I Pose a Roof Rack Question To You All

Okay, I’ve had a roof rack on my car now for 10+ years and I was always told that the best way to transport a composite kayak was on it’s beam end. I did that because a composite boats stiffest axis is on it’s side and that would reduce the road shock and flex to the boat, and thus prolong it’s life. Now I just got done reading the Wilderness Systems owners manual online and it states just the opposite. It says that all composite boats should be transported hull down. So my question to you all is, what is the proper way? I thought I’d been doing it right all these years. Could I’ve been wrong? Maybe. I look forward to the input from you wise p-netters.

Following Seas…

I have always transported my long

– Last Updated: Aug-30-09 1:31 PM EST –

kayaks, (both composite and plastic) with the hull down in saddles or on J cradles and it has always worked well for me.

When we got our first long boats many years ago, that was the manufacturers suggested way to transport them.

With the shorter rec boats, if I am not carrying them in the J cradles I found that they nest nicely upside down with the coaming between the bars, preventing it from sliding forward or backwards.


guess I’m different
I transport all my boats, including long sea yaks, top down, on foam covered bars. Reasoning is…the white hulls don’t heat up at all, in Texas heat. The top is very strong at the bulkheads, which is where at least one bar hits. The car’s suspension and foam padding isolate the boats from more shock than I feel sitting in the seat. And aerodynamically, the boats ride better. I’d rather have top damage than hull damage. I can’t see an advantage of putting boats on their sides, except to make space for another boat…and the ease of j-cradles. Hull down, on hot days, makes for wavy hulls. Just think how much stress is on your boat, when you stick 200 lbs. in it, while in the water, and beat it up with waves. A car top ride in any position, is probably the easiest time a boat ever sees other than hanging in the garage.

Wilderness Systems are pretending
to know more than they do.

Actually, under any reasonable racking conditions, composite boat wear is minimal. Might be a little surface scuffing from cradles, that’s all. I often carry mine hull up on long trips because I don’t like to deal with cockpit covers that leak or blow off the boat.

I have transported my boats in every
conceivable manner (hull down and up in cradles,j hooks, on the bars, straped below the bars on the trailer, you name it) and it has never made on bit of difference. Get a decent spread, lash em tight, and forget about it. Bill

Hull up is my favorite
I usually put them on Hull up unless I don;t have help then hull down is easier to load sliding from the back. The only real damage I’ve seen from Racking is a lot of plastic hulls with hogged out bottoms from being racked to tight in the hull down position.

I especially like hull up because I can leave the covers off until the boat is really dry. If I don’t park under trees or in buggy areas I can just leave the covers off.

Hull up is my favorite
I usually put them on Hull up unless I don;t have help then hull down is easier to load sliding from the back. The only real damage I’ve seen from Racking is a lot of plastic hulls with hogged out bottoms from being racked to tight in the hull down position.

I especially like hull up because I can leave the covers off until the boat is really dry. If I don’t park under trees or in buggy areas I can just leave the covers off.

You seem to be confused

– Last Updated: Aug-30-09 12:18 PM EST –

Here is a direct copy of WS faq on how to transport your kayak...."either upside down or on edge".

"How should I transport my kayak?
If you have a car rack with small round or flat bars, place your kayak either upside down or on edge to lessen the chance of distortion. Foam pads can help prevent distortion. If you have specially designed kayak carriers as part of an aftermarket rack system, follow the rack manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, place the cartop racks under the boat's bulkheads, where the hull is strongest. If that is impossible, place the bars or attachments as close to the bulkheads as you can. Whatever the case, tie the kayak securely to the roof rack with straps or ropes, never shock cord or bungies. While you want your tie-down ropes to be secure, be careful not to make them so tight that you risk distorting the hull-shape of your boat.

As an additional margin of safety, loosely tie down the ends of the kayak by running a rope from the grab loops or security bars to the front and back bumpers of your car. Don’t leave your kayak tied to the top of your car for a long period of time unless it is in transport, and always remember that distortion created by improper storage or transportation is compounded by excessive exposure to heat.

Your local paddlesport shop can help you find a proper boat transportation system that fits your car and your budget."

I did check the owner's manual, and it states that RM kayaks can be safely transported on edge or upside down with KAYAK STACKERS...BUT...composite kayaks should always be transported in the hull-down postion on CRADLES...

I THINK they are just trying to say that if you DO transport a composite kayak in the FLAT position, is should ALWAYS be with CRADLES, not STACKERS...actually, I think THEY are confused as well. I am not confused and transport all my kayaks on edge in J cradles because the WEIGHT of the boat is on the edge and the STRAP PRESSURE is on the deck/hull. If you transport your kayak flat, the weight AND strap pressure are on the deck/hull.

...and here's the link:

And I suspect that hull up will usually
be more aerodynamic, even with cockpit covers off in the hull up position. The zone between the boats and the roof of the care is kind of a junk zone, aerodynamically, and open cockpits may not affect flow through that zone much at all.

We abandoned our old fashioned (upside down U with slanted sides) stackers for cradles and rollers when we got composite boats.

When we needed to start carrying more boats, like carrying WW boats as well as long boats for a symposium, we went back to the stackers. Added padding on the bars at the same time.

Like the stackers better, no issues related to their use after a few years of this.

Upside down on foam blocks
For all seakayaks and outrigger canoes. (And CanAm canoes.)

This keeps rain, hail, snow and micrometeorites out of the boat and eliminates the need for cockpit covers. It presents the bottom of the hull instead of the pretty decks to the UV of sunlight.

The foam blocks minimize boat movement and chafing if strapped correctly.

I also think hull up is the most aerodynamic way to carry a decked boat in terms of wind resistance and gas mileage.

I finally have the unproven belief that hull up will reduce the likelihood of a boat or car rack ripping off in the wind. I think hull up will result in less up pressure and/or more more down pressure on the front cross bar than hull down – i.e., less wind lift on the bow.

And as to strap pressure
Upside down on blocks will be double strapped. This doubles the strap area vs. the single strapping of many cradle and J systems. Double strapping will result doubly-strong breaking strength and also less strap pressure per square inch on the hull.

If you are worried about strap pressure, you can also use wider straps (say, 2" straps, doubled) and you can also position the bars so that the straps go around a strong area of the hull such as a bulkhead or reinforcement.

composites on rack
Put it this way, the most fragile kayaks made, Olympic boats are carried on their bottoms.

Poly kayaks are carried on their sides since they lack the material stiffness that composites have.

Bill H.

Composite decks
Decks on any boat, kayaks included, don’t need to be anywhere near as strong as the hull, not likely to run into rocks with the deck. The bottom of the boat is far stronger than the deck. Yes more aerodynamic carried upside down, but if you value your boat, you’ll carry it on saddles (not foam) on it’s bottom.

Bill H.

But you can’t tell that to the people …
who go the other route !

As noted in the above posts.



I put mine…
…on hull side down with wide Mako saddles under the bulkheads. Put a strap over where each pair of saddles is and put parachute cord on the ends down to the tow hooks.

Seems to work fine…I’ve been at freeway speeds like that!

Foam is a saddle; less pressure

– Last Updated: Sep-01-09 3:21 AM EST –

When I carry decked boats upside down on foam, the foam I am talking about is a 4" wide block that is shaped to the deck contour. This is easily done with a knife and dragonskin.

IMO, straps put more pressure per square inch on the hull than these foam block saddles. Hence, there is less pressure across the decks when the boat is upside down in the foam saddle than there would be from the straps across the decks if the boat hull was in the saddle.

In addition, a full foam saddle will "give" more than hard saddles covered with a thin layer of rubber.

Any of these carry techniques will work just fine. It's not a matter of right and wrong. I just happen to think expensive saddle systems from Yakima, Thule, Malone, etc. are unnecessary and often not the best functionally.

where do you get your foam block saddles
I am looking for a set to modify my trailer.


You also should have your brakets
spread so that the cradles or whatever you are using is where your bulkheads are. That is the strongest part of your kayak.

Any canoe or kayak shop

– Last Updated: Sep-01-09 10:05 PM EST –

You can get foam block kayak carriers from most any kayak shop or many places online. Here is an example of the 4" wide ones sold by Huki:


I'm sure you can find them cheaper than Huki's price.

Here maybe or Campmor:


Be aware they come in different sizes and with different rack hole patterns. Some are 12, 14 or 22 inches long. Some are 3" wide and some are 4". Some have round holes for Yakima bars, or square holes for Thule bars, or elliptical holes for aero bars, or a "universal" hole as the Huki's have.

You can shape the shallow V so it fits your decks more precisely, especially if you have peaked decks. You can also wrap tape around the ends and middle of the saddle if you want to make sure it won't blow off your rack bar. If you do that, however, you lose the ability to quickly take them off the bar. To me, removability it another benefit of foam block saddles. When your boats are off the vehicle, you don't have to drive around with big honker saddles or J racks on your roof.

I should add that there is another reason I cartop kayaks upside down. The top of my van is also my "storage" location during the season. That is, I leave two or three canoes, kayaks or outriggers on the roof all season, and I would rather have their hulls up to the sky. However, I have gotten so used to this method of cartopping that I would do the same even if I didn't store boats on my vehicle.

My good composite boats are custom made and cost over $3000. I wouldn't cartop them in a way that I thought would structurally endanger them. You do have to know how to strap down the boats so neither the foam blocks or the hulls will shift on the Autobahn or in the Khyber Pass.