How to Properly Secure Your Canoe/Kayak


In celebration of Safe Boating Week, I’d like to provide tips for the safe and proper securement of your canoe or kayak. For anyone who has driven on an Interstate, we get used to seeing debris near the roadways from improperly secured items. In my professional life as a truck driver, being on the road, allows me to see some epic securement failures. From the beds of trucks, rooftops of SUV’s, and utility trailers, I have witnessed mattresses, ladders, BBQ grills, wheelbarrows, couches, dining tables and even a kayak scattered by the road side. I have experienced some of these events live, dodging items skidding along the pavement. Most of these were unsecured or secured improperly with inappropriate devices such as plastic twine, bungee cords, or straps with an inadequate weight rating. If you are like me, I can not afford to have my $1000+ canoe pass me in the median as I drive down the road. Proper cartopping and securement is important not only to protect your investment but also to protect the motoring public.  In celebration of National Safe Boating Week, we will discuss different methods of cartopping and securement to protect our investments.

Firstly, anytime possible, your canoe/kayak should be secured with the gunnel of your boat in contact with your rail system, aka upside down. This may not be possible with some kayaks but is a must for canoes.

Canoe properly cartopped with 4 point securement system.


When selecting straps or rope to cartop your vessel, make sure you always select items with a weight rating that is well above the weight of what you are securing. Remember, the weight of your craft will increase significantly when you are driving 65+mph down the road. The wind resistance created when driving as well as wind turbulence from other vehicles is significant. Making certain your straps/rope will hold up is paramount to successfully transporting your craft.

Front of canoe secured to vehicle

4-Point Securement System

Anytime you are carrying your craft on top of your vehicle you want to secure it using at least four (4) securement points. Your first securement will be attached to the front of your boat securing it to the front of your vehicle. This securement stops rearward movement when accelerating. Next, to secure the rear of your canoe/kayak, the second strap will be connected to the rear of your boat and secured to the rear of your vehicle. This securement stops forward movement when braking. The 3rd and 4th securement will go over the top of your boat securing it to the rack/vehicle. Ensure these straps are as close to the boat as possible so it’s locked in tight. These securements stop side to side movement from wind turbulence. Depending on the length of your craft you may need extra securements over the top of the boat. Also, I have a personal theory on securing items, “Why use 2 straps when 3 will do?” I prefer over-securing to under-securing. It is also important to check your straps periodically to ensure they have not loosened up while driving. Do this anytime you stop on your trip to and from the water.

Rear of canoe secured to vehicle.


Pick-up Truck

If carrying your canoe in the bed of your truck, ensure you have a strap of appropriate weight rating. You should use at least two (2) straps to secure your craft in the bed. One strap should go over the top of the boat to protect from blow-away scenarios and one strap should be connected to the craft in the rear (rear of craft and rear of vehicle). This will ensure no rearward movement in acceleration events. There are also bed extender racks that can be used to cartop your boat that attach to your trucks hitch mount. Also available are racks that secure to the bed of the truck, sometimes called ladder racks. When purchasing one of these racks, be certain the rack has a weight capacity that is high enough to hold your craft and use the 4-point securement system listed above.

Location for 3rd and 4th securement.


Different vehicles have different roof configurations that we will break down below. Before that, it is important to check the weight capacity of your vehicles roof/cargo racks etc. This information can usually be found in the vehicle owner’s manual. Please note that some of the items I list below, I have no personal experience with. I will say that we use Malone brand crossbars, and I would recommend them. They cost much less than some other brands and are of good quality. We also use Malone’s cross bar pads to protect the gunnels of our canoe from vibration and bumps. Malone makes many different other configurations as well.

Roof Configurations

No side bars w/ channel- Malone Versarail Bare Roof Crossrail System

Side bars, No cross bars- Malone Steeltop Roof Rack

No side bars or channel (bare roof)- Malone Handirack Roof Rack

If you have a vehicle that has side rails and crossbars you may not need to buy a rack system so long as the weight rating is high enough. However, you do want to protect your crafts gunnels/hull. You can correct this issue by using pool noodles taped to your crossbars or cut lengthwise and slipped on the gunnel where it rests on the rail.


The type of trailer you have will determine how it should be secured. The 4-point system above will work great on most trailers. However, if you decide to secure your boat to the trailer, just remember you want to stop forward, rearward and side-to-side movement.

Hopefully, the above tips with allow you to confidently cartop and secure your vehicle to avoid your investment being destroyed. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below so we can help with answers. As always, Paddle True to Paddle Through!

The Paddling Newf is a personal blog. Any views, opinions or products represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of the people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company or individual.  All content on The Paddling Newf is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information, nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information.

Categories Canoe, Kayak, Paddling, Safe Boating Week, UncategorizedTags , , , , , , ,

2 thoughts on “How to Properly Secure Your Canoe/Kayak

  1. We also use Malone load bars, on my car and on our GO trailer, as well as Malone J-bars for the kayak…satisfied with them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have them on the Suburban and the Subaru (not the inappropriately strapped Subaru pictured 😂). We’ve been very happy with them as well. Durable and affordable.


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