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Multiple kayaks on roof?

Hello, I have 2 big and heavy ocean kayaks and look to purchase another one. I also have a youth kayak we got from Costco. I am looking for the best way to transport all 3 (4 total eventually) kayaks on the roof of my minivan. So far, it looks like a stacker is the best option, and perhaps I need extended cross bars. Do you have any caution for me, or other advice on transporting the big heavy boats on top of my car? Thanks so much!


  • There are 2 concerns - enough width on roof to carry boats and the amount of weight of the boats.

    For width, stackers and longer bars are a common way to allow fr more. Putting kayaks on their side is generally the way to get the most boats on to a roof.

    On weight, you need to look into what your rack manufacturer recommends, and how securely you attached it (this is likely much more important for you with heavy boats than the white water groms which have small/light weight boats). The weak point is usually the attachment between rack and roof. I wouldn't trust gutter rails or door clips as much as I would a rack that clamps around factory roof rails or bolts into made for rack spots on the roof. The weight limit number they list is one which many of us have done just fine exceeding, but some have also had racks blow completely off - YMMV. A bow line (or better yet, bow and stern line) is strongly recommended if you are going to push weight limits, as this can take load off of the rack. Lower speeds are less pressure, so also preferred if you are pushing limits. I would push limits more for a short shuttle trip on back roads than I will for a trip on highways.

  • I friend has a full size van often with 5 or more large boats on top. Round Yakima bars. Not sure how rack is attached I will have to look next time I see him. Iam sure that is over the weight limit of the bars but seems to do just fine. He has been doing this for well over 20 years with different vans over the years same bars though. Bars are real far part. No bow or stern lines used. Other guy I know has pickup with wide placed bars no bow and stern lines either. Place the bars far apart makes it stronger. like at least 8 feet apart. Compared to my car bars at about 3 feet part makes it much stronger I think.

  • I would also check with the manufacturer of your minivan. Many auto companies state the weight limit for roof loading in the specifications section of their glove compartment handbook.

  • Doubtful you minivan roof is rated for anything close for three heavy kayaks. Handling issue also with all the weight on the roof.

  • What minivan and year is it.

  • Third party cross bars can likely carry the weight, and the support towers should go on or near a structural member of the car. Stackers best option but 2 cautions-

    Absolutely use bow lines so you see if anything starts wobbling, especially the kid's kayak which will likely be too short for you to see the bow while driving. I will let other owners of similar vehicles have the argument about stern lines, don't know where you would secure it.

    Make sure you strap each boat individually, and correctly, to a stacker. Do not do what I saw on the highway earlier today, two rec boats on their side between stackers with just a couple of straps running over the top of the two boats and to the top of the stackers.

  • On their side like this

    The shuttle van, but why are all those kayaks up there?

    You should be able to get 3 on a standard size bar. Strap down the center boat individually and it will function like the stacker bar. I don't know if you will be able to get four big boat up there. Tie down the bow and stern as well.

  • You had to know this was coming......

  • Here is my solution to the multi-hull carry on the roof of a van:

  • The weight limit on my Yakima racks is 165 lbs. I didn't feel comfortable carrying 3 sea kayaks (55 - 60 lbs each) from Florida to Canada so I purchased a T-bar ($60 at Harbor Freight), I attach to my hitch and place my boat so the vast majority of the weight is carried by the T-bar. It also allows me to carry some of our gear in my boat so we have more room in the car. The other two boats ride on J-racks so that the combined weight is well below the maximum. The only problem is that I have is no access to my CRV's back hatch.

  • Interesting boat.

  • You said Ocean Kayaks, not Sea Kayaks, so I assume they weigh about 70 lbs each. That’s a lot of weight on your bars not to mention lifting said boats up on the bars sideways. They would be too wide to load more than two flat. Some have said they use no bow and stern tie downs. No boats should go without them unless short distance and slow speeds. But I even fear that. I have had my entire rack ripped off my roof with one boat and hit the expressway on a rare occasion when I didn’t use them. Thankfully no one was injured. I always use bow and stern lines now. Scares me when I see boats on the road without them.

  • Interesting boat it is. It's a NDK Greenlander Pro Sea Touring Kayak - 17'10"' long and 21.5" wide and weights 57 lbs.
    Sea and ocean kayaks are used interchangeably (unless you're making reference to the company Ocean Kayaks that makes sit on tops). They usually weigh between 40 lbs - 65 lbs depending on the material they're constructed of (carbon fiber is generally the lightest, fiberglass the heavier). I have two sets of crossbars - 58" and 78". With J-racks I can easily carry 3 sea kayaks with my 58" crossbar and 4 with my 78". I always tie down the boats whenever going a long distance. Transported 4 kayaks from Florida to Lake Superior half a dozen times without any problems.
    Here's a photo of the car and boats heading to Maine.

  • I have carried four often on my Honda pilot roof with no difficulty. Aftermarket rack system that attaches to your roof rails is best. On my Nissan Armada, I have carried 5 on the roof with no issue. However, not being the tallest guy in the world, I have a small trailer that I had some rails made to attach my roof rack to. So easy to load and unload. It also keeps the kayaks down out of the wind and you get better gas mileage. a small trailer is the best way to tow multiple boats. And with a couple storage boxes in the trailer you have plenty of space for PFD's and other gear. I have actually had some special load bars made and I can now haul 6 kayaks and I am just under the maximum vehicle road width of 104 inches. Kayaks and a light trailer pull so easy that I even drag it around sometimes with my daughters 4 cylinder CRV. One big camping expeditions I attach hook up the kayak trailer behind my 30 foot travel trailer and pull tandem behind the Armada. With the light weight of the trailer and Kayaks, you do not know its there and they are down out of the wind. I have attached a camping expedition picture showing the kayak trailer on the right.

    Camp.jpg 594.2K
  • You should also be wary of any insurance company restrictions. A couple of times a year I drive from New Jersey to Nova Scotia with two kayaks on top of my Santa Fe and I have insurance riders on my auto policy protecting the boats from damage and theft.

    It wouldn't surprise me though that if I exceeded the load rating of my SUV, then my insurance company would easily have a way out of any liability in the event of an accident.

  • @jamesismith said:
    Here is my solution to the multi-hull carry on the roof of a van:

    I like this.

  • @Overstreet said:

    Someone like that should be arrested.

  • I was visiting the Perception plant years ago and saw two vehicles loaded almost to that extent. Outfitters?

  • My guess is a once a year trip to drop rental boars somewhere. Begs the question of why they couldn't arrange for a trailer and car capable of towing it.

  • @Celia said:
    My guess is a once a year trip to drop rental boars somewhere. Begs the question of why they couldn't arrange for a trailer and car capable of towing it.

    Reverse Shuttle?

  • @Overstreet
    If a shuttle really an argument for a trailer. That's what they all use around here.

  • Celia sarcasim intended. We trailer too. Although last weekend I just added the extra yak in the truck bed.

  • Many vehicles d/n have an outer front area for tie downs. I use two sections of material, cut to length needed, like tie down straps are made from,. Lift the hood, find a place (hole, not a rusted one) on the body, just under the edge of the hood. Tie them by making a knot and pulling it to tighten. They can then be pulled up so the loop extends to the outside, shut the hood and you're ready to fasten. When done, untie, raise the hood and tuck it under. Close. NOTE: Ensure, when fastening, they will not get in the way of any moving engine parts or anything that might overheat the material. The back end of my boats are tied to the hitch connection. It's also wise to use cockpit covers to cut down on wind resistance and save fuel.
    To deter some who may be tempted to remove a boat (steal), while at a motel or during a food stop, I place a couple of golf balls in a hatch or the bottom of the cockpit. Makes a racket when they try to move the boat from its perch.
    I ALWAYS use tie downs, front & rear. Learned that lesson once, as a newbie, when I picked up a new fiberglass boat. Five miles on the road, the wind picked up and it began to dance a bit. Fixed that real quick! And why would I want to risk damage to my car or boat? When you pass or are passed on the freeway, by a big rig or carry on a windy day, you'll be glad you did. Also, over time, by not using them, damage can occur to your vehicle. I hate spending money I don't need to. Also, IMO, folks will know you're not a newbie.
    Paddle on. Have fun.

  • @shirlann said:
    Many vehicles d/n have an outer front area for tie downs....

    Yep. That's why Thule, and a number of others, make under hood straps...

  • edited May 2018

    The initial reply about rain gutters not being trustworthy for rack attachment deserves some scrutiny. The rain gutters on full-size vans (not what the OP has, I know) are a stronger attachment point for roof racks than you can find on almost any car roof nowadays. All heavy-duty roof racks made for commercial use on full-size vans (vans of the standard style, that is, since the new European style lacks rain gutters) are designed to attach to the rain gutters, and on those vehicles, the rain gutters are virtually as strong as those found on cars back in the days when gutters were the norm (that is to say, much stronger than anything you can find on a car roof nowadays). Such racks can easily carry a few hundred pounds and in the construction industry they commonly do exactly that (of course, the strongest of these racks use eight points of attachment instead of four).

    I doubt that there is any other modern vehicle that's not a full-size van that even has rain gutters, but in the event that there is such a car being made nowadays, then the comment that rain gutters should not be trusted might be correct in that instance.

  • Many excellent points in this thread, even for transporting one kayak. Safety trumps everything else.

  • Best racks are ones screwed/bolted into the roof of the vehicle.
    Also keeps the boats lower, easier for loading and unloading.
    Spread your racks as far as possible, to avoid bow/stern tie-down's.
    Never use rope, takes too much time to tie/UN-tie.
    Remember, the first one to safely and correctly fasten their kayak(s) is the first one at the brew pub, or has the first choice of parking.
    If you take too much time, either: You have more kayaks than the others, you are new, and have not figured out the best processes, or are tangled up in your ropes.
    If it is dark out, get enough light on the area, so no one is dropping anything.

    I drive a R32/Golf vehicle, stock is very low, rack is in the roof, screwed down. Cam straps from Salamander gear. Cam's are always protected by fabric material. Double loop both sides of the cam straps around the roof rack bars, that are strung around the kayak. Buy a little longer strap for this reason, and/or tying the kayak, down in a windy situation. (tossing the strap to the other side of the car)
    I have done 100 mph, w/ 2 kayaks, absolutely no noise from the roof/kayak area at all!!

  • Who's going to take a vehicle and screw or bolt in to it for a rack?

  • @PaddleDog52 More than one person here has done that including some very respected pnetters, Generally someone who drives a vehicle into the ground but there are plenty out there..

  • @PaddleDog52 said:
    Who's going to take a vehicle and screw or bolt in to it for a rack?

    I understand that some vehicles can be had with the mounting pads for the factory rails in the roof and they can be used for some rack mounts. That said, I went Celia's way on my daughter's beater Saturn SC when she went off to college. I had some Thule mounts I took of a camper & some short bars lying around. The system held up (mostly) until it was time to scrap the car. It did look a bit odd with a 16.5' wood strip kayak & an old Piroutte S on that little car.

  • @PaddleDog52 said:
    Who's going to take a vehicle and screw or bolt in to it for a rack?

    I used these pad mounts thru bolted to the roof of my truck camper as the base anchor point for the rack. They are originally made to mount to the car rack base mount systems. (base mount on car usually covered by rack or trim strip)


  • @PaddleDog52 said:
    Who's going to take a vehicle and screw or bolt in to it for a rack?

    People have done that. There are rack shops near me who do it, but the way they often do is to rivet from outside, which isn't that strong. Drilling hole and accessing from inside and adding some sort of support brace backing to the inside to spread the load is the proper route.

    Some cars do come with bolt connection spots built in. Here is what we have on my 2000 Audi: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8b32r1rdi76oeiy/AudiRoof.jpg?dl=0 (there is a plastic slug in that gets removed when I bolt the rack on it). A quick look at other neighbor cars and it looks like a BMW has these, but a Honda Fit does not. My Mom has a Kia Soul, and I seem to remember that it looked like it has a bolt on point also. These points often take only a special mounting foot, which you may need to buy from the dealer at exorbitant prices. But having a rack that bolts directly on to the roof does add a layer of safety.

  • My BMW comes with four roof rack anchorage points. I bought BMW roof racks for my kayaks, which also come with a torqued wrench. The spec for the rack load capacity is 165 lbs. I can't find any load spec for the anchorage points though. The system works perfectly for me, since I transport no more than two kayaks. However, for transporting multiple heavy kayaks, the load capacity may not be enough. BTW, the rack distance is not large. So, I always use bow and stern lines.

  • hey, if you are going to completely overload the rack it is best to put some extra looping straps around the whole mess, with the car doors open and the straps running through the car . Otherwise you got to climb through the windows to get in. Also recommend in addition to bow and stern painters that yout also try tieing the ends of boats together. Think not so much in terms of attaching boats to racks, but the whole mess to the car itself. 3 boats should be no problem, when you get up to five or six or seven or eight, thats when it gets interesting.

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