Carrying a 17ft alum. canoe and gear

I am obviously new to the world of canoe ownership. I am curious if it is possible to carry a canoe on top of my Wrangler in the upright possition and load it with camping gear. I have a large Wilderness rack that holds lots of gear or a canoe very well but I am trying to figure out how to carry both at the same time.

When you come up to the in-put…
loosen the tie down straps, get up a good head of steam and hit the brakes all your might and you are ready to go.

Just make sure you are aiming toward the water!

No wasting time.



I’m not sure about…
tying it down right side up but how about purchasing a Danuu (sp)? canoe cover, piling all your stuff in the canoe, put on the cover and then cinch it down? Not sure it would work…

I would not recommend
tieing the boat down upright. The gunwales are there for a reason. I would tie everything that doesn’t fit in the car in the boat then put it on the car gunwale down.

Be careful…
I would get one or two large gear duffles that the inverted canoe will fit over. Tie the duffles to the rack and then tie the inverted canoe over them.

Unless you live where it never rains I would definitely NOT carry a canoe right side up on a Wrangler. It wouldn’t take much of a downpour to add a couple hundred pounds to the roof and make a Wrangler seriously unstable.

I have a 98 Wrangler and use trailers to carry my boats, lumber, etc.


Besides, its possible you could distort
the hull.

Not only distort the hull …
Not only would you distort the hull, but you’re trying to tie a round surface (the canoe bottom) to a flat one (the rack). There is just too much wiggle room, The canoe will come flying off. Unless you had a cradle for it (like kayaks have). I know of no canoe roof top cradles.

Another consideration is the wind (and rain). The wind blowing into an open canoe at highway speeds would probably rip the entire rack from the roof. The rain coming in would make the canoe extremely heavy. You’d need a canoe cover that could take that kind of abuse.

Weight. Most racks (and roofs for that matter) have limits. A canoe loaded with gear would probably excede that limit. Even if you didn’t have damage, you’d have a top heavy vehicle.

I’d definitely would NOT transport it upright on the roof top. I would on a trailer. Better yet, put the canoe on the roof and get one of those exterior shelf-like things that attach to a trailer hitch for the gear.

It’s been done
On a trip into the St. John River in 2000, we had some experience with this.

First, we were renting a canoe in St. Francis, a 16’9" Discovery. We left my car there and were driving my friend’s RAV4 back to Greenville. The RAV4 (a roller-skate sized SUV) had factory racks on it, but they were so small the Discovery hull spanned (was wider than) the racks. So, rightside up was how we loaded her.

Of course, it started to rain on the seven-hour drive back to Greenville. Poured rain. Next time you see a 90’s era RAV4 with racks, note how small they are, and how little distance there is between the front and rear bars–not more than two feet. The water began to accumulate and the canoe pitched violently during breaking and acceleration as the water rolled back and forth in the hull. We had to stop and drain her, but we made it.

Back in Greenville, we stopped at the lumber yard for 2x4s and U-bolts. We used these to widen the racks so we could fit My 17’6" Tripper on the RAV4 along with the Discovery. Three full size adults needed to fit into the RAV for the trip into Baker Lake, plus a dog and our gear. Take a guess, do you think it all fit in the RAV4? Once again, we turned the boats gunwales up and piled gear into the boats.

The drive to Baker Lake from Greenville is something like 70 miles, most of it over the lumber company roads. That was one of the most nerve-wracking rides I’ve ever been on. The big canoes were drifting all over the place on the two foot long, seven foot wide platform on top of the RAV4. We needed to stop a half dozen times to retie and add lines to try to stabilize everything. We did, eventually, get there with everything intact, proof that you can pull some really stupid stunts and, with luck, survive it.

One thing that worked for and against us was the canoe hulls. They are tough hulls and don’t easily dent. But they are also flexible, adding to the instability of a real stupid and unstable set up. With the aluminum canoe, your results will differ.

Other posters noted you’d need some sort of cradle. If you decide to do it, you might want to attach some 2x4s to your rack running front to back so that the load will be spread out over the hull instead of just over the rack’s bars. But I actually like the ideas of other posters who suggest loading the canoe gunwales-down and somehow getting the gear up inside the boat. Maybe lash some boards, paddles or poles to the thwarts to fashion a platform inside the hull, and get your gear in there. If your stuff is in dry bags, seems like you could slide them in.

I would not recommend loading the way we did in the RAV4, but I have traveled with light gear loaded in gunwales-up canoe on other occasions with better results. Just use your judgement, and do be wary of rain. Try to load heavier stuff in the car. Take steps to prevent hull distortion. Its not ideal, but it can be done.

Seriously consider a small trailer.
Highly recommend that you give some serious consideration to a small trailer. Whether it’s a factory built boat hauler with storage, or a utility trailer with home-built rack, it gives you lots of capacity, stability, flexibility, and reduced wind drag. On the downside, you will have the initial cost, annual license fee, and storage space. You will find the trailer useful for other projects, and a great way to improve your hand/eye coordination as you back into the driveway.

Thanks for all the replies.
I think I will see what I can fit under the canoe and the rest of the gear…well, I guess I will just have to take out the seat and limit myself to one passenger. Thanks again for all your help.