Ever have a strap/cam buckle fail on you?

I read some posts here in which kayakers recommended double strapping boats to the rack for longer road trips.

It got me to wondering why you would ever double strap. Tie down straps probably age, but if you have straps in good shape, seems unlikely they will break. Possibly the cam buckle could break.

Have you ever had your strap or buckle break while hauling boats?

I have had older cams slip. Nice and tight before the trip, then slowly slacken over the drive. Could be older springs in the cams, teeth losing their bite, or age/wear of the strap. I toss them when this happens.


No, never had one fail, but sometimes I will stop to tighten them if it has been windy. Keep them clean and free of mud and sand.

This is a photo of my 23’ C4 canoe on the way from NY State to the Yukon and return 3K+ miles each way. You can count the number of (mostly new) cam straps I used, plus bow and stern lines all to keep it secure. Traversing the Canadian plains was very windy, with oncoming big trucks making strong sudden gusts all the worse. Nothing failed, I only had to check and tighten them slightly whenever I stopped.



I haven’t personally had a failure but I have heard about a few. Good quality cam straps are pretty tough. I personally get new ones every few years because of the UV load here in Florida (same for my PFD - things fade quickly here).

That said, the consequences of a failure are high. Loss of boat and potential damage or injury to other vehicles and drivers. Not worth the risk IMO for the 2 minutes it takes to put an extra strap on before hitting the road.

I always put a knot under the cam buckle to prevent (or at least minimize) any slipping. Another thing that takes seconds to do but could prevent a disaster.


Straps and buckles on boat covers fall apart all of the time due to UV exposure.
Straps used for tie downs are normally stored indoors.
I prefer nylon rope for lashing down boats.
I would never use a rachet strap except for aluminum boats.

So I’ve helped break in some newbie ww boaters. I see some tendencies that are less than ideal. The good ol’ boys often like to rachet. While often times the load is secure you’ve got to wonder about how they are treating the boat and if you do run into a ratchet twist then it becomes problematic. The second factor is cheap straps sold at home improvement stores. They simply stretch out while driving down the road and the boat loosens.

I have noticed that some of my older nrs cam straps do slip a bit more. I lash off the extra strap end around the rack so that lessens slipperage potential.and keeps the end from banging against the car. I always have extra strap on the front of the car to work over the hood. I shoiuld probably invest in some new wider straps but I’m constantly losing a few of them as I boat with lots of other folks and sometimes they even go down the river to help with the return shuttle. The worst is when I’m poaching a commercial shuttle from a rafting company. Losing a carabiner and straps often happens in that situation. The “free” shuttle isn’t always free.

Sometimes the ends get frayed and are harder to thread through the buckle. If I’m doing multiple kayaks (4 or 5 is pretty normal in the ww realm) we not only strap over the whole load but often strap the ends of the boats together to each other. I’ll let the engineers I paddle with figure out how to mate the boats- cockpit in or cockpit out. Modern ww kayaks are heavily rockered and thus I ofter load them with the bottom of the boat sitting squarely on the rack. The big concern here is oilcanning. They can also become a rain bucket. I find oilcanning due the rack to be a bit of a myth for modern ww kayaks. They rarely dimple at the rack point unless you ratchet and leave them that way for an extended time. The oilcanning usuually occurs under the seat due to your body weight when you go down the river. Due to my weight, 215 ’ pounds my boats wear out under the seat from going over lots of rocks. The worst is when small angular rocks get lodged under the seat and get worn out from the inside out as you run over rocks. I wore my new pyranha 12r out in a year and a half. A buddy welded it for me using a shampoo bottle but it doesn’t see any hard use anymore. I paddled two pyranhas before the 12r. they were both used and I wore them out in a year and half as well. I no longer buy pyranhas. I talked to their main guy in the U.S. and he wants to pretend the seat design and foam under it is not a problem. I know one guy who still boats pyranhas boat removes the seat and redoes the closed cell foam. Too much work for a new boat!

With ww kayaks we rarely tie the ends of the boat under the hood or undercarriage of the car. They don’t tend to catch as much wind as canoes and longer seakayaks. I always let the owner of the vehicle direct the strapping or tieing unless they appear to be clueless. How you strap or tie varies with the boat type, vehicle type, and even the distance and road conditions. Simply throwing boats and paddles in the back of a pick up is always bad idea. I like my sunroof because I can see the boats and see how they riding. When I stop I check the straps and boat. It is also important to check the rack. My car is all scratched up from loading boats. I’m okay with that. It works for me. I know others may do it differently. The important thing is to secure the load. Old school canoers like rope. I’m okay with that as well. I’ve never owned a j cradle. I can get more boats up on an empty rack. I think my personal record is 8 boats on or in a minivan. The road out of bucklick on the middle gauley is pretty rough and folks had the van door open for more leg room. On my recent trip to Mexico I road in a combi (van) that had seats for 13 people. At one point I counted 26 people in the van, much is possible.

The unwritten/unspoken rule among myself and my canoe buddies, is the boat owner always does his or her own strapping down, unless an experienced same team member assists, and even then the owner always checks the work before driving off.


always good to check!

Love many, trust a few, but always secure your own canoe. :roll_eyes:


I have not had one fail outright when attached, but loosening over a trip is pretty common. And the cams can get stiff and stop grabbing, but you generally will realize that when you are trying to strap your boat down (before it has a chance t fail while attached).

A suggestion I heard, and follow, is to not trust just one item to do the job when you can use two. Given that there could be large expenses and/or injuries for a roof rack fail at speed, a little extra protection might be appropriate. Prime example being to not just use one long strap to tie a boat at both cross bars, but instead have 2 separate straps, one for each cross bar. This way if a strap fails, you have a second that will hopefully hold.

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Never had one fail, either the good Thule or NRS straps or the cheapie generics, but never considered using less than two either. And I was taught to throw in a knot to back up the buckle when I first started so have always done that too.

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I’ve been using name brand cam buckle straps for over 40 years for securing loads to roof racks for my company, in addition to using them to strap down kayaks. One time 10 of 21’x 2" diameter steel pipe.

The only time I have had one of these straps fail when it was obvious that it was worn to death and I used it as a supplementary strap, not something essential.

Never came close to losing a load. Cam buckle straps have enormous tensile strength and I’ve never had the buckle fail. Cheap straps may be a different matter.

I’ve double-strapped my canoe when travelling in high wind in addition to using bow lines; one strap pulling the boat towards the left side towers and another pulling towards the right side towers adds stability against crosswinds. But I’ve never had a strap failure or worried about a strap failure.

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I’ve always used NRS straps and in 20 years had two buckles fail. By fail, they wouldn’t stay as tight as I wanted. But the straps were old enough that they were barely blue.

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Same for me. I check straps and buckles. They’re inexpensive to replace.

Like Brodie, I always tie a knot below the buckle. Two half hitches, as recommended to me long ago.


While we’re discussing straps, I’ll repost something I warned about many moons ago.

Before using new straps, soak them in plain water, drain, soak again, drain, and rinse several times. I couldn’t believe how many soap suds arose.

The prospect of soap-imbued straps getting rained on while on duty does not inspire confidence. Besides, even dried soap residue is slippery.

I have not had it happen. Hoever it could be catastrophic before you could slow the car down on a highway going 65 plus mph with 16 ft plus of kayak.

Jim and l were told to do this by one of the first white guys to circumnavigate Greenland.

I really don’t understand why anyone would not do it. For long trips that boat is going to be up there quite a while. It takes at most 5 minutes per boat to add that 2nd strap, for hours or days of peace of mind.

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This would not be legal in Virginia. We are allowed only 4’ behind (with a flag) and 3’ in front of a vehicle.

So easy. I will never visit the fine state of Virginia either with or without carrying a long boat. With my C4 I traveled from NY and returned through all of the lower Canadian Provences and many US states and no one ever challenged me with the legality of my transport method.

Here’s a 34’ woodstrip that I have transported to canoe races all over NY State. It will never see Virgina.

Here’s another 34’ in carbon that originated in Texas and was transported from there to Whitehorse, Yukon and back from Alaska after racing the river.

One more woodstrip from NY to Dawson City and Alaska.


I have never used ratcheted straps but have always used 4 NRS straps for long trips (275 miles) highways speeds, etc to secure my 12’-14’, PE kayaks. Easy to do.