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Selecting a Cartop Kayak Carrier

When taking your kayak out for some weekend fun, there are a few options out there. However, the safest and most effective way to transport your kayak to your local lake, river or other outlet is through the use of a car rack. These can be installed quickly and easily on almost any make and model of vehicle and will provide an easy way to transport your kayak without causing damage to your vehicle or your boat.

For those who are new to the kayaking way of life or for those looking for a better way to transport their boats, here are a few things you need to know about car racks.
Car Rack or Blocks

Roof-Mounted Rack Systems

A roof-mounted boat carrier can be added for almost any full-sized truck, car or van. Some compact cars can even be big enough to carry a canoe or kayak. The basic system has four vertical posts with two connecting horizontal rods. The posts can be permanently mounted on the car’s roof or can be held in place with clamps. Once the rack is in place, bungee cords or ratchet straps can be attached to hold the boat in place during transportation. Thule and Yakima make two of the more established rack systems.

Pros: The best part of a roof-mounted rack system is that it is not limited in its uses. Use it today for the boat and tomorrow for a luggage carrier. The system is also stable and secure, making it one of the safest ways to carry your equipment. With the clamp-mounted racks, the system is also removable when necessary.

Cons: Installation is not fast or necessarily easy. It can also get expensive, especially compared to foam blocks.

Factory Racks

When you first buy your vehicle, you may want to opt for a factory-installed roof rack. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it will be everything you need to haul your canoe to the river. Many factory racks need adapters to be able to haul the gear associated with your boat. Before you invest in a factory-installed rack, ask the dealership for a demo to make certain what modifications you might need to make to haul your boat.

Pros: A factory-installed rack is one of the most stable and secure options as well as being very versatile. It cannot be removed, but will also work for carrying skis in the winter or the luggage for your family vacation

Cons: A factory-installed rack is likely to be the most expensive option for carrying your boat and may require additional adapters and equipment to work properly.

Foam Blocks

Foam blocks are typically temporary carriers held to your car with ratchet straps that attach to the car’s roof rack or through the windows into the car’s interior. Foam blocks are the least expensive option for carrying your kayak on the roof of the car and prevent scratching of the vehicle by putting molded foam between the boat and the vehicle. Generally, foam blocks work best in conjunction with another roof-mounted system.

Pros: Foam blocks are easy to use and easy to install, with no long term hardware required. They are often much less expensive than other options.

Cons: Foam blocks won’t last forever or even necessarily for the life of the car. The foam will wear and crush and may be subject to damage from the elements.

Attachments

When you consider transporting your canoe or kayak, one of the major considerations should be the type of boat mount and how you will attach the boat mount to your vehicle. Cradles, stackers, saddles and foam blocks all require either a rack or straps to attach the boat securely to the car. Most attachments are screwed, clamped or strapped to the rack or the vehicle.

• J-cradles and stackers are intended for carrying multiple boats or boats and associated gear. The boat is on its side for transporting.

• Saddle-style mounts prevent wear and tear on your kayak, but transporting it upright with pressure distributed along the hull.

• Integrated lift systems are the most expensive option, featuring roof racks and automated lifts to pull the boat into place for transporting.