How To Transport A Kayak Without A Roof Rack

So you’ve invested in your first kayak, and you don’t want to splash out extra money on an expensive roof rack. Read on, and we’ll provide you with the perfect solution.

Kayak Without A Roof Rack

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a standard roof rack to transport a kayak. There is a quick and easy way to get your kayak to water that costs a fraction of the price. With a couple of purchases, you can equip any vehicle with this cheap and effective kayak carrying solution.

First Things First…

We have to say that the safest and therefore the best way to transport your kayak is with a roof rack, especially for long-distance journeys. If your vehicle is new with a gleaming paint job to protect, we’d also recommend using a roof rack.

The technique we’ll be describing here works well if the procedure is followed correctly, but get anything wrong, and you could scratch or dent the roof.

But if you really don’t want to spend the extra cash or you only need to take your kayak a short distance, this is a great substitute. So, what do you need to buy to transport a kayak without a roof rack?

DIY Roof Rack Requirements

  • Pool noodles. Yes, those tubular floating devices with a hole running through them. The thicker and more durable the polyurethane material, the better. You’ll also need to ensure they are long enough to span the width of your vehicle.
  • Ratchet straps. A length of heavy-duty nylon with a ratchet buckle attached — ideal for lashing any cargo down.

Yes, that’s it!

There are a few simple installation steps to follow, which, if completed correctly, will result in an effective solution.

1 Attaching The Noodles To Your Roof.

Two noodles will be perfect for most kayak designs. You can always use more if you want to add extra protection, especially over sunroofs. They don’t have to be the exact width of your roof, but the closer, the better. If there is any of the noodle overhanging, then cut it off.

You’ll want to place the two noodles about as far apart as the bars on a regular roof rack would be. So about three feet or 90cm apart.

Next thread one end of the ratchet strap through the hole running the length of the noodle and run the two ends through the inside of the car tying them together. Then ratchet the noodles tight in place.

2 Placing The Kayak On To The Noodles.

Once the noodles are secured in place, you need to lift the kayak on to the roof. If your kayak is light enough, you may be able to do this by yourself. But to avoid any accidental damage and to get the best positioning, this is a job best done by two.

You’ll want to position the canoe cockpit down. This will make it more aerodynamic as you drive.

Once you’ve found the ideal position, you can make any adjustment to the noodles before securing the kayak itself.

3 Securing The Kayak

This is straightforward enough. Open the front doors of your vehicle and lash the front of the kayak with the ratchet straps joined inside the car. Ratchet everything tight to secure it in place and repeat the process for the rear of the kayak, connecting the ratchet strap through the rear doors.

Keep the ratchet buckle in an easy to reach place outside the vehicle for any adjustments that need to be made on the go. Also, make sure not to overtighten the strap. This can result in both damage to the hull of your kayak and the roof.

Weather and climate can affect the tightness of the strap. Rain, and moving from a hot to a colder environment and vice versa, will affect the elasticity of the strap. Make sure you regularly check strap grip after weather changes like this.

Eventually, the straps may become frayed at the ends. This can be resolved by using a flame to mold the frayed threads back into shape. This should make threading the buckle much easier.

4 Securing The Bow And Stern.

So you’ve now successfully restricted any horizontal movement of your kayak, you now need to stop it from lurching backwards or forwards.

Again, this is easily achieved by threading ratchet straps through the carry handles at the front and rear of the kayak and connecting them to the tow points underneath the car. Once tightened, you are ready to go.

How To Transport A Kayak Without A Roof Rack Additional Tips:

  • Make sure you check the vehicle manual to find out the carrying capacity of your roof. This isn’t really an issue with lighter kayaks, but if you’re looking to load something heavy, then this would be a smart move.
  • You’ll want to drive slowly and carefully, utilizing gentle braking. After a few miles on the road, stop, and check everything is still secure and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Your vehicle will need extra noodle protection if it comes with a sunroof, especially when carrying heavier kayaks.
  • Twist the straps before attaching them inside the car. This will stop them from howling in the wind as you drive.
  • Two smaller kayaks can be transported side by side in this way.

There are a couple of other solutions to the question of how to transport your kayak without a roof rack, that should get a mention here.

Foam Blocks

This works in much the same way as the noodle system, substituting two foam blocks in place of the noodles. Foam blocks are stronger than pool noodles but at the weight is more concentrated on a smaller area, you’ll have to make sure they aren’t so tight that they damage the roof of your vehicle.

Again, the idea is to simulate the spacing of a roof rack providing the right level of balance and stability.

They are attached in the same way as the noodles through a hole in the structure and secured inside the vehicle.

Kayak Trailers

If you don’t like the idea of lifting your kayak on to the roof of your vehicle or don’t want to risk scratching the paint job, why not invest in a trailer specifically designed to house your kayak?

Ok, this will be as, if not more expensive than buying a simple roof rack, but you won’t put your back out lifting your kayak or damage your vehicle in any way. Gone are any worries you may have about whether you’ve secured your kayak properly. You’ll also get improved mileage out of your vehicle without the increased wind resistance of having a kayak on the roof.

More Useful Information

If you found this article useful, please check out some of our others, such as our informative Sit On Top vs Sit In Kayak article, as well as our What are Scupper Plugs article.

You may also enjoy our many reviews, including our Best Kayak Seat reviews, the Best Sit On Top Kayak reviews, and our Best Trolling Motor for Kayaks reviews.

How To Transport A Kayak Without A Roof Rack Conclusion

As you can see, the question of how to transport a kayak without a roof rack is an easily answered one. With a little expense and a little know-how, you can set up a very effective transportation system without having to fork out for an expensive roof rack.

That being said, this is really more of a temporary solution. If kayaking is an activity you spend a lot of time doing, it’s worth investing in a standard roof rack or trailer system. Especially if you are planning on a long drive. The added peace of mind you get from knowing your kayak isn’t about to go airborne is probably worth the extra outlay.

Either way, now you know how to transport a kayak without a roof rack, there’s nothing stopping you from getting out on the water.

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