How to Transport a Canoe or Kayak Without a Roof Rack

How to tie kayak to roof without rack? That’s a questions many ask when buying a Kayak for the first time. Even in case you have a kayak rack, moving a 14-foot exploring canoe is a challenging task. Several explanations exist as to why you shouldn’t consider doing that. You may have just purchased a kayak and have no idea how to get it back home or have just realized that there is no kayak rack for your vehicle.

If you find yourself in this situation, there is no need to worry because this article will guide you on how to effectively transport a kayak without a vehicle roof rack easily. However, here are the things you would need for this activity.

  • Pool Noodles: Any soft rubber tube that has any hole present in the middle can qualify as a noodles pool. Various outdoor retailers, supermarkets, and home improvement stores sell pool noodles and other similar products. Select thick, durable, and long pool noodles that will comfortably cover the entire length of your vehicle’s roof.
  • Racket Straps or Cam buckles: These straps can be wrapped around items and then ramped tight to keep that object in position. Two to five pairs of these straps are required and can be bought in the hardware or automobile supply stores.

Step One – Placing and Securing the Pool Noodles

Determine the shape of your vehicle’s pool noodles before fastening your kayak. To fit across the vehicle’s roof, they should not extend much on both sides. The noodle must be trimmed to fit if it has a lot of it sticking out.

In addition to protecting your car’s roof from abrasion, pool noodles can provide a stable base for your kayak. To keep your vehicle’s roof from leaking, place one pool noodle in the vehicle’s center and another at the back and front.

As soon as you get the noodles in position, use a single set of ratchet straps to thread them through the center hole and then into the automobile’s interior through the opened doors before ever securing them.

Step Two – Place your Kayak

To attach your kayak, you’ll first need to secure the pool noodles to your vehicle. Two people are needed for this part because kayaks, especially touring variants, are heavy. Have someone on both ends raise the kayak against your car’s roof with the kayak’s center relaxing on the pool noodle in the center, then secure the kayak in place. The kayak won’t damage your car, but the pool noodles will stabilize it.

Step Three – Tie the Kayak using Straps

The kayak is already in place, so now it’s time to attach it to your car. Pass one pair of ratchet straps through the kayak front and via your vehicle’s front & back doors. Use a ratchet strap or cam to hold the straps inside your vehicle. While driving, twist the straps as you pass them through the vehicle to avoid loud howling noise.

Make sure to repeat this process with the kayak’s back end. The kayak’s hull and the top of your vehicle could be damaged if you tighten the straps too much. Place the buckles in a location where they may be adjusted quickly if necessary. In colder climates, the straps could slack, and you may have to adjust them during the voyage.

The Best Way to Tie a Kayak

The straps should not be over-tightened. If the kayak’s straps are too tight, it could bow, particularly if the hull is plastic. A kayak’s performance and hull on water might be irreversibly harmed if it is left bent for extended periods.

Extremes of temperature can harm straps. Check your ratchet straps for loosening before driving if you are moving from a cold or warm location or if you have left them outside in the rainy weather for an extended time.

The ratchet straps’ nylon ends can become frayed over time, making it impossible for them to move through the fastener. It’s possible to remedy this by revealing the frayed strap end to the open flame and then applying pressure to it without putting it touching your skin. Because of the melting process, the straps will be much easier to fasten and unfasten.

Step Four – Securing the Stern and Bow

The kayak can’t move from side to side because of the straps, but you’ll have to stop it from sliding forward or backward. You don’t want your kayak to fall off the roof if you suddenly need to stop.

Using a carabineer or fastening hook, attach another pair of ratchet straps to the kayak’s front toggles and protect them to the vehicle’s tie-down locations. The straps can be fastened to towing hooks or the tow bar using the towing hooks or rear carry.

Option Two – Using a Utility Trailer

Kayak on a trailer

For various reasons, many people have a utility trailer at home. If you have a trailer, you may be able to get away with it. Utility trailers are available in various sizes and can be used to transport two kayaks. Think of it as a truck bed that is lowered to a more comfortable level for people to stand on. It would be ideal if the trailer could be six to eight feet long.

I recently published an article in which I list the best aluminum trailers for transporting a kayak. I recommend you give that a read if you’re looking to invest into a trailer.

Because a utility trailer is already low to the ground, you don’t have to lift the kayaks very high, making it an excellent alternative. Using a trailer instead of a roof rack makes loading and unloading much simpler.

It’s also simple to secure the kayaks to the trailer’s existing framework. Rope or ratchet straps can be used. The cleats on many trailers allow you to secure your watercraft. Anchor points are plentiful on a trailer, making it easy to keep your kayaks in place. If you already have a trailer and don’t want to spend money on new gear, transporting your kayaks in a utility trailer is an excellent option.

What to Keep in Mind When Moving Your Kayak


To carry your kayak without using a vehicle roof rack, one must set aside some money. You can tell that there is a wide range of pricing. A kayak autotrailer, for example, might cost hundreds of dollars, whereas foam blocks can be purchased for as little as $50. Kayaking roof rack options should be researched before you buy one. The cost of a vehicle roof rack may be worth it to you.

Kayaks on the Water

Transporting kayaks requires that you be confident in your ability to do it. Using a good foam block with many kayaks is not recommended. A trailer is a great choice for transporting numerous kayaks. Towing more than a single kayak on a trailer is possible with some models. Several kayaks can be stacked on certain trailers.

You may want to look at inflatable kayaks if you don’t already possess any roof racks to transport your kayaks. Compact & lightweight inflatable kayak can be transported in the vehicle’s trunk. Inflatable kayaks may be stored in the rear of your car.


When transporting a kayak with no crossbars on the roof, some of these solutions are better than other options. For instance, the kayak will need to be lifted onto the top of your vehicle if using a foam pad kit or foam block. Make sure you are physically capable of putting the kayaks on a roof.

Lifting heavy objects above is harmful as it can injure your shoulder. As a result, it is hard to place the kayaks on our vehicle’s roof. Remember that even when a roof rack if present, there is still a lot of heavy lifting involved.

Loading a trailer is significantly simpler because it is at ground level. With a trailer, one can back the car down a specific launch ramp and swiftly get into the water with your kayak. The advantages of a trailer over any foam pad or a block configuration are obvious.

What is the price of a Roof Rack?

Car with a kayak tied to the roof rack

Depending on your vehicle and the sum of cargo you intend to transport, a roof rack system can quickly add up in price. If you want to buy roof racks for the kayak, you can pay at least $1,000 for the various components (or kayaks).

People who begin experiencing kayaking may find that purchasing roof racks is highly expensive. However, if you’re starting with a new activity, you don’t want to spend much money on it. It’s better to do so when you don’t need a roof rack to transport your kayak.


Every kayaker must learn how to bring their vessel to the water in the most efficient manner. The good news is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a vehicle rack if you use a few extra items and do some hard lifting to transfer your kayak quickly and easily. You’ve followed our simple instructions and got your kayak up on your pool noodles, but remember that the climate can alter how tight your straps are, so be careful to check your buckles often, and then you can get out on the lake! Alternatively, you can hire a towing company to carry your kayak to your destination.

Vanessa Hopkins

Hi, I'm Vanessa. Long-time kayaker who's proud to be part of this community. I strive to provide our visitors with insightful guides with the aim to improve their kayaking experience. I've been working with SunshineKayaking for over 5 years, providing world-class services.

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