Step by step: Tying your kayak to a vehicle’s roof

Part Six Continued: Cam strap methodology

Graham Jaehnig/DMG When it comes to comparisons between types of straps, the buckle of a cam strap (left) is much simpler and quicker to use for tying down a canoe than the complicated ratchet strap buckle. Where cam straps are ideal for quickly securing a kayak to the roof of your car, ratchet straps are designed to tie down large, bulky loads weighing hundreds of pounds.

This is one in a series of staff writer Graham Jaehnig’s personal experiences as a

beginner kayaker.

Most vehicles are equipped with crossbars on the roof. The crossbars are what you will rest your kayak when you put it on your car. To make the process easier, though, before you lift the kayak to the roof, first place a cam strap under each of the crossbars (on the passenger side of the vehicle), laying them on the roof. Loop one end of the strap over the front crossbar, laying both the buckle end and the strap end down the windshield, resting on the hood of the car. When looping the strap end over the rear crossbar, allow both ends to hang down over the back of the car.

Next, place your kayak on top of the crossbars with the bow facing the front. Making sure the straps are positioned beneath the crossbar, toss the strap end over the kayak so that it hangs down the driver’s side of the car. The next step is toss the end with the buckle over the kayak, making sure to hang on to the buckle and walk around the vehicle to the driver’s side. Lay the buckle on top of the boat. Next, pass the strap end behind the brace of the crossbar and thread it through the rear of the cam buckle.

Once the strap end is through the buckle, push the spring button on the buckle with your thumb and pull the strap end through the buckle until it holds the kayak snug to crossbar.

Repeat this process with the rear strap. Once both straps are on, tighten each one until they are snug. Try to lift the kayak and try to push it sideways. If it lifts or slides, tighten each strap a little more until the kayak is secured.

Not everyone does this, but once the kayak is secured, I tie a knot with each strap end, directly under the cam buckle to ensure everything stays tight. Because I can’t stand listening to the loose strap ends flapping all over while I’m driving, I close them in my side window.

Bow and stern lines should also be used to secure the kayak’s front and rear to the car.

Coming back to the topic of paddles, because they are in two pieces and join in the middle of the shaft, it is easier to put the two pieces in the car and put them together once you drive your kayak to the water where you intend to paddle.

Until you are used to using the cam straps and feel really confident in using them properly, pull over to the side of the road every five miles or so and check them to make sure they haven’t loosened.

While these instructions are not very clear without the benefit of illustrations, most of the staff at the place you purchased your kayak from are knowledgeable and will show you how to strap your boat to your car. There are also countless online videos and resources to help you.


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