Need help getting your canoe from your house to the water’s edge or back again? It’s a pain if you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to transporting a canoe from one location to another. However, you need not fear, since we have included comprehensive advice on the method for safely transporting a canoe to your location. 

From the different tools you need to set your canoe on a vehicle to the different methods of transportation, like using a canoe roof rack, storing the canoe on the truck bed, and more – this guide will cover all about canoe transportation. 

So keep reading to explore all about transporting your canoe to a specific destination. 

Key Takeaways On How To Transport A Canoe

Best way to transport a canoe – the best way for canoe transport is by setting a roof rack on your vehicle to place the canoe or by tying it on the bed of a truck using ropes and cam straps. 

How do I carry a canoe from the ground – you can carry a canoe from the ground by lifting it on your thighs by placing your right hand on the canoe’s yoke and the left hand on its outer gunnel. 

What is the weight limit of my vehicle while canoe transportation – Your vehicle’s weight limit when transporting a canoe depends on the weight limit of its roof rack. You can look into the vehicle’s booklet or consult its manufacturer to learn about the exact weight limit. 

Best way to tie a canoe to a roof rack – you can tie your canoe to a roof rack using the right tools like a rope or cam straps, etc. 

Transporting a Canoe with a Vehicle

Did you know? When transporting a canoe, the hull must be placed at the top of the canoe. When loading it onto the car’s roof, take care not to scratch the paint by dragging it or banging it against the body.

If your canoe is light enough, you can now carry it to the top of your car without the help of another person. On the other, if you’re traveling solo, you should sling it over your shoulder and use the central yoke to pull it along. But when you’re working with a partner, you can split the load by picking up opposite ends.

Transport a Canoe on a Vehicle with a Roof Rack

When you are transporting a canoe in a car that has a roof rack, we suggest that you check that it is in good working order and securely fastened. Furthermore, you should install crossbars in your rack if it doesn’t come with them.

Now it’s also important that you place your canoe in the middle of the crossbars of the rack, front to back and side to side. To ensure the canoe’s center yoke is securely fastened, place it halfway between the canoe’s crossbars.

The strap’s middle has to be looped around the crossbar, and both ends will be thrown back to the other side of the car. After this, you need to tuck the strap’s slack under the crossbar on that side and secure it to the cam. Replace the other strap in the same manner. Make sure they’re all snug so the boat can’t move.

You might get by with just these two straps if your trip is rather short in length. However, if you plan on driving across town or for an extended period of time, you should secure the canoe’s bow and stern to your car.

How to Use an Inflatable Rack to Transport a Canoe?

Here are the steps you can take to learn how to transport a canoe using an inflatable rack:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions for pumping up the rack.
  • Attach the inflatable rack to the car’s top.
  • The canoe should be positioned atop the inflatable rack.
  • Strap the canoe to roof rack or you can use good quality rope
  • When placing the canoe on the inflatable rack, it must be balanced and centered.

Transport a Canoe on a Vehicle Without a Roof Rack

You can still securely learn how to transport a canoe in the back of your car even if you don’t have a roof rack. To avoid scratching the roof of your car, you can purchase foam blocks made for this reason. If you don’t want to spend the money, pool noodles will do in a pinch.

Lift the canoe onto the roof of the car using the foam blocks, which should be fitted onto the gunnels. Using pool noodles needs a second person to assist you.

Once the canoe has been placed on top of the vehicle, the cam straps or rope must be threaded through all of the windows and doors to provide a safe and secure ride. 

Note: Doors and windows that use flat cam straps should shut securely and reliably. Furthermore, if going more than a few miles, secure the front and back of the boat.

You should place the canoe upside side on the car roof if it has keel line, because you might not fasten the strap properly if it lying straight. Similarly, you should also be cautious if your canoe has outboard motor installed.

The Bed of a Pickup Truck

Use roof racks or ladder racks to secure the canoe on top of the truck for transport.

Make sure the canoe doesn’t move about in the truck bed by securing it with straps or ropes.

Support the canoe by extending the truck bed with a hitch-mounted bed extender or an overhead hitch extender.

Keep the canoe’s hull down while you hoist and slide it onto the truck bed with the assistance of a trolley or a helping hand.

Canoe Transport with a Trailer

A trailer can be of great use when transporting large and heavy items with your own vehicle. After all, owning a vehicle means you can save yourself from the hassle and expense of hiring a larger vehicle to transport big items. 

Especially if you have a canoe, it can be very costly to move it to the canoeing spot every time through a rented vehicle. This is where having a trailer saves you from the stress of transporting your canoe and paying more for that. All you have to do in this regard is: 

  • Select the correct trailer.
  • Put the canoe on the trailer.
  • Secure the canoe’s straps.
  • Before you hit the road, be sure your load is secure.

If you don’t have a trailer or can’t buy one, you can always opt for alternative options. This includes transporting your canoe on a motorhome, RV, or camper. You can do this by utilizing a vertical rack at the back of the vehicle with a hitch attachment or a rack that attaches to the RV bumper.

Loading and Attaching a Canoe Trailer to Vehicles

The following procedures need to be carried out in order to successfully load canoes onto a trailer and attach it to vehicles:

  • Make that the trailer hitch is attached to the car in the correct manner.
  • Attach the trailer ball of the hitch to the tongue of the trailer in the correct manner.
  • Bring the canoe out to the trailer and load it up.
  • Utilize either straps or ropes to safely fasten the canoe to the trailer.

Where to Buy a Canoe Trailer?

You can buy canoe trailers at sporting goods shops, online stores, and even in classifieds. While you’re at it, make sure to compare prices and features from different places to find the best deal.

There are few things that you need to keep in mind before transporting your vessel, such as what is exact weight, length and width of your canoe. These dimensions are important to remember because roof racks has certain weight limits and so the car roof.

Transporting Canoes to the Water

Whether you’re launching your canoe from the shore or a dock, it’s crucial to pack all your stuff into the boat, secure it, and position your paddle so that it’s within easy reach once you’re in the water. 

You should almost totally slide the boat out onto the water. During this, make sure to keep just enough boat on the shore so it doesn’t float away, and you should probably hang onto the boat to make sure it doesn’t float away, definitely, something you wouldn’t want.

It’s best to have one person steady the canoe while the other walks through the middle while holding onto the gunwales. The risk of capsizing can be reduced if the boat’s center of gravity is kept as low as possible. 

Above all, carefully inserting one foot into the canoe and then propelling the craft forward with the other is the second step. When you’re ready to leave the dock, the sternman should walk gently over their chair and take a seat.

Canoe Dolly or Cart with Wheels

If you still can’t carry your canoe, there are always other possibilities that you can consider. Now, moving your canoe alone with a canoe dolly or cart with wheels is similar.

In this regard, canoe dollies and carts with wheels make transporting canoes and other small boats easier. Canoe carts vary depending on your destination. Canoe cart wheels vary by terrain. Off-road tires are best for rough terrain. Smoother, balloon-like tires are good for sand or pavement. Likewise, handles vary in length. Hence, choosing the right length for your canoe and comfort is ideal. 

Now canoe carts are easiest to locate at large outdoor businesses like Bass Pro Shop or Dicks Sporting Goods. Amazon also has a wide choice of sizes and options. So it’s important that you use canoe carts safely. Primarily because one person can pull these carts, the canoe is more likely to get away and get damaged or hit something. 

All in all, before moving across uneven ground, make sure the canoe is properly secured to the cart.

How to Haul a Canoe in a Pickup?

Do you plan to haul a canoe in a pickup but don’t know the right canoe transport method on a pickup? Now don’t start biting your nails just yet! With different ways considered today to haul a canoe in a pickup, you can seamlessly move that boat on the vehicle. 

Let’s explore some such ways below in detail: 


Canoe racks that are attached on the roof of pickups are fairly prevalent. In fact, pickups often include roof crossbars and rails that can be used to secure a canoe to the top of the vehicle.

Now if you’re planning to haul a canoe on a rack that is positioned on the roof, you can use a hitch to mount both the vertical post and the roof-mounted crossbar. 

This approach helps hold the bow of the canoe over the roof and the stern of the canoe at the hitch support bar of the pickup. This allows the canoe to be transported more easily.

Utility Rack

A rack that is styled after a utility rack will often be able to be bolted into the truck bed. The less permanent design of such racks adheres to the sides of the pickup bed with the help of heavy-duty clamps.

But a utility rack isn’t always the best option for hauling your canoe. Especially if you have utility track systems, a toolbox or side box, a Tonneau cover, or a camper shell, the utility rack might not be a good fit. 

So it is better to choose a different canoe hauling option on a pickup that is compatible with the pickup and tools you have. 

Hitch Mounted Extension

The length of the canoe is often shorter than the bed of a modern pickup truck. If you want to transport your canoe using a pickup truck, the most effective strategy would be to have the bed of the truck lengthened. 

When doing so, you might find it difficult to lift a canoe overhead of the truck, or you might just wish the canoe to sit lower for simpler loading and unloading. In either case, a horizontal-style truck extension can be of great assistance in these situations. 

Because this rack extension makes use of the hitch receiver on the truck, transporting the canoe on the pickup will be much simpler using this extension. 

Rope or Cam Straps: Which is Better? 

When deciding whether to use a rope or cam straps to move a boat, it’s important to remember that both are very useful. But if we have to pick the best one, cam straps will come out on top. 

When transporting a canoe, these straps are a good choice because the buckle sits flush on the boat and makes it harder to tighten too much. Also, cam straps make it easier and faster to put a canoe on a car or other form of transportation. 

When you’re going on short trips, this makes these straps a better choice than ropes. 


Other than learning the different methods to securely haul and move your canoe, it’s important to be familiar with the process of carrying a canoe safely outside of the vehicle. 

After all, you can’t take the vehicle to the very spot where you will move the canoe to the water, right? While some canoeing locations do enable you to bring your vehicle close to the water, parks and public setups prepared for canoeing have a certain vehicle parking boundary. 

So how do you move the canoe from your home to the vehicle or from your vehicle to the shoreline? Here are a few methods to consider based on the help or assistance you can get for carrying the canoe: 

2-Person Suitcase Canoe Carry

One person is placed at either end of the canoe, facing in different directions, in order to do the suitcase with the canoe facing upward. They take hold of the built-in handles, raise them to their hips, and then proceed to walk with them. 

With this strategy, you are able to easily take pauses or have additional people assist you on the sides of the canoe, and at the same time, you are able to transfer your gear inside of it.

Solo Canoe Carrying Method

Carrying a canoe by yourself is surprisingly easy and efficient. Carrying a canoe over long distances and challenging portage trails by yourself is possible with the right equipment and a bit of practice.

Canoe campers with experience prefer single-person carriers because they eliminate the need for group cooperation and communication. However, it’s not easy to just grab a canoe and paddle off on your own, so proceed with caution if you decide to do so.

Only in extreme cases should one person lift heavy objects. If you must carry the canoe by yourself, at least ask for assistance from your other paddlers. Before venturing out on your own, learn and practice single-person lifts with other paddlers in the area. 

When done properly, they are neither challenging nor harmful. There is, nevertheless, a potential for harm.

To begin, lay the canoe on its gunnel side down on the ground. It calls for a yoke with a central thwart for carrying. Canoes purchased from REI come standard with a carrying yoke.

Put your stern end on the ground and face the bow end of your canoe; carefully bend the bow and lift it aloft. To prevent scratches on the stern gunnels and deck plate, use a towel or cushion there.

Now to face the bow end of the canoe while it is overhead, swivel around so that you are within and under it. In order to lift the stern end of the boat off the ground, you must first move backward toward the carrying yoke until you can fit it on your shoulders. Strike a balance, and you’ll be good to go.

How to Overhead Portage Canoe Carry

Carrying your canoe above your shoulders helps alleviate some of the strain that would otherwise be placed on your arms and shoulders when moving it over greater distances, such as when you are portaging. When raising a canoe to place it on a roof-top vehicle rack, you can also utilize the lifting process that is outlined in the following paragraphs:

The two-person overhead carry is at its most efficient when used in situations in which the terrain is reasonably level, and the distance that has to be covered is not too great. When going on long hikes or over rough terrain, it can be hard to stay in sync with your surroundings.

The two-person overhead method can also make it harder to see the path in front of you, especially if the paddler in front of you is the same size or smaller than the paddler in back of you. If this is the case, the person paddling in front of the canoe may want to move forward until they can rest the deck of the canoe on one of their shoulders or the other so that their head is not under the hull of the canoe.

One thing to think about is putting front and back carrying yokes in your boat if you plan to do a lot of overhead carrying with two people. 

In this way, carrying yokes are special thwarts that are bent in a way that is good for your back and shoulders. This makes it easier to move boats. Most canoes only have one carrying yoke in the middle, but there are shorter choices for the ends. 

Just pad your shoulders for those rare carries that require two people, or if your life jacket has padding that goes over your shoulders, wear that while you carry the boat.

Recommended Way for Carrying a Canoe:

Wondering which canoe-carrying method is most preferable? Here’s a simple answer: Your particular circumstances and the resources at your disposal will determine the method that is most suitable for carrying a canoe. 

However, the 2-Person Suitcase Canoe Carry is frequently regarded as the way of transporting a canoe that achieves the optimal level of stability and safety. It is mainly because in this method, the canoe is lifted by the bow and stern by two individuals, and then the canoe is carried parallel to the ground like a suitcase. 

In simpler terms, this technique ensures that the weight is distributed uniformly and reduces the likelihood that the canoe may tip over or sustain damage.

Transporting Two Canoes

Varying on how many canoes you need to transport and the type of vehicle you have for transportation, below are some suggestions on how you can seamlessly transport your vehicle: 

how to transport Two canoe on a Car: 

Here is how you can carry two canoes in a car:

  • Depending on the sort of roof rack you have and the boat you wish to transport, you may need a canoe carrier, ropes, foam blocks, or J-shaped cradles.
  • Place the canoes on top of the car, each side by side, so that their center is directly over the vehicle’s wheels and the open side is parallel to the ground. Extra care should be taken to protect your vehicle or boats from getting scratched.
  • The next step is to secure the canoes to the towing eyes or bumper of the car, and then to tie down their front and back using ropes.
  • If you are on your own or if your canoes are very heavy, you should get the help of a friend to help you hoist and guide them into the carrier, or you may use a canoe cart or trailer.
  • Finally, make sure everything is secure before setting out, and keep checking the ropes at regular intervals while you’re on the road.

Carrying Two Canoes on an SUV

Here is how you can carry two canoes in an SUV:

  • The ramp could be placed in front of the SUV, and the canoes could then be launched from the ramp. 
  • To load the canoes onto an SUV, the next step is to use your own body weight to climb the ramp. 
  • A rope, with one end tied to each canoe at a time, and the other around the SUV, can also be used to keep the canoes from sliding around while being transported. 
  • Now, using only your body weight, paddle up to the SUV where you left off with the SUV.
  • Canoes can also be secured to the crossbars of a vehicle with cam straps or ratchet straps.
  • Now fasten the canoes to the SUV with the help of buckles, ropes, or straps. Place the canoes such that the yolk is directly in their center of the front and back racks. 
  • Tighten the straps or ropes to make the canoes more secure. Also push them hard to make sure they hold its position.

Carrying Two Canoes on a Trailer

Here is how you can carry two canoes on a trailer: 

  • To begin, you need to arrange the boats on the bed of the truck and secure them with straps.
  • Now make use of truck extensions that are effective in both the horizontal and the vertical planes.
  • After that, you should either buy a truck utility rack or construct your own.
  •  In this context, you can also think about other available solutions, such as a truck trailer.
  • Last but not least, when you are through setting up the trailer, make sure to use a roof rack that has crossbars. You can secure each canoe by tying it down to the middle of the crossbar as well as its outside end if your crossbars can be stretched to fit two canoes or if they are currently long enough to allow two canoes.

Best Way to Transport a 17-Foot Canoe or Even Bigger Canoe

When it comes to transporting a 17-foot canoe or an even bigger canoe, the best transportation option is a larger vehicle like a trailer. 

Special Considerations when Transporting a Canoe on a Long-Distance Trip:

There are several factors to think about while planning a long-distance voyage in a canoe. Some advice is as follows:

  • If you can, have someone help you lift your boat. Although one person can learn how to transport a canoe, two or more will make the job much easier.
  • Before lifting your canoe, make sure it is completely devoid of water and gear. Carrying too much weight is tiring and can crack the hull of your boat.
  • Keep your back straight and your knees bent as you lift your canoe with the strength in your legs.
  • Communication and coordination are essential for any lifting and carrying method involving more than one person. Get some practice before your first real trip.
  • Lifting and carrying techniques that only require one person should be practiced with the assistance of seasoned paddlers (who can serve as spotters). You should never try out a new skill on your own.
  • Carrying your canoe above your shoulders is an easy way to save your arms and shoulders from getting tired while paddling over longer distances. The following lifting method can also be used to hoist a canoe onto a car roof rack:
  • Lastly, overhead carrying by two people works best when the terrain is level, and the distance to be covered is short.

FAQs – how to transport a canoe

Why You’ll Transport a Canoe Upside Down on Your Car?

It is important that you load canoes and kayaks onto your car with the open ends facing down. This not only prevents precipitation from collecting inside but also reduces the potential for distortion. Using curved cradles like those seen on kayak racks is the ideal way to transport a touring canoe.

What is the maximum speed I should travel when transporting a canoe on the highway?

Since canoes are huge and heavy, make sure to understand and implement different speed requirements when driving on different types of roads. For instance, if you’re driving on highways or freeways, keep the speed around 55 to 70 mph (88 to 113 km/h). 

Likewise, 45 to 55 mph (72 to 88 km/h) should be the driving speed on rural roads, 25 to 35 mph (40 to 56 km/h) on residential areas, and 20 to 30 mph (32 to 48 km/h) on rough roads. Moreover, if you pass through steep or mountainous terrain, keep the speed around 25 to 45 mph (40 to 72 km/h).

Are there any legal requirements or regulations for transporting a canoe on the road?

There are indeed regulations that must be followed when taking a boat on the road. In Canada, for instance, canoe lifejackets, bailers, whistles, spotlights and some other canoe accessories are mandatory in canoes and other human-powered boats. 

According to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and its corresponding rules, such as the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft rules and the Collision Regulations, must also be followed by canoe operators. Canoe operators are also subject to the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations’ age and horsepower limits and enforcement procedures.

Can I transport a canoe inside a vehicle?

While it is possible to fit a smaller canoe inside a larger vehicle, it is not suggested. Not only would transporting your canoe inside a vehicle affect the vehicle and cause scratches or damages when the canoe moves during transportation, but it might also damage your canoe. 

Are there specific tie-down techniques or equipment that work best for securing a canoe during transportation?

For safe canoe transportation, there are optimal methods and tools for securing a canoe. You can use various methods, such as cam straps or ratchet straps, to affix your canoe to your vehicle. 

How do I handle strong winds or adverse weather conditions when transporting a canoe?

It is best to prevent this situation by checking the weather forecast before you begin the canoe transportation journey. However, if you forget that, the best way to prevent any damages or issues during canoe transportation is to use a roof rack and canoe tip-down straps that are robust. 

Moreover, it is best if you secure your boat on the roof rack to ensure that the boat doesn’t fall off during the journey. 

Can I transport a canoe on top of a vehicle with a sunroof?

Yes, you can learn how to transport a canoe on top of a vehicle with a sunroof. All you need is a rack system set on the sunroof to ensure that your boat remains in its place. However, it is important to note that your vehicle’s sun roof might get damaged if the canoe moves from its position during the traveling.  

Are there any weight restrictions for transporting a canoe on a roof rack?

Yes, there are certain weight restrictions that you should consider when transporting your canoe on a roof rack. This weight limitation can be determined based on the capacity of the roof rack. The weight capacity of most roof racks ranges from 45-90 kg. 

You can consult your car’s manufacturer company to find the exact weight capacity of your vehicle’s roof rack before transporting your canoe on it.  

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