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Don’t let the issue of handling and transporting your boats (canoes, kayaks, or stand up paddleboards) stop you from joining a paddle sport. It really isn’t that hard. Let us show you some of the options.

There are basically 3 methods of transporting your canoe, kayak, or SUP: Foam PadsRoof Racks, or a Trailer – There are more methods, but for the sake of cost, availability, and simplicity we have eliminated helicopters and teleporting.

As each method has its pro’s and con’s, let’s look at each to determine which system is best for you.


This is the least expensive method. Foam pads or blocks allow you to mount a canoe or kayak on the roof of your vehicle without scratching the finish. The boat is then secured in place with tie down straps that pass through the doors and proper end lines securing the bow and stern to the bumpers.

The block & strap approach works great as long as you learn how to properly tie down your boat(s). Highway speeds require end lines to eliminate movement and lift as speed increases. Generally, you need two people to load & unload using this process.


Quality roof racks from companies like Yakima & Thule are specifically designed to fit both your vehicle and your boat(s) to carry over-sized but relatively light weight objects such as canoes, kayaks, and SUP’s.

You can expect your gas mileage to suffer about 20% if you are going to travel for a long distance. You will also feel a change in your vehicles handling too, especially on a windy day. Be aware of the boat overhanging the ends of the car so you don’t run it into anything, especially when backing up.

Due to weight limitations of your vehicle roof, you will likely have to transport the kayak empty. This means packing all your gear in the car and then repacking it into the kayak when you get to the water. Canoes are usually transported up-side-down on a roof, so transporting them loaded is out of the question. kayaks are usually best transported right-side-up. It is best to transport a stand up paddleboard up-side-down if leaving the fin installed; if the fin is removed, then transporting the board right-side-up is acceptable. 

Roof racks are not cheap. Some innovative ‘do-it-yourselfers’ build their own with lumber and tie down straps. If you opt for this method, be sure to spread the weight over the whole surface of the roof. Also make sure that it is really secure so neither the boat nor the whole rack can detach from your vehicle while driving.

We recommend a system from Malone Autoracks due to their universal fitting crossbars. Malone’s crossbars attach to most factory installed siderails, and they also provide rack systems for vehicles with naked roofs. Best yet, we’ll install your rack at no extra charge! 


A trailer has a number of advantages over a roof rack system. A trailer will often easily accommodate more boats than a roof rack system. Also, the boats are easier to load as they don’t need to be lifted as high of the ground as when putting them up on a roof. In addition, the boats can be loaded with supplies making them ready for the water. A trailer also gives you lots of space to store other gear outside of your vehicle.

A trailer will also prevent your vehicle from receiving the inevitable scratches and wear caused by loading and unloading boats. Furthermore, because a trailer rides in the slip stream of the tow vehicle and has a lower center of gravity, you may even find it to be better on gas and safer, especially in windy conditions.

A trailer will cost more though. You will also need to equip your vehicle with a tow hitch and an electrical wire harness for the trailer lights. Expect that to cost about $200. Make sure that the trailer will not exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle. Some modern cars are not designed to tow a trailer. A quality trailer will cost around $1000 to $2000.

A trailer will also involve the challenge of driving, maneuvering, and parking with a long extension to your vehicle. You will also need a storage space for the trailer when it’s not in use. However, a big advantage is that you will now own a trailer that can be used for moving all kinds of stuff around town for doing home renovations and yard work.


The final issue is regarding carrying a kayak, canoe, or SUP. Generally speaking, if you are healthy enough to enjoy paddling, you should be able to carry your boat including loading and unloading it. Modern kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards have lots of handle grips for just this purpose. If there are at least two of you in your group, it’s a breeze.

Another way to carry your boat is to buy a Canoe or Kayak Cart. You simply pickup one end, place the cart under it just behind center, and strap it around your boat. Then pick up the other end like pulling a wagon… too easy!


Frontenac Outfitters offers the complete line of Malone and Swagman auto rack systems and accessories. And even better, we will assemble and install them free of charge! If racks are not in your budget, we also stock a complete line of canoe and kayak blocks and straps so you can get your boat(s) home safely.

We hope you enjoyed this article. Should you have any suggestions or changes to improve it, please call 613.376.6220 or email

Come Paddle With Us! 

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