How To Transport A Kayak Without A Roof Rack: Scratch Free

by Jason | Last Updated:   December 31st, 2021
How To Transport A Kayak Without A Roof Rack: Scratch Free


So, you need to transport your kayak, but you haven’t got a roof rack. And now you’re left wondering how you can get your kayak to the river without damaging your car.

Transporting your kayak is never easy, even if you have a trailer or a roof rack for it. So you can just imagine how hard it must be if you don’t have the right stuff.

Luckily, I’m here today to explain how to transport a kayak without a roof rack. But the best thing is, using this method won’t damage your car at all.

Most people will just strap the kayak to the roof of their car, and by the time they reach their destination, the kayak has scratched the hell out of your roof.

Our method is very different. So, if you want to learn how to strap a kayak to your roof without causing any damage to your car, keep reading!

I have all the answers below:

Can You Put A Kayak On A Car Without A Rack?

It’s a question I hear all the time, and the answer is yes, you can put a kayak on a car without a rack. And the best thing is:

It’s a very affordable method of transporting your kayak; that being said, using a roof rack is a lot better because you have better tie-down points.

But here’s the thing:

To transport your kayak on top of your car without a rack or causing damage, you’re going to need a few things.

And this is what I’m going to be talking about in this section:

Pool Noodles Or Foam Blocks: The key to avoiding damage to your car is raising the kayak off the roof of your vehicle. And for this, pool noodles are perfect; in fact, any piece of soft polyethylene foam tube with a hole in the middle will do the job.

You can find pool noodles in plenty of shops from outdoor stores, supermarkets, and much more. Just make sure you get the good heavy-duty ones and ensure they’re long enough to stretch over the width of your car.

Ratchet Straps Or Cam Buckles: The second and final piece of equipment you need to transport your kayak is a good set of ratchet straps. The straps are made with hard-wearing nylon and have adjustable buckles that can tighten and lock the ratchet strap into place.

You can find the straps in multiple hardware stores or online shops relatively cheaply. To strap the kayak to your car safely, you’ll need at least 2-4 nylon straps; just make sure they are over double the width of your vehicle.

And that’s all you’re going to need to create a DIY kayak rack for your car roof. As you can imagine, it’s a lot cheaper than buying roof racks but not as efficient.

So, let’s talk about the process you need to follow:

How To Strap A Kayak To A Car Without A Roof Rack?

So, you want to know how to transport a kayak without a roof rack!

Well, you’re in luck:

Strapping a kayak can easily be done when you know the correct techniques to use. And in this section, I will explain how to strap your kayak to your car using pool noodles or foam blocks.

Let’s take a closer look at the two techniques of making a DIY roof rack:

Strapping Your Kayak To Your Roof Using Pool Noodles 

One of the most popular methods of transporting a kayak without a roof rack system is to use pool noodles to protect the roof of your car. All you need to do is follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Get Your Pool Noodles Ready 

The first thing you have to do is grab your heavy-duty pool noodle and ensure it’s the right size for your vehicle. Ideally, you’re looking for the pool noodle to sit across the roof of your car without it protruding on either side of your car.

But what if the noodles are too big for your car?

If you have too much foam sticking over the edges of your car, you need to trim to length, which you can do with a sharp knife.

The next step is to use the foam noodles as a flexible and durable base for your kayak and protect your vehicle from any damage.

It would be best if you placed the noodles about three feet apart. How many you need depends on how long your car is. But in general, you should have one and the front and rear and one in the middle.

Once the noodles are in place, you need to feed straps through the middle of the noodle and then run the belt through the open car door and back to the other side. Once you’ve done that, secure them in place.

And there you have it, a quick and affordable roof rack system for you to use. Let’s take a look at the next step:

Step 2: Get Your Kayak In Place

Okay, you’ve got the noddles in place and secured, and now it’s time to get your kayak on top of your vehicle. If your kayak is on the large size and you don’t think you can handle it by yourself, make sure you get some help for this part.

When you lift the kayak, you need to flip it over, so the cockpit is facing down and lift it on your vehicle with one person holding each end.

Make sure you place the kayak down, so no parts of the kayak are touching the car. Ideally, you should have one noodle raising the cockpit and one on either end holding the rest up.

Step 3: Strapping Your Kayak To The Car

Once your kayak has been placed on top of your vehicle, it’s time to get it secured in place. For this, you’re going to need a few cam straps or ratchet straps, whichever you prefer.

As mentioned earlier, you can get a ratchet strap from most hardware stores for an excellent price.

The first thing you need to do is open your car doors, ready to secure your vehicle. Next, you need to take your ratchet strap, place them over the top of your kayak, and connect them inside the car.

The most crucial step here is to make sure the straps don’t twist while you’re feeding it around the kayak. So, before you start tightening the straps, make sure you check nothing is twisted.  

When everything is attached, move the buckle, so it’s close to the kayak; you’ll be able to get a tighter fit. Once the buckle is in place, you can start tightening the straps; just make sure it’s not too tight; you don’t want to damage the hull.

If there’s any strap left over, try wrapping it around the strap, it will prevent it from making a loud noise due to it flapping in the wind.

Repeat this process for the second ratchet strap by feeding it through the back door or your car. Before moving on to the next section, let’s go over my top tips for tying a kayak down without a roof rack:

  • Remember, the heat and climate can significantly affect your staps. If you’re moving from a hot environment to a cold environment or the straps have been outside in the rain, you need to make sure they haven’t come loose while you’re driving.
  • Over time your straps will become frayed, making it a nightmare to get through the buckles. Luckily, there’s an easy fix for this. Simply expose the frayed end to a naked flame and then apply pressure between the floor and an old piece of wood. Make sure it doesn’t touch your skin; it will be very hot.
  • Never overtighten the straps. If you apply too much pressure on your kayak, you could end up with it bowing overtime. If your kayak bows, then you’re going to lose the performance in the water, which is not ideal.

If you follow the guidelines above, you’ll have no problems when it comes to strapping your kayaks down.

Step 4: Secure The Bow And Stern

One of the last steps you need to think about is securing the bow and stern of the boat. Granted, the straps should be enough if they’ve been tightened correctly.

The problem is:

While you’re driving, the straps could come loose, and the last thing you want to see is your kayak flying off the front of your car when you tap the break.

For tying down the stern and bow, you’re going to need either spring-loaded straps or ratchet straps to help you with the job.

Thread the straps through both the front and the rear of the kayak using the carry handles or the toggles, and then secure them underneath the car with a carabiner or a hook. If you have towbars on your vehicle, you can use them to secure it in place.

Strapping Your Kayak To Your Vehicle’s Roof Using Foam Blocks

If you don’t fancy using pool noodles, you have another option. You can try using foam blocks; it works in a very similar way, but it provides a little be more stability than pool noodles.

Check out this quick guide:

Step 1: Get Your Foam Blocks In Place

Place at least two foam blocks on your car roof at an equal distance apart. You should have one at the front and one at the rear of the car. 

Step 2: Lift Your Kayak On Top

Lift your kayak onto the car and place it on top of the blocks. If the kayak is too heavy for you, make sure you get someone to help you with it.

Step 3: Strap Your Kayak To The Roof

For this step, you should follow the steps I laid out for the pool noodles; nothing changes with the process. 

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

Okay, I hope this has helped you understand how to transport a kayak without a roof rack or having to spend a fortune on a roof rack.

The most important thing to remember with this method is safety. You need to make sure your kayak is strapped down securely, and the pool noodles are protecting your vehicle’s roof.

I want to point out that you shouldn’t use this method of transporting your kayak over long distances or at high speeds. It’s just not secure enough to handle it, so you should be looking at a roof rack for long journeys.

Remember, all you need is a few bit’s of equipment and a bit of time to secure your kayak to the car’s roof.

Just follow the simple guide above so you can transport your kayak to the closest river to you.

As a final takeaway, I’d always recommend using roof racks or a kayak trailer to transport your kayak; it’s a lot safer and an excellent investment for the future.

If you want to learn how to tie down more than one kayak, make sure you click on the link.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Do You Transport A Kayak without A Rack?

As you can see above, it’s not hard to transport your kayak without using a roof rack. All you need to a few extra pieces of equipment to get your going. Use pool noodles or foam bricks to protect your car from damage and a series of straps to hook to your vehicle.

What Is The Easiest Way To Transport A Kayak?

One of the easiest ways to transport your kayak is to use a roof rack. You don’t have to mess about setting up foam blocks, and it’s a simple case of getting the kayak on top of the rack and strapping it down.

If your kayak is too big for your car, you might have to use a kayak trailer to get it to the river. Or, if you have a pick-up, you can simply strap it to the back of the vehicle.

How Do You Transport A Kayak With A Small Car?

Transporting your kayak is hard enough, let alone when you’re trying to move it on a small car. Most of the time, you’ll be able to use a roof rack, but you should check out the local laws to ensure you’re not going to get pulled over due to the overhang.

If the overhang is too much, you’re going to have to add a kayak trailer to your car; it’s the only viable option other than buying a new car.

Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.