How to Transport a Kayak on a Car Without Roof Rack

How to Transport a Kayak on a Car Without Roof Rack and Don’t have a roof rack? No problem! You can still transport your kayak safely for short trips using just foam blocks, cam straps, and rope. Getting your kayak to the water can be hard without a roof rack. Racks make it easy, but they’re expensive and need installation.

Transport a Kayak

What if there was a cheaper, easier way for short trips to nearby paddling spots?

I’ve tried transporting my kayak without a roof rack using just foam blocks, straps, and rope. I’ll share my tips and solutions so you can do it safely too.

This works best for short distances and little highway driving. For long trips or regular transport, it’s best to get a good roof rack.

Related Article: How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack

The DIY Kayak Roof Rack System

DIY Kayak Roof Rack System

You can easily and cheaply Transport a Kayak on your car without a roof rack by using foam blocks and racket straps.

First, cut some foam tubing into blocks and secure them to the roof of your car with duct tape. Space the foam blocks apart at the width of your kayak.

Next, run two racket straps over the kayak so they go under the foam blocks on each side. Tighten the straps to secure the kayak firmly on top of the foam blocks.

The foam blocks protect your car roof from getting scratched by the Transport a Kayak. And the racket straps hold everything in place. This DIY kayak rack works great for cars without roof rails. It’s a simple, affordable way to transport a kayak. Just check your local laws to make sure strapping items directly to your roof is allowed.

Kit List

You’ll need:

  • 4 ratchet straps
  • 2 foam tubes or foam blocks with a hole cut out (like pool noodles)
  • 1 tape measure
  • 1 small bow saw or hand saw


  • 4 straps that ratchet
  • 2 foamy tubes or blocks (like pool noodles)
  • 1 tape measure
  • 1 small saw

What You’ll Need

  1. Foam Padding – Use foam blocks or pool noodles, 2 for each kayak. Place one at the bow and one at the stern.
  2. Ratchet Straps – These allow you to tightly secure the kayak. Don’t use rope or knots which can loosen. Ratchet straps clamp tightly.
  3. Rope (optional) – While ratchet straps hold the kayak in place, rope tied to the handles provides extra stability.

The key materials are foam blocks for padding and ratchet straps to firmly fasten the kayak. The foam protects the car and kayak. The ratchet straps keep the Transport a Kayak securely fixed in place during transport. The rope gives added peace of mind but is optional.

What is a Ratchet strap?

Ratchet strap

Ratchet straps are used to secure loads on vehicles during transportation. They have an adjustable ratchet buckle that lets you tighten the strap.

Many people struggle with using the ratchet buckle properly. Here are some tips:

  • Thread the strap correctly through the openings in the ratchet buckle. Don’t crisscross it or thread it backward.
  • To tighten the strap, flip the ratchet lever up and down. This will incrementally tighten the strap with each pump.
  • To loosen the strap, push the release tab on the side of the ratchet buckle. This will allow the strap to be pulled back out.
  • Don’t try to force or pry the ratchet buckle open. Just use the release tab.
  • Make sure the strap is pulled tightly across the load before tightening with the ratchet lever.

Following these simple guidelines will make ratchet straps easier to use and ensure your load is properly secured.

How to Tread and Tighten a Ratchet Strap

To use a ratchet correctly follow this 5-step guide

  1. Open the top of the ratchet buckle so it releases away from you.
  2. Thread the strap through the slot in the buckle. The strap should loop back onto itself.
  3. Pull the strap through the slot to tighten it.
  4. Pump the ratchet lever up and down to further tighten the strap.
  5. When the strap is tight, close the top of the ratchet buckle. It will click locked.
  6. To loosen, push the release tab on the side of the buckle.
  7. Open the top of the buckle and pull the strap back through the slot.

The key things to remember are threading the strap correctly, tightening it with the ratchet lever, and using the release tab to loosen it. Following these simple steps makes using ratchet straps easy.

How to Release a Ratchet Strap

To release a ratchet correctly follow this 2-step process

  • Pull the release tab and hold it to unlock the ratchet.
  • When it’s open, take off the strap by pulling it away.

Step 1 – Is My Car Suitable for This Roof Rack Method?

You need a 4-door car or truck. Lay the pool noodles across the width of the roof between the front and back doors. This creates your DIY roof rack.

Make sure there is at least 6 inches of space between the pool noodles and the edges of the roof. This is because most car roofs curve down at the edges. You want to avoid that curve to ensure the noodles stay securely in place.

Run the ratchet straps over the pool noodles and through the inside of the car. Tighten the straps to hold the noodles firmly in place as your roof rack. The goal is to create a flat, secure surface across the width of the roof using the pool noodles. Leaving 6 inches from the edges avoids any curved areas and allows you to tighten down the noodles safely.

Step 2 –Noodle length

Noodle length
  • Measure the width of your Transport a Kayak.
  • Add 6 inches to the kayak width. This gives the minimum length of the pool noodles.
  • For example, if your kayak is 30 inches wide, the pool noodles should be at least 36 inches long (30 + 6 = 36).
  • This allows 3 inches of space on each side of the kayak when strapped to the noodles.
  • It also keeps the noodles 6 inches from the edges of the roof.
  • If the pool noodles are shorter than needed, cut them to the right length.
  • If they are too short, you can join two together side by side with duct tape.

The key is ensuring the noodles are long enough to fit your kayak with 3 inches of space on each side. Measuring the Transport a Kayak width plus 6 inches gives the minimum noodle length.

How to Transport Two Kayaks without a Roof Rack?

If you have room for more than one kayak on your roof, use individual noodles for each Transport a Kayak. This makes positioning them easier.

Measure and cut each noodle to fit its kayak:

  • Noodle 1 length = Kayak 1 width + 6 inches
  • Noodle 2 length = Kayak 2 width + 6 inches

Be sure the total length of all the noodles combined doesn’t exceed the width of your roof.

Customizing each noodle means you can snugly fit multiple kayaks side-by-side with a 3-inch gap between them.

Cutting pool noodles is easy using a basic handsaw or craft saw. Measure twice to get the size right. With properly sized noodles for each Transport a Kayak, you can create a custom rack that fits like a glove!

Step 2 – Secure the Pool Noodles to the Car

Tread the Pool Noodles

  • Push the end of the strap without the buckle into the hole of the pool noodle. You may need to use a stick or a rod to help you.
  • Pull the strap until the pool noodle is in the center of it.
  • Do the same thing for the other pool noodles and straps.

Position the Pool Noodles on the Car

Place the first noodle/strap set across the roof, making sure it lines up with the middle of the front doors.

  • Check that the noodle covers the roof evenly from side to side.
  •  Thread the ratchet straps through the car’s body.
  • Do the same for the second noodle or pair of noodles.

Tighten Straps

Sit in the car and pass the ratchet strap through.

  • Pull it by hand, making sure the buckle sits at the center of the car. This prevents the strap from getting in the way of the driver or passenger.
  • Once it’s in place, gently use the ratchet to tighten the strap and secure the pool noodles to the car. Be careful not to make it too tight, as it might damage the noodle. The right tightness is when the noodle doesn’t move easily by hand.
  • Repeat this process for the second noodle or pair of noodles.

Step3 – Load the kayak onto the Roof Rack

  • I am very tall and heavy, so I can put a kayak on top of my car easily. But not everyone can do that.
  • If you can, find another person who kayaks or a friend to help you lift the kayak. It is like asking for help at the gym, most people will say yes. And, you can help them too when they need it.
  • I will tell you a very easy way to do it by yourself if you can’t lift the kayak over your head.

Lifting a kayak on your own

  1. Lay an old blanket on the roof edges to protect the paint.
  2. Place the kayak parallel to the car about a kayak length away. Center it with the front rack.
  3. Standing at the bow, lift the front and walk under the kayak until it’s over your head.
  4. Turn the kayak 90 degrees and lay the bow on the front foam blocks.
  5. With the roof supporting the weight, go to the stern.
  6. Lift and push the stern onto the rear foam blocks.
  7. Turn the kayak 90 degrees to align with the car.
  8. Remove the protective blanket.
  9. Attach and tighten the ratchet straps over the kayak securely.

This step-by-step method allows you to safely lift and rotate the kayak into place. Positioning it properly on the foam blocks distributes the weight before strapping it down tight.

Step 4 – How to Secure the Kayak to the Rack/Car

 Secure the Kayak to the Rack
  1. Open both front doors.
  2. Lay one strap over the kayak lined up with the front noodle.
  3. Spread the strap evenly across the width of the car.
  4. Thread the strap through the front doors.
  5. Sitting inside, pull the strap through and center the buckle.
  6. Tighten the strap with the ratchet, but don’t overtighten.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 for the rear strap and back doors.
  8. Check that the kayak doesn’t move side-to-side or front-back.
  9. If it does, tighten the front and back straps a little more until there is no kayak movement.

The goal is to evenly distribute the straps across the width of the car and tighten just enough to secure the kayak firmly without crushing it. Start loose and tighten as needed for a safe DIY rack!

How to Transport a Kayak Without a Roof Rack – Wrapping Things Up

  • I hope this guide helped you learn how to carry a kayak without a roof rack. You might think it’s a good and cheap solution, but it’s not better than a roof rack system. A roof rack system costs more and takes more time to set up, but it saves you gas money when you drive with a kayak on top of your car.
  • But this DIY roof rack is still useful and I like it. It has helped me a lot when I needed it. You should try it too.
  • And if you want to know other ways to carry a kayak without a roof rack, you can also use a kayak trailer. A kayak trailer is a good option if you have other things to carry, like bikes, boards, or bikes. You can read our reviews of kayak trailers if you are interested. I think you are.


Yes, you can transport kayaks without a roof rack by using foam blocks or noodles to cushion the kayak on the roof of your car. Secure the kayak using straps passed through the car’s interior to hold it in place.

Yes, you need a roof rack for a kayak. A roof rack is the safest and most convenient way to transport a kayak on top of your vehicle. You should also use a cockpit cover, straps, and pads to secure and protect your kayak during transport.

The best way to carry a kayak in a car depends on the type of car, the size of the kayak, and the frequency of transport. Generally, a roof rack with suitable mounts or cradles is the safest and most convenient option.

 However, if you don’t have a roof rack or rails, you can also use foam blocks, straps, and tie-downs to secure your kayak to the car roof12. Alternatively, you can use a trailer, a truck bed, or even a bike to transport your kayak, depending on your preferences and budget

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