How to Transport a Kayak Without a Roof Rack

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
Reviewed By
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 16, 2023
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Kayaking is a great way to increase your endurance, build your core muscles and strengthen your arms and legs. It can also be a fantastic way to unwind from the stresses of the modern world. Whether you enjoy kayaking down rivers or hitting the beach, you can get out into the great outdoors and take your stress levels down a notch or two.

In fact, for these reasons, kayaking is becoming an increasingly popular hobby. Over 200,000 kayaks Trusted Source Total number of kayaks sold in the U.S. from 2001 to 2013 The timeline depicts how many kayaks were sold in each year from 2000 to 2013. In 2010, a total of 228,000 kayaks were sold in the United States, a decrease of 10.2 percent compared to the previous year. are sold every year in the US alone. However, before you can get off the beaten track, you will need to be able to transport your kayak to your desired location.

If you don’t have a roof rack on your vehicle, you don’t need to panic. There are still some simple ways of how to transport a kayak without a roof rack. Here we’ll explore these methods, so you can find the best one for your needs.

Way 1. With pool noodles

How to Transport a Kayak Without a Roof RackOne of the best methods of how to transport 1 or 2 kayaks without a roof rack is using pool noodles. You can use pool noodles to create a temporary kayak carrier.

The best pool noodles provide sufficient thickness to protect your vehicle roof without being overly bulky. While this will not have the same functionality as a kayak rack for a truck or car, it can be an inexpensive way to transport your kayak safely.

Place the noodles approximately 24 inches apart, with one at the front, one at the rear and one in the middle. Three should be sufficient, but if you prefer, you can use more noodles.

The great thing is that you can trim the noodles using scissors, so they align with the width of your vehicle. Run a ratchet strap through the noodle holes and secure them inside your car. Just make sure you do this through the open doors, as if you use the windows, the doors will not be able to open.

Once you have the noodles in place, you can lift the kayak or kayaks on to your car. For the steadiest fit, put the kayak hull side up on the noodles. You can then put the ratchet straps over the hull and hook the straps together, so the kayak is held in place. Don’t over tighten your straps, or you could damage the hull.

You can then tie down the stern and bow of the kayak. Pass a tie down strap through the kayak grab handle and secure it to the towing eyes near the rear bumper and below the bonnet.

Way 2. With foam blocks

How to Transport a Kayak Without a Roof RackAnother method of how to safely transport a kayak is to use foam blocks. These are similar to using pool noodles, but they offer greater stability. Of course, this does come at a cost and foam blocks can be far more expensive compared to basic pool noodles.

You can even purchase foam blocks with a slit that makes it easier to pass a strap through them.

Fortunately, the method of how to transport a kayak with foam blocks is easy. Place two blocks on your car roof, one at the front and one at the rear of your roof. You can then place the kayak on the blocks. If you want to transport two kayaks, you’ll need four blocks. So, put them at equal distances, so the kayaks have sufficient space to be secured without rubbing against each other.

Open your car doors and run the straps around the kayaks, securing them inside your vehicle. You can use more straps if you feel the kayaks are not stable enough. Ideally, there should be no movement, as you don’t want your kayak to slip as you’re driving on the highway.

Way 3. Use a kayak trailer

How to Transport a Kayak Without a Roof RackIf you’re not sure about putting your kayak on your car roof, consider using a kayak trailer. This is a little more sophisticated than a kayak cart. Like carts, kayak trailers are close to the ground, so you don’t need to worry about lifting your kayak over your head.

There are trailer models to suit all requirements, including trailers that can transport two kayaks. If you have sufficient room in your garage, you could even use the trailer instead of purchasing a kayak rack.

There are some advantages to using a trailer as your solution to how to transport a kayak on a car. Unlike mounting them on the roof, there is less wind resistance, so you won’t compromise your gas mileage. Or, your roof will be free to hold other vacation items.

You’ll need to shop around to find the right trailer for your kayak needs. Think about how many kayaks you want to transport, your vehicle towing capacity and your budget.

Once you’ve chosen your trailer, you’ll just need to attach it to the vehicle and place your kayak on it. Many trailers come with straps to secure kayaks, so check the trailer manual to ensure that your kayak is fully secure for your journey.

If you’re not used to towing, you’ll need to familiarize yourself before you set off. Remember that towing a kayak trailer will impact your vehicle turning circle and your vehicle clearance. So, take your time to ensure that you stay safe.

Way 4. Buy an inflatable roof rack

How to Transport a Kayak Without a Roof RackThe final method of how to transport a kayak without a roof rack is to buy an inflatable roof rack. These products are convenient and offer a temporary roof rack that you can install and take off your vehicle as and when necessary.

Inflatable roof racks are universal, so you don’t need to purchase a specific aftermarket product for your vehicle make and model. The racks are easy to remove, yet they are inflatable to provide sufficient protection for both your vehicle roof and your kayaks.

Another advantage of an inflatable roof rack is that you can easily store it when it is not in use. You can deflate the rack and some models even have a travel bag to store the rack and any associated gear. So, you can keep the rack in your car truck, so you have it on hand, yet don’t need to worry about it being stolen when you’re out on your kayak. You can simply remove it and deflate it, locking it safely in your trunk.

Inflatable roof racks can work with any SUV, car or truck, providing it doesn’t already have built in crossbars installed. This can provide a robust, temporary solution for your vehicle that is user friendly. You can install it in minutes without the need for any tools.

Most models are supplied with everything you need to set up and use your rack. This includes durable rack tubes, anchor points and full instructions. Many racks are also rated to hold up to 200 pounds of weight, so they can handle one or two kayaks, plus some additional gear.

All you need to do is unroll the bars and lay them out in position on your vehicle roof. Strap them in place before you inflate them. The rack is then ready to use as you would a conventional roof rack.

Of course, you’ll need to make sure that your kayaks are fully secure before you set off. The last thing you want is for your kayak to slip off the roof as you’re hitting the open road on your way to the beach. So, you will still need to use straps and bungee cords or rope to ensure that your kayak will not shift during transit.

Final thoughts

Kayaking can be a wonderful hobby. It is not only great for improving your endurance and boosting your cardiovascular health, but it can offer superb stress relief. Of course, these stress busting benefits can quickly be negated if you don’t know how to transport a kayak without a roof rack.

If you’ve already purchased a kayak, but don’t want to pay for a costly new roof rack, don’t worry. With these methods you can safely transport your kayak with the minimum of fuss. With a choice of four different methods, you can choose the one that best suits your preferences, budget and skills. If you’re confident about using straps and rope, using pool noodles is a relatively inexpensive way to transport one or two kayaks. However, if you struggle lifting a kayak, you may prefer to use a kayak trailer. This will allow you to wheel your kayak right down to the river bank or shore line.

So, take a few moments to think about which method is best for you, then you can relax and enjoy making the most of your new kayak.


Total number of kayaks sold in the U.S. from 2001 to 2013
The timeline depicts how many kayaks were sold in each year from 2000 to 2013. In 2010, a total of 228,000 kayaks were sold in the United States, a decrease of 10.2 percent compared to the previous year.
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