. However, the length goes up to 23 ft for the ocean and some tandem kayaks. Loading a kayak longer than 16 ft may put you in trouble during traveling. 

Therefore, it is necessary to confirm the length of your kayak and check if the roof of your camper can accommodate it from the bow and stern properly. Make sure the weight of a long kayak is well-spread throughout the edges of the roof. 

What Is The Load Capacity Of Your Pop-Up Camper Roof?

Once you know the dimensions of your kayak, your next task is to consider the strength of your pop-up camper’s roof. Most pop-up campers can hold a weight of up to 300 lbs on their roofs without any damage, given that the load is distributed evenly. 

Weight distribution across the edges and corners is crucial to maintain the shape and structure of the roof. The roof’s material also plays a vital role in determining its load capacity. Some robust campers offer a maximum load limit of up to 500 lbs. 

You can not go over more than a very few pounds than the exact limit. A pro tip is to replace the traditional axles with modern and heavy-duty ones. Before that, you need to check the camper’s manual. If the camper is already equipped with high-strength axles, replacing them would not help much. 

The weight limits apply to the entire load you can put on the roof, not just the kayaks. When loading additional gear, such as a mountain bike or kids’ playing equipment, you must ensure that the kayak and other stuff collectively do not exceed the maximum load limit. 

Roof Racks For Carrying Kayak On The Top Of A Pop-Up Camper 

Now that you know your pop-up camper can carry your kayak, it’s time to learn how it is possible. Roof racks are the most reliable option among all, but they need roof rails to install. Some pop-up campers come with pre-installed roof rails. 

If your pop-up camper features factory-installed roof rails, you need to purchase compatible roof racks and install them immediately. Here’s a tip; buy roof racks with adjustable bars so you can use them later for another vehicle. If the roof has no rails, you will have to drill the rails first. 

The installation of roof rails and racks needs expertise, so it would be better to ask a professional to help you.  Once installed, the racks will be challenging to remove, especially the ones with non-adjustable crossbars. Hence, go for roof racks only when you have no issues installing them on your camper forever. 

Accessories Needed To Protect A Kayak Mounted On Roof Racks 

Tying down a kayak to a roof rack can cause damage to the gear on uneven terrain during transit. You can enhance the safety of both pop-up camper and kayak using additional accessories, such as:

Saddle Style Carrier

It is a saddle-shaped carrier designed to secure a kayak snugly and prevent it from wiggling on different terrains. Made from steel, this kayak rack often features rubber padding to keep the gear safe from scratches and cracks. It comes in different sizes and structures, suitable for a wide variety of kayaks. Pick the right size for your kayak and roof racks.

Foam Blocks

Saddle-style carriers lay significant stress on the camper’s top. Therefore, these carriers are a no-go zone for moderately durable campers. This is where foam blocks come into play. Foam blocks are budget-friendly and do the intended job well without needing installation. 

Place these blocks on roof racks, load the kayak onto them in a suitable position, and fasten them together with tie-downs. The foam acts as a barrier between the kayak and the surface of the roof, keeping both protected against scratches and abrasion. Make sure the kayak does not slip the blocks when tied down. 

Pool Noodles

Pool noodles also make a great addition to your camping gear, as these ensure the safe transit of a kayak. Pool noodles are pipe-like pieces of polyethylene foam. These noodles can be placed beneath a kayak. 

This keeps it from coming in contact with the roof and absorbs shocks occurring due to rough roads. You can also create a roof rack with pool noodles by lining them up parallel to each other, just like crossbars. However, using them in combination with a roof rack is much safer for longer routes. 

Tie-Down Straps

Installation of the roof rack is done. Kayak is also placed on it. Now you have to tie it down so it remains in place safely. Ratchet straps are the most commonly used fasteners that come in handy to secure a kayak to the camper’s roof. 

They are highly reliable for lightweight to heavier kayaks due to their excellent construction. In these tie-down straps, you will find a buckle to loosen or tighten the grip as needed. Over-tightening the strap may damage the kayak. 

Cam Buckles

Cam buckles are a great alternative to ratchet straps. This strap-locking system features an adjustable buckle that allows you to tighten the webbing according to security requirements and the sensitivity of the load. The cam buckles exert less tension on a kayak than the ratchet buckles. 

How To Load A Kayak Atop A Pop-Up Camper In 4 Simple Steps

Scroll down to learn the step-by-step guide on how to mount and secure a kayak on the roof racks of your pop-up camper. 

  1. Firstly, place your kayak on the roof racks, saddle, or pool noodles. 
  2. Align the kayak in the correct position. It should be in the center of the roof and not touching the vehicle that is supposed to tow the camper. Leave plenty of gaps between the vehicle and the front end of the kayak. 
  3. Now, secure the kayak with the tie-down straps of your choice. Tighten the belt and lock the straps. 
  4. Tie the remaining loose areas with bows and stern lines snugly. Confirm that the locks and kayak are in place, and you are ready to go!


A pop-up camper can sustain the weight of a kayak if loaded carefully. Avoid overloading the roof with an extra heavy kayak. Exceeding the roof’s load limit may cause damage to the pop-up camper and kayak. Also, choose high-quality tie-downs to fasten the kayak with roof racks.

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