straps for cartopping-dumb question

I’m about to order straps for car-topping a kayak but am unsure what length to buy. Also, I assume the 1" straps are the norm?


Typical strap-down
Depends on what setup you have on your rack.

For saddles the typical arrangement is over the boat, around the bar on ghe “far” side, back over the boat around the bar on the “near” side and through the buckle.

J cradles or stackers are different.

Longer allows more options for non-typical situations, like a shuttle with a bunch of boats.

Longer also gives you enough weight and length to toss the free end of the strap across the boat and car.

Having said all that, go for 12 footers.

Thanks, are the 12 footers considered
long? I have J cradles, but they’re not on the car yet. We’re waiting for the Volvo clips to arrive. Flexibility is best since we often have 3 kayaks on board.


Got a Harbor Freight Tools nearby?

– Last Updated: Jul-07-06 5:23 PM EST –

These are what I use:

Don't let the 99-cent sales price fool you. They are decent quality.

NRS 9 ft
I use NRS 9 ft straps almost all the time. 12 ft straps are kind of long for most kayaks/configurations. I’m sure NRS will let you return them if you get the wrong length.

Strap length

get the longer straps, then custom cut them to fit. The price difference is minimal. That way you will have plenty of excess strap to use on any other project and its cheaper then buying strap material by the foot.

I know price isn’t everything, but…

– Last Updated: Jul-07-06 6:12 PM EST –

I just don't know if I could trust a cheap(price) strap like that holding a boat on a rack at 60mph. Not so much for my own well-being, but for everyone else on the road. Seriously, I shop at Harbor Freight occasionally myself, but a name brand strap is worth it's weight in gold as far as assurance that the boat will stay where it's supposed to. Call me a strap snob... For a buck apeice, I'd at least use a couple for each end for some peace of mind for other drivers...The key word is "decent". I want excellent! I want complete confidence!

9’ NRS
Best straps and good people. The 12’ straps are good for tandem or large solo canoes, but 8-9’ is all you need for most kayaks. WW

8 or 9 feet is plenty long
for J cradles.

I just took our two kayaks off the roof and my straps are eight feet long, and there is about two feet extra.



Thanks for all the advice!!

9 or 10 foot best for J-racks
We cut off the excess strap length a few years back and then saw how another paddler used the extra 3 feet to come back under their cross bars after tying the kayak snug to the j-rack. This way the kayak is secured to the j-rack and the j-rack is secured to the cross bars with the extra tail. This is a good back up in case your j-rack loosens up from the cross bars. Now we do it that way too!

This is how I was taught
When we bought our boats we also bought the J-cradles and straps - 3-meter Prion straps.

The owner of the store showed us how to strap them on, he ignored the holes in the J-cradles and strapped them down exactly as you described for saddles. We continued doing it this way, it seemed to make sense as it held everything (cradles included) to the crossbar.

I have cruised at around 100 MPH on the Autobahn in Germany with our boats tied down this way and have never had a problem.

Always have a rope!
Make sure that you have at least one rope with a trucker’s hitch somewhere in the vicinity of your rack.

If you don’t have one, some guy that looks like he has been paddling a lonnnnng time is going to walk up to your rack, grab the straps give them several good pulls and say: “I’d never use these things, I use a piece of rope and a trucker’s hitch. If you learned how to tie a trucker’s hitch, you wouldn’t need to spend all that money on those fancy straps. Spend all that money just cuz you don’t know how to tie a trucker’s hitch.”

So, if you have one rope, preferably well used clothes line, with a trucker’s hitch – you can point to it and say “I use that to hold the rack and the kayak to the car, the straps are just to impress my rich friends.”

Good point.
I also use bow and stern tie-downs, and I examine the straps before each use (which I’d do no matter how much they cost). The key points are that the arrangement is secure, and (equally important) that you are confident that it is secure. I don’t want anyone driving on the road with me who is distracted by worrying that his/her kayak might blow off the roof. So the premium straps are worth what they cost, for that reason if no other.

I use 12’ straps. The strap goes over the deck, around the bar on the far side, back over the deck and around the bar to the inside of the saddle and then back up. That gives me a little extra to tie off the end of it too.

Bow and stern tie downs should be a requirement too - trucker’s hitch is the only way to go!

Straps on racks. Rope saftey lines.

– Last Updated: Jul-08-06 3:05 PM EST –

In my very limited experience, I like straps for tie down on the racks. The one inch is more surface area on the kayak and just seems more secure, as long as the cam buckles hold ;-).

For front and back safety lines, I like the rope with trucker's hitch. The rope doesn't flop in the wind as much. I know, you can twist the straps a couple times to help that some.

Just my point of view.

Great lead on those 12 ft straps from Harbor Freight! I ordered 8. At 0.99 per, it just woudn't feel right to have the cost of shipping come out to more than the cost of the items :-). (I could drive 60 miles RT to the store but that would still cost me 8$ in gas, and time.)

Also, if the strap turns out to be too long, just cut some off. Cut it with a hot knife or hot wire to seal the end from unraveling, or melt the end with a match, just like you would do with nylon rope.

Paul S.

Test fit with a piece of rope

– Last Updated: Jul-08-06 5:18 PM EST –

Cut a 12' piece and see how much is left after you tie one end of the boat down. Use that as your guide whether to buy 9' straps or 12' straps. (I've only seen them in 3' increments, except for the 2' straps.)

We use 12' straps to tie ours down to our trailer bars/cradles. That set-up requires the longer straps. But when we bought cradles for a rooftop rack, 12' was overly long, resulting in the need for elaborate tie-offs to take up the excess. We bought 9' straps and use those for the rooftop rack.

Save yourself some money by testing first with plain rope.

And yes, 1" width is standard. Stick with it because some cradles may assume use of that width. For example, our Spring Creek cradles (sold by Castle Craft--EXCELLENT cradles) have a slot on the underside that fits 1" straps.

Name brand straps

– Last Updated: Jul-08-06 6:08 PM EST –

The Thule straps that came with some of our Thule parts were not impressive -- just a single row of stitching holding the buckle on.

I've seen some no-name straps that looked good, and others that were junk.

The stitched-in length marking on NRS straps may seem like a gimmick, but when you accumulate a wad of straps it makes it much easier to find the one you want.

Rope Ratches

– Last Updated: Jul-09-06 9:30 AM EST –

I use "Rope Ratchet" tie downs.......Quick and Easy to use. Plus No Wind noise ! :-)

You can always make a long strap short
but you can rarely make a shorter strap longer.