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How to Mount a Canoe to Your Vehicle’s Roof Rack

 Posted on: September 27rd, 2021

How to Mount a Canoe to Your Vehicle’s Roof Rack

Still planning on taking a canoe trip at some point before the end of summer? If so, it’s important to make sure you’re prepared to haul your canoe to your destination. Whether you’re renting a canoe or have your own, you should research tying down a canoe to your roof rack so you’re comfortable doing it yourself when the time comes.

While you can tie down a canoe to the top of your vehicle without a roof rack, it’s much better to use one to give yourself a more secure tie down and to prevent damaging your vehicle.

Balancing canoe upside down on vehicle before tying down. Make sure to do this with another individual.
Balancing canoe upside down on vehicle before tying down. Make sure to do this with another individual.

Here’s an overview of the steps you will need to take to get your canoe safely on to your roof rack.

  1. Hoist it up: Lift up the canoe and get it on to the vehicle’s rack. If you have a lower vehicle you may be able to do this yourself, depending on the size and structure of the canoe, but it’s always easier (and safer) to have the help of another person when doing this. The bottom of the canoe should be facing up.
  2. Protection: Make sure you’ve taken the proper steps to protect the canoe. You can use cloth or foam blocks between the vehicle rack and the canoe’s gunwales to add some extra protection and prevent damage to the vessel or the vehicle.
  3. Balance: Before you start to secure the canoe into its position atop the vehicle, make sure it’s properly balanced on the crossbars of the rack so it is not tipping either forwards or backwards. The yoke on the canoe should be at an equal rest between the crossbars. The canoe should also be positioned in a straight line. If it is even slightly off line, this will result in uneven wend pressure that will negatively impact your vehicle’s efficiency on your drive and potentially make driving more difficult.
  4. Straps: Next, you will need to get your straps into the proper position to prepare to secure them. On the passenger side of the vehicle, toss the non-buckle side of the cam strap to the other side of the vehicle for both the front and back strap of the canoe, or one for each bar on the roof rack. Then, on the driver’s side of the vehicle, rap the strap around the bars on the roof rack and pass the non-buckle side back over the top to the passenger side (both at the front and back). You can then prepare for the tightening process by taking the non-buckle side of the strap and wrapping it underneath the bar on the passenger side, up through the buckle on the cam strap.
  5. Tighten: You can then begin tightening straps. Get started with the buckle at the bottom of the canoe, and make sure you have enough room to pull the strap tight before the buckle hits the bar. Repeat on both the front and back straps.
  6. Tie: Once you’ve finished tightening the straps, you should tie off any loose ends that exist to prevent them from flapping around in the wind and causing a disturbance or safety hazard while you’re on the road.
  7. Secure: Use a bow and stern line to secure the front and back of the canoe. If your vehicle has built-in attachment points at the front and rear, you can use those. If they do not, you can find tie-down loops for the hood and trunk at any paddling or outdoors shop, or online from Amazon or specialty retailers.
  8. Inspection: Before you take off, you should perform a thorough inspection of your tie-down job to make sure the canoe is secure and that everything is ready to go. Use both hands to try and shake or maneuver the canoe—rather than the canoe moving around, this should instead move the vehicle.
Canoe strapped and tightened to vehicle roof
Canoe strapped and tightened to vehicle roof

Before you take off on your outdoor adventure, make sure you know how to safely tie down your canoe to your vehicle’s roof rack. The process is simple and it’s crucial for keeping your vehicle (and canoe) safe!