Cam Straps vs. Ratchet Straps for Kayak | Kayaks Hub

Ensuring that your kayak is secure during transport is non-negotiable. With countless options in the market, you may be facing with the age-old dilemma of choosing between cam straps and ratchet straps. These humble yet crucial pieces of equipment are what stand between a well-secured vessel and a potential disaster on the highway.

We’ll break down the pros and cons of each strap type, offer guidelines for choosing the right one, and provide a step-by-step tutorial on using both. Whether you’re a novice setting out on your maiden voyage or a seasoned paddler looking for a new approach, read on to discover the best way to keep your kayak safe and sound throughout your adventures.


Why Secure Straps Matter

Understanding the critical role of your kayak’s securing straps is the first step to safer travels. Incorrectly, or inadequately, secured kayaks can fall off their mounts, get damaged, cause accidents, or even lead to injury. You need to be confident that your kayak is secured tightly and then have no unnecessary movement during travel.

Cam Straps


Cam straps are the traditionalists’ choice – simple, reliable, and gentle on your kayak. Their smooth, non-abrasive surface reduces the risk of damage to your boat’s finish. They’re also incredibly easy to handle, even with cold, wet hands, and are less likely to overtighten, potentially warping your kayak’s shape.

The Benefits of Cam Straps

  • Gentle on Your Kayak: The soft webbing and simple design provide solid security without the risk of scratching or denting your boat.
  • Simple Operation: You don’t need any special techniques or much strength to use cam straps. Just pull the strap till it’s tight, and lock it in place.
  • Less Overtightening: The absence of mechanical leverage means it’s harder to overtighten, which can lead to hull distortion.

The Downsides of Cam Straps

  • Strength Limitations: Cam straps have less tension strength compared to ratchet straps, which means they’re not the best for long trips or extreme weather conditions.
  • Slack Over Time: With usage, cam straps might need readjusting as they can develop a slight stretch, leading to slack in the strap.

Ratchet Straps


Ratchet straps are the heavy lifters of the securing world. If you’re transporting your kayak over long distances or navigating rough terrain, ratchet straps provide the extra security needed. With their mechanical advantage, ratchets ensure a very tight hold that is difficult to achieve with cam straps alone.

The Benefits of Ratchet Straps

  • High Tension Strength: Ratchet straps can exert much more force than cam straps, making them a preferred choice for traveling at high speeds or over bumpy roads.
  • Mechanically Tight: The ratcheting mechanism ensures that the strap stays tight and doesn’t loosen due to road vibrations or the wind.
  • Wide Range of Use: While they require a bit of practice to use correctly, once you master them, ratchet straps offer a wider range of adjustability.

The Downsides of Ratchet Straps

  • Potential for Over-Tightening: It’s surprisingly easy to apply too much force with a ratchet strap, which can lead to damage if not done carefully.
  • More Complicated: Ratchet straps are bulkier and have several moving parts, which can be cumbersome to handle, especially for beginners.

Choosing Between Cam and Ratchet Straps

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing the right securing strap. Your decision should be based on your travel needs, the type of kayak you own, and your level of experience with each type of strap.

Factors to Consider:

  • Distance and Conditions: For long distances and rugged conditions, ratchet straps are likely your best bet. For short, more leisurely trips, cam straps offer plenty of security.
  • Kayak Type: The design and material of your kayak can influence the strap type you should use. More robust and durable kayaks might be better suited for ratchet straps.
  • Personal Preference: Some kayakers simply prefer the feel and security of one over the other.

See Also| Scupper Plugs for Kayaks

Step-by-Step Securing Your Kayak

The process of securing your kayak with either type of strap is straightforward but critical. Skipping any of the following steps, or doing them incorrectly, can spell trouble.

Using Cam Straps

  1. Place one end of the cam strap over the kayak and thread it through the buckle, ensuring the buckle side of the strap is facing outwards from the kayak.
  2. Take the other end of the strap and feed it through or around your roof rack, pulling it tight. Your kayak should be securely in place at this point.
  3. Use the cam buckle to take up the remaining slack in the strap. Pull firmly, but not so tight that it distorts the shape of your kayak.
  4. Close the cam buckle by pressing the lever down and securing it in place.
  5. Repeat the process with a second strap, securing the other end of your kayak to your vehicle’s other roof rack.

Using Ratchet Straps

  1. Fasten one end of the ratchet strap to the kayak or your roof rack, depending on the strap placement and pull the strap tight.
  2. Start ratcheting the slack out of the strap. Pump the ratchet a few times until the strap is taut. Ensure the strap is centered and not twisting.
  3. Once the strap can’t be tightened any further, secure the ratchet handle in the closed position.
  4. Double-check the strap’s tightness and the overall security of your kayak.
  5. Use additional straps for larger kayaks or if necessary to secure both the front and back of your kayak to your vehicle’s roof.

Maintenance and Inspections

Your securing straps need to be just as reliable as your kayak. Regularly inspect and maintain your straps to ensure their longevity and effectiveness.

  • Inspect for Wear and Tear: Look for any fraying, cuts, or abrasions on the straps, especially after long or difficult trips.
  • Clean Regularly: Dirt and salt can cause straps to degrade over time. Clean with a mild detergent and fresh water, and store them in a dry place.
  • Test Strength: Check the straps’ strength by pulling them to their limit. If they feel weaker than normal, it might be time to replace them.
  • Keep Spare Straps: Always have a backup set of straps in your vehicle, just in case.

Securing your kayak is an essential part of the kayaking experience, and the right straps can make all the difference. Whether you choose the classic reliability of cam straps or the robust strength of ratchet straps, understanding their use and maintaining them will ensure your kayak stays safe during every adventure.


  • David Graham

    Meet David Graham, an avid kayaker based in Florida, USA, who has been mastering the art of kayaking since 2013. As a former trainer with three years of experience, David has shaped the skills of numerous kayakers, sharing his passion for the sport. Living in a state known for its diverse waterways, his expertise and commitment to kayaking go beyond personal pursuits, making him a valuable contributor to the local kayaking community.

    View all posts