Tie Your Canoe on Your Car: Master the Art of Vehicle Roof Rack Mounting

Are you yearning to hit the open water with your trusty canoe in tow? Tying a canoe onto a car may seem like a simple task, but mastering the art of vehicle roof rack mounting can truly turn you into a seasoned outdoors enthusiast. Say goodbye to the judgmental onlookers and embrace your new identity as THAT OUTDOORSY GUY/GAL. In this article, we will guide you through the intricate process of securing your canoe on your car, sharing invaluable tips and tricks along the way. So, let’s dive in!

The Perfect Foundation: Roof Racks and Foam Blocks

Whether you have an after-market roof rack or simply a factory rack with crossbars, you’re off to a great start. But fear not if you don’t have either! Foam blocks can be your saving grace, providing vital support for your canoe and protecting your car’s roof. Position these blocks strategically on the strongest points of your roof, such as just behind the windshield and near the back. Remember, if you can depress the roof with your hand, avoid placing the foam block there.

Roof Rack Mounting

The Perfect Position: Equal Distance Matters

As you prepare to tie your canoe down, ensure that the yoke or middle thwart is equi-distant between the contact points with the car. This ensures optimal support and stability during transportation, allowing you to hit the road with peace of mind.

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Tying Techniques: Cam Buckle Straps vs. Ropes

When it comes to tying your canoe securely, you have two options at your disposal: cam buckle straps and ropes. The former are user-friendly and distribute the load evenly, while the latter provides fail-safe security if you master the right knot. To ensure a smooth journey, opt for polyester rope, as it won’t stretch when it gets wet. Steer clear of the infamous yellow nylon rope, as it can quickly turn into a disaster waiting to happen.

If you’re utilizing foam blocks, remember to pass the rope through the doors (not windows!!) of your car for a solid tie. Tighten the straps or ropes firmly, but be cautious not to apply excessive force that could damage your fiberglass canoe or deform a plastic one.

Canoe Tie-Down Strap

Safeguarding the Bow: Anchoring for Stability

Securing the bow of your canoe is crucial for maintaining stability during your journey. If you’re fortunate, you may find suitable anchor points under the front of your car. However, avoid tying anything to plastic components or potential heat sources. If suitable anchor points are lacking, create strap loops under your car’s hood or fashion your own.

Hood Loops

Now, prepare to unveil one of the most remarkable knots known to humankind: the Trucker’s Hitch. This masterpiece will elevate you to MacGyver-like status. Attach the rope to the bow of your canoe, ensuring that two ends trail down. Form a triangular shape when tying the bow down, and use the Trucker’s Hitch to tighten the lines. To test the integrity of your knot-tying skills, give the back of the canoe a gentle push – the car should move, not the boat.

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Canoe Tied Onto Car

How to Tie a Trucker’s Hitch:

  1. Create a loop with a twist, approximately halfway down the rope from the canoe’s bow.
  2. Form a loop with the slack line in your hand and thread it through the first loop.
  3. Tighten the loop. Be cautious, as pulling on the slack line now may cause the loop to loosen easily.
  4. Pass the free end of the slack line through the anchor point on the car, ensuring it goes up through the loop.
  5. Pull the free end to tighten everything securely.
  6. Pinch the knot to hold it in place and add a couple of half hitches to secure it. Tie up any leftover loose line to prevent it from flapping around and causing annoyance during the journey. Voila! You’re now a MacGyver of the outdoors.

How to Tie a Trucker's Hitch

Ensuring Safety and Compliance

If you’re using foam blocks, it’s advisable to tie down the stern of the canoe as well. However, if the boat extends over the back of your vehicle by more than 1.5 meters (5 feet), it’s essential to attach a safety flag to remain compliant with regulations. This precaution also safeguards you from accidental head injuries – a mishap that even the most experienced adventurers have fallen victim to.

Red Flag on Boat

The Final Touch: You’re a Pro!

Congratulations! With these newfound skills, you’re now equipped to tackle the challenge of tying your canoe onto your car like a seasoned professional. Practice at home a couple of times to perfect your technique, and when the time comes to load your boat at the lake, you’ll astound fellow adventurers with your prowess. Brace yourself, as you may find yourself lending a helping hand to others who recognize you as THAT OUTDOORSY GUY/GAL.

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Here are a few videos to further enhance your knowledge:


Give them a watch and solidify your expertise in the art of canoe tie-downs. Happy adventuring!