How To Transport A Kayak Without A Roof Rack

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On a budget so you don’t have the money to buy an expensive kayak roof rack? That doesn’t mean you can’t transport your kayak.

With some ingenuity a clever angler can still transport kayak without roof rack. And do it safely.

You don’t need to spend a lot to get out on the water. That’s the beauty of having a kayak over a boat anyway. So, with the help of this guide you will learn how to transport a kayak without a roof rack.

Read on for all the details!

What You’ll Need To Do This

I said that you don’t have to buy an expensive roof rack to tie down your kayak, but you do still need to have something there. You can’t just tie your kayak down on your roof without anything. Also, it will be easier if you already know how to strap a kayak to a roof rack.

It’s not a big list but here is what you need to learn how to transport a kayak without a roof rack.

Pool Noodles

Yes, the same pool noodles that you learned to swim with when you were a kid. These will protect the roof of your car and allow for a very tight tie down so the kayak doesn’t slide around. I like these Jumbo pool noodles but you can use ones you already have.

Ratchet Tie Down Straps

These types of ratchet straps are indispensable if you are tying down a kayak. Whether it’s on a rack or the pool noodles. There is no safer and easier way to do this unless you are an expert knot tyer. Do yourself a favor and pick some up instead of going with any old nylon cord.

Hood Loops

These are essential to tie down the bow and stern of the kayak securely. They feature a rod that goes in the trunk and hood of the car with a loop on the other end. Now you don’t need to find a place underneath the car to tie it down.

Step By Step Guide On How To Tie Down A Kayak Without A Roof Rack 

Now to the part where you actually transport kayak without roof rack and get out on the water. It isn’t rocket science but it does require a short guide like this one so you can do it safely. You don’t want any risk of your kayak falling off while on the road.

Step One – Lay Your Noodles On The Roof

You’ll need at least two pool noodles to do this and they need to be spaced apart properly. 

They also shouldn’t be hanging over the side. Before you put them on your car you should measure them and any length going past the side of the roof should be cut off.

Now that they are the right length, place them about 3 feet apart with one towards the front of the roof and one towards the back.

If there is more than 3 feet in between then you will need a third noodle to make sure that all the weight of the kayak is evenly distributed. 

Step Two – Run Tie Downs Through Noodles

Now that you have the spacing right for the noodles take them down from the roof and run the tie down straps through them. Once you have the straps through, then place them back on top of the car.

Take each end and loop them under the roof inside the car and attach them. If you use ratchet ones they are really easy to tighten. Do this with all the noodles and test them to make sure they aren’t moving.

Step Three – Place Kayak Upside Down On Roof

You can have somebody give you a hand and lift the kayak on top of the car, or you can simply slide the kayak on top from behind the car yourself. Once it is on top, flip the kayak over so the top is on the noodles and the hull is facing up in the air.

Step Four – Tie It Down

If you have side rails on your car then I recommend using the tie downs to wrap around the body of the and ratchet them to the rails for added security. If you don’t have rails then you at least need to use the straps through the inside of the car on each door just as you did with the noodles.

Hopefully you have the hood loops I suggested as that is the best place to tie down the bow and stern of the kayak. Also, check to make sure that the handle of the bow and stern are strong enough to hold the kayak down. 

You may think that this is unnecessary but you will be surprised how the kayak will want to lift away from the roof when the wind gets underneath it.

Tips on The Proper Way of Tying Down a Kayak Without a Roof Rack 

Tip 1 – Don’t Over Tighten The Straps

Yes, you need them to be tight so the kayak doesn’t move around. But too tight and you will risk damaging the roof of your car or even warping or cracking your kayak.

Tip 2 – Stop And Check The Straps

You may have the straps as tight as they can get but when you start driving they may loosen a little. Especially if it is cold out. Make sure that you stop after driving for a few minutes to check the straps and ensure they are tight enough.

Tip 3 – Twist The Straps 

There is an annoying whistling noise when you are on the road if you leave the straps flat. By twisting them up it will allow the wind to pass without causing that noise.

Tip 4 – Always Look For Tears

Over time, there will be wear and tear on your straps. Make sure you inspect each one and look for any tears or fraying. Immediately replace any that show signs of wear.


So, there you have it. That is the answer to how to tie down a kayak without a roof rack. It is cheap and easy so now there is no excuse to not get out on the water!

Do you have any more questions on how to transport a kayak without a roof rack? Or maybe you don’t know how to strap a kayak to a roof rack? Let me know by adding a comment to the box below.

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