How To Tie Down A Kayak Without A Roof Rack


If you’re having a hard time finding a rack that fits the roof of your vehicle, then finding an alternative method to transport your kayak is your best shot.  Even if you’re planning to buy a rack soon, you’ll still need an easy way to transport your kayak for the time being. 

We understand how tricky it can be, especially with the fear that you might end up breaking your vessel or the roof of your car, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! 

Check out this easy guide on how you can secure your kayak on the roof of a vehicle without using a roof rack.

Required Tools 

Pool Noodles

You can easily find pool noodles in a variety of stores and supermarkets. They’re made of a type of plastic called “polyurethane” that’s known for its durability and softness, so it’s ideal for securing heavy objects without causing any scratches or abrasions.

Pool noodles are tube-shaped with central holes, which will help you fix them to the top of your car. When you’re buying your noodles, make sure to choose the thicker and heavier ones because they can withstand the weight of the kayak. Also, you should pick the larger noodles that can cover the entire roof of the vehicle.

Ratchet Straps (Cam Buckle)

Ratchet Straps are essential to keep the kayak in place as they’re made from hard-wearing nylon. They’re readily available in automotive and hardware stores. Consider getting five straps, at the least, to ensure that the kayak is secured in place.

Transporting the Kayak Without Using a Roof Rack 

1st Step: Fix The Pool Noodles Onto Your Car

The pool noodles are the base on which your kayak will rest. They’ll protect your roof from any damage resulting from the friction between the kayak and the surface of your vehicle while it’s moving. 

You can start by trimming the pool noodles so that they’re in perfect shape and size. They shouldn’t be protruding from any side, and they should be more or less aligned with the edges of the roof.

You’ll need three noodles, one in the front, the back, and the center. Place them next to each other with approximately 3 feet (35 inches) between every two noodles. If your roof is smaller, you’ll find yourself leaving less space. It’s worth mentioning, you can use more noodles if the roof is longer than average. 

Once you figure out where everything goes, use the ratchet straps to fix the noodles on top of your vehicle by running them through the central holes, then pass them through the doors to the inside of the car.

2nd Step: Put The Kayak On Top Of The Car

Now that you’ve secured the pool noodles, it’s time to put the kayak on the roof. Some kayaks are heavy, so you might need someone to help you with yours. 

The most important thing here is not to forget to turn the kayak upside down so that the cockpit is facing downward, and the hull is pointing to the sky.

As soon as you get the kayak on top of your vehicle, adjust the pool noodles so as to keep the kayak in place without damaging the roof or the unit. 

3rd Step: Tie Down The Kayak

Open the doors of the car and pass the ratchet straps over to fix the front and the back of the kayak. At this point, it’s better to twist the straps while passing them through in order to avoid the howling sound they make while you’re driving.

You can repeat the step as many times as you need to, just to make sure that the kayak is secured in place. However, don’t tighten the straps too much as this might damage the vessel as well as the roof. Also, you better keep the buckles within reach to quickly re-adjust the position of the kayak whenever needed without facing any difficulties.

Note that the climate affects the straps and can cause them to loosen more than they should sometimes. This is why it’s crucial to check that the kayak is fixed in place before you start driving and keep your eye on it while you’re on the road.

4th steps: Tie Down Both The Bow And The Stern

Now that the kayak is secured from both sides, it’s important to ensure that it won’t move forward or backward. To do so, you’ll need to use another set of ratchet straps that you attach to the carrying handles at the front and the rear. Fix the straps to the securing hooks so as to keep the kayak from bouncing if you needed to brake suddenly.

Important Tips:

  • Avoid keeping the kayak tied down for extended periods because it can permanently damage the vessel, especially if it’s flimsy or made of plastic.
  • With time, the ends of the ratchet straps start to wear out, making them harder to maneuver and pass through the buckle. In order to fix this, you can expose the ends to open flame so that the nylon melts and becomes easier to reshape. While doing so, make sure not to get your skin in direct contact with the hot straps to avoid getting burned.
  • It’s always safer to drive at a reasonable speed when you have such a heavy object tied to the top of your car. 

Final Words 

Getting a roof rack is more expensive than getting some extra gear that will help you fix the kayak on the roof of your vehicle and transport it to your favorite fishing spots. It won’t take long for you to master this if you follow these handy tips.