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Let me tell y’all about a story of a lad with a kayaking ambition beyond the stars but, unfortunately, not a single brain cell to figure out how to make the sport work with his lifestyle. Yea, that’s the story of my life!

Unless or until you’re an expert at kayaking and can tell the difference between a paddleboard and a kayak… you probably don’t have designated gadgets or gear on you at all times to handle your kayaking interests.

A kayak carrier for trucks is one of the first things you should consider purchasing after buying your kayak, as it will make your life a whole lot easier. Where was this advice when I needed it, huh?

But if you don’t have the funds or vehicle type to accommodate a roof rack, don’t worry! I gotcha!

You can still easily transport up to 2 kayaks on your car with some essential items you can get from any of those everyday hardware stores.

Overview of a Roof Rack

travel rack for car

Usually, when it comes to transferring your kayaks from one point to another, people like to utilize their truck bed as that is known to be the most convenient way of transporting kayaks in truck.

But if you don’t have that luxury of an asset… what then? You can’t possibly throw away your entire dream of kayaking just because you don’t know how to transport 2 kayaks without a roof rack!


There is a nifty and highly manageable workaround that can help you transport two kayaks without anything, but some basic supplies you can get at any of your local hardware stores.

What You Require for Transporting Kayaks Without a Roof Rack

Roof racks are both expensive and require quite a bit of semi-permanent installation. And honestly, if I could do without a roof rack and still manage to execute my kayak transportation method effortlessly… then why not, right? Follow the below steps and get the right equipment, and your bank account can thank me later.

Pool Noodles

First on the list of affordable items you need for transporting kayaks without a roof rack are pool noodles. You can find these possibly everywhere, and you will need 2-3 full-sized ones. I recommend ones that are at least 3.5 inches thick in diameter.

using a roof rack

Cam Straps

Once more, I must stress that ratchet straps should not be your selected choice. Cam straps measuring 20 feet in length are necessary for successfully transporting kayaks without a roof rack. You will need at least 4 of them, but I suggest getting 6 to keep a margin for extra adjustable buckles you may need.

vehicle roof rack

In addition to them, I like to also keep enough rope in my car at all times to help fasten the bow and stern of the kayak to the front and rear bumpers of my car. Oh, and don’t forget a bungee cord.

A spare bungee cord helps in times of emergency or mishap when one of your straps malfunctions or you need a firmer, tighter, and more durable strap option.

Stainless Steel Poles

Of course, the pool noodles will need some reinforcing as they are in themselves very lightweight and can’t withhold the weight of kayaks atop them. That is why you also need 2 stainless steel poles (or if you increase the number of pool noodles you use, accordingly increase the stainless steel poles too) to insert them into each pool noodle.

car roof accessories

In accordance with the thickness of your pool noodles, you should purchase steel poles that are a tad lower in diameter. For example, if your pool noodles are 3.5 inches thick, then your poles should not be more than 3 inches thick.

How to Transport Two Kayaks Without a Roof Rack

Read the following steps for an effortless method of transporting kayaks.

Get the Pool Noodles Ready

what are roof racks for

Pull out your measuring tapes, folks! We’ll be speaking in numbers from hereon. Place your noodles on a flat surface to get an accurate reading and measure their length.

Next, go to your car and measure the roof width. I’m sure you get what we’re getting at here. Basically, your pool noodles’ length should match the width of your roof. But don’t worry if you’re packing some extra inches on your noodle! Simply snip off the excess!

It’s a different story if your noodle is too short to stretch across the roof. If the difference is substantial… get yourself new noodles. If it’s maybe an inch or two short, you’re good to go!

What we’re getting at here is achieving enough pool noodle space to fit two kayaks side by side on top of them. And the kayaks should NOT be touching your car roof, or you’ll be dealing with some nasty scratches and a need for a new paint job. Using foam blocks also helps!

If you must… slap a noodle right in the middle of the other two! Whatever gets the job done.

Attach the Noodles to the Roof of Your Vehicle

For this step, you will need to situate your two pool noodles atop your car’s roof and insert your cam straps inside of them. Each cam strap that you thread inside the pool noodle should have an equal amount of length on either side.

After inserting the straps inside the pool noodles, there should be enough space to pipe your stainless steel poles through.

use foam blocks & ratchet straps

The advantage of using strong stainless steel poles in this situation is that even if they have some extra length, then so be it. This will help in a situation where the kayak transportation needs a bit more room. As long as the steel poles don’t jutt too far out and interfere with the road space of other drivers.

The last step you should take before securing your pool noodles to the roof is to ensure they are well-spaced apart. Generally, a distance of 24-48 inches should exist between each noodle; however, this can vary with different vehicles and their roof length, as well as the dimensions of your kayaks.

Put Your Kayaks on the Pool Noodles

From here starts the easy procedure of how to transport two kayaks without a roof rack. If you follow the steps one by one and without panicking, your work will be done quickly and efficiently. All you have to do is start off by flipping both your kayaks face down so they are cockpit side down.

car luggage rack

After flipping them upside down, lift and place them gently atop your pool noodle setup. If you find it difficult lifting the kayaks on your own, then remember teamwork makes the dream work! Grab a buddy because you could use the extra hand.

After placing both kayaks side by side on your car’s roof, you have to guarantee that they are well aligned. To do that, you can check if both cockpits are aligned between the noodles. Now onto step number 4!

Secure the Kayaks Using Cam Straps

After both kayaks are set in place atop your vehicle, you can open your car doors and run the cam straps inside under the roof. Now, tighten the straps until you can guarantee that the kayaks do not shift up, down, or to the side.

Next, you want to run an additional two cam straps over the top of your kayaks around the same areas where the pool noodles are located.

roof bars for cars

Once more, these straps will run their course inside the vehicle, so make sure your doors are open and you can fasten the strapping inside with the doors closing easily.

If this is your first time kayaking and transporting, then you might want to make a test run to both give yourself the assurance and guarantee that the kayaks are properly secured.

Without a car roof rack, you will have to set things in motion in an old-fashioned way. This pool noodle method functions, unlike other methods, with the help of your car’s doors, practically sealing the straps in and ensuring they don’t move.

Secure the Bow and Stern of the Kayaks

Lastly, if you think your kayaks still need a bit more support even after all the fastening and strapping, then use a length of rope to fasten their bows and sterns to your car’s hood and bumper. Long kayaks generally do give their owners a tad bit of anxiety when you come to transport two kayaks without a designated roof rack.

vehicle roof rack

Locate your kayaks’ toggle handles, as they make for very strong and reliable anchor points, and run a rope through those to fasten to your bumper. Some cars have hooks located below their bumpers that are very handy in such situations.

Fundamental Kayak Transportation Rules

Follow these golden rules for impeccable transportation of your equipment.

Instead of Ratchet Strap, Use Cam Straps

Ratchet straps are limiting and not preferred for plenty of reasons. The first reason is that they allow a lot of constriction that is both unnecessary and damaging to the kayak’s body.

motor vehicle carrying rack accessories

Secondly, and most importantly, due to their highly rigid and constricting nature, ratchet straps are more likely to break and wear down over a short period of time.

Cam straps are preferred due to their flexible and adjustable buckles that do not tighten too far. Moreover, they offer a lot more longevity than ratchet straps, as I have personally been using mine for over 3 years now.

adding roof rack to car

Although I must mention that if you see any fraying along the sides of cam straps that you have used for at least a year or two, it is time to say goodbye to those!

With a ratchet strap, you might find yourself needing to buy a fresh dozen every 6-8 months. The reason behind that is that ratchet straps are not designed for such heavy-duty work where there may be a fair amount of jostling and bumping.

Avoid Over-tightening the Straps

A common misunderstanding among kayakers is that the more you over-tighten the straps around the kayak, the better it will stay in place during a long car ride. Well, that is both harmful and wrong.

The trick isn’t to over-tighten the straps as MUCH as you can, as that could potentially damage the kayak’s body, and any abrupt or sudden motions could make the strap cut into the kayak.

The cam straps you use should be snugly fitted on the body of the kayak in a manner that the kayak can’t move back and forth while the car is in motion. However, after you have secured the kayak, if you place your hands underneath it and tug upwards a little, and it lifts… that’s not supposed to happen!

kayak on truck

That could result in a disaster if you need to brake suddenly, and the next thing you know, your kayaks are either inside on your car’s hood or have found their way inside the car in front of you.

When learning how to transport 2 kayaks without a roof rack, it is essential to heed that the kayak shouldn’t bounce around its place. That only leads to damage and constant annoyance during your driving. So, remember to keep the straps easily secure but don’t pull at them too hard.

Verify Everything Twice

Hey, we’re only human! Sometimes we can forget a thing or two in the rush of things. That’s why when you’re all set… you’re not! You absolutely have to go over everything a second time after you think you’ve done everything the right way.

Sometimes, even if you have done everything right, the straps could malfunction or snap. The equipment could get dislodged, and you might not have caused that directly… but it happens!

The easiest way to transport kayaks and make it more fun and enjoyable is to get yourself a kayaking partner, someone who could do half the work and you the other. Then when it’s time to double-check, you could go over each other’s work. Remember that the sport is supposed to be fun and the buildup to it even more enjoyable.

You can also explore the options for the best 2-person inflatable kayaks and enjoy the wonderful activity of kayaking with your companion. Experience the thrill and adventure together on the water.

Why Getting Roof Racks Are a Good Idea Though

Although I’ve just walked you through an excellent way to transport two kayaks on the roof of your car without needing any additional fixtures or installations to your vehicle, it is worth emphasizing here that a roof rack does serve a pretty handy purpose.

luggage rack car

Yes, they are an additional investment, but you have to understand they are worth it with the added security you get.

Securing a kayak without a roof rack is entirely doable, but when logically looking at it, it would be a lot easier and less anxiety-triggering to know that you are utilizing a fail-safe method like a roof rack to transport two kayaks.

When choosing a roof rack, you have to look into whether it is compatible with your type of vehicle or not. This is essentially what helps make the transporting of two kayaks easy over long distances.

Final Thoughts

In a world of opportunity, there is nothing but possibilities out there for you. With just the help of some basic equipment, you can easily transport up to 2 kayaks on your vehicle and keep your favorite hobby alive and thriving. Check out the review for Tucktec foldable kayak, a lightweight, portable, and easy-to-use option that makes storage and transport a breeze.

You can also learn how to tie your kayak to a roof rack if you already have one. That would make transportation even easier! Alternatively, you can opt for the best kayak trailers to make the entire process of transporting kayaks hassle-free and super convenient.

Categories: Kayaking


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