Travel cover for a canoe: does it help for cartopping?


When I take my canoe anywhere, it’s usually on a camping trip involving hundreds of miles of travel. It makes me nervous on top of the truck. I’m wondering if traveling with it in a bag would keep the wind out of it and reduce the stress on the boat. Just reducing the noise would make me more comfortable. The canoe is a 19’ Kevlar model and it just feels sort of flimsy up there. I just want to put it in a canvas bag for some reason.

(It is stored inside so it doesn’t need a cover most of the time.)

Anyone notice a difference with a cover/sack?


Never tried one but what made me most comfortable was getting stops or ears that fit my Yakima rack. I snug them up on the gunnels and the boat may wiggle a bit but will not shift.

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a bag can keep crap off the hull if transporting in the winter. We usually do not aside from some wood dacron hulls. Our Kevlar boats have been from Maine to Alaska Maine to Florida Maine to Texas Maine to Louisiana.

Multiple times each. No bag.

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Canoe covers will flap in the wind and create a lot of friction, noise and increase wind resistance.
Better off without them.


I wouldn’t want a cover or bag during the ride. As mentioned above it would have to be a really tight fit to not flap around. I have covered loads in my truck with tarps When raining and the movement of the tarps will wear on the paint job pretty quickly at highway speed.

Upside down with tight straps and bow and stern lines my boats feel like they are part of the car. If your straps are shaking try putting a twist where they are in the wind.

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Welcome, mfro,

I have a different take on using a canoe cover while traveling. I bought a good canoe cover for my 18.5 ft skin coat Kevlar boat for both UV protection while being stored (afternoon sunlight gets into our garage) and for longer trips on the road with our hatchback. I hadn’t considered using the cover for shorter drives but what I found was that it greatly reduces wind noise, especially at highway/interstate speeds. The comments about flapping and wind noise would apply to a loose fitting cover but the The Bag Lady/Red Leaf Designs cover we use fits like a glove and there’s no flapping going on. The cover material seems to dampen the wind passing over the boat and reduces the amount of air getting into the interior of the boat so there’s much less buffeting and wind noise.

Since we store the canoe with the cover we just leave it on when we load the boat on the car, even with day trips. We usually don’t bother putting the cover back on for the drive back unless we’ll be on the road for most of the day or we want a more quiet drive home.

I’m not sure if the same cover would reduce wind with your pickup rack so my experience car topping may not apply. The Bag Lady/Red Leaf covers aren’t cheap but they’re top quality and work really well as UV protection.



I have not used canoe covers for transport but one would obviously keep dead bugs and other detritus off the exterior of the hull at the front of the vehicle, and the interior of the hull at the back of the vehicle. You would then, of course, have to clean the dead bugs off the cover.

I do know for a fact that having inflated flotation bags inside the canoe during transport improves gas mileage although it can be hard on the bags. I assume that a cover that went all the way around the boat sealing off the interior would go even further in improving mileage which might be a consideration for long trips.

This is how I traveled from the Adirondacks to Whithorse YT, and back from Dawson. nine days on the road outbound in the sun, and six days back under protective cover from UV. The bag lady cover fits tight and partially wraps around the interior of the carbon C4 canoe, edges are held tight together with short bungies. No flapping, no wind noise. I also definitely recommend gunwale anti-slide blocks on the Thule bars.


Thanks all!

I really appreciate the welcome and the varying perspectives.

Any cover I’d consider would definitely be snug–thanks for the Bag Lady rec. And now I see that color coordination is also important! :slight_smile:

I hadn’t considered fuel economy but I probably should. In the past we’ve had it on top of a truck camper so mileage was already pretty iffy but will probably switch to using a tent trailer for this sort of trip and I will no longer have to be ashamed of my fuel consumption. (So I need to rework my rack system which is what led me to wanting something that doesn’t put me on edge…hence the cover…)


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A friend was driving back to Michigan from Ohiopyle With the bags in his Encore inflated. 50s in Ohiopyle but below freezing by Ohio. The deflated bags flapping against the frozen lacings didn’t end well.

Yes. If you are going to car top an open boat with bags in it they need to be pretty fully inflated to keep the fabric of the bag from flapping. If a vinyl filler tube flaps in the wind it can also crack the tube or cause the junction of the tube with the bag to fail.

Not only is it necessary to top off bags when the temperature drops, on a warm sunny day it is often necessary to release some air from the bags. Bags can build up enough pressure to break the gunwales of a canoe.

Is there any reason kayak covers zip up and cover the entire boat while canoe covers don’t?

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yep, I have more than once stopped on the side of an interstate to adjust airbag pressure. I’ll often do the long drives with the bags out and carry a 12v inflator.

I suspect in my friends case he couldn’t hear the flapping as he would have been driving a S-10 with the canoe on the back cap. Enough road noise in that S-10 that you might not hear much else outside.

Not sure this would apply to the canoe in question, but I was carrying a really nice wood kayak in a bag to protect it. An experienced wooden boat guy pointed out that even minor flapping of the fabric will quickly dull the gloss finish via abrasion. So I just use the bag for storage now.

Not true of all covers. Not at all
Try the Bag Lady of Redleaf Designs.
nylon jersey covers that fit snugly
Never had flappage and I have several times taken covered canies from Maine to Texas and Maine to FL and Maine to Louisiana

When using tight fitting covers for storage be sure that the boat is completely dry to prevent mold and mildew. Same goes for storage areas under hatches.

Good advice, especially for canoes with wood gunwales, seats, and trim. I always wash my boats after paddling to minimize the risk of contaminating the next lake or stream and then let the boat sit in the garage on sawhorses for a couple days to ensure complete drying.


Good question. I assume you’re referring to the Bag Lady/Redleaf Designs covers. I wonder if they’d make a zippered cover for low profile racing canoes. One problem I could see for the canoes I own (pronounced stem profiles) is that it would be difficult to slip the stern/bow into the bag and also to have the zippered end fit tightly.

The canoe covers use a drawstring closure that cinch the bag up nice and snug and leave only a narrow gap between the two sides so there’s not that much of the interior space exposed. The amount of air that gets into the interior while driving is minimal; I notice a big difference in how much the bilge tie-down straps flap around with and without the cover on while driving.

Thanks again, all!

Yes, I was looking at the Bag Lady covers. I’m not seeing others designed for highway speeds. I’ve decided I don’t want to make my own, so I’m making good progress. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: (Honestly, I don’t think I could purchase the fabric for the prices at which the finished covers are listed.)

My canoe is a pretty barebones sort of thing–no hatches or float bags or comfy seats. (The family merely dabbles with boating on small tame bodies of water.) It would be dry before we’d even “bag it” and because it lives in a garage, it could stay uncovered between trips to dry out thoroughly.

I’m getting some mental images of a moldy canoe…yeah, that could definitely happen. I have a kid who likes an inflatable kayak (did I mention we are casual?) so we do have a boat-drying routine.

I guess everyone’s boating experiences are different. In my case it normally involves loading the canoe and kayak the night before if possible and leaving the morning of for loading gear and food, so we can get an early start. Then we have to drive to the put in if it is a river float drop off the boats take both cars to the take out leaving the boat hauler there and coming back to the put in. Then we are on the river most of the day and when it comes to take out the last thing I want to do is clean and dry the boats and bag them. everything is wet and muddy. We pack up as quick as we can and try and get home before dark. Normally I leave the boats again over night and take my time the next morning getting them off cleaned up and put away.

So in my case if I bagged them it might be then, but they stay on a rack outside upside down and I don’t see where a bag would do much and then I would need to un-bag them as my loader would be hard on the bag and might not even work.

I know most people don’t add float bags or feel they have much need for them. I kind of like that added peace of mind having mine in both the canoe and the rec-kayak. :canoe: