canoe on prius

Kayaks grab very little wind.

– Last Updated: Aug-26-12 11:29 PM EST –

I agree with you that the forces are not as great as some like to say, and that surely the rack would break if the force on the boat were great enough to jeopardize the safety of the car (and I can't believe the average person will ever see winds that strong, except in a violent storm, in which case they'd surely stop driving). But your kayak example is not a good way to back up your idea that carrying a canoe in strong crosswind won't ever be scary or "iffy". In fact, your example suggests very slow speed if trucks were being escorted, and cross winds at slow speed are never a problem. At highways speed, canoes in cross winds can be dicey, as I attempted to illustrate earlier. Sure, in that same wind without boats, my car would have been pulling to one side, but with the boats it was far worse, no question about it (I later yanked on the end of my guide-boat to see if I could make it twist to one side on the roof rack as much as it did during that drive, but I honestly wasn't strong enough. The side-control ropes held the sideways motion to less than half of that which occurred while at highway speed in the cross wind). I've seen people walk while carrying a long kayak comfortably at their side in wind gusts that made my 12-foot, 45-pound packboat (a very canoe-shaped boat) fly up alongside me until my arms were straight out from my body as I hung on, with me leaning waaay back and keeping my feet moving to adjust to the changing force, trying not to get tumbled as I waited for the gust to abate. Three of us once had our boats parked on a beach on a very windy day. All boats were loaded with gear. We went for a short hike, and on our return, the 17-foot kayak was right where the guy had left it and wasn't moving a bit, but my 15-foot guide-boat (a very canoe-shaped boat) had been turned 90 degrees and had been pushed about four feet across the ground, and was wobbling around in response to the gusts. Another time I was getting ready to launch my guide-boat, and when I went to the car to get some gear, the wind caught it and it blew up an incline and into the side of my car. I don't think a kayak of the same weight (65 pounds) would have moved much, if at all. I said it before and I'll say it now. Canoes and kayaks just aren't remotely similar in how they catch wind, especially from the side, and in certain situations this becomes very clear when you carry them in your hands or on your roof.

Agree with that!
You do really need the brackets that keep the gunwales of the canoe from sliding sideways on the racks. But as long as you have them, you can get enough separation that there’s no way a canoe of any reasonable length should cock, even if you were stupid enough to only tie down the canoe to the racks.

And I still maintain from my experience that as long as you place the racks well so that the front end of the canoe is not higher than the rear end, your gas mileage on a typical drive to the water (not usually city stop and go traveling) won’t be affected all that much. My Prius’s gas engine runs quite a bit anyway on highway driving, and still gets that 46-47 mpg. The gas engine might work a bit harder with the weight of the canoe on top, but a canoe is pretty streamlined, and has little wind resistance if you tie it down correctly.

And as far as low clearance is concerned, that’s a problem with almost any small car. I wouldn’t take the Prius on really rough roads, but I’ve had it on a LOT of gravel roads with potholes with no problems.

Off Roading with Prius
My wife drives our Prius most of the time and I have a Toyota Xterra. Two years ago my MIL came for a visit at Easter time and we took her out to Anza Borrego to see the desert wildflowers. I had driven off road about ten miles in four wheel drive when we were bouncing around and climbing up a dry wash when I got to the top there was a Prius coming the other way… funniest thing I have ever seen. No way would have driven my Prius there, but they had made it just fine.

My experience…
We regularly use my wife’s Prius to haul our canoes. Usually this is two 10.5’ pack canoes loaded side by side on gunwales using Yakima rack. On interstates, we travel at ~70mph. Mileage suffers a bit, less if you leave a gap (~1 ft.) between the boats to give room for wind to pass between the boats. Sure, there is some increased sensitivity to cross-winds due to the extra surface area from the canoes, but I haven’t found the driving corrections to be intolerable. We have also carried a larger Wenonah tandem on top… with a longer boat and its increased surface area, it is important to have both bow and stern tied down with diagonal ropes/straps to help reduce the hull deflection from crosswinds. Gunwale stops on the crossbars are highly recommended. We’ve even carried both pack canoes plus two mountain bikes up top… the bikes have a much greater impact on mileage than the canoes, I think. The key to doing any of this safely is a good reliable rack with additional tiedowns as necessary, and being willing to accept driving compromises.

My opinion and advise
Disregarding my “negitive” opinion of the prius and hybreads in general, If hauling any boat on a vehicle with short bar spacing,use 2 diagonal ropes bow and stern. This is personal and friends experience.


For crosswind ANYWHERE you want to
also achieve solid ties between thwarts and bars and get a solid tie of the bow/stern ties to BOTH frontend sides/corners…same goes for the stern. Al_A’s mentioning about hull aspect is good. Get the bow tilted slightly lower than the stern and it won’t be as much a sail as portrayed in nightmares.


You have a unique vehicle
I’m sure Nissan would like to know about your “Toyota Xterra”. Last time I looked, my friend’s Xterra did not say Toyota on it.

My .02 cents
since I just got back from a kayak/camping trip in a Prius. There are MUCH better choices to haul a kayak (or most anything) than the Prius. Downsides: we had 2 kayaks up, one 12’ on the bars laid flat, the other 13’ on J cradles. All is fine until you run into ANY sort of wind. The Prius is a fairly tall car for it’s size and combine that with the more narrow width of the car and then stack two kayaks on top and it was a 4 hour drive battling winds of 20mph. Gas mileage really took a hit, we got 39mpg (actual measured by gallons used), and the Prius is always underpowered when traveling in the mountains with a 85hp engine. If it’s a once in awhile haul for your kayak, it could work, but it’s definitely not my choice.

Brain fart. Sorry

Yakima Rack Info on Prius

– Last Updated: Aug-28-12 9:47 AM EST –


Try this link to check out Q Tower rack fit for 2012 Prius:

You will note that the instructions for mounting a Yakima rack on a Prius are quite detailed and very specific.

Prior to purchasing our 2012 Prius, we talked with several folks in our area (foot hills of Adirondacks) who had Yalima racks on their Prius (we have used Yakimka racks for many years). Admittedly a small sample size, and the people I spoke with haul one canoe or kayak on their Prius with no problems - all reported that their gas mileage does suffer with a rack system on the Prius.

IMO, a Prius would not be my first choice for a primary boat hauler. We will continue to haul our canoes and kayaks on our second vehicle, a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid. And yes, our gas mileage takes a big hit hauling boats in the mountains.

If you go the Prius a primary boat hauler route, my 2 cents would be to get a good rack system from a known manufacturer (e.g. Thule or Yakima) and follow their Prius rack mounting instructions and load limits/number of boats to the letter.

Good luck!


bolt on yakima

43 mpg with boat …
Yeah that’s really defeating the purpose of the prius. That’s better than a lot of motorcycles get.

I was thinking that too

– Last Updated: Aug-29-12 12:27 AM EST –

A few years ago, somebody here said it perfectly, regarding all those all those folks who love to point out that their big truck gets virtually the same mileage with or without boats on the roof. What that REALLY means is their gas mileage is poor under all conditions. So yeah, a small car with great fuel economy does a lot worse than normal when it has boats on the roof, but still gets MUCH better mileage than any of the more "capable" vehicles.

That’s STILL good mileage

– Last Updated: Aug-29-12 12:46 AM EST –

You are complaining about that performance? My old Subaru had only 60 horsepower, and under the very best of conditions it only got 33 miles per gallon. I never calculated how it did with a canoe or Jon boat on the roof, but I think it might have been about 27 mpg. However, I did sometimes drive it a long distance carrying a 500-pound motorcycle on a trailer that probably weighed 200 pounds, even in hill country. In THAT situation the car was underpowered, but still very tolerable (still a whole lot better performance than anyone ever got with a VW bus (even with the car empty) back in the 60s). I figure that anyone who simply can't live with such performance needs to drive a truck for a while to put things in perspective and see how good they really have it. Only if competing in a race will backing-off on your speed a bit while going up the hills cost you enough time to make a difference, but some people seem to think they ARE racing.