Last updated: June 20

How to Transport a Kayak Without a Roof Rack

Kayaking is a great hobby, but you do need a lot of things to feel prepared to go out and enjoy yourself. Kayaks aren’t simple to tote around if you don’t have the proper means to transport them. Not everyone owns a vehicle with a roof rack, so this can present problems when you desperately want to transport your kayak where it needs to go.

Looking for an Alternative

You’ll want to look for an alternative to transporting your kayak on a roof rack as most people usually do. Buying a new car with a roof rack is out of the question and getting a roof rack installed on your car isn’t practical to do at the moment either. This will leave you looking for intelligent ways you can get your kayak where you need it to go.

It’s possible to transport your kayak on top of your car without using a roof rack. This may sound ill-advised, but if you take the right precautions, it should be okay. Read on to discover how you can transport your kayak in this fashion.

Buy the Proper Materials

To transport your kayak on top of your car, you’ll need the proper materials to do the job. The most important thing for you to purchase will be tie-down straps. You’ll need around six to tie the kayak down properly.

With six tie-down straps, you’ll be able to secure the kayak to the top of your car nicely. It’s a good idea to buy straps that are rated highly and can handle a lot of weight. You should be able to find tie-down straps that can handle around 200 pounds and these will be perfect for what you’re doing here.

AUGO Ratchet Tie Down Straps –4 PK– 15 FT – 2,200 LB Break Strength – Safety Lock S Hooks...
  • TIE DOWN ANYTHING WITH CONFIDENCE | Pack of [4] 15 Ft Ratchet Strap Tie Downs Provides Durable, Dependable Security for Transporting a Variety of Small & Large Objects Including Motorcycle, Canoe, Kayak, ATV, Boxes, Boats, Furniture, Lawn Equipment, Heavy Machinery & Other Cargo Via Truck Bed, Trailer or Roof Rack
  • FORMIDABLE 2,200 POUND BREAK STRENGTH | Straps Feature High-Quality Material & Extra Stitching for Indestructible Performance, Even When Maneuvering Loads Amidst Harsh Wind & Excessive Motion | Official Load Capacity is 733 Lbs Per Ratchet with Incredible 2,200-Lb Break Strength, But Trust Us—They’re Even Stronger!
  • SECURE ‘S’ HOOKS WITH SAFETY LOCK | Secure Your Stuff Without Worrying About Damaging Tools or Vehicle Surfaces | Premium S Hooks are Rubber Coated to Prevent Chipped Paint, Marks & Dents—with Tough Safety Lock for Added Security | Easy-Grip Ratcheting Mechanisms Provide Excellent Control, Comfort & Grasp

Two of these tie-down straps should be overhaul straps. They will be going over the top of the kayak and then inside of your car. They’re an essential part of this task so get strong overhaul straps so you can secure your kayak tightly.

Aside from the tie-down straps, you’ll also need two pieces of foam to set the kayak on. Be able to find foam meant for holding a kayak in place. You can get something super high-quality like these, or just use some basic pool noodles and rig it up a bit.

SportRack Replacement Foam 18-Inch Kayak Block, Pack of 2, Grey
253 Reviews
SportRack Replacement Foam 18-Inch Kayak Block, Pack of 2, Grey
  • Replacement Foam for 18" Kayak Carrier
  • Two durable 18"-long closed cell foam blocks to protect kayak and vehicle
  • Non-skid underside to prevent movement on the vehicle

Either way, the foam is essential for keeping the kayak safe and also your car. You don’t want the kayak scraping up your car, so you need to buy the foam. You could probably get away with setting it on something else that would protect the car, but the foam will be the ideal choice.

Secure the Kayak to the Top of Your Car

The first thing you need to do is place the foam pads you bought earlier on top of your car. You then need to set the kayak on top of these foam pads. It’s possible that you may need a friend to hold the foam pads for you while you position the kayak.

This whole job will be much easier if you have two people. Sometimes you’ll need someone to balance the kayak while you’re trying to tie it down. It’s best to be prepared so ask a friend to assist you.

It should also be noted that you could fasten the foam pads to the top of the car. Some people like using tape for this, but it isn’t necessary as the weight of the kayak will hold the foam pads in place. It is up to your discretion on whether you want to secure the foam pads to the top of the car before proceeding.

Once the kayak is positioned properly on the foam pads, you need to throw the overhaul straps over the top. Throw them up and over the kayak and then position them inside of your car. Fasten the straps together and try to tighten them.

The straps should be able to cling tightly to the roof of your car if you did things properly. This shouldn’t prevent you from closing your door as the straps are rather thin. After making sure that it is tied down tightly, you can move on to putting your other straps on the kayak.

Put hook straps on the front of the kayak and the back of the kayak. Tying it down from the tip of the boat and then across the hood will allow you to ensure that it is very secure. Try to hook the strap to something secure underneath the car so that it will stay tied down well.

Do the same thing with the back of the boat. This won’t be too difficult, and you’ll be able to feel good knowing you took all necessary precautions. Just remember that it’s best to hook the strap to something underneath the car that is metal as it is more likely to stay secure than a flimsier plastic part.

With your remaining two straps, you can tie down the boat further as a precaution. Try to space out the straps around the kayak equally, so it is tied down at the most appropriate points. This will guarantee you a smooth ride to where you’re going with your kayak.


This method will allow you to easily transport your kayak without a roof rack. It can be a little tricky the first time you do it, but once you get used to strapping it down in this fashion, it becomes second nature. You don’t need a car with a roof rack to enjoy a kayaking adventure when you’re smart enough to improvise.

The materials you need to make this happen can be purchased inexpensively. It won’t take long to get your kayak secured very nicely when you have all of the right materials. You need to make sure that you aren’t buying poorly-made straps as that could throw a huge monkey wrench into your well-laid-out plans.

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Always Make Sure You Have the Right Gear When You Go Kayaking