(Last Updated On: October 5, 2021)

WHAT A CANOE ROOF RACK CONSIST OF?

1/3: CROSSBARS

Crossbars are the two bars running east to west (door to door).

Compared to factory side rails (more info on these below), crossbars support more cargo weight, provide more stability, and are safer.

Without crossbars, you don’t really have a complete roof rack system.

2/3: TOWERS

These feet are installed at the strongest points on the roof, and they are what crossbars sit on.

Roof rack towers depend completely on your vehicle roof.

Usually, they come with an anti-theft lock.

3/3: GEAR MOUNTS (Optional)

Gear mounts are mounted on top of the crossbars in order to protect your canoe from scratches and stop it from moving to the side.

You can still transport your canoe without gear mounts if you know how to securely tie a canoe on your roof rack.


HOW TO FOUND YOUR CANOE ROOF RACK

STEP 0: WHAT ABOUT SOFT ROOF RACKS?

See on: REI.com / Amazon.com / OutdoorPlay.com

Soft roof racks are a temporary affordable, easy to install and remove canoe roof rack system that sits directly on the vehicle roof underneath your canoe.

This roof rack system is held in place by straps that attach through the inside of your vehicle.

Unfortunately, they are not durable as traditional roof racks, and during rain, you should remove them to avoid having water drops all over the seats or water stains on headliners.


INSTANT CANOE ROOF RACKS

PRODUCT LOAD CAPACITY PROS CONS PRICE RETURN SHOP
Yakima EasyTop 80 lbs Sturdy and load felt secure
Doesn’t make much, if any, wind noise at highway speeds
Easy to put and takedown
– Limited two-year
warranty
Straps started to rip in multiple places
Scratch paint
$$ REI 1-Year
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
Check Price
on
REI.com

Sea to Summit Inflatable Roof Rack
N/A Strong nylon straps
Daisy chain attachment points to secure your canoe
Takes about 5 minutes to inflate and installed
Affordable
Lifetime guarantee
Not wide as traditional roof racks $ REI 1-Year
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
Check Price
on
REI.com

Stanley Universal Car Roof Rack Pad
110 lbs Very thick pad
Its length lets you accommodate your canoe with no trouble
No road noise or slippage
Solid straps
Easy to install and use
Two users found the ratchet impossible to tighten securely
Does not hold when driving at speed
$$ Amazon – 30 days
(Learn More)
Check Price
on
Amazon.com

STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR TOWERS

Roof rack towers depend completely on the type of your car roof, this is why you should consider it first.
Car roof types are divided into 7 types:

FOR NAKED ROOFS

Naked roofs (or bare roofs) have no pre-installed attachment points. The plastic strips that run front-to-back that most people mistake to rain gutters are considered naked roofs.

Naked roofs are common between smaller vehicles and some SUVs.

Canoe roof racks get installed on cars with naked roofs using towers, which are fairly universal, and clips or fit kits that require precise measurement to tension around the door frame.

TOWERS FOR NAKED ROOFS:

Yakima BaseLine
Best For Vehicles With Rounded Roof Lines

PROS:
– Work with a wide range of roof shapes
– Allows for 12° of front and rear crossbars level adjustability for vehicles with rounded roof lines
– Very sturdy and well made
– Hold great
– Yakima limited lifetime warranty
CONS:
– Require careful measurements and adjusting to mount correctly
– Expensive
– Instruction manual with no labels on the tower makes installation harder
– No locks included

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Naked roofs
  • Work with: Yakima JetStream, CoreBar, HD Bar, and RoundBar crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 220 lbs
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

Thule Rapid Traverse
Best Most Secure Attachments Available

PROS:
– Let you know when the rack is safely and properly attached
– Fewer parts mean less time to install
– Compatible with lock cores that match keys you already own
– Well made
– Easy to install and use
– Useful integrated torque keys
– Feel confident at highway speeds
– Looks clean
CONS:
– No locks included
– Written instructions are not that good
– Expensive

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Naked roofs
  • Work with: Thule WingBar Evo, AeroBlade, SquareBar Evo, and ProBar Evo crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 165 lbs
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

FOR RAISED SIDE RAILS

Side rails car roofs are easy to identify because you have two factory roof rails running the length of your vehicle with enough gap that you could slide your hand underneath.

Side rails are intended to be used to mount crossbars rather than being used as carriers.

TOWERS FOR RAISED SIDE RAILS:

Yakima TimberLine
Best for its Versatility and Sleek Design

PROS:
– Sleek design
– Easy install
– High quality
– Much lower profile
– Very secure
– Holds two canoes very well
– Yakima limited lifetime warranty
CONS:
– Does not come with locks
– Expensive
– Pictures-only directions can be hard to follow for some, but online videos are very helpful

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Raised side rails roofs
  • Work with: Yakima JetStream, CoreBar and RoundBar (SL Adapter is required) crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 220 lbs
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

Thule Rapid Crossroad
Can be Easily Transfer To Another Car

PROS:
– Installation tools are built-in – Very easy to install
– Durable and reliable
– Simple to work with
– design allows them to fit many applications
CONS:
– Locks are not included
– Cost

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Raised side rails roofs
  • Work with: Thule WingBar Evo, AeroBlade, SquareBar Evo, and ProBar Evo crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 165 lb
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

Thule Evo
Best for Too Wide Car Roofs

PROS:
– Rubber part flexes ensuring a perfect fit
– Very sturdy and secure
– Easy install
– Perfect for too wide car roofs
– Needed torque wrench is included
– Great looking
CONS:
– Lock not included
– Directions are not helpful

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Raised side rails roofs
  • Work with: Thule WingBar Evo, AeroBlade, SquareBar Evo, and ProBar Evo crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 220 lbs
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

FOR FLUSH SIDE RAILS

This relatively new style of side rails runs the length of the vehicle, sitting directly against the roof, making it impossible to slide your hand underneath.

Typically, flush side rails have a channel or pinholes for towers to fit into.

TOWERS FOR FLUSH SIDE RAILS:

Thule Rapid Podium
Mount on 4 Different Car Roof Types

PROS:
– Versatile for cars with fixed points, flush railing, tracks, or custom install rack attachment points
– Stable and strong
– Easy install
– Excellent design and quality
CONS:
– Price
– Locks are not included
– Written installation instructions left a lot to be desired

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Flush side rails, fixed points, tracks, or custom install rack attachment points
  • Work with: Thule WingBar Evo, AeroBlade, SquareBar Evo, and ProBar Evo crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 150 lbs
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

FOR FIXED POINTS

Car roof fixed points are mounting points usually disguised under plastic doors that you need to pry open.

TOWERS FOR FIXED POINTS:

Yakima SkyLine
Best for Ease of Crossbars Mounting/Removing

PROS:
– Very high quality 
– Easy to set up
– Crossbars can easily remove for long trips, car washes, etc.
– Rock-solid and secure
– Yakima limited lifetime warranty
CONS:
– Installation instructions have no wording – watching the video instruction is recommended
– Pricey

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Fixed points or tracks
  • Work with: Yakima JetStream, CoreBar and RoundBar crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 165 lbs
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

Thule Rapid Podium
Mount on 4 Different Car Roof Types

PROS:
– Versatile for cars with fixed points, flush railing, tracks, or custom install rack attachment points
– Stable and strong
– Easy install
– Excellent design and quality
CONS:
– Price
– Locks are not included
– Written installation instructions left a lot to be desired

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Flush side rails, fixed points, tracks, or custom install rack attachment points
  • Work with: Thule WingBar Evo, AeroBlade, SquareBar Evo, and ProBar Evo crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 150 lbs
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

FOR RAIN GUTTERS

Rain gutters are usually found on old vehicles, some SUVs, larger cargo, commercial vans, and some Jeeps.

Canoe roof rack towers are mounted directly to the gutter surrounding the roofline.

TOWERS FOR RAIN GUTTERS:

Thule Gutter 11″ Clearance
Best fit for Jeep Wrangler

PROS:
– Easy to install/remove
– Seem to be made very well
– Look good
– Perfect fit for Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
– Sturdy
CONS:
– Illustrated installation instructions can be hard to understand
– Can be expensive for some
– Locks are sold separately

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Rain gutter roofs
  • Work with: Thule SquareBar Evo crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 165.347 lbs
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

FOR TRACKS

Tracks mean a channel that is flush to the car roof with a slot running full length that you can mount your towers into.

Tracks are found most of the time on older vehicles.

TOWERS FOR TRACKS:

Yakima SkyLine + Landing Pads
Best for Ease of Crossbars Mounting/Removing

PROS:
– Very high quality 
– Easy to set up
– Crossbars can easily remove for long trips, car washes, etc.
– Rock-solid and secure
– Yakima limited lifetime warranty
CONS:
– Installation instructions have no wording – watching the video instruction is recommended
– Pricey

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Fixed points or tracks
  • Work with: Yakima JetStream, CoreBar and RoundBar crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 165 lbs
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

Thule Rapid Podium
Mount on 4 Different Car Roof Types

PROS:
– Versatile for cars with fixed points, flush railing, tracks, or custom install rack attachment points
– Stable and strong
– Easy install
– Excellent design and quality
CONS:
– Price
– Locks are not included
– Written installation instructions left a lot to be desired

QUICK SPECS

  • Intended for: Flush side rails, fixed points, tracks, or custom install rack attachment points
  • Work with: Thule WingBar Evo, AeroBlade, SquareBar Evo, and ProBar Evo crossbars
  • Maximum Load: 150 lbs
  • Lockable to vehicle: Yes (Locks sold separately)
  • Price:
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR CROSSBARS

Now that you have chosen the towers that fit your car roof type, it’s time to select the crossbars, which are the two bars running east to west (door to door).

MATERIAL

Material is what determines how much cargo you can carry and the price you will pay.

Steel and aluminum are two of the main materials used in crossbars.

STEELALUMINUM
PROSDurable
Affordable
Carry more weight
Lightweight
More fuel-efficient
CONSUses more fuel
More likely to whistle
Expensive

SHAPE

Opt for aerodynamic shapes like teardrops to be quiet at high speeds.

LENGTH

If you want to carry two canoes on your roof rack, you should have crossbars with a length of 78″ at least. If you only plan to carry one canoe, anything below 78″ can do the job.

You should opt for wider crossbars in order to carry more gear. But remember, your crossbars should not get wider than your side view mirrors because it’s illegal in most states.

The minimum length of your crossbars should be at least a little bit just past the tower.


CROSSBARS COMPARISON TABLE

PRODUCT FEATURES COMPATIBLE TOWERS PROS RETURN 1st SHOP 2nd SHOP

Thule WingBar Evo
Material: Aluminum
Sizes:
43” to 60”
Max Load:
220 lbs
Thule Rapid Traverse
Thule Evo
Thule Rapid Podium
Easy accessories installation
Exceptionally quiet
REI 1-Year
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
Check Price
on
REI.com
Check Price
on
Amazon.com

Yakima HD Bar
Material:
Aluminum
Sizes:
55” to 78″
Max Load:
300 lbs
Yakima StreamLine, with HD Bar SL Adapter (sold separately) Heavy duty
Endcaps tie-down points to secure your load
T-slots for easy gear mounting
REI 1-Year
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
Check Price
on
REI.com
Check Price
on
Amazon.com

Yakima JetStream
Material:
Aluminum
Sizes:
50” to 70″
Max Load:
165 lbs
Yakima StreamLine, with HD Bar SL Adapter (sold separately) Feel extremely secure
Look great
Minimal road noise at full highway speed
REI 1-Year
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
Check Price
on
REI.com
Check Price
on
Amazon.com

Yakima CoreBars
Material:
Steel
Sizes:
50” to 80″
Max Load:
220 lbs-
Yakima BaseLine
Yakima TimberLine
Yakima SkyLine
Barely any wind noise
Sturdy
REI 1-Year
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
Check Price
on
REI.com
Check Price
on
Amazon.com

Thule SquareBar
Material:
Steel
Sizes:
43” to 60”
Max Load:
220 lbs
Thule Rapid Traverse
Thule Evo
Thule Rapid Podium
Thule Gutter
Decent price
Very minor noise and only audible at speeds 50+ mph
REI 1-Year
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
Check Price
on
REI.com
Check Price
on
Amazon.com

Yakima Round Bars
Material:
Steel
Sizes:
48” to 86″
Max Load:
165 lbs
Yakima BaseLine
Yakima TimberLine
Yakima SkyLine
Sturdy and robust
Easy to install
REI 1-Year
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
Check Price
on
REI.com
Check Price
on
Amazon.com

Thule ProBar
Material:
Aluminum
Sizes:
69″ to 79″
Max Load:
220 lbs
Thule Rapid Podium
Thule Rapid Crossroad
Thule Evo
Super strong
Easy to install
Look good
REI 1-Year
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
Check Price
on
REI.com
Check Price
on
Amazon.com

STEP 3: ACCESSORIES TO CONSIDER

Now that you have chosen your towers and crossbars, you can consider adding some accessories to complete your setup.

Some of my recommended canoe roof rack accessories are:

FAIRING

SourceAttribution 2.0 Generic

Fairings are placed on the front crossbar in order to reduce wind noise and drag, all that by deflecting wind up over the top.

Moreover, the rack fairings also finish the look of the rack aesthetically.

Examples of Roof Rack Fairing:

LOCKS

Canoe roof rack locks are what prevent thieves from taking off the tower cover, removing and stealing your big investment.

Same Key System or One-Key System are lock cores that allow you to have one key for all of your same brand products.

Examples of Roof Rack Locks:

Last modified: October 5, 2021

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