family tying a canoe to the car

Transporting a Canoe

Transporting a canoe safely on a vehicle is of paramount importance!

Have you ever passed by someone on the highway and thought, yeesh, that canoe doesn’t look too secure… I’ll pass by them, just in case? If you are new to family canoe adventures, here are some tips and steps for properly securing (or tying) your canoe to your car.

We started out by tying our canoe down with a rope and using little foam blocks. Long ago, we graduated to a much easier and more secure method. It was worth the investment!

Canoe Tie Down Supplies

  • Roof racks: they will make your life so much easier, and the canoe will be much more secure than just on foam blocks
  • Canoe straps: Use straps that are static, which means they have minimal stretch. Some ropes can stretch a lot when they get wet. Avoid using ratchet straps since they create enough force to crush or damage a kayak or canoe. Choose some that have rubber to protect the metal cinch from scratching your car, for example, MEC Canada). We suggest taking a look at your car first to determine what you need, then head to your canoe outfitter for advice. Don’t cheap out on this part – no one wants a shattered canoe or worse…
  • Rubber padding: foam blocks or pool noodles. If on a bare roof, you want to prevent damage to both the canoe and roof, but the padding will mainly help prevent the canoe from slipping.

There are so many youtube videos about how to tie your canoe down. Take a quick look. The method depends on whether you have roof racks or will use foam blocks only on a bare roof.

Transporting A Canoe – The vehicle TIE DOWN

woman fixing canoe strapped to car on road
Roadside Canoe Strap Fix
  • Lift the canoe (two people best) onto the rack of your vehicle.
  • To protect the gunwales on the canoe, you can put foam or even cut up pool noodles around the roof rack (pool noodles will degrade much faster but are cheap).
  • Balancing the canoe on the crossbars is important so it does not tip forwards or backward (not too far in the front or too far in the back). Typically, this means the yoke of the canoe is equally between the crossbars.
  • Check that the canoe is straight and in line with your vehicle. Otherwise, the wind will put uneven pressure on one side of your canoe the entire drive.
  • Put two straps across the middle of your canoe. Tighten down, then tie off the loose ends, or they will flap in the wind. Here is a photo and some instructions from MEC.
  • There are LOTS of videos online about transporting a canoe properly, so look for one that speaks to you. Here is one father and daughter team.
  • Now secure the front and back of the canoe. Every vehicle is different – some have built-in attachment points under the front and back of the vehicle that you can put the hook of the canoe strap in. You might want to consider hood/trunk tie-down loops if you don’t.
  • Try shaking the canoe with two hands—the vehicle should move with it.
  • After 10 minutes of driving, pull over to check the stability, as sometimes things loosen. Tighten again. Periodically double-check along your travels.
  • TIP: Remember, your vehicle footprint is a lot longer now! Be careful when turning, and use your mirrors!
  • And finally: be sure you don’t need anything from your trunk because once your canoe is strapped down, there is nothing more annoying than remembering you need to get in there and can’t!

Other Canoe Articles

Overwhelmed by all the canoe choices out there? What should you look for when choosing a family canoe?

See the article: Choosing a Family Canoe

Want to ensure your canoe lasts for generations? With a little forethought, your grandkids can enjoy the same canoe as your kids did.

Read: Canoe Maintenance and Storage

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