How to Tie a Canoe to a Car Without a Rack

In this guide, we'll show you how to transport a canoe if your car doesn't have a rack installed.
Gloria Bussey
Gloria Bussey
Product Research and Writer
Gloria is a talented writer based in Chattanooga, TN and enjoys kayaking and mountain biking. She graduated with a business degree in 2007 and is now working on a master's i read more
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Steven Martin
Steven Martin
Vehicle Fit Expert and Consultant
Steven is a skilled car mechanic based in Denver, CO. He's a passionate hiker, devoted backcountry camper and his mechanic expertise allows him to maximize space in any vehi read more
Last updated: August 19, 2023
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A day canoeing on the water is a very rewarding experience. Canoeing is both good for strength and endurance training and a great way to really switch off. Another reason for the great popularity of water sports is the inflatable canoes. In addition to the cheaper price of the inflatable canoes, the easy transport is the biggest advantage. After a tour, all you have to do is deflate the air, roll up the cover and stow it in a carrying bag. In this way, the inflatable canoe fits in every trunk and can be easily transported. But how about those who have a rigid canoe made of plastic, wood, or fiberglass? 

If you have this type of boat but have a car that doesn’t feature a rack, in this guide, we will show you how to tie a canoe to a car without a rack, so you’d be able to transport it.

What You Will Need

  • Foam blocks or soft foam pads
  • Kayak cart 
  • Canoe straps 
  • Tie-downs with buckles 
  • V-straps

How to Tie a Canoe to a Roof

How to Tie a Canoe to a Car Without a Rack
One of the easiest and safest ways to transport your canoe on the roof of your vehicle is with foam blocks. You can even transport one or two canoes with foam blocks or pool noodles. 

Step 1

Place foam blocks on the gunwales – the sides of the canoe.  Two foam blocks go on either side of the canoe. Note that there are canoe foam racks which are a complete kit. A typical type we can recommend is the WOOWAVE Canoe Carrier. This deluxe carrier kit comes with everything you need – four soft foam pads, two tie-downs with buckles, two straps, two S hooks, a storage bag, and an instruction manual. 

Step 2

Pick the canoe – you will need someone to help you – and place the canoe upside down on your car roof, parallel to the car.  The foam blocks will allow the canoe to sit stably on the roof of your car and prevent scratches.

Step 3

Hook the only side of the V-straps to the front and rear ends of the boat.  One V-strap should be hooked to the handhold on the bow of the dinghy; the other must be connected to the same at the back of the boat. 

Step 4

Place four tie-down straps – two in your rear car trunk and two in the sides of your front trunk or frunk, ensuring the plastic ends are closed down with the trunks and the straps extending out to be attached to the V-straps. According to most reviews, the sturdiest model must be the Quick Hood Kayak Tie Downs Straps from Le Kapmoz, which, thanks to its reinforced construction, is the most reliable option out there.

Ensure you pull the straps to tighten the canoe to the car.

Step 5

Open your car doors and pass the regular canoe strap through the car.  Pull one end of the strap over the top of the boat and feed it through the “loop” on the other end of the strap.  Pull on the end of the strap – come out of the buckle – to tighten the canoe to the car.  Close the car doors on the bracelet.

Transporting Canoes with a Kayak Cart

Sometimes, your car may not be able to reach the river bank from where you’re going to be starting your fun. 

A kayak cart is very practical for short distances such as the route from the parking lot to the water. One end of the canoe is placed on the small cart and can then simply be pushed to the bank.

The nice thing about the kayak carts is that they have a low weight and can usually be folded up. On some models, the wheels can even be removed, which further reduces the pack size. In this way, a kayak cart hardly takes up any space in the car.

In practice, aluminum has proven to be the best material for these carts. Aluminum kayak trolleys have the advantages of being stable, corrosion-resistant, and having a high payload.

It is also important to know that the kayak trolleys can be used in a variety of ways. With the help of these, other water sports equipment such as surfboards or SUP boards can be transported and kayak carts are also very practical when moving.

How to Tie a Canoe to a Car Without a Rack

Safety Considerations

Once the canoe(s) are firmly lashed down and are securely in place on the roof, the journey can begin. When driving canoes and kayaks on the roof of the car, you should check the load at regular intervals. At every stop, you should shake the boats and check whether they are still tight. 

The hatch covers should always be tight and ideally secured with an extra cord. Everyone knows the stories of lost hatch covers on the highway. There is also no speed limit for cars with boats on the roof. However, it doesn’t make sense to pound the track at top speed. This is dangerous, costs gasoline unnecessarily, and emits tons of additional pollutants. So drive relaxed and protect the environment. Recommended speed of 65 mph or 130km/h is usually sufficient. 

Meanwhile, if you have a truck and decided to transport your canoes with kayak racks, there are a few things to consider.

Always remove the roof rack from the vehicle after use. Because even without kayaks on the roof, roof racks increase wind resistance and thus fuel consumption.

Final Thoughts

Many people like to take advantage of the hot, summer weather by taking canoe trips.  Canoeing can be a fun and relaxing way to spend your day or a vacation weekend. Fortunately, these days boats, canoes and kayaks can be brought from A to B without a lot of additional equipment. Transporting your canoes can be easily done, but it requires a lot of caution. When transporting your canoe, you must make sure that it is securely attached to the roof of your car so that it does not fall.  Tying up your canoe is quick and easy as long as you have the right equipment.  Even if you don’t have a roof rack, you can still transport your canoe. Our tips on how to tie a canoe to a car without a rack can help you avoid costs on a new roof rack, fixing the racks, and extra fuel consumption. 

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