So you just got a new (or used) kayak & you can’t wait to get it out on the water. The only problem? You need to get it there first, and you don’t have a roof rack yet! No worries, we’ll show you how to transport a kayak without a roof rack. This trick is handy in a pinch, but we don’t necessarily recommend strapping a kayak to a car without a rack.
We are always going to recommend that you use a dedicated roof rack with a kayak rack attachment to transport a kayak, but we totally understand that it isn’t always possible. Maybe you simply didn’t have the cash to get a set of universal cross bars, or maybe you just need a temporary solution to get it home until you get your kayak racks in the mail. This is where the old pool noodle trick comes in handy!
Note: We are not recommending this for nicer vehicles like your brand new Subaru. This method is cheap and effective is you need to transport a kayak without a roof rack, but you do run the risk of scratching your vehicle. It is also a less secure method than using a roof rack specifically made for kayaks. Be smart, and be safe when you are going to transport a kayak without a rack.
Step 1: Setting Up Your Pool Noodle Kayak Carrier
As weird as it sounds, this really does work. You’re going to want to make sure that you use heavy-duty pool noodles though. You don’t want them to compress too much & risk scratching your vehicle.
Place the pool noodles on the roof of your car. You should put one near the front, one in the middle and one near the back. You can use more if you want extra padding but you’ll probably find that 3 will be enough. The front and rear pool noodle should always be at least 24 inches apart, just like a normal roof rack.
The noodles are more than likely going to be wider than the width of your car. Simply trim them to size using scissors or a knife (and we shouldn’t need to even say this, but be careful & don’t cut yourself).
You’re going to end up running a ratchet strap through the hole of each of the pool noodles. Once you have that done, open your car doors and secure the strap around the roof of your vehicle (meaning the inside). Didn’t open the car doors first & ran the straps through the window? Congratulations, you just “strapped” yourself out of your car because now your doors won’t open!
Step 2: Put Your Kayak On Your Car
We’d recommend doing this with two people to make this easier & avoid scratching your car, but it’s doable with just one person as well. If you’re going to transport a kayak without a roof rack, it is best to place it upside down on your car. It is going to be more stable that way, as the wind will actually help press the kayak onto the roof of the car. If the kayak is right side up, the wind will try to lift the kayak off of your vehicle.
After you’ve got your kayak resting on top of the noodles, readjust the noodles to make sure they are situated properly.
Step 3: Secure It With Your Ratchet Straps
You should have two ratchet straps left, and the front and back doors of your car should be open. Secure the front-center portion of your kayak by putting the strap over the body, so that you have the ends of the straps on either side of your car. Grab the two strap ends and have them hook together inside your car through the front doors.
Our recommendation is to have the ratchet portion inside of the vehicle to give yourself the least chance of scratching your paint. A bit of a pro tip is to twist the ratchet strap once or twice between the kayak & the vehicle frame. This is going to significantly cut down on the wind noise against the strap.
You should then repeat this with the second strap being secured through the back doors of your car. Don’t tighten the ratchet straps too much, otherwise this could damage the hull of your yak or the roof of your car. You should always inspect the straps after the first few miles, especially if you just figured out how to transport a kayak without a roof rack. Small shifts in loads & repositioning of the straps can make the straps lose tension by giving it extra space.
Step 4: Tie Down The Bow And Stern
This is something that is often overlooked. You should always tie down the bow and stern of your kayak, especially if you are going to transport your kayak without a roof rack. You can do this with a variety of tie down straps.
Thread the straps through the front and back carry handles or toggles and secure each one to a tie-down spot underneath your car, either with a carabiner or a hook. If you have a towbar on the back, this can work well as a place to secure your strap.
Underneath the front of your car you should have tow points built-in, or towing eyes, designed for towing your car. These will work well for attaching the front straps.
How to Transport a Kayak Without a Roof Rack: Wrapping Things Up
As we mentioned before, we always recommend using a set of quality roof rack cross bars & a kayak rack to transport your kayak. This pool noodle kayak carrier trick will absolutely work in a pinch though. Always keep in mind that safety is important, as you don’t want your kayak flying off & seriously injuring someone behind you.
Now go have fun out there!