Adventures With Lloyd

on CanoeCanadaEast.Com

Gear and Kit


Canoe Transport

There is nothing more fundamentally important to the art of canoeing than learning to transport your boat safely. I don't care if you can solo class III and IV rapids with ease, if you don't know how to tie or strap your boat onto an automobile or trailer safely, than you should really take up model trains or something not likely to harm others. A canoe weighing in at sixty pounds traveling at sixty miles per hour coming off the top of an oncoming automobile can really ruin your day if you are a motorist, motorcyclist, or pedestrian. I have scene some bad transport systems in my time and some of them looked real pretty right out of the box, still, with proper installation and maintenance even the cheaper systems should work well for a few seasons.


Foam Gunwale Blocks

I used foam blocks for two seasons and they are not too bad for about $20 Canadian. The best thing to do is not to use the rope that comes with the kit and get some better poly braid rope. The clips that come with the kit fit on some cars and not others. If they don't fit your car buy two small ratchet straps. With the ratchet straps you can secure the hull  to the car by opening the doors and running the strap across under the roof. This type of strap usually costs about $15.

The name brand blocks no better than the cheap ones except that it may come with a logo if you are foolish enough to pay for that.  Old Town lists this type of item for $29.99 US and the S-hooks that come with it are not at all car door friendly.

The universal fit blocks can be used on cars with factory roof racks and that is about all. They are listed at several outfitters on-line for $45 US plus. The fact that this product even exists actually amazes me because the crossbars on a factory rack or a custom one can be covered with pipe insulating foam and duct tape for about 75 cents. Hollow pool noodle foam from the Dollar store or for a more permanent solution old carpet. Now the foam blocks may look a bit more pleasing to behold but inevitably one windy day at the take out spot you will be left with three blocks instead of four. The manufacturers don't tend to sell single replacements for some reason.

It is important to note that all foam blocks will eventually begin to lose there rigidity and start to compress, and on any vehicle with a curve to its roof, even when new, they may not protect against scratches. Just like tie down ropes and straps they will have to be replaced after a few seasons.


Ratchet Strap

If you refuse to learn to tie knots ratchet straps are the next best thing. They are pretty easy to figure out but anything with moving parts will eventually fail or get driven over and crushed by the car and usually at the worst time.


Roof Racks

Roof racks are an investment to say the least, they can be quite costly. As with any product, more expensive is not necessarily better. Also many companies are proprietary so you have to buy there accessories and cannot create hybrid systems. The only thing that anyone really needs is a basic two bar system but don't even think about the ones with suction cups though, just get rid of those on garbage day. Also avoid racks that have plastic structural parts. After you have your two bar roof rack, the rest of the add-ons are not necessary for canoes. Kayaks can also travel safely on two bars but they should be well padded. It is a good idea to pad your bars anyway to prevent wear and tear on your canoe. Padding can be as extravagant as carpet, the most permanent choice, or as easy as foam pool noodles or pipe insulation. If you are not concerned about looks this is a lot cheaper than all of the gadgets on the market.

All rack system should be checked frequently for loosening parts, rust damage, and theft attempts, regardless of their manufacturer.


Frontier Sportsrack

The Frontier Sportsrack is available at Canadian tire and often goes on sale for $20-$30 off. I paid under $140 Canadian for mine. I have used this for one full season and am so far impressed. It goes on with only an Allen key which is included and has measurements marked on the bars to help with installation. I recently bought some longer bars made by THULE for carrying two canoes or my moms kayak. They cost me $86 and were not as nice as the originals. The Frontier did however accept the THULE bars allowing me to create a hybrid.


THULE Universal Rail System

Thule has one of the best quality products on the market, they are well designed and functional. The bars are not marked out like the Frontier Sportsrack so you will have to get out the measuring tape when you install it, but they look real good. Of course they better look very good, because they retail for $288 plus tax Canadian. At more than double the price you have to ask yourself do I really want to spend that much money on something that has a cool logo on it.


Hybrid Systems

The most functional roof rack will let you adapt to suit your needs. The photo of my modified roof rack is a fine example of this versatility. A modified rack system will allow multiple canoes to be carried by one vehicle is worth its weight in gas money.

I had bought some extra long Thule bars for a trip I had gone on with my mother once. This allowed us to bring her kayak for $86 instead of bringing a second car. Normally I would have shopped around and bought the appropriate sized metal tube for a lot less but this was a short notice modification. The Thule bars were not even sold with end caps, they were a special order item that cost $5 US. After cutting myself on the sharp ends twice I bought some hockey stick tops for 99cents each. They were actually nicer than the actual part and fit better. One trip later I had to transport two canoes and the rack had to be widened again to six and a half feet wide. With some small muffler clamps, a half a sheet of old plywood and some eye bolts I was in business. For under $15 on that modification we avoided taking a second vehicle.

At the end of the day by avoiding the brand names I saved $120 in gas money and hundreds more in specialty parts just in August 2005 alone. Since then I have gone as far as three canoes and the savings continue to pile up.


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