Pop-up campers have sort of “changed the game” when it comes to outdoor adventures.
Offering a lot of the same amenities that full-size campers bring to the table with a much smaller, more flexible, and more portable footprint, they are quickly becoming the go to choice for those that want to get out in the woods and spend a little more time in nature.
On the flip side of things, though, pop-up campers with their smaller footprint don’t have as much room to tote other pieces of outdoor adventure gear – like kayaks, for example.
Luckily, though, figuring out the ins and outs of sticking a kayak on top of a pop-up camper is a whole lot easier than most people realize.
We dig into everything you need to know about sticking your kayak on top of your pop-up camper in the rest of this detailed guide!
Can I Stick a Kayak on Top of My Pop-Up Camper?
Kayaks can effortlessly be carried on top of pop-up campers, with or without a built-in roof rack, if you know what you are doing!
Sure, pop-up campers aren’t quite as robust or as heavy-duty as full-blown campers, including teardrop style campers that share a similar footprint to these options.
But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to leave your kayak at home just because the pop-up is going to be “home base” in the woods.
Not by a long shot.
Instead, armed with the inside information below, you’ll be able to quickly, securely, and safely get your kayak on top of your pop-up camper with as little headache and hassle as possible.
Ready to jump right in?
Let’s do this!
Weigh Your Kayak First!
The first piece of the puzzle is weighing your kayak.
Sure, the manufacturers can give you a ballpark number four how much your kayak ways. But each individual kayak that rolls off of an assembly line is going to be made a little differently than every other, some with more material and somewhat less.
You need to know exactly how much your kayak is going to weigh before you strap it down on top of your pop-up camper. It’s important to know that you’re not going to overload your camper (though the odds of that are slim to none if the only thing you are loading is a kayak itself).
Confirm that your kayak is light enough to get strapped to your pop-up camper and you are rocking and rolling.
How Long is Your Kayak?
The next thing you’re going to need to consider is how long your kayak is in relationship to your pop-up camper.
Some folks have recreational style kayaks that measure anywhere between 8 feet long and 10 feet long, maybe a little longer (but rarely any shorter). Those kinds of kayaks shouldn’t have any trouble getting strapped on top of a traditionally sized pop-up camper.
It’s the people with longer kayaks – racing kayaks, sea kayaks, tandem kayaks, etc. – that might end up having a little bit of trouble. You should still be able to find the balance point and easily distribute weight across your pop-up camper.
But if you have a really long kayak you might end up with just a short bit of it upfront before you hit the vehicle you’re towing your camper with and a significant chunk – two thirds or more – hanging off the backside.
That may or may not be a problem when it comes to locking down and securing your vessel. A lot of it has to do with the overall length of your pop-up tent in relation to the length of your kayak.
Does Your Pop-Up Already Have a Roof Rack?
The overwhelming majority of pop-up campers today do not come with full-blown roof racks. That’s just not the kind of “in-house upgrade” most manufacturers are making available.
Thankfully, though, adding a roof rack to your pop-up camper is generally a pretty straightforward process.
There are lots of aftermarket companies that make great pieces of equipment that are lightweight, strong, and rock solid. These companies not only make fantastic products but also outlined installation directions in clear and concise language.
Some of them even have installation videos you can follow step-by-step to get your new roof rack installed on your pop-up camper.
At the end of the day, if you want to make sure that your kayak is always brought with you on your adventures with a pop-up camper this permanent fix might be the way to go.
Roof Rack Alternatives That Might Work For You
If you’re looking for a more temporary solution – one that doesn’t involve drilling into your pop-up camper and (hopefully) getting the install right – there are alternative options, too.
J Hooks (the same kind of kayak attachment system designed for passenger vehicles without a truck bet) can be a great option. You might have to DIY and attachment system to get J Hooks on your pop-up camper, but at least you’ll have a semipermanent (removable) system for getting your kayak where you want to go with your pop-up.
Foam blocks have quickly become a super popular way to transport your kayak without damaging the kayak itself or your pop-up camper.
Most folks can’t get away with using pool noodles (a crazy affordable alternative to foam blocks) with pop-ups the way they can with car and SUV roof rack systems. But that’s okay.
Get your hands on quality foam blocks and make sure that the ratchet or tiedown system you’re using locks your kayak in place.
Speaking of tiedowns…
Ratchet Straps and Bow/Stern Line Tiedowns
No matter how you decide to mount your kayak to your pop-up camper – using an integrated roof rack, and aftermarket roof rack, J Hooks, full noodles or foam pads, or anything else – you need to be sure that you are ratchet strapping your kayak down and using bow as well as stern line tiedowns, too.
This is not optional.
Some of the best roof rack systems (and even some of the best J Hooks systems) are going to tell you that they eliminate ratchet straps and tiedowns completely.
Ignore that advice.
Ratchet straps and tiedowns at a little bit to the mounting procedure, but not much – all while offering a ton of extra safety and a ton of extra security.
Do this right (there are lots of YouTube tutorials out there to help you out) and you won’t ever have to worry about barreling down a highway with your pop-up camper and kayak combo behind your vehicle on the way to your next outdoor adventure.
Tie your kayak down and then double check your tiedowns before you leave.
You’ll be glad you did!