Can I drive this far with 2 kayaks?

I am new to kayaking and am about to buy 2 of them for me and my partner. We will then head out for a long road trip.

Can we drive thousands of miles with the kayaks on our roof in a nice rack from yakima or thule?

We also want stack them sideways so that the cargo carrier fits on the roof too.

Has anyone traveled long distances with 2 kayaks on their roof?

Any suggestions?

and how do you lock it?



I drove from Reno to Madison WI
and back last year with 1 or 2 kayaks on my roof. I just have a shell with a rack and used foam blocks. No problems at all.

Yup No Problem
I second the warning about the sideways stackers, this can reallly increase drag, which at high speed increases with the square of air velocity.

Also be careful when you pull into parking garages, motels etc with low clearance, it’s easy to forget you have kayaks up there, the lower the profile the better. Not that I am suggesting this but you can pack small items inside the kayaks, but don’t over load your roof rack.


– Last Updated: May-07-06 9:04 PM EST –

Please explain why a kayak on edge in a j-cradle creates more drag / wind-resistence than a kayak upright on a roof rack.

The kayak in a j-cradle presents a higher profile, yes, but the surface area of the kayak profile remains the same.

(I don't doubt that you might be right, but I need additional convincing if I am to jettison my very classy j-cradles. I certainly wouldn't mind improving the gas mileage.)

Well aerodynamic drag increases
with the square of speed period. Whether you are at low, medium or high speed drag increases at the square of speed. However more power is required when cruising at highway speeds to overcome air drag then at low speeds. So minimizing air drag will definitely help fuel efficiency.

Now if your kayaks are similar to my sea kayaks they do not have flat bows or sterns. Mine have a reduced frontal (bow) area which helps reduce drag. The pressure across the boat on its side is not equal so stagnation pressure is minimized. Also the smooth fiberglass surface helps as well to reduce air drag.

I choose to carry my kayaks on their sides using Malone J-stackers. I have carried them thousands of miles in this orientation without any failures.

With my choice comes an acceptance that I will take a hit on fuel efficiency because of potentially higher air drag. I have not taken the time to do the math but it might be an interesting exercise. Right now I just monitor the difference in fuel use between having kayaks on top and not having kayaks on top. So far it is a very minimal increase which I find acceptable.

You are good to go.
On edge or flat with cockpit down it not going to make any real difference in anything. The best way to carry sea kayaks actually is in cradles with hull down. That provides the best support and avoids stress problems. The worst way to carry them is hull down on the cross bars. Makes me shudder just thinking about it. There are several ways to carry them edge down. Obviously it is best if they are in a support system that spreads the force. But you can also set them together on one side of the stackers. Kayaks are quite strong edge to edge and so long as you don’t overtighten the straps/ropes you will be fine. It is essential that you use bow and stern lines no matter how the kayaks are placed on the roof.

J racks and gas mileage
I’ve hauled a couple SOT’s (an OK Scupper and Scrambler - neither are by any means, “aerodynamic”) with Thule J racks on 300 mile trips and have been surprised that the gas mileage hit on my Subaru Forester hasn’t been bad at all.

kayaks and long distances???
my son drove from oregon to the north west territories to IDAHO to colorado to Ottawa to Quebec to Maine to New Brunswick and then back to Oregon! with anywhere from 4 to 6 WW kayaks on the roof of their subaru impreza outback… so … what is your question again?

don’t worry–be happy
Two years ago we put two sea kayaks, two ww boats and one surf boat, all on edge, and drove from WA state to Baja. Spent several months in Baja and loaded up the whole mess and drove back. No problem. Don’t really know about speed and gas milage as this was done with a small truck with a small engine so we had no choice but to go slow.

It might take a wind tunnel
to convince you

Loading kayaks inverted on the rack you can get much less resistance. Think about the bow rocker and the flow of air, you can keep the rapid envelope of air flow much lower than carrying on the sides where they stick higher into the slipstream and also are causing more turbulent flow to the sides because of the bow and stern rocker, you don’t want turbulent flow to expend the least amount of energy.

thank you!
clarification: YEs I meant on EDGE not sideways, sorry about that. I meant using the J rack system.

Looks like it might be possible then eh?

I am so excited about this!

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to me!


last year to yukon 7000+ mile round trip
we carried two kayaks hull down in malone wings double strapped on a pickup truck to the yukon last year. One strap around the boats and into the wing which is the way we carry locally. Then a second strap around the boat and cross bar in case we lost the wing mounts. Bow and stern lines. 70-80 mph. for four days one way.

The only problem we had was some chafing wear on the straps at the wings. We still use the straps. But we will use new straps this june for the same trip to the Yukon River Quest.

in addition to the yukon trip
oh yeah. we used the same worn straps etc. from texas to florida for the bogey and bacal in february.

If you have a flat deck
and rockered hull, and travel deck up,

how fast would you have to drive before your car (due to the Bernulli effect) lifted off the ground?

How about putting the cargo in the boat.
If the cargo is light stuff like clothes I think you could easily put it in the boat.

Last year we put 200 pounds of stuff in dry bags under a 100 pound canoe on top of our Oldsmoldybile Custome Cruiser station wagon and traveled 1500 miles without incedent.

I don’t think this would work well for a lighter car or one without a sturdy rack but it worked fine for us.

I’ve seen two sea kayaks loaded on top of a Honda civic with all the trip gear already packed into them. The racks had pads that perfectly fit the hull shapes and cushioned them. The boats were set cockpit side up with cockpit covers installed.

Boy were thry heavy to help unload! The ownwer never complained about the ride to the put in.

Wind lift
This is why you tie down the bow. It may not lift the car but it can rip off a rack.

Good for one hour… good for 1000
If you can go one hour with the boats on top, you can go 100. Seriously, I have cartopped (yakima rack) with a pod and two bikes for literally thousands of miles. I dont see any problem at all for two 35-70 lb. kayaks. I am a newbie at cartopping kayaks, but I cartopped mine for a total of two hours (for the first time) this past weekend at both highways speeds and some light dirt road. I used a rack stacker, placed them on edge and used a single strap to secure the boats on the front stacker/bar, and a single strap on the rear stacker/bar. Then , I used 4 6’ tie down straps to secure the bow and stern of each boat. They were quite secure, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take them where ever I wanted to go.

I bet
if you drove fast enough with a Tsunami on top you could fly!


Do you consider 16,000 miles far…

We took our two plastic kayaks on a round trip four month trip from NC to Alaska and back.

They were comfortably nested in older style Yakama cradles that I have added small pieces of indoor outdoor carpet, and with my secure setup, no front or rear tie downs are needed.