Securing Kayaks to Vehicle

Hi everyone, I was just wondering what people thought of cam straps vs ratchet straps for securing your kayaks. I’ve heard ratchet straps can damage the kayaks, but cam straps just don’t seem very trustworthy to me for some reason. What is your opinion, and do you have any suggestions to ensure my kayaks are secure? I have a Honda crv with crossbars and j racks.I use cam straps to secure to the j racks. I tie ropes in the back going down to the hitch and in the front to loops I have attached under my hood.

Does anyone leave their j racks on all summer? They are a little time consuming to put on and take off but I’m afraid of rush and the foam pads deteriorating from rain or dry rot.


In my opinion ratchet straps can damage your hull. Cam straps offer a finer degree of adjustment so you can more easily avoid overtightening them.

I’ve heard anecdotes about cam straps failing. Like any other product there are good cam straps and not-so-good cam straps. I’ve been using the set I got from THULE for years and years and have never had a failure.

Personally I’d want extra slack which I’d tie off to the rack, in case the point joining the rack and j cradles.

always use camlocks
I have hauled canoes and kayaks literally thousands of highway high speed miles atop a range of vehicles ALWAYS using cam straps. I use good ones, though, Thule brand or the equivalent generics (from LL Bean or REI) not the flimsy ones from Harbor Frieght tools and the like. These are thicker and have a textured surface and the Thules have a rubber protective guard that slides over the buckle. I always guy the boats to my bumpers fore and aft as well. Never a slip or loss.

As to J-racks, I take them off when not in use and even after I have unloaded boats and am leaving the car. They are too simple to steal. But honestly I rarely use them anymore. I find I would rather carry my boats deck down directly on the racks, for the safety of the boats, simplicity of loading and to reduce wind drag. The cockpit coamings fit between the crossbars. adding another level of security to the hauling set up.

I keep my racks and cradles on
in the hot sun of the Florida Keys for four months every year in the winter with out any problems.

Stay with the cam lock buckle straps. Never use ratchet ones!

I lube mine with silicon spray every so often,

I have had one set of straps wear out, but they were in use for twenty years

Jack L

No need for ratchets

– Last Updated: May-26-15 3:51 PM EST –

It's way too easy to over-tighten ratchet straps. The straps that hold your boat don't need to be very tight at all if your boat is being carried by some sort of "containment system" (J-hooks, cradles, etc.). It's actually pretty easy to make cam-lock straps tighter than they need to be. "Just snug" is tight enough.

If you are worried about them slipping, just grab the strap near the buckle and pull outward for a moment. That will put far more tension on the buckle than the working tension. I've been accused of bullcrap in saying my Thule straps slip a little when I do that, but they absolutely do, every time (same thing is true of the Thule straps my girlfriend uses). The thing is, they only slip "so far" (about 3/4 of an inch), and then they get a better grip and won't slip any farther. It's easy enough to make them a little tighter than need be, then pull laterally to make that little bit of slippage happen, and then I know it won't slip again. Chances are, your straps won't have that little bit of initial slippage that I described, because most of them don't. I have a cheap pair of straps which won't slip at all.

You will NOT lose your boat with cam straps.

Dont use rachet straps
Way too much pressure on the hull.

As far as cam straps, I regularly carry 4 skis worth 4k$ each and have never had a problem.I just tie them down to padded round yakima bar hull side up. Jracks are also good. Thule, REI, or Yakima straps are all good. WIth skis, there is no way to really tie down the bow so it’s just the straps holding on a 21’ boat. THey move a bit in 30kt cross winds but never lost a boat.

The new REI straps are fused better for a longer length at the ends to make threading easier.

With J cradles
I use the thule cam straps they came with. The extra strap is then tied back to something to keep it from flapping so even if the strap slipped it ain’t going far. And the last thing I do after strapping down is grab one end of the boat and push hard enough to rock the shocks a bit, if the cam was going to give that’s when it would do it.

Strapping boats onto a trailer or the bed of my truck I use ratchet straps. I have had the cam straps you buy in hardware stores or wal mart fail too many times to trust them.

I suppose if you were a total idiot you could damage your boat with ratchet straps. In over 5 years I have never damaged a boat because fortunately, I am not an idiot.

If you are an idiot you should not use them because you will damage your boat.

If you feel capable of using them and some idiot tells you that you will damage your boat with a ratchet strap smile and nod your head.It’s probably true in their case and it is pointless to argue with idiots anyway.

I take my J cradles off, get a pnet membership and you can get kayak stickers to put in your window so everyone knows you’re a paddler without risking getting your cradles stolen.

When you strap your boat to the Jcradle Pass the loop around your side rails, strapping the boat to the car not just to the cradle. In the event something goes wrong with the cradle attachment that may help keep everything on the roof.

I prefer cam straps
For me the problem with ratchets is not that you can overtighten them—there’s nothing preventing you from overtightening a cam strap as well. The problem is that ratchets have moving parts that get corroded and get stuck. The strap often gets caught in the ratchet if you don’t thread the strap perfectly straight. A cam strap is much simpler to tighten and loosen.

Cam straps come in different qualities. I’ve been using my Thule cam straps for many years with no problems. But there are straps that are quite a bit thinner than the Thule straps and made of what looks like less rugged material.

The key is to use two straps over the middle (not one long strap that passes over the boat twice) and solid bow and stern lines. Some people think the end lines don’t need to be as strong, but I use strong cam straps there as well, with a hook on the end. The end straps are only as strong as whatever you attach them to.

cams with CRC silicone fund at Walmart…the hinging sides not the strap.

Seattle Fabrics online has the makings for super-duper DIY straps.

You can sew small covers of ? cushiony fabric…see JoAnn for scraps to float under the cams.

The cams on my rig are in air not on hull.

The strap is tied off as a knot fastening strap on hull. The cam is but a joint on way to the knot.

I’m slowly duhduh deliberating on which way the cam goes up down inside out ?

Example: if you mount strap so the cam faces up and is open side to hull then pulling down into a knot pulls cam closed.

How do yawl do it ?

Cam Straps
I use the Thule cam straps with my Hullavators. After I secure the boats I just use the extra length to tie a half hitch or two around the rack.

And I leave the racks on all summer, unless I’m planning a particularly long trip somewhere and I don’t intend to take the boats.

Wat ah’ use…
1.5" NRS straps. Spreads de load on de hull an’ strong as hell. Ah’ also put’s in a half-hitch after de cam buckle as a backup. Bow an’ stoyn lines aar 6mm kernmantle prussic cord onto 1" tubular climbin’ sling bolted onto fender/enginewell fittings in front an’ triler hitch on rear.


I use NRS straps as well - they appear to be by the same manufacturer as Thule straps and last a good long while. Also, using half-hitches around the strap behind the buckle does keep things from loosening up.

I’ll be the lone wolf here…:slight_smile:
I’ve used ratchet straps for a couple of years now on my wood stripper. Never had any problems with over tightening straps, I guess I just know when to stop. Also use rope bow & stern lines with a truckers hitch lightly snugged.

Have a Honda Element so landing pads & quick release towers make easy removal of rack when done for the day.

Rest of setup is Yakima Landsharks. But each to their own.

I had a cam strap fail
Well, it was the buckle that broke. And I got it from Wal-mart, stupid me. The boat was on my trailer, with two straps, the rear broke, so the boat didn’t fall off. the kayak gods smiled on me that day. I had another one of those straps, it was immediately taken “out of service”.

Like others said, quality counts.

If your worried about the strap slipping through the cam buckle, tie a loose over hand knot in the free end. If the strap slips, the knot will stop it.

Straps tied off
All my Thule and similar camlock straps are much longer than they need to be to just fasten around the boats. I keep the buckles high up on the side of each boat, pull snug tension down and then wind the long loose end around the crossbars AND the lateral factory bars of my car as many times as it takes to tie up the excess so it does not flap and to prevent any potential slack from loosening the buckle. This adds an additional bit of overall hauling system security. SOunds complicated but after you have done it hundreds of times it becomes a very automatic and quick system.

Racks & Straps

– Last Updated: May-28-15 12:30 AM EST –

I have used Yakima racks for years and years, and I have always used cam straps. I have nothing against other brands. I just started with Yakima. I have quite a few straps, and I suspect all came with my Yakima racks.

At the end of the day, the vendors, Yakima, Thule, etc. face two risks. If their products are too expensive, people will not buy. If their products can be proved to be responsible for damage or injury, they can be sued. They have to balance cost, price, and legal risk.

So, it is reasonable to assume that if you use the products as packaged, and use them properly, they will perform their jobs, meaning that your kayak will remain secure under normal driving conditions.

I have their J-racks, their kayak saddles, their kayak stackers, their foam blocks, and mounts for several vehicles over the years. I follow their instructions for mounting and strapping my boats. I tighten until I can rock my car by pulling and pushing on my boat.

The only times I have ever dropped a boat was when I forgot to tie the boat down (it can happen), and when I tried to secure a kayak to the top of a car with straps and no proper racks/pads.

P.S. I leave a J-Rack and a pair of Kayak Saddles on my car. But, my car is in a garage at home, and covered parking at work. If I did not, I expect the Texas sun would wear them away.

hold on a minute

– Last Updated: May-28-15 8:38 AM EST –

I tell people they can damage their hull using ratchet straps because the degree of adjustment isn't as precise. That's a true statement and people have damaged their hulls.

I don't try to guess whether they're idiots or not - that's your bag.

"Never had any problems with over tightening straps, I guess I just know when to stop."


It isn’t all that hard to pay attention, and to stop before you crush your boat.

I have never damaged anything with ratchet straps, and like the security of having those “teeth” hold the strap at exactly the tension that I set it. One click at a time, and you can slowly bring the straps to just what you want.

I’ve seen more people cranking down, hard, on cam straps, to “be sure they’re tight enough”. I think part of that mentality is fear of slipping or loosening, that you don’t have with a ratchet strap.

Cams vs ratchets…
I believe using cams is the way to go…as other’s have written here, it’s just too easy to ratchet a strap too tight and besides, some cheaper ratchets are hell to loosen. That being said, there are some very cheap cam straps out there. Buy some name brands straps like Thule or Yakima or better yet, the great cam straps from NRS. NRS has been making cam tie downs for rafting and boating for years. (No, I don’t work for them. I just admire quality.) I’ve never had a cam strap come undone. I cut them to length for each kayak I transport and tie the 6 inch remainder off in a simple knot that’s easy to untie. Each strap has its length for bow and stern. For long distance freeway speeds I’ll use a ratcheting pulley device hooked to the bow carry handle and an under hood tie down loop–the strap never touches the hood so no paint blemishes on your hood. Several companies market different styles of these loops. Check the web for these cool tools. You don’t have to spend a bunch on them–Harbor Freight oftentimes carries the pulleys and they work just as well as the name brand stuff. Caveats—stop and check straps frequently and if it’s hot and sunny, don’t crank the straps down Superman tight on your plastic boats. I love plastic boats, but they do bend sometimes. Happy paddling!