Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

I'm trying to decide if I want to transport my WD12 via the roof rack system on my Honda CR-V or go with a hitch and trailer instead. As I will usually be by myself when I am using my kayak, I'm thinking the trailer would be easier for a single person to transport a kayak. I have never been on the highway with my Lifetime composite body kayak, and I don't seem to be able to ratchet down the straps tight enough before they loosen up after a few miles...However, if I'm just transporting just a single kayak on the Trailex trailer (or other) on the highway, do I have to add weight to help it track better at high speeds...any experience and advice is welcomed. 


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RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

I've been putting my WD12 up on racks for the last 13 years and never felt any urge to put it on a trailer. Most of the time I also carry it from the parking lot to the launch spot, though if the distance is more than a couple of hundred feet I'll use strap-on wheels. It's just an easy boat to handle. It works out well to cartop it since many of the places I launch are free for vehicles but charge for trailers. Toll roads and bridges also tend to charge more for bridges. FWIW, I'm 65 and can still lift that boat above my head, even after a long day paddling. It's a lovely light design.


RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

35 years of trailering boats too heavy to cartop have taught me that boat trailers can be an extreme PITA.  Don't get me wrong: I had a great many adventures messing about with those trailer sailers over the years, but cartopable boats are the ultimate "impulse" boat for getting into play quickly, with minimal fuss, to take advantage of smaller "windows of opportunity" and accessing out of the way places where having a trailer would be problematic, as Laszlo has wisely pointed out.

If you can lift the boat onto the roof rack and figure out how to tie her down securely without hurting her, you'll be less constrained by time and space and will likely spend more time on the water, less time queing up at launch ramps...and less time fussing about with balky trailer lights and other such aggravations.  <;-)


P.S.  Still thinking about a Mill Creek 13 as a likely even more implusive boat than my PMD, which now rides around on a little Harbor Freight trailer (decked with 1/2" PVC sheet) since I passed the larger trailer boats, and the full sized pickup truck which used to tow them around, on to other caretakers.  The PMD was a good pickup truck boat, but a bit to heavy for cartopping, so it is now a trailer boat, albeit a light, simple, compact one.


RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

I started with a Tsunami 14.5  on a trailex sut250 m2 trailer, now I have upgraded to a Cheseapeak 18 on the trailer.   The only time I noticed the trailer was just after I had assembled the trailer and was driving to pickup the kayak.  unloaded the trailer seemed to bounce a bit on rougher roads.  after with the kayak loaded, the trailer didn't bounce or sway.  I didn't have the option of looking at racks when I started due to haveing a convertible car.  With the trailer, I just pull into a parking spot, unstrap the trailer, strap on the wheels and then pull the kayak to the launch.  No lifting required,  Reloading is the same, just pull the kayak onto the trailer.  The only issue with a trailer is some kayak only launches do not have parking that accomidates a trailer.  Storing the kayak is just as easy, leav on the trailer in the garage, no need to remove the kayak from the rack after paddling, no issue with low garage doors.  easy to lock the kayak to the trailer for long car trips.  and very easy to strap down



RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

   I have  racks on cars, on trucks and on trailers.  They all have their own problems and solutions. Choose the one you know the best. 


Ratchet down the straps.................I never use ratchet straps on a kayak. They can be too tight and cause hull deformation  in the Florida heat.  (Mostly on plastic boats.)  However if you are using them and they loosen up as you say they are not installed properly.  Most kayak racks come with straps with cam locks in the buckles. They are preferable to ratchet straps. 


RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

I've read a lot about ratchet straps destroying kayaks but have never actually seen it happen. I've been using ratchet straps for over 20 years and have never cracked, crushed or deformed a boat.

When I ratchet strap a boat to my truck I make sure that the strap is positioned over the deck beam which is the strongest part of the boat to resist compression and deformation. I also have a cradle made from a piece of closed-cell foam glued to a piece of 2x4. The foam is 3 inches wide and shaped to the hull profile where the ratchet strap passes over the boat. The shallowest point is over an inch thick. When I ratchet down the strap the foam compresses and the force is evenly distributed across the bottom of the boat. The strap itself is an inch wide so between that and the foam there's very nearly a square foot of surface area to distribute the force over.

I live in Maryland so I don't have to worry about Florida heat softening the epoxy but I've had my rig on the road in 90+ degree weather and not noticed any issues. Is Florida that much hotter?



RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

   Freeflighter....... you can tie that thing down with what ever you want.  In 2012 I tied a kayak to the roof of my truck camper using ratchet straps. It was real hot. I had to stand on a ladder to reach it....... The hooks didn't fit quite right and it loosened up a few miles down the road. ....... The lumber truck driver drove by honking his horn and pointing. ...... The kayak came loose 90 degrees to travel.  I pulled over and eased over into the break down lane......Unfortunately the break down lane on the Buckman Bridge is 3 mile long and has light poles on the bridge railing.  BANG!!!.....The kayak was knocked off the truck, with rear rack attached , and landed in the power boat I was towing.  The hull is cracked, but it doesn't leak.  If it gets loose down the road it ain't right.  I use ratchet straps on my flat bed trailer(s) all the time with no problem. But that trailer is made for them. My racks are not. 

Laszlo....... I kayak with two  seperate kayak clubs There are people here that can't tie a knot the same way twice. I have seen poly boats with ratchet straps sinched so tight there were  indentions in the hull. Of course the guy doing that loaded airplanes  for a living and had more muscle resevers than the rest of us.   I've also seen asphalt melt on roofs and  pavement. Its not the ambient temp but the intensity and duration of the sun upon the surface.  

PS.....the last time I used a ratchet strap on a kayak it was in the bed of my truck on a shuttle. It worked fine. 

RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

   Thank you all for your input. I live in Tucson and heat is an issue, but not humidity. I think the way to go is with a roof top system and just figure out how to safely secure my WD before I head out on the highway. I'll practice by driving to some of the community lakes around here on our local streets to see if I have it properly secured.  

RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

   I use a trailer (Yakima Rack and Roll) when I paddle locally but for longer trips I put my boat(s) on a roof rack on my Jeep, which I tow with an RV. I find the trailer easier to deal with near home, where there are several public launch ramps available. But when traveling in the RV I can take either the trailer or the Jeep, not both, and I find the Jeep/roof rack to be the most useful combination. With the trailer I can either back down the ramp and launch right off the trailer, or drive to one of the beach parking lots and unload and carry or dolly the boat to the water. Either way I find loading and tying down to be much easier with the trailer, no overhead lifting required and I can handle things alone if I have to. Boats include a Chesapeake 17, a Sport Tandem, and a Mill Creek 16.5, all of which work quite well with the trailer or the roof rack. Your mileage may vary, of course.

RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

Good discussion above.  I use both racks and a trailer depending upon which boats I am taking and where I am going.  Here in Florida, most marinas have lots of trailer parking and little car only parking, so I tend to use the trailer for most of our local paddling.  I have a Malone trailer and it does fine when both lightly and fully loaded.  Another benefit of the trailer is that at highway speeds, you will get better mileage than with a boat on roof top.

The biggest suggestion that I have is to put some thought into which mounting system you will use, be it on a trailer of roof top.  Foam blocks are the worst because they require a lot of strap tension to keep the boat secure.  For a single boat, gull wings or saddles are probably the best because they keep the boat level reducing aerodynamic drag.  You can also use rollers on the aft bar to make it easier to load the boat.  J-racks are also very secure and allow you to put 2/3 boats on the roof but they stand higher and create drag/noise at highway speeds.  Some larher boats like our double won't fit in J-racks.  V-racks are the best for long skinny boats.

Here is the trailer with 3 J-racks and the double on gull wings.


Two V racks and a set of gull wings 

Full load for a family paddling weekend

RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

While discussing trailers....   

We use a Rack & Roll for our Mill Creek 16.5, and the boat is a bit long for the standard tongue, especially if we are carrying a second kayak alongside. Price and logistics of the extended tongue gave me pause.

So I bought an extra-long drawbar/ball mount which allowed me to slide the MC maybe a foot foward for better balance. 

RE: Trailer vs. Roof Top Rack

I did buy the extended tongue for the Rack and Roll - necessary for the Sport Tandem and the Chesapeake 17, maybe not needed for the MC 16.5 but I have it so I'll use it - haven't put the MC on the trailer yet.  

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