Strapping A Kayak Onto Your Car by Tom Holtey
Special thanks for photos contributed by forum members
The very basics on how to tie a kayak onto the roof of your car - The first in a series on roof racks and the car topping of boats.
How will you get your kayak home from the shop, or bring it to the water?
In this first segment we discuss the very basics of how to tie a kayak onto the roof of a car. This topic can be very lengthy and complex when one looks at all the combinations of kayaks, cars, roof racks and rack accessories. So, this article will be simple for now, with in-depth information coming in the next installments.
The ingredients are basic and more or less the same for all vehicles and kayaks (canoes too). You will need: your car, your kayak, and some sort of roof rack system; including bars and/or pads and straps.
Many cars have a factory-installed "luggage" rack on the roof. A factory rack will have crossbars (side to side) and/or sidebars (front to back). Crossbars are essential and can be added if needed. Factory installed racks generally have a weight capacity that will limit the load to one, maybe two kayaks.
Your vehicle may be (or can be) outfitted with a sport rack. The Yakima and Thule brands - see links to sources below - are good examples. A sport rack is not available as standard equipment on your car, but there are specialty sport racks made to fit most vehicles. Sport racks are installed at outdoor shops, or by the consumer. The rack consists of crossbars, supported by towers or feet, and some sort of clip that clamps the towers onto the car. Sport racks are typically stronger, carry more weight and facilitate the use of accessories. (More about sport racks in a future article.)
Many sit-on-top kayaks can be loaded directly onto the crossbars, as well as canoes, hull-up, upside down. The key to this is that the gunwales of the boat must create a long and flat stable base for the kayak to rest upon. An Ocean Kayak Scrambler is a good example of this. Some sit-in-side kayaks can be loaded hull-up, but this is typically not preferable, as the cockpit combing is weak, and all the weight of the kayak will rest upon it. One advantage of hull-up loading is that rainwater will not collect inside the kayak.
Deck-up loading, right side up, is a good option for the majority of all kayaks, but requires hull shaped saddles, or "U" or "V" shaped foam pads, on the crossbars. Some U shaped foam pads are "soft rack carriers" and do not require crossbars. They are simply placed on the roof. The advantage of deck-up loading is that less saltwater will drip onto your car and windshield.
Without a saddle set or U shape foam blocks the hull of your kayak would rest on the "keel" line of the boat, point loaded on the crossbars, and deform the hull shape. Specialty kayak saddles can be attached to factory luggage racks and sport racks, or one can snap on generic foam hull blocks, slotted to snug around crossbars.