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Kayak and Canoe Car Top Basics

ArticleMay 18, 2011

Carrying kayaks and canoes on top of your vehicle is the common way to transport the boats to the water. It works great; however, unless you use proper technique and equipment to attach them to the vehicle, you run the risk of creating an “unguided missile.”

Your boat is designed to efficiently slice through the water. On top of your vehicle, zooming along at highway speeds, a lot of wind resistance and pressure is transferred to your roof rack and tiedown system. Give your equipment and technique the following safety check.

Vehicle Rack

Make sure your roof rack is up to the task. Original equipment factory racks are bomber and should handle any load the vehicle maker specifies. When installing an aftermarket rack, be sure to install the correct one for your particular vehicle. The Yakima Rack Configurator lets you zero in on the right fit. Installing a rack that’s not specifically designed for your vehicle is dangerous; it can lead to “flying boats.”

The Quick-N-Easy rack system is an economical one for vehicles with a specific type of rain gutter. Other affordable ways to carry kayaks and canoes on your roof are the NRS Deluxe Kayak and Canoe Car Rack Kits.

Strapping Down Your Boats

Follow the directions on our Tie-Down Strap Instructions page for securely tying the boat to the crossbars. As noted, depending on the size of the craft, you’ll use two 12' or 15' straps.

Two other important straps, which all too often are forgotten, are the bow and stern tie-down straps. These straps secure the bow and stern of the boat to the front and back bumpers or frame of the vehicle. The NRS J-Hook Straps are specifically designed for this purpose. The rubber-coated hooks clip into boat grab loops/carry handles and bumper lips or vehicle frame members. In addition to helping prevent forward or backward movement of the boat, they take a lot of the strain off the rack system itself. It is highly recommended to always use these tie-down straps when transporting boats. If you’re carrying two or more boats at a time, you can join their grab loops/carry handles with a strap and use one J-Hook Strap on each end.

Other Considerations

Anytime you are using a tie-down strap on a vehicle, where a section of the strap is not directly against something, put a “twist” in the strap in that area. This helps eliminate “strap strum,” the rhythmic vibration of the strap in the wind. Under the right conditions, this strum can generate enough energy to actually melt and part a strap. This also helps cut down on noise.

An open kayak cockpit makes a big air scoop that increases wind resistance. We carry a variety of cockpit covers, for both touring and whitewater boats. Covers not only block the wind, they also keep rain, dirt and critters out of your boat.

Following these simple steps will get you and your boats to the water with no-hassle. Trust us—you don’t want to see your boat in the rearview mirror!