Anyone who paddles a kayak or canoe must have a way to transport them to and from the water. Serious paddlers have this fact in mind whenever they make an automobile purchase. While canoe and kayak roof racks can be fitted to virtually any type of vehicle, some manufacturers make it easier than others.
This step-by-step will describe how to secure a canoe or kayak to a factory installed or after market roof rack. While there are many fancy attachments now-a-days to help transport canoes and kayak, the strapping method for the most part remains unchanged as it is the kayak position and not the strap position that changes. When in doubt always consult the instruction manual that came with your car or canoe and kayak roof rack.
01. Lay the Kayak Straps Over the Bars of the Roof Rack
The first step in tieing your canoe or kayak down to your car is to lay the kayak straps over each bar. Thread each strap underneath and around each bar and let the kayak straps lay flat against your vehicle. Of course you will want to make sure the clamps on the end of the straps don’t scratch your car door. The best way to avoid this kind of damage is to pull the end of the kayak strap that has no metal on it longer than the end with the clamp. Allow the clamp to rest against the window.
If you haven’t already done so, it is a good idea at this point to check the crossbars of the kayak rack. Make sure they aren’t loose. If they are, tighten them. Each rack will vary but they usually just require an allen wrench to tighten them.
02. How to Place a Kayak or Canoe on a Roof Rack
At this point you will place the kayak on the roof rack. These steps assume you are only transporting one boat on the roof of your car at a time. There is an old joke in the whitewater boating world that says you shouldn’t put a boat on the roof rack facing backwards. They say if you do you’ll end up going down the river facing the wrong way. The truth is that some boats, especially whitewater kayaks, fit better with the stern facing the front of the car.
If you are tieing the kayak straight to the crossbars of the roof rack, as these pictures show, then you’ll be placing the boat up-side down on the rack. If you are using kayak carrier pads or special attachments on the roof rack you can place the kayak right-side up. You’ll have to use trial and error to decide which way the boat is better off, facing front or rear.
If you are placing a whitewater kayak the roof rack, try it first backwards and push the cockpit combing up against the inside of the back cross bar. The air pressure from the wind against the kayak will keep the kayak pushed up against the rear crossbar this way. If you are placing a sea or recreational kayak, make sure nothing is hanging off the deck that will dent and damage the roof of the car. When placing a canoe on a roof rack it should be centered on the crossbars of the rack.
03. Bring the Canoe Straps over the Canoe
Once the boat is on the roof of the car and the straps are around the bars, pull the straps over the canoe or kayak to the other side of the canoe roof rack. It is quite common to see people throw the straps over the canoe to the other side. This is the best way to damage your car or even break a window on the other side. Admittedly, it can be tough to get the canoe straps over a large canoe.
If you are using long enough straps you should be able to pull the buckle side of each canoe strap around the front and rear of the vehicle, respectively, to the other side of the canoe roof rack. Then walk back around to the other side of the car and toss the free end over the canoe. Another way is to walk both sides of each strap around the car and over the canoe or kayak at the same time. Whatever the case you need to get the straps over the canoe or kayak. In the end you may need to resort to tossing them over.
04. Secure the Kayak Straps
Once the kayak is in position on the roof rack and the straps are laying over the kayak it is time to strap it down. First, ensure the straps are laying flat against the kayak and are not crossed. Then bring slide each kayak strap so that the buckle is laying against the hull of the kayak. Bring the other end under the crossbar and back up to meet the buckle. Thread the kayak strap up through the clamp by pushing the button on the clamp thereby opening a slot for the strap to fit into. Pull the straps to take up the slack but don’t pull too tightly at this point. Do the same to the other strap.
Now that the kayak straps are threaded through their buckles, its time to tighten them up. Pull each strap down, allowing the straps to slide through the buckle. These buckles are really one-way clamps that allow the straps to slide through them one way (against some resistance) but not the other. To undo a strap simply push the button and give loosen it up. You want the straps tight. It is ok if a plastic canoe or kayak seems to compress in the process as they will regain their form once they are free.
05. Roll and Tie the Kayak Straps Up
Now that your canoe or kayak is securely strapped down to your vehicle, its time to go, right? Wrong. There is one last step. You don’t want the kayak straps flapping in the wind and whipping against your car. You will need to tie them up somehow. The best way is to wrap each strap around and around the part of the kayak roof rack that attaches to the car. Then take the end of the strap and knot it against the rest of the straps or wedge it under them. Don’t think you’ll just slam them in the door of the car to keep them from flapping outside. This will only damage your kayak straps over time.