Using My Canoe as a Car Top Cargo Box

Hi, I have an Old Town Stillwater 12 canoe and use a Yakima rack and the correct components to strap it to the top of my 4-Runner. While loading my gear into the truck, I look up at that canoe and think jeez there’s some decent storage space being wasted in that canoe while it just rides on top of the truck.

So does anyone use their canoe for storage while strapped to the top of their vehicle? I’m thinking mostly about sleeping bags, pillows and other lightweight/bulky gear. Or is this a no-no and generally unsafe.

I should also include that I’ve tried this on my own. I built covers for the canoe out of plywood to fit in the front and back of the canoe. They attach to the seats, or yolk or somewhere at the top of the canoe that keeps them stable. To load the canoe, I attach the covers, put the canoe on the truck, and load the canoe through the sunroof. It somewhat works, but my problems where that the plywood made the canoe heavier and more difficult to load, and it was a bit of work finding the right place to attach the covers.

Thanks for any responses.

David Barkman

I use it when I need it
Folding camp chairs go up there pretty often. Anything light that is easy to tie in, and that you don’t mind maybe getting wet is fine. Since you actually made a cover, sounds like staying dry is solved.

I use it
…nothing heavy but I use it for sleeping pads, bags and other light stuff. First my gear bag goes in and then I’m less likely to forget something or have gear get separated.

I put stuff in there
With my boats (3 on top of a VW) I have to stuff a tent and sleeping bags in there.

Nothing heavy because you are as far from the road as the car goes then a few feet so the junk up there has leverage.

3 people in the car, all the camp gear cloths, food, paddling gear and my tiny VW Golf is blocked.

We don’t rocket along the highway; but we get there and hold our own, at or just over the posted limit.

That stuff is in the hatches of an NDK Explorer, Eastern Island Makkovic and an Orion: All kind of big boats so you should be fine.

In a pinch, I’ve done it
Back when I used to take the family car on the family vacation, and I wanted to bring a boat, I put stuff into the canoe, but I didn’t go so far as building covers. I recall lashing the paddles to the thwarts and putting lighter, bulky items up there, and I can remember hoping the rain wasn’t ruining my brother’s Christmas present which was under the canoe.

But some of the most exciting rides came on a couple of trips to the north woods. On one trip, we self shuttled. I left a car at St. Francis, and three of us with two 17 foot canoes went in my friends RAV4 to the put-in. The RAV was a tiny vehicle to start with and we were 3 full sized adults and a dog, with two-weeks worth of gear and supplies, and my friends don’t travel light. Packed, our canoe looked like a sampan, with a mound of stuff stacked a foot higher than the gunwales. So the RAV was stuffed to the ceiling with just enough space for passengers, and that wasn’t even half the gear. What to do with the rest?

Neccesity may be the mother of invention, but it can also make you do some things that are not the best idea. How to get two canoes on the RAV was a challenge from the start. Next time you see an older RAV, check out the roof racks. They are about 30 inches wide and not more than two feet separate the front bar from the rear bar, if that. Of course, 2x4s and a couple u-bolts were the solution to widening the rack, but still, a 17 footer on such a short base is dicey. But we found a way to make the situation even more precarious: load the canoes with the top side facing the sky, and fill them with all the excess gear. We tried to only put light stuff up there, but even that adds up. The boats were many feet longer than the RAV and we were pretty clueless about tie-down systems, and although we had bow and stern lines to the bumpers they weren’t much help.

That was the most nerve-wracking trip to the put-in ever. Something like 40 miles of logging roads had the RAV rocking and rolling, and the canoes were skittering every which way on every bump. We’d hit a pot hole the the boats would flex and rock forward coming down to hood level. We kept having to stop, push the boats back in position and put more lines on them. The RAV looked like it had been through a spider web by the time we got there, but we never did get the boats securely tied down. Boats and paddlers did eventually get to the put in.

So, yah, I’ve loaded stuff in the canoe, on the car.


Better Ideas for Covers?
Thanks for the quick replies. Anyone have any better ideas for covers? I hate the boards, but would like to keep everything directly in the boat and not coming down on the truck, and also dry. I’m thinking maybe a small tarp or something. Anyone seen anything in a store for such a function?

Thanks Again

David Barkman

get a bag
made for the canoe, load your light stuff in, wrap straps around the covered canoe to stabilize the load and then put on the rack. (my wife has a neat cover for her Loon Works Button that allows her to carry it like a briefcase). I don’t see why a full sized canoe couldn’t be utilized that way?

I’m hoping to find some of that plastic
corrugated stuff they use in the Post Office for the letter bins they carry around. It’s pretty light and stiff. I don’t usually store stuff in a boat on the racks (unless it’s a decked boat with good hatch covers), but I hope to make light front and rear spray decks for the canoe.

fit good…