Are Cam Straps Better Than Ratchet Straps for Securing Kayaks?

Kayaking is pretty big where I live. Although I don’t participate in the sport myself, I see a lot of people tooling down the road with kayaks strapped to the tops of their cars and trucks. I just saw one the other day, which led me to wonder if cam straps are better than ratchet straps for that particular job.

I have seen both types of setups over the years. But recently, I’ve noticed more cam straps than ratchet straps. There must be a reason. So as I normally do when curiosity strikes, I did some research. I came across a lot of helpful information, including a video and blog post on the Salt Strong website.

Although the post is several years old at this point, I cannot imagine that much has changed for kayakers. Both cam and ratchet straps are pretty much the same today as they were in 2020. Unless I’m wrong about strap design in 2023, the advice in the post is probably still viable.

Cam Straps for Most Applications

Salt Strong contends that cam straps are okay for most applications. If you are going on a short trip across town for example, two or three straps should be sufficient to hold your kayak in place. You can’t go wrong using a few more.

Cam straps offer two advantages over ratchet straps for securing kayaks. First, the cam strap’s design makes it easier to pull the strap taught without over tightening. One brand in particular, Rollercam, utilizes a patented rotating cam that reduces friction between strap and buckle. You don’t need nearly as much force to pull their straps tight.

The other advantage is that the cam buckle can lie flat against the kayak without doing any damage. That is obviously important. Kayaks are too expensive to risk damage during transport.

Ratchet Straps for Long Trips

If cam straps are the preferred tiedown for kayakers, is there any scenario that would suggest using ratchet straps? Absolutely. The folks at Salt Strong say that ratchet straps are a better choice for long trips, especially when you will be doing a lot of driving on the interstate.

Ratchet straps are built to be stronger. They are strong enough that truckers use them to secure cargo to flatbed trailers. They can withstand much heavier loads and higher speeds. When you’re driving down the interstate at 75 mph, that’s important.

The two downsides to ratchet straps are inherent to the ratchets themselves. First of all, ratchets are bigger and bulkier than cam buckles. If they make contact with a kayak, they can do serious damage. It is best to position a ratchet strap so that the ratchet doesn’t make contact with anything.

The other downside is the temptation to over-tighten ratchet straps. It is too easy to keep cranking the ratchet until you can’t do it anymore. At that point, you have already put too much stress on your kayak. You could crack the kayak even if you don’t actually break it.

Both Straps Hold up to the Elements

It is important to note that both types of straps hold up very well to the elements. Whether you are looking at nylon webbing, polyester, or another material, cam and ratchet straps are designed to be exposed to wind, rain, etc. They are not bothered by what Mother Nature throws at them.

Do you enjoy kayaking? If so, what do you use as your tiedowns? I see more cam straps these days, though I still occasionally see ratchet straps, ropes, and bungee cords. Cam straps appear to be the favorite among the local kayaking crowd here.