How to Transport a Kayak Without a Rack

When someone thinks about transporting or hauling a kayak, the first thought that comes to mind is to tie it with or install it on the roof rack of a transport. But, not all carriers have a ready-made roof rack on them. Neither roof rack is a low-priced item where everyone can install one on the roof of the car. Also, a large kayak often doesn’t fit on the roof rack well and needs to be hauled on a transport that doesn’t have a rack. That all pretty much calls for an alternative way. A way to transport a kayak without any roof rack. Albeit a safe way.

Transporting A Kayak Without a Rack

Below is our easy guide on how to transport a kayak without a rack. Follow the steps and invest in the tools suggested. You can safely move and transport the kayak even to the farthest of the beaches on your transport’s roof safely.

Tools and Aid You Need

  • A vehicle without a roof rack, of course
  • A kayak, Duh!
  • Two pool noodles
  • Cam buckles or Ratchet straps, long ones
  • A ladder
  • A helping hand

Step 1 – Placing The Pool Noodles

Pool Noodles

Pool noodles resemble a rolling pin minus the handles and a long hole. It’s a hole as long as the pool noodle itself in the center. The material used to make the pool noodles are soft polyurethane tubes. These are soft, flexible, very colorful, but super durable and heavy-duty.


The purpose is to place the kayak on the pool noodles to use them as a barrier between the kayak bottom and car roof. Without the barrier in between, there will be collisions. And the bumps will dent and damage your kayak and scratch and ruin the paint on the car roof too.

How Many You Need

You will need two pool noodles and need to place them on two sides of the roof. One should be parallel to the front seats and the other to the rear seats. If you want, you can use three pool noodles, placing the third one in the middle of the car roof.

The Distance

Also, make sure the distance between the two pool noodles is 2-3 feet. Hence, if you put one in the middle as well, then the distance between the three pool noodles must be 1 foot each.

How to Transport a Kayak Without a Rack
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Step Two – Securing The Pool Noodles

Trim Off

After placing the pool noodles on the roof, you need to trim off the extra portion from both sides, keeping 1-2 inches sticking out on both sides of the roof. It should not be protruding too much and create nuisances for others on the road.

Tie or Not to tie Them with Ratchet Straps

If you are willing to secure the pools with straps, you need to unwind the car windows and take the trimmed pool noodles off the roof. Now insert the ratchet straps in between the holes of the pool noodles. It will be tough. So you can use a narrow tool and bind the strap and then insert the tool through the hole to take the strap through the hole.

Tie It Down

When you are done inserting the straps on both the pools, place them on the roof. Now take the strap through the windows and inside the car and come to the side where you started.

The Less Secure but Easy Alternative

If you are not tying the pool noodles, then place the kayak over them. The load of it will not let the pools move that much.

Step Three – Placing The Kayak

Upside Down

The correct way to place a kayak is to keep it upside down. The flat bottom will help to tie the kayak well to the car. Also will handle the tight straps better. You can put the kayak as it is, but the straps will go through uneven portions and edges, and the continuous movement and friction will end up scratching the kayak edges.


If the kayak is lightweight and small, you might do it yourself. Take the ladder if you can’t reach the roof well. Lift it up and place it gently. If it is heavy and big, 14 feet or more, you can take someone’s help. Hold the two sides, both of you, and then place it. There is no specific way, to be frank. Unless you are thumping and dropping it on the car roof, all is within rules.

Step Four – Tying The Kayak

One by One

Start from the front seat side. You already have the strap edge ready after you have tied the pool noodles. Hold the edge and wrap it over the kayak. You have to take it to the window on the other side, then inside the car through it, and bring it out through the other window. Do the same once more. If possible, once again, if you have any strap left. So, as you see, long cam buckles are a must to secure the kayak. Now when you have wrapped and tied the kayak, buckle the straps up.

Repeat The Same

So you have tied the front portion of the kayak, now buckle up the rear side with the ratchet strap. Please do not put too much force to clamp the kayak. It will damage the kayak. Cam buckles perfectly secure the medium weight items, and how tight you have tied entirely depends on the force you put. It doesn’t have its own mechanism in tying stuff. Thus it doesn’t cause damage to the tied thing.

Related: How to Tie Down a Kayak in a Truck Bed

Step Five – Keep A Check

Your kayak is now well tied, so you can hop inside the car and start your journey. If you are going to a place close to your house, you can be nonchalant and relax. But if the trip is long and the destination far away, make sure to check the kayak in between your drive. The uneven surface, the weather condition, and other factors can loosen the straps up a little. If extricated, tighten the grip of straps and buckle it up once again.

Now you can use extra stuff like, say, a trailer or can buy an inflatable kayak, pack it in the bag with the inflator device and start your journey. But the thing is, if you can invest in a trailer, you can invest in a roof rack too. And many of you might not have an inflatable kayak, neither want to purchase one as you already have a kayak. You can also make DIY roof racks. But that step negates the topic, which highlights ‘without a rack’ fully. So we consciously decided to keep it simple, easy, and affordable by sharing the most straightforward guide to tie a solid kayak on your car. You can secure your inflatable kayak the same way on it and save yourself from pumping it.

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