Best way to carry canoe on Subaru

After many years of Kayaking I want to go back to my roots with a 16 ft Mad River Explorer. I uses to have vans, but now I have a recent Subaru outback. The problem is limited roof length relative to 16 ft canoe. At least half the boat is in front of forwards tie-down point on rack and there is over 3 foot of boat hanging off the back. How can I make this work. New car not an option

I don’t understand your problem
The space between my Yakama cross bars on my Forester is only 33" and I carry a 17 foot canoe, and other times two 18 foot long sea kayaks, and they are rock solid.

Jack L

Doesn’t matter, just center it
We used to carry our 16’ barge of a Mad River Adventure 16 on a Thule rack on my ex’s Honda Accord. It was easy to haul on my 2002 Outback. And I carry 18’ kayaks on the roof of a smallish Mazda CX5 wagon that probably does not have more than 3’ of spacing between the rails. It might help to slit some pool noodles and slip them over the rails to make it easier to position the boat so the thwarts don’t interfere with strapping it on and to raise it up a hair. Be sure to use bumper lines to tie off the stern and bow to both ends of the car and have a red or orange flag for the stern to warn people following you not to misjudge the tail end distance.

I know somebody who hauls a 19’ racing kayak on a tiny SmartCar.

No big deal
I have hauled an 18ft canoe with a 91 toyota camry. I assume you have a rack with load stops for the canoe. Just center the boat between bars, use good straps with front/back tie downs and a red flag for the rear overhang. Keep enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you if the boat is overhanging the front.

The only time I have been hassled with the camry hauling a long boat is when I use 78in bars to haul 2 canoes. Those 78in bars get in the policemen way when trying to ask for license/registration and proof of insurance. My taillight was out.


Canoes seem so much easier
relatively flat plane between gunwhales, lighter, can tie down onto the thwarts or seat, etc.

Center it on the cross bars
and use bow and stern tie-downs as well as straps over the canoe and secure it to the roof rack. You can get straps that bolt under your hood (and tailgate if necessary) for the tie-downs.

Ditto, and a clarification

– Last Updated: Jul-28-15 6:40 PM EST –

The OP says at least half the canoe is forward of the front cross bar. Bad idea. Do NOT center the canoe relative to the full length of the car, or even relative to the roof. Center it over the cross bars. Actually, it helps a lot if you put the canoe a foot or so to the rear of being centered on the cross bars (makes the boat a lot more steady in the wind at high speed). Centering the boat on the rack (or a bit rearward) will result in more of the boat sticking out behind, but what really matters is that it rides well, not aesthetics. Hang a flag from the back if you are prone to forgetting the boat is up there (the flag will keep you from hitting obstacles with your boat when backing up).

Some Subarus have an incredibly stupid rack design that leaves you with something like a 2.5-foot cross-bar spread. That's a whole other problem, best addressed with a complete rebuild of the rack, or a different car, but some people make do with that setup.

aero carry

Right, bring hull as far back as possible. The problem here is aerodynamics more than hypothetical static balance.

Wind off the Subie’s front end and over the windshield to under the hull and into the cockpit is the problem

You need a transport DECK or cover device

Home Depot paneling allowed drying time painted with Rusto primer 2 coats white topcoat. Use SS 3/8ths aluminum sheet metak screws or self tapping screws from McMaster Carr.

Cut a template from cardboard box sheet from Walmart…slit the box form open…new blades…never cut toward hand.

Transfer template to paneling

Not using a transit deck is primitive.

The front bar should support an airfoil from bar to roof following roof curvature. There can be a main foil then a finish foil atop the main…silicone joint.

Then you can fiddle with the curve on a smaller section.

I use a slit rubber hose attached with #6 wood screws maybe 8 on a Subie on the foil bottom. Cutting a hose requires a jig of 3 wood pieces: 1) at hose width-a fraction for tightness, 2) 2 side 1x holding hose on jig. Use clamps.

The jig holds hose tight so the cutting knife cuts a straight line on a straight hose.

Try the front bar with cardboard sheet metal screwed to crossbar. Predrill holes with correct drill size for screws.


Hull sides can be surrounded with cardboard screwed to an underside 1x running cross bar to crossbar or on toward stern.

I have a Crosstrek & 18’ kayak
I used a hitch extender turned vertical and put the rear Yakima on that. It does sway some due to hitch play, but seems more stable than the roof rack only.




– Last Updated: Jul-29-15 9:33 AM EST –

I tied my 15'6" canoe on the roof racks of my Pontiac Vibe, which are about 3' apart. I don't even use bow or stern tie downs, just one ratchet strap on either side of the "fat" part of the canoe on the roof rack, and that's it.

Same here on the front and rear
tie downs but it is not good to publicize it here.

The purists will jump all over you

My Yakima rack is bolted directly to the vehicle frame.

I use two double looped cam-lock buckle straps over the canoe, and the whole system is rock solid.

The only time I use a front tie down, is if we have our 18’-6" ultralight Comp Cruiser hanging over the front, and that is just to protect the knife like delicate bow from wind shear.

Jack L

stern lines from ? to top hitch /top canoe stern ? Once canoe fastens to hitch then triangulation guys should stiffen the rig. With the metal hitch small diameter plastic coated wire cable with turnbuckles would be ‘bomber’


the above GooImage page

Short spread…

– Last Updated: Jul-29-15 1:32 PM EST –

My Pontiac Vibe only had roof rack rails that were maybe two feet long? If I added both roof rack crossbars onto the factory rails I'd have had a tiny span to center my canoe on. Instead, I used one bar that went on the factory rails as far back as it would go, and one bar that attached using those vertical towers that attach to your car's rain gutters (I'm explaining this terribly) all the way forward on my car's roof as it would go. Basically, the mount for my front and rear bars are different, but by doing it this way I gained an extra foot and a half of span.

Like this person's set up:

The only downside is that with the racks I was able to get, the front bar is a little higher than the back bar, which is terrible for wind....right?

physics lesson!
Thanks; it all makes good sense. By chance, do you work for NASA?

but they are tracking his orbital status.

who ?
me ?

I activated a new launch system called HOMECOURT

so they threw me out.

Every time we do this, 3-4 here KSC has a disaster.

Once they threw me in jail so the Shuttle bolts didnah go off…

tough luck

I quit.

Actually, I disagree with Guideboatguy
That’s OK, It happens on occasion :wink:

Based on advise from an old Mohawk Canoe video, I always center the boat on the car rather than the rack. In a sedan, this puts the boat is in a better position for effective bow and stern tie downs.

Even in an SUV, having the boat slightly forward of the rack makes it easier to tie down the bow, and you don’t have as much boat hanging off the back.

Most people center the boat on the rack, which is fine too. Either way, you shouldn’t have trouble with a 16’ boat on an Outback. Personally, I don’t see any advantage to hanging the boat off the rear of the rack. It’s already hard to tie down the back of the boat on SUV, so why stick more of the boat out there? I don’t use stern lines with my Forester.

Effective mounting for over 55mph driving centers on moving an open canoe bow cockpit rearward away from vehicle’s bow airflow.

Eye bolts mounted rearward of bumper, straps bolted inside hood on fender tops,eyes on body above wheels…are guy mountings giving safe rearward hull balance…on road.

Variations on front and rear tie-downs

– Last Updated: Jul-31-15 8:24 AM EST –

Well, as has been talked about here before, the difference between centering the boat on the rack and moving it a little bit back makes a night-and-day difference in reducing the way the boat, and therefore the vehicle too, get pummeled in really strong crosswinds or turbulence from semi-trucks. If you are ever getting knocked around by the wind, or see that your boat is trying to squirm on the rack, be aware that the problem would not exist if you put the boat a little farther back. Most of the time of course, it won't matter nearly as much.

Regarding tie-downs though, a lot of people use under-hood anchor points, which of course provide a nice, well-aligned, short connection to the bow even if the boat is behind center on the rack. I don't, and I live with the longer connection distance that I have from putting the boat farther back. The front tie-downs really don't have much work to do once the boat is positioned where it behaves better in the wind.

Regarding rear tie-downs, most people would be better off if they let go of the idea that auxiliary tie-downs must attach to the end of the boat. At the rear, you can attach the auxiliary tie-downs to a middle thwart, and get two benefits. First, it shortens up the connection distance, nullifying any benefit to mounting the canoe in a more-forward position. Second, the angle of the tie-downs as seen from the side (the front-to-back angle of the ropes) can be set up to counteract those at the front (this can't be done if the rear tie-downs attach to the rear end of the boat). Thus, these tie-downs will also function to keep the boat from sliding forward if you stop really hard, and also make all the tie-downs work in cooperation if the rack fails. Here's a photo of one way this method can turn out:

Note that the rear tie-downs will prevent the rear of the boat from moving side to side (more so if the boat isn't way off-center like it is here), and with those lines in place the whole boat cannot slide forward on the rack, or if the rack fails (the rear tie-downs of the canoe show this, but not the kayak).

Hey, it's what I do, and this is why, but these things aren't "life or death" issues.