Carrying a canoe and a cargo box?

Hi - wanted to see what experiences others had with loading both a canoe and cargo box on the top of a vehicle. The RackAttack guys say its totally possible with 86" crossbars, but I don’t see a lot (or any) pics / reviews / etc. out there on the web to get a sense of what the experience is like.

My main concern is mostly around how much actual weight / gear i can carry in the box once the canoe and associated bars are factored in to the overall manufacturer’s max load of the rack - in other words, is it really worth it to have a cargo box that can now only carry, say, 40lbs of gear to stick to the rated weight capacity of the rack? Any ideas appreciated!

What’s your rack’s weight rating?

– Last Updated: Dec-04-15 4:36 PM EST –

My boat rack attaches to the factory roof rack, which is rated for 200 pounds (the old vehicle I used before was VERY conservatively rated for 500 pounds on the roof, but such vehicles are now a thing of the past). If you are working with something like a 200-pound rating, I'd say you have little to worry about, but it sounds like you already know the safe answer to your question. If your load rating is already pretty small, play it safe and control the load accordingly. Without knowing the load limit in your case, not much advice can be given.

Maybe. Depends on the gear.

– Last Updated: Dec-04-15 4:39 PM EST –

For instance, PFDs take up a ton of space but don't weigh much, so for group trips you could stuff them all in the box without exceeding the weight limit and free up cargo space for heavier things. I'm sure there are other bulky items that aren't that heavy but eat up a lot of space. That said, there are a couple things to consider. First, 86 inch bars are very long and could prove to be a PITA or more specifically a pain in the noggin. I have 78" bars on my Expedition and can't imagine adding five inches to each end. Second, that sounds like a pretty high dollar setup. I suspect you'd get better use and value if you skipped the roof box and went with a receiver mount cargo basket instead. Those things are the cats. If you need to throw some stuff on the roof you can still do so. Just put it in burly dry bags and strap it down. This works great for me. Takes a bit longer to secure it all but if you do it right it's bomber and frees up a bunch of space in the vehicle.

On that note:
Deuce’s comments about rack width brings up the point that many cargo boxes are actually quite long and narrow. It sounds like yours must be quite wide. How about getting a long narrow one, and avoiding the need for such long cross bars?

Thanks - i thought the 86" was suspect
The canoe max width is 37", box is 36", so theoretically the yakima 78" should be just enough (and about half the cost of the 86"). To clarify, I already own the cargo box (and the back hitch usually has a bunch of bikes attached to it) so I’m trying to figure out if I can get away with not having to purchase another storage device. Ultimately that may be the way to go.

Sadly, i already own the box!
Yep, its a very low profile box - if i had to do it again i would find something that is a much different configuration but didn’t know at the time I would need to carry a canoe, too!

Rated @ 165#s
Not much! 75# canoe, 50# box = not much left. But there’s always plenty of bulky lightweight stuff that can fit the bill up there I guess.


Factor in cross-bar spread too
If there’s a decent spread between your cross bars, the canoe won’t occupy as much width on each bar, since the widest part of the boat would be between the bars. On a vehicle with a long roof, that can be quite noticeable. On short racks, not so much.

Yeah, I think you can get away with
76" in that case. It’s a good size anyway. It can handle two tandem canoes easily or five tandem canoes carefully, a canoe and several kayaks, or two canoes and a kayak, or… (yes, I’ve done all the above and then some).

The bar spread
may be a bit close for canoe hauling. My cargo box requires that the bars be set no more than 36" apart. That leaves a lot of canoe hanging out fore and aft of the bars and prone to yawing. I am always happiest when the bars are as far apart as possible because the canoe is most stable then.


I think I’d aim for planting the cargo
box somewhere inside instead of on top…


Skip the box
maybe get a pickup?

Canoe on edge?
You could put the canoe on edge against the box. I have 50” bars (38” spread), and I do it often when carrying two boats.

A couple of months ago I had my solo whitewater boat and a 16’ tandem (36" wide) both on edge, and drove 2 hours to NH and back. I did have bow and stern lines, and long straps that went around both boats to keep them together. It would probably work with your cargo box. I don’t know what you drive, but I hate having bars sticking out beyond the sides of the car.

Another option.

On edge - interesting…
Obviously you feel its secure enough to have done this multiple times - I wonder if I could slightly reconfigure my yakima keel over to assist in stability although I’m guessing if the canoe is tied down tight using the box side for support that would be ok. Bow and stern lines too of course. Thanks for the idea!

It’s an option
I use two sets of straps - one set to hold the boat to the rack, and a longer set to go around the boat and the upright to hold the boat tight against the upright. I’ve used other boats as uprights, so your cargo box should work, but you need to make sure that it is well secured. I wouldn’t strap the canoe to the cargo box itself, but tho the rack on the other side of the cargo box. You would definitely need bow and stern lines for a big tandem.

Agree with Eckilson.
A properly secured canoe will ride just fine on its side.