This time of year, you see a lot of canoes and kayaks going down the road tied to the top of cars. Some of them not as smartly anchored as others.

One of the configurations that I see a lot is the "It's not going off the back" method. A quick look at google finds these two examples:

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Is this method to transport your canoe safe or will it be likely to be lost while driving? What is wrong with this tie down method?

  • 2
    You can use a strap inside the canoe, between thwart and rack, to prevent forward motion, and these photos are not clear enough to see if this is being used. Sep 19, 2016 at 1:58
  • That's how I do it, and I have a canoe specific kit I bought for my roof rack. I also drive frequently in +100km/h winds. Haven't lost a canoe yet.
    – ShemSeger
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:22
  • @ShemSeger with straps at the front and back applying forward pressure on the canoe? Sep 19, 2016 at 14:23
  • The straps in the middle are the important ones, I strap the canoe at the middle of the hull and it works out that both bow and stern straps look like they're pulling the canoe forward. But they're actually there to prevent the canoe from twisting off to the side.
    – ShemSeger
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:24
  • 1
    The way I have been taught to tie the end straps is both slanted inwards, while the ones in the pictures are slanted forward for both ends. If the end straps make an inverted V and they are slanted inwards they hold the canoe from moving sideways and from sliding both backwards and forward. There are various ways to attach the straps to obtain that on cars of any length. Sep 26, 2016 at 1:56

3 Answers 3


To answer your underlying idea, mounting a canoe on the roof of a regular car can easily be done safely - however you've chosen two poor examples.

First photo: not safe

There's no proper roof-bars. The type of foam pads used aren't suitable for anything bigger than a surf-board. Used like this they will also damage the car roof. I wouldn't ever consider the type of tail mount used.

Second photo: better - right idea but poorly executed.

Here we see the boat on proper roof-bars with good straps. However, the boat should be centred on these, even if this means sticking out more at the back.

Correct: Solid roof-bars (available for all normal cars), with the bars spaced out as much as possible and the boat centred on these - with good quality straps used to secure the boat to the bars. A rear light should be added where necessary.

Note: when the boat is centred, this prevents forward/back movement because the straps are either side of the middle/widest point.

Note2: both photos place a heavy emphasis on nose/tail strapping. In reality they add very little and should never be relied upon. They can help reduce bouncing but if the boat isn't secure without them, it won't be secure with them.

  • It would be good to explain what is wrong with the tail mount used in the car? Centering the canoe on the SUV would make it illegally loaded in my country, as the overhang would exceed the legal maximum.
    – user5330
    Sep 19, 2016 at 20:07
  • @mattnz The tail mount is unstable in 4 axes and can likely only be used at the expense of mounting the boat on the roof correctly. In the above case it was certainly a poor decision to invest in this mount instead of roof bars which would have given a stable footing.
    – Niall
    Sep 20, 2016 at 7:25
  • @mattnz 2nd point: New Zealand? If so you're incorrect. NZ regulations allow for an over-hang of up to 4m (measured from the rear axle). This is more than enough for a ~5m canoe. nzta.govt.nz/resources/glovebox-guide-safe-loading-towing/… . If local laws did prohibit enough of an over-hang, I would recommend not mounting on the roof.
    – Niall
    Sep 20, 2016 at 7:27
  • 2
    Ends straps are not only for bouncing, they stabilize the canoe preventing it to move backwards and forward and most of all sideways, seen too many with a canoe diagonal on the roof on the highway because they miss the end straps Sep 26, 2016 at 2:02
  • I've used the foam pads for decades. It never damaged my car. And even if it did, it's not "unsafe". May 20, 2021 at 15:12

There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

In a perfect world, the rear strop would be tided further midships to prevent the Kayak moving forward, however, in a pragmatic world, this is not needed.

The forward strop prevents the kayak lifting the roof rack off the car and wind forcing the kayak backwards. The forward and rear strop and prevents side winds twisting the kayak on the rack. Should the Kayak start to move, the driver can easily see and fix it, however this is not normally a problem as the correct attachment to the racks is not hard to achieve.

In an accident involving a sudden stop, the kayak might move forward until the rear strop comes tight - possible 2 or more meters. This is less than ideal, but the forces required before this happened would almost certainly render the car undriveable.

In both cases it would be better if the racks were further apart.

  • I would put a orange flag on the rear of the kayak for better visibility. If it extends more than three feet from the car it is required by law in most places.
    – Ken Graham
    Sep 21, 2016 at 13:16
  • 2 meters can make a difference between not hitting the car in front of you or not. There isnt that much force needed: some hulls dont have the widest point midship, others are rather straight there, like some polynesian canoes and they can slide forward if you have to brake suddenly at highway speed. And sometimes people use stock crossbars that, for many, ended being weak enough to bend and rip off the sidebars... Sep 26, 2016 at 12:32

The auto in the top photo has a rack that is in the hitch receiver to support the rear of the canoe. With the strap holding the boat on the rack it appears very secure. The front looks to have only one strap, on the centerline of the car. I'd certainly prefer straps going to the sides of the front to assure the boat doesn't start to wobble on the roof from wind pressure. But this looks reasonable and the driver may well have used this setup enough to be secure with it.

The SUV, with the canoe tied front, back and to the rack and looks very secure. The main problem with both the front and back straps slanting to the back is that the boat may slip forward in an emergency stop. Proper tieing to the rack should prevent that.

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