Cam straps vs. ratchet straps

I read in a post somewhere on here where somebody suggested using cam straps instead of ratchet straps. I’m not familiar with cam straps at all. How are they different than ratchet straps and why are they considered to be better?

Cams cam, ratchets ratchet.
Cam straps have a toothed, spring-loaded cam that prevents web slippage after you pull the strap tight. NRS, Strapworks, Yakima, Thule and others sell them. So do Slowes and Himoe Despot, but I am not a fan of the cheap ones. Why scrimp when you have in excess of $1K riding on your roof?

Ratchet straps tighten as you operate a lever. It is possible to over-tighten and damage or at best distort a hull. IMO, there is no reason to use ratchet straps on a roof-topped boat. Use them for loads of 2x4s instead.


Easy Choice
Camlock straps don’t have the complexity of ratchet-lock straps. They are much easier and faster to work with. You tighten them simply by pulling the free end of the strap that comes out of the buckle, and since there’s the equivalent of a pulley action going on there, you can easily make them as tight as they need to be. For holdling down your boat, you do NOT need, or want, the kind of tension that ratchet straps are designed to create, so going with the simpler cam-locks makes sense.

I use 1" Yakima cam straps but …
… there are many other brands available .

Can not tell you good or bad about other brands cause I’ve only used Yakima . Others will have good alternate brand recomendations . The Yakima cam straps work great , I like their buckle padding and have never had a problem with them yet . I know NRS sells 1-1/2" straps as well as 1" .

One trick I found out early on when tightening cam straps , is it’s easier to tighten (and I think tighter) by pulling down as opposed to up . (lots of places sell Yakima brand)

No, no, no on the ratchet straps!
they are wonderful if you are carrying lumber, ladders and building material, but they can damage your boat if they are tightened too much.

jack L

cam vs. ratchet
If you already have the ratchet straps by all means use them but be careful not to over tighten them. If you need to buy something new get the cam straps they are plenty strong enough, lighter, easier to use especially with cold hands, and cheaper.

I like ratchet straps
I don’t know if i would use them on a composite boat, but all of my boats are plastic and i have never had any problems with them. Cam straps on the other hand i have had them come apart and loosen many MANY times. That being said there are good cam straps out there which probably do work (i’ve never used the more expensive ones) and when i do use ratchet straps i have foam covering my rack, which absorbes and squishes under stress, i pay close attention to not overtighten the ratchet and like i said, my boats are plastic, so they have some give without permanently deforming.

ratchets aren’t the devil they’re made out to be, but you do have to use some common sense and make sure you’re careful about it.

No to rachets except heavy loads…
(wood or metal). Good quality cams work very well… but after tightening them I always tie the excess strap off as a safeguard against slippage and to keep the strap from flopping around when driving.

I have never had a cam strap
problem in over 10 years of using them. I always use NRS.

I like NRS straps best, they last a long time and the pointy part goes through the buckly easily. Too bad they don’t have the rubber cover anymore.

To prevent slipping, throw a half-hitch (or two) around the buckle after tightening the strap.

I do a half hitch also …

– Last Updated: Feb-07-11 11:27 PM EST –

...... not a real tight one just snug and make sure the strap stays flat with no twist or curling .

I think it's enough should the strap ever try to slip or loosen a little it can't slip much before tightening again on itself . I figure if the canoe ever does get to moving up there , it won't be moving much at all with that half hitch stopping more strap loosening ... and I imagine I'll know if the canoe is moving . Hasn't happened yet but we know it "might" one day !!

I just pull the remainder of the strap inside and close the door on it (no wind wipper left outside) .

This last season I stated using two straps at the front bar . 1st one straps the canoe to the bar as normal . The other grabs the canoe's seat from underside and goes in each door openning , then tightens inside the auto (it's my backup in case of catostrophic failure like rack seperation or loosening , 1st strap failure , etc. . In effect it pulls down on the canoe and rack . I've mentioned this a couple times here so far because I think it's a good idea and maybe others might want to think about it (makes me feel better anyway) .

My canoe is loaded as such that it does not stick far forward of the cab and I'm not using front tie downs any more since the backup strap .

I used to use a rachet strap (a 2-1/8" big yellow sucker) when I was using foam car top/gunnel blocks . That 2" rachet strap went from chasis frame , up over the top at the foam blocks and down to frame again (and yes it could of easily crunched the canoe if not careful) . I figured it was tight enough when the foam blocks squished down and roof top started to puddle in some , lol !! Seriously , you goota make sure those foam blocks are as close to the edge of the roof top (in my case the rear truck cab) as possible with this thin tinned sheet metal now a days ... right .

Well, nobody’s said it yet
so I guess I will: Why not just get rope and tie it down? Sure, you have to learn a couple of knots, and really know them or else your boat will come flying off. But if you know them right, it works just as well as anything else, is just as fast, cheap, and (arguably) cooler.

yep , ropes are cool …
… still using them on the back with T stand .

and less prone to wind noise

More difficult for most people to get ropes tight opposed to straps. If your boat comes loose from the top of the car, how cool is that? Also no nylon rope, stretches too much.

Have seen several boats destroyed using ratchet straps, bad idea.

Bill H.

In my experience
webbing doesn’t slide as much as rope. It has a wider surface area in contact with the boat.

cam straps vs. ratchet straps
I was looking at the diagram in the Thule Stacker system. It’s showing just 2 straps holding 2 yaks. It shows them going over the top of both yaks from the Stacker, down past each end of the cockpit on the yak and then around the load bar. What holds the inner yak in place? Just tension from being sandwiched between the Stacker and the outer yak? Or would you use a pair of straps for each yak?

I agree! Use a simple…
Jam knot & it will stay tight until you loosen it.

Paddle easy,


5/16 polyester braid < $1/ft.
3,000 lb. breaking strength and I’ve never heard of a properly tied knot failing.

The “cool” part is being able to lash your boat onto your car and leave while others are still fiddling with their straps.

stacker use
When going 2-deep like that I always put a strap around each boat. Maybe that’s not as important with whitewater boats. I always do it with the long boats I haul though.