Friday, August 06, 2010

Cheap and Easy Cartop Canoe Carrier

Have you got a canoe you want to carry to the lake and only have your sedan to carry it on.  No roof rack? So how do you haul your canoe without buying an expensive strap on canoe rack?  Easy Peasy.  Everything you need is down at Wal-Mart and won't cost more than twenty or thirty bucks.

Here's what you need to pick up:

Three Styrofoam swim "noodles" - the kind with the hole in the middle as shown at the right.

Two racheting tie-down Straps

Here are the tools you need:

1 hunting knife or sharp butcher knife
Tape measure

What else you need:

Canoe with a rope loop at the the bow and stern
Your car

Here's how to do this:

This canoe "rack" doesn't attach to your car, won't scratch your paint and hooks up in less than ten minutes.

Here are the steps:

1. Lay the canoe on the grass right side up as shown.

2. Measure the length of the gunwales (the edge of the canoe) between the thwarts.

3. Split the two Styrofoam noodles lengthwise down one side so that you cut halfway through the noodle as shown at the right.

4. Cut the noodles to fit between the stern thwart and the center thwart and between the bow thwart and the center thwart.

5.  Spread the noodle sections apart and slip them over the the gunwales.  This creates a secure Styrofoam padding on the gunwales where they will touch the roof of the car.  Wipe the noodles to make sure there is no sand on them.  Attached, the noodles look like the picture below.

6. Clean any dirt off the top of the car. Sand between the noodles and the cartop can scratch the finish.

7.  Flip the canoe over and set it on top of the car with the bow and stern extending equally over the front and back of the car (not the passenger cabin).

8.  Run the ratchet tie-down through the rope loop and hook the end hooks under the bumper in front. There are two towing loops under the frame in front that are used in the manufacturing process. They are perfect for attaching the ratchet straps.

9.  Tighten the straps lightly Do the same thing in the back of the car with the second ratchet strap as shown at the right.

10.  Split the third Styrofoam noodle and wrap it around the ratchet straps anywhere it touches the car hood or bumpers to protect the car.

11. Tighten each ratchet strap a little at a time till the canoe is pulled down tight on top of the car's cabin and the canoe rides level.
    You don't need a center strap. The 4 point tie-down you've created is very secure and gives you pressure from 4 direction that keeps the canoe from sliding.

    Now wasn't that fun (and cheap).   See you on the river.

    Tom King


    1. Thanks for this.
      I was picked up a canoe from the side of the road with a "FREE!" sign. Once I got hit home, I discovered WHY it was free. I'm now finally repairing it, with the help and advice from my father, so I'll be able to use it this weekend.

      The only problem is, my wife's van doesn't have roof racks, nor do I feel like buying/installing them. This is an excellent solution, which will allow me to strap my canoe to any vehicle, regardless or whether or not it has roof racks.


    2. Thanks for sharing it.There’s a lot to think about when you are using ratchet straps in your load management – from health and safety to company branding.

    3. You are awesome, this is the best advice of how to carry a canoe without a rack. Thanks!

    4. Just make sure to stop a mile or so down the road and tighten the straps. The load will shift a little once you start bumping down the road and the straps can loosen a bit.

    5. Great post however, for added security I would add two more nylon straps. Namely through the doors (not windows) and over the canoe. Front and rear. Going 65mph with a stiff cross-wind adds piece of mind. Also, if the hood tie should for any reason break lose you have insurance with the overhead ties before the canoe becomes airborne and potentially becoming a missile taking out an innocent family on the highway.

    6. Wonderful!!!! Glad I found this page while I was looking for a canoe carrier, the prices are often outrageous! Now to go buy some swim noodles!

    7. I love your intro... just as you, God has not given me money wealth but wealth with my hands turning other people's trash into new working items and more! Thanks and keep on keepin on! God bless!

    8. Your post have everything that is obtained complete and really useful. This post is very good. Thank you for presenting an informative post.