Car/canoe compatibility

Hi all, I’m looking to get a used canoe to paddle around area lakes for this summer. I need one that’ll fit 2 people comfortably, 16’ or 17’ is probably my target size. My big question is this: I used to have a station wagon with a roof rack, but now I have a Camry with nothing on the roof at all. Is there anything I need to be aware of regarding canoe size and type of roof rack that will fit on my car? Any suggestions? Thanks! :slight_smile:

Yakima, Thule, and some other rack
makers supply towers, crossbars, and clips custom designed for your car. The clips snake down between your roof and your doors to securely grasp the roof underneath, and they won’t cause leaks. I suggest you also buy a set of gunwale brackets for your crossbars, as they will keep the canoe from wiggling or sliding.

Rack systems

– Last Updated: Jan-26-09 12:09 PM EST –

are by far the best method, but pretty espensive. if you are no a budget the foam blocks work very well at less than 10% of the cost of a rack. Make sure you use at least one, preferably two straps around the middle of the boat and cinch them tight enought to compress the blocks. You will also have a lot of overhang at the back of the car at headknocking height, so be careful where you park with the boat on top.

larryn, I’m sure you meant to mention
bow and stern ropes. I’ve carried a heavy canoe with foam blocks, and I don’t much want to do it again. I’m not sure that foam blocks work “very well.”


– Last Updated: Jan-26-09 1:26 PM EST –

The reason foam blocks do not work "very well" is that it's quite a pain to tie the boat so it can't "wander" around on the roof. To prevent such wandering, you need one pair of straps to hold it down, then another pair wrapped around the left side and secured to the right, and another pair wrapped around the right side and secured to the left. That's not counting bow and stern tie-downs which help a lot to keep the boat centered but leave a lot to be desired. About the only practical way to tie-off the boat both to the right and left so it can't move sideways is to anchor the directional straps through the door pillars, which of course only allows one pair of directional straps when two would be better.

By the way, to get the most of out bow and stern tie-downs, make sure the front and rear tie-downs oppose each other. In other words make sure that tightening one set pulls the boat against the opposite set. This means it may be necessary to attach them inboard of the ends of the boat so that both sets angle TOWARD the center of the car from their anchorage points.

With regular bars, you have ready-made anchor points for securing the boat, and if you use gunwale blocks, the boat will stay where you want it without any extra directional tie-downs (keep using those bow and stern tie-downs, though).

Cross bars seem "pricey" at first, but they make it SO much easier to carry your boat that it's just about guaranteed that they will pay for themselves in all those extra spur-of-the moment boat trips that you wouldn't have taken if you had needed to mess around with foam blocks.

thule rack
I have a thule rack that’s been in the shed for a couple years. I cant bear the thought of throwing it away and have no more use for it.

It might fit your car.

Good point about front and rear ties.
Many do not appreciate the need to have the front and rear ties angling inward.

I carry a canoe and kayak on a
2000 Camry with Yakima racks. The canoe brackets are the best thing since sliced bread.

Be careful about denting the car’s roof.
I purchased a cheap set of roof racks to carry my Prijon Cruiser. The feet on the roof rack had no pads and they just pushed down into the roof of the car and left large dips that did not come back out. I didn’t really care, but others could get “bent out of shape” about it. LOL

Thule and Yakima racks contact
the roof at the rain channel, the strongest part.Good racks are worth every penny.

Foam blocks
If you strap the canoe down correctly, I still contend foam blocks work very well. Two straps around the canoe and through the car, cinched tight enough to compress the foam blokcs, make a very secure carrier.

I use bow and stern lines, but they are secondary in securing the canoe. It is the midship straps that hold it in place.

AND, I certainly agree that if you can afford it a rack system with gunwale brackets is the best bet.

no word yet of design catastrophes
Haven’t read of a single incident of carrier failure on auto.


In case you are not aware, the Camry has
threaded holes in the rear frame that will accomodate a

receiver for towing. Capacity is 2,000 lbs. towing, and

you can buy an inexpensive light hauling trailer for a

canoe and throw in lots of gear, too.

Just a thought…

Thanks for the advice!
Thanks for all the advice, folks. For now, when I get a boat, I will probably go with a foam block system, I’ve found two possibilities at REI that come w/ straps and all: or Either of these should work fine, and I’m paranoid so I would make sure it was lashed very securely to the roof! We’d only be driving about an hour and a half with it tops, no long-distance trips. Anyone have experience with either of these systems? Thanks again!

I had no idea…
that I could get a little trailer for the car! Maybe I will look into that at some point. We could pack most of the camping gear into a small trailer/etc to tow too…