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How To Transport A Kayak Without A Rack

Kayaking is an incredibly popular outdoor activity in the U.S. with about 16 million kayakers.

It’s a fun sport and a great way to enjoy nature.

Perhaps you are one of the many millions of kayaking enthusiasts who’ve made that worthy investment and can’t wait to load it up and take it out to your preferred destination. 

A kayak requires a lot of care and especially when moving it from point “a” to point “b”.

So, how do you do it?

The easiest way to transport your kayak is to load it up on the roof rack.

The only problem is that you might not have one installed in your car.

It’s also not possible to hurl the 13ft. mass on your back to your destination.

The question still remains, how best can you transport your kayak without a roof rack and get it home or into the water in one piece?

Tips about Safe Kayak Transportation

kayaks on trailer

Before you attempt to transport your kayak using a vehicle, it’s important to first go through your car manual to determine the amount of weight that it can safely carry.

It’ll help you take caution to avoid overloading your vehicle and other unnecessary risks.

Also, take your time when prepping your car for kayak transport to avoid omitting some crucial detail that might cost you dearly later on. 

You should also be mindful of the conditions in which you’ll be transporting your cargo.

It’s recommended that you transport your yak on a clear and calm day.

However, if the day is windy or the terrain is rough, you must consider taking extra precautions while performing the task. 

Ways to Transport Kayaks without a Roof Rack

There is more than one way to transport a kayak without a roof rack.

Check out the options below.

Option One: Use a DIY Pool Noodle Roof Rack

This is a great option and one that I’ve used myself.

Step 1: Gather the Materials Needed

You’ll need just a few essentials to make this possible. These include:

  • Pool noodles
  • Ratchet straps
  • Aluminum hollow tubes
  • Ratchet straps
  • Bungee cord

Pool Noodles

Buy pool noodles at your local supermarkets or stores.

They are made of polyurethane (durable and soft plastic), which is ideal for securing heavy objects without damaging the vehicle or the kayak.

Pool noodles are tube-like with holes at the center to help you set them up on top of your vehicle.

You’ll require a minimum of two, depending on the size of your vehicle.

As a rule of thumb, for every 3ft. of your car roof, use one pool noodle. 

Aluminum Hollow Tubes

While an optional item, aluminum hollow tubes do a great job of reinforcing the pool noodles.

Do buy the right size such that the tubes won’t exceed your car’s roof width by a huge distance. 

Ratchet Straps (Cam Buckle)

These are made from durable nylon to help secure the kayak in place.

The number of pool noodles and ratchet straps should correspond.

Also, the ratchet straps should be twice as wide as your car roof. Get at least 5 ratchet straps to avoid unnecessary damages. 

Bungee cord

A bungee cord is also an optional item. The cord’s length should be longer than the car’s length by at least a quarter. 

Step 2: Fasten the Pool Noodles on the Vehicle’s Roof

Given that nearly all pool noodles are typically longer compared to the breadth of the vehicle, you’ll have to trim them to the required size using a pair of scissors.

When you get them to the right size, fasten them on the roof’s car, one at the rear end, one at the front, and a third one at the center.

Fasten the noodles using a cord via each of the noodles’ hole, before securing the cord in the interior of the car’s roof.

Step 3: Place your Kayak on the Pool Noodles

If your kayak is light in weight, you can easily lift it by yourself and place it onto the pool noodles.

However, if it’s heavy, find someone to help you place it on the roof.

Observing proper yak lifting skills will prevent you from damaging your car or kayak, or hurting yourself.

Cautiously, lift it from the ground with the hull facing up, the cockpit facing downwards, and place it on your car’s roof pool noodles.

Turn the kayak ensures that the weight is balanced at the sides where it’s strongest.

The kayak’s center should rest on the middle pool noodle.

That will ensure your yak doesn’t scratch your car’s paint. At this point, the noodles should be re-adjusted to ensure that they are firmly in place. 

Step 4: Using Ratchet Straps to fasten your Kayak

Once you’ve placed the kayak on the pool noodles, place one of the ratchet straps over the front of the hull and let the ends hang next to your car’s front doors.

When undertaking this step, keep all your car doors open.

This is to allow you to place the ratchet straps over your car’s roof rather than the windows, which might make it difficult for the doors to open. 

Hook the straps together and fasten the kayak carefully.

Ensure the straps are tight enough and let the kayak sit tightly over the noodles.

Do not over-tighten the straps as you may end up damaging your car’s roof or the kayak’s hull.

Repeat the procedure at the kayak’s rear and ensure that both straps are firmly fastened as you make necessary adjustments.

Step 5: Secure the Bow and Stern

Most people overlook tying down the kayak’s bow and stern with the hope that keeping the center portions secure is enough.

It’s very important to tie the front and rear grab handles and securely fasten them to your car’s towing eyes found at your car’s front and back.

Securing the bow and stern prevents the likelihood of the kayak speeding off while in transit.

It’s also advisable to stop once in a while and check the straps to ensure that they remain intact throughout the journey. 

Option Two: Use an Inflatable Kayak

Using an inflatable kayak is probably the easiest option of transporting one without a roof rack.

In addition to being pocket-friendly, an inflatable kayak can be rolled up and packed inside the trunk of your car.

Moreover, you can easily store the kayak if you are planning not to use it for some time.

The only downside to this type of kayaks is that they are more prone to developing punctures when used for a long time. 

Option Three: Use an Inflatable Roof Rack

An inflatable roof rack is similar to installing crossbars on the roof of your car but without the high cost of setting up.

It’s a viable option to hold regular kayaks and the good thing about them is that they come with pre-installed holding straps.

Just ensure that you take the necessary precautions not to place excess weight on it, over-inflate it, or pop it.

It is also advisable to deflate it and store it away when not in use since too much heat exposure can damage the material.

Option Four: Use a Trailer

While a great option for transporting your kayak, a kayak trailer is not cheap.

It’s however a great option if you aren’t open to making permanent adjustments to your car.

It’s also a great choice if you drive multiple cars and prefer not to install roof racks on all of them.

If you want to use a trailer to transport your kayak, ensure that your car has a hitch.

If it doesn’t, you’ll have to find other options of pulling a trailer without a hitch. 

Although costly, a trailer is considered to be the best option when transporting a kayak due to its versatility.

Many trailers provide room to transport other times you might need during your adventure including paddleboards, bikes, etc.

You can also carry more equipment such as angling gear for more fun.

Trailers can also come in handy when moving large items and double as a storage space for the kayak among other uses.

In such a case, you’ll need to find a storage space for the trailer too. 

Option Five: Use a Foam Car Top Carrier

A foam car top carrier is another great option if you are considering transporting kayaks without a car roof rack.

You start by securing two foam blocks on your car’s roof using ratchet straps that are firmly attached to your car’s roof. 

You then place the kayak on the foam and secure it using ropes.

Nonetheless, beware of the annoying noise that may be produced by the ropes as you drive.

The most important thing to note if you choose this option is that you must first fasten the foam blacks followed by the kayak.

If you fail to follow that order, the foam blocks will be sliding all over, making your work difficult.

Kayaking is a great pastime for both adults and children during summer.

It’s thus very important that you learn how to safely transport your kayaks if your car doesn’t have a roof rack.

Once you learn how to use the above simple, yet very essential equipment to your advantage, you’ll be ready to head out to your next kayaking adventure.