Roof Rack - Length of Kayak

Hello, Im new to kayaks. My question is does it matter how long the kayak is (13 feet versus 16 ft) when I put it on top of a 4runner using either a Thule or Yakima? Am I in danger of it ever coming off? Should I get the hullyrollers or the hullaport? Thank you for your time.

Doesn’t really matter. I’ve carried my 19 footer on the roof of my Santa Fe.

I’ve got the rollers and now don’t use them often. On a poly boat it doesn’t matter and does help get them on and off the roof, but they don’t offer the support of the saddles. For my wood boats and skin on frames I only use saddles.

Bill H.

flying kayaks
People cartop boats of 20’ in length or more. Be aware of any overhang when backing up.

If you have a good quality set of crossbars which are properly attached to your vehicle, you do not necessarily need a fancy kayak carrier to transport your boat. Some of the carriers make it easier to load a heavy boat onto your roof if that is an issue. Most of the time, I transport kayaks on the crossbars, either up on their sides using an upright “stacker” bar to hold them up, or flat on the bars. If you carry your boat on the bars, it is probably best to place it deck down, not only to avoid the cockpit filling with water in the rain, but also because if there is a little bit of deformation from tight straps in hot sun, it makes little difference on the deck as opposed to the hull.

Of course there is a danger of the boat coming off. I have seen many boats come off people’s cars and heard about many more. I would recommend a minimum of 4 points of attachment for each boat. Don’t use rubber bungees. There is a lot of force lifting the nose of your kayak up when you travel at highway speeds. Bungees don’t cut it.

Use good quality rope or flat nylon or polyester webbing with cam buckles. Don’t use the kind of cam buckles that have a little mechanical winch that you crank, however. They exert too much force and can damage your boat. Use one belly strap or rope securely around the boat at each crossbar.

I would also recommend you always use an end line from at least the front end of your boat to an attachment point on your vehicle, either a tow point under the bumper, or a webbing loop you make and tuck under the front end of your hood. Some here will say that this is not necessary. Some people might walk across the highway blindfolded and live.

I am personally aware of three instances in which failure to use a front tie down line destroyed a boat, a rack, and damaged a car. In all three cases the front belly strap or rope either broke, came untied or otherwise failed. Although the rear belly strap was still secure, the air pressure on the front of the boat raised it up whereupon the whole boat acted like a sail. The rear rack then broke and the tops of the rear towers, which are often just pop-riveted on, sheared off from the enormous force. The boat then flew off the car with the rear crossbar still attached, damaging the car in the process.

I saw one such canoe that had met this fate. Both gunnels where broken at the point the boat had crossed the rear rack, and the entire hull from that point back had been sheared so that it was pointing nearly at right angles to the rest of the hull.

You really don’t need a line going from the rear stem of the boat to your bumper, unless you drive backwards at high speeds. What I would recommend instead is a line that prevents your boat from sliding forward if your belly straps or ropes loosen a bit (I’ve seen that too). You can run a line from the rear stem of the boat forward and around some anchor point in the boat (like around a seat side brace) then brought back and secured to the rear crossbar. That will provide a 4th point of attachment and will stop the boat from sliding forward during a sudden stop.

When driving long distances stop periodically and check the condition of the straps and ropes. They usually loosen up at least a little when you drive at highway speeds.

Rely on the rack to bear weigh and reasonable side forces, but use end lines (bow to bumper, etc) to resist the lifting force of the wind. The longer the boat, the more important this becomes. Most factory racks/rails are only riveted or screwed in, so while they’ll bear the weight, they won’t prevent a gust from getting under a long boat and ripping them right off the car. Even racks that clamp onto the car suffer this, if to a lesser degree. Using bow/stern tie downs is good common sense and only adds a few minutes to the loading times. With short boats like playboats, maybe you can skip them and never have a problem, but it’s up to you to examine the risk to yourself and those around you. How good is your insurance policy?


this is the best
information I can give:

4 runner
I carry up to 5 16ft + boats on my 87 4 Runner. I preferred my Thule rack over the Yakima because of the square load bars, Yakima round bars whistle and allow all my mounts to rotate.