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Canoe Basics!
  What Canoe is For Me?
  Canoe Transport
  Canoe Carriers
  Paddles & Accessories
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Canoe Carriers

Choose:  Pad System  or  Roof Rack

The Pad System

I used this system until just recently when I finally broke down and bought a new car and didn't wish to scratch up the top with pads. I have used pads for transport on 7 different (older) vehicles, and the system was slightly different for each vehicle yet all systems had similarities.  Here is a picture of the system I used for my latest new vehicle before deciding to get a roof rack:

There are 4 basic components:

  • 4 Pads

  • Front & Rear Tie-Downs

  • Center Tie-Down(s)

  • Extra Tie-Downs As Needed (Note in picture above the bungees around the side rear-view mirrors to stop side-to-side movement)

The Biggest Headache: The Pads Don't Stay Put!

You are trying to put the canoe on top of the car and one or more of the pads falls off!  You can either start over or slide the canoe on without the pad(s). A solution for this problem is shown here:

Drill 2 holes in each pad to accommodate 2 dowels - The pads won't move on you! Make sure the dowels clear the roof however.

It's a Short Car!

For a short car (like pictured above), I used rear tie-downs that go over the rear seat instead of through the end of the canoe. Why?  If I centered the canoe, too much was in front, making everything off balance. I used a bungee cord with rope attached to two rings below each side of the rear bumper. This is shown below:

Make Use of Useless Hand Rails

In order to quickly secure the canoe in the middle, I attached bungees to the very useless interior hand rails found in many cars as shown below.  For long trips or high speed travel, you should probably place a safety strap as shown below as well.

Bottom Line - Safety and Ease of Use!

  • You should have a pad system that will not lose your canoe (and possibly result in highway fatalities!) if one of the straps or tie-downs comes loose or breaks.  Test your system at highway speeds on a deserted road - pick a windy day to test!

  • Take some time making a system that allows you to easily secure your canoe. Install eye-bolts if your car does not have them, and purchase quick-connect links for your tie-down ropes. Rig up your pads with dowels or some other system to keep them in place. A good system will allow you to secure the canoe in 5 minutes or less. You will want to use your canoe more if it doesn't take 1/2 hour each time to secure it to the vehicle.

Roof Rack System

OK, I got the fancy-shmancy roof rack that secures my canoe nicely, allows me to quickly load the canoe, and doesn't scratch my car and you are probably thinking - "Now he is going to try and sell me one!"  Well, the answer is no.  If you have an older vehicle that you don't mind having a few more scratches on your roof, I would probably recommend the pad system if you're thrifty (like me) and don't like worrying about expensive items (like me).  Here are things to consider:

  • The roof rack will cost about $300 plus another $40 (see below).

  • You need locking cores! ($40)  Without the locking cores, these racks may be taken off without tools in a matter of a minute or two even if the car is locked.

  • Even with the locking cores, I would not leave the rack on in a parking lot (especially one known for canoe tripping) for an extended period (more than a day) since with an inexpensive tool (which I won't mention), the rack could still be taken although it would take a bit more time and effort. You can remove the rack and place it back on without tools.

If you are still going to get the roof rack after my fantastic sales job, here are the components you will need along with links to pictures and descriptions for a Yakima Rack:

  • Yakima Q Towers (4) - About $125 - Info & Pic

  • Yakima Q Clips (4) - About $50 - Info & Pic

  • Yakima 48-inch Crossbars (2) - About $47 - Info & Pic

  • Yakima Gunwale Brackets & Tie Down Straps (4) - About $65 - Info & Pic

  • Yakima Locking Cores (4) - About $40 - Info & Pic

Note: The Q-clips are custom fit to your car. You need to consult with a sales rep for the correct clips.  The rep at was able to find the correct clips (and all the other components) for me.

Note: You will fasten the towers to the crossbars at specified distances according to your car make and model.  For my front crossbar, I had to place the towers about 1/2 inch closer to each other than specified in order for the clips to properly seat.

Note: The rack may make a howling wind noise at 50MPH or more without the canoe on top (It does for my car). I was, however, able to turn the "howl" into a barely noticeable wind noise by covering the bars with foam plumbing pipe insulation (See This Picture).  The pipe wrap almost looks like it belongs there and only cost me $1.59!

Note: Your antenna may rattle against the rack (and rattle your nerves!). To solve this problem, tie the antenna up against the rack as shown here.

Subtle Note: Make SURE the rack is wide enough for your canoe! My canoe is 36" wide and I have about 1" to spare!

A Thule Rack has similar components and is priced comparably.

Here's the canoe on the rack!  Notice I used a bungee on the front and I also used one on the back.  The straps secure the canoe to the rack. I keep the rack on the car for the summer but take it off in the fall.