Traveling speed with kayak on car

-- Last Updated: Nov-23-05 2:59 PM EST --

I've been paddling in a small lake near my home and had used rentals prior to my first purchase of a kayak so I've never hauled a kayak before. Since I'm about to get a new Thule rack for trips next year, what is the fastest some of you go with your kayaks on the car? Does the position the kayak is in effect the stress placed by the wind turbulence (sideways or on its bottom)? I got to thinking about this while traveling to KY from CT and realized I probably can't drive 75 mph with a yak on top of the car when the time comes.

20% less
That’s what I do with a Canoe. Normally cruise along at 100-120 km/hr, drops to 80-100 with a boat on top.


– Last Updated: Nov-23-05 3:13 PM EST –

I drove from Texas to Maine with two kayaks strapped to my truck topper. We were bookin' around 80 mph all the way. No problems, except for that speeding ticket in Virginia.

Car speed with kayaks
We carry two 16’ fiberglass boats on a Yakima setup with the Hull Raisers.

Our vehicle is a Honda Element.

This rig makes a tall vehicle even taller, and in stiff cross winds you can feel the extra buffeting.

When planning to drive faster than 55 mph, we tie the bow and stern as well as the normal straps.

No noticable restriction on vehicle speed due to the boats on top, though.

With my Yakima rack…
I have a Yakima rack, and I have Mako Saddles in the front and back. I also use Stern and Bow tie-down ropes.

I regularly run 65 - 70 MPH going to and from the house and paddle spot. The kayak sits upright,and I have a cover on the cockpit.

Bow and stern ropes are a MUST, to be sure a frontal side gust of wind doesn’t take the whole rack off of the vehicle.

With a good rack, and proper tie down, you won’t even know it is on your roof. BUT remember, the Bow and Stern ropes are a must, along with the straps over the center of the kayak.

Happy Paddling!

75 mph
There’s a stretch of 50 miles from oracle Junction tothe Florence Prison that is rarely patrolled.

I ususally toss 4 kayaks on the roof and do 75 along that stretch easy.

Of course I need bow & stern tie-downs to stop them from being left behind in the wind or slam forward if I have to slow suddenly.

80mph - just flowing with traffic, sir…

Not to start this whole thing up again, but I always use bow and stern tie downs - even in town. The faster you go, the more important they become. Make sure to stop every once in awhile and check everything over (all tie-downs, make sure towers haven’t moved, etc). High speeds and long distances can put a lot of stress on a rack system, and things can move a little bit.

No problem
Two long yaks and a canoe - Yakama rack system - no front or rear tie downs - two double looped cam-lock buckles on each boat cinched down as tight as I can get them and if the speed limit is 75 I’ll do it all the time on both my vehicles. A Ford Escape and A Ford F-150 pick up with cap



I use bow and stern tie downs
in addition to the rack system (Yakima). Two 17 ft. seayaks. Traveled multiple hundreds of miles at 70+mph with no problems, don’t even know they’re there. I do get some buffeting behind 18 wheeler rigs that gets worse the closer I get. I assume it comes from the turbulence of their “slipstream” so I avoid driving behind them just to avoid undue stress on the boats. As stated above, I also notice a strong cross-wind.

Thanks for all of the feedback. I know I’ll drive with more confidence with the feedback given. I’m surprised that traveling 5-15 mph over most Interstate highways is fine, but this is great knowing I can overtake cars without worrying about stress on the kayaks above me.

Traveling speed vs tie down method
My wife and I have a Nissan Pathfinder with Thule cross bars and old fashioned Thule kayak saddles in which the tie down straps pass through the center of each of the saddles. We have two Wilderness Systems Tempest Pro kayaks, and we regularly travel long distances with these boats on the car (e.g., from our home in New Jersey to Maine and from NJ to South Carolina) at posted speed limits (+5) with no problems.

Happy paddling (and traveling).

The key is span and have the boat centered if no saddles. Straps rule

Up tp 80 mph
So far. We had the OT Loon 160T on the suburban roof. New Thule bars with saddles. Used the ratcheting tie straps that you get from the hardware stores. Put one strap in front cockpit lip, and one strap behind. Tie the straps down to the bars right next to the kayak, and that sucker ain’t going nowhere. No side to side movement, no front to back. But then again the Loon 160T has large cockpit lips. Been everywhere. OC to Mammoth Mountain for kayaking the lakes, plus towing a tent trailer. OC to San Diego for Kayaking in Mission Bay. OC to Las Vegas, but that another story. Something about the wife needing projects other than the kayak rack in the garage completed. :wink: So its stored on the Roof rack. So if you see a big blue Suburban driving around OC with a big green OT loon 160T, give me a wave.

85mph, also with a Loon 160T!
Yes, I know I go too fast.

I strap my Loon 160T down with bow and stern straps. I also use TWO “belly” straps which go through the seat rails and through the van. Feel much more secure with that backup strap.

I check everything every hour or so, just to be safe.

I usually keep it around 75, but sometimes my foot gets heavy, especially when the flow of traffic is faster. However, in wind or rain I slow way down.

200 mph duct tape
If you use duct tape you can go as fast as you want to go. Providing your rack is taped as well.

Serously though, well…yeah seriously though, that’s like asking how high you could fly if you had a plane. That depends on a variety of things. What kind of plane…er…boat you have, type of rack, and how well it’s secured to the vehicle, how well the plane…er boat is fastened to the rack, and whether you have a vehicle that has the horses to go fast with a plane…er sail…er boat on top. Distance between racks is a pretty large factor as well. Just use your common sense. Just use your common sense. Tying your boats with them upside down will USUALLY give you more stability on the road. Just don’t make the mistake of overtightening them as many do. Just go slow and see what they do. Woudn’t hurt to double fasten if you still have doubts.


As long as you are not using foam blocks
you shouldn’t have a problem. We used foam blocks when we first got the Pamlico 135T. Got caught in a fain storm and the water caused the rear block to slip out from under the kayak, despite three tie-downs- and we nearly lost it to the interstate. Using a Yakima rack system now with a stacker when we take more than one kayak, and use the two long center straps and never have a problem.

With a Thule rack saddle system and
front and rear tie-downs, 75 - 80 has not been a problem.

Just check all the straps each time you take a pee break.

highway speeds - no problem!
I have a Lexus IS300 with Lexus clamp on racks with Thule “set to go” saddles. I picked up a new kayak (Hurricane Tracer) a couple of weeks ago about 150 miles from home. I made the return trip at 75 - 80 mph will NO problems - the 'yak didn’t budge (webbing straps over the 'yak and around the cross bars - bow and stern tie downs with a handy little Thule ratchet gizmo)

My F150 got better mileage at 70
with 2 kayaks on my Redneck Truck Rack than it did without.

80 mph, but have wide rails
Forgot to mention, I have four Thule rails on the Suburban Roof Rack. As someone noted above, the wider the rails the better, straps will have better leverage. So the kayak saddles are on the two outside (wide) rails, and the bike carrier on the two inside rails. The outside rails are almost 6 feet apart.

Alright, I try not to go too fast too much. Really. Usually 70-75. It gets kind of annoying when you come up behind some one doing 65, and switch to the passing lane, and he speeds up to keep you from passing him. Next thing you know its almost 80 mph, and I was only doing a touch over 70 a minute ago.