How to Transport a Kayak Without a Roof Rack


Written by David Myers

October 10, 2019
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One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to owning a kayak is the storage and transportation to and from the lake or river you want to use it in. For many this will stop them buying a kayak altogether, as the easiest solution is to buy a roof rack for your car, however retrofitting one to your car can cost a lot of money and for a lot of people is too costly. In this article, we are going to explain a few methods you can use to transport your kayak without the massive costs that come from installing a roof rack.

Buying an inflatable kayak instead of a hard body kayak

An easy way to get rid of the transportation issue with kayaks is to purchase an inflatable kayak instead of a hard body kayak. Inflatable kayaks can be folded down very small and fit in the boot of almost any car. On top of that, you can even take them camping with you if you want. They’re light and small enough to fit in a backpack.

Typically, inflatable kayaks only come in the ‘sit on top’ variety, so that’s worth considering. If you prefer sit-in kayaks then this is not a good option for you. If you’ve got your heart set on a sit-in kayak then this solution won’t suit you.

The pool noodle method

If you have your heart set on a rigid body kayak, but still don’t want to shell out for the cost of a proper roof rack then there’s a good DIY method that uses pool noodles and ratchet straps to secure your kayak safely to the top of your car.

Firstly, you will need to buy two pool noodles (the foam floats that kids use in pools to help them learn to swim) and two ratchet straps. Pool noodles can be picked up for about $10 for a pair, and ratchet straps aren’t much more expensive. You can get ratchet straps from any good hardware store, and pool noodles can be bought online quite easily.

Next, you want to put the two pool noodles on top of your car. They should be running across the roof of your car, from end to end. The first pool noodle should be in line with your front two doors, and the second pool noodle should be in line with your back two doors.

Then you want to place your kayak on top of the car so that the stern is pointing towards the hood of your car, and the bow is pointing towards the trunk of your car.

After that, you’ll need to open all your cars doors and apply the ratchet straps. They will go in one door, out the opposite door, around the kayak, and then back in the original door. Then you will ratchet them until the kayak is pushed up tight against the roof. You will do this for both the front and back pair of doors.

If possible, thread the straps through any holes or gear loops present on your kayak. This will just give you an extra level of protection.

Once they’re ratcheted down tight, and you’ve checked the kayak is nice and secure, you can close the doors and drive to the river!

We advise that you don’t go over 60mph with this setup.

The trunk method

Even quite small cars can have a surprisingly big trunk when all the seats are folded down. For this method, you want to fold all the seats down and then try and fit it in the back of your car. Odds are that it won’t completely fit, but if you then get some bungee cords from a hardware store you can close your trunk most of the way and fasten it shut with them. It’s not a pretty solution, but it might help you out if you’re in a bind.

Make sure you bring lots of towels if you’re thinking of using this method as you’ll want your kayak to be as clean and water-free as possible if you’re planning to transport it inside of your car.

Just… Don’t transport it?

If you have a kayak club nearby then it might be worth becoming a member, as often membership will come with perks such as being able to leave the kayak in their secure storage area. This means you won’t have to transport it to the river in the first place!

There’s also a bunch of other perks that come with belonging to a kayak club, including free access to certain waterways, and reduced insurance premiums. So this is definitely an option worth thinking about.

Final thoughts

What method you’ll use above will mostly depend on your personal circumstances.

If you’ve not yet bought a kayak, then the inflatable kayak option is a great option which leaves you with lots of options in regards to where and when you can use your kayak. But inflatable kayaks aren’t for everyone, and lots of people prefer the hard-bodied variety.

If you’ve already bought your hardbody kayak, then the pool noodle method will certainly get the job done. Just make sure you drive at a moderate pace and make sure you’ve ratcheted down the straps as much as possible. But be careful not to do them too tight or you could cause your roof to bend. There’s a sweet spot. Luckily kayaks are naturally quite aerodynamic, so there shouldn’t be too much air drag on them while you’re driving.

And if you’ve not yet purchased your kayak, then the kayak club method of just having your kayak always near where you want to use it is also a great option. If you’re buying online it’s even possible to get it delivered straight to the club, although you should make sure this is okay with them first so that they’re expecting the delivery.

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