Picture this…you’re at Bass Pro Shop or some other sporting goods store and stumbled upon your dream kayak. You want to buy it, but realize that you don’t have a roof rack on your car. What do you do? How will you get it home?
There are several ways to transport a kayak when you don’t have a roof rack on your car or SUV. The easiest way, most secure way to haul your kayak around is to purchase a universal soft roof rack system. Another option would to use pool noodles and a couple of tie straps.
In this article I’m going to give you a few ideas on how to transport a kayak without a roof rack, including my number one recommended soft roof rack system, as well as how to use pool noodles in a pinch.
Best Way to Transport a Kayak Without a Traditional Roof Rack
If your car/SUV doesn’t have a standard roof rack, and you don’t intend on buying one, then I recommend that you go with a removable roof rack system.
They are much more secure than the “pool noodle method” and will allow you to transport a larger kayak.
There are several of these types of soft rack systems on the market, ranging in price from around $30 to just over $100.
Here is a list of a few of the different types:
- Yakima Easy Top Instant Roof Rack
- RORAIMA Universal Folding Roof Rack
- Pelican Boats Universal Kayak Roof Rack
- Seattle Sports NO SKID Universal Roof Rack
My personal favorite is the Yakima Easy Top Instant Roof Rack. I tried a few of the cheaper versions when I first bought my kayak, but had to constantly pull over on the side of the road and readjust my kayak. I was almost ready to buy a traditional roof rack but decided to give the Yakima a try.
So far it’s performed extremely well!
DIY Pool Noodle Roof Rack
If you want a temporary roof rack and don’t want to spend too much money, you can utilize two old pool noodles and a few tie down straps.
While it’s not the most secure way to travel with a kayak (especially if you have a large kayak), it can certainly get from point a to point b. I actually used this method when I bought my first kayak from Bass Pro Shop.
It’s a pretty simple process actually!
First, you cut the pool noodles slightly shorter than the width of your car/SUV’s roof.
Next, you’ll insert a tie down strap through each of the pool noodles and run the straps through the inside of your car and pull tight to secure.
Finally, place your kayak on top of the noodles and secure it with the remaining straps. You’ll also want to run each of these straps through the inside of your car and pull tight.
Some people don’t secure the pool noodles with straps, but simply place them on the roof and after loading their kayak, they will strap both at once with two straps.
Keep in mind that I don’t recommend this method for transporting a kayak for long distances and at high speeds.
Utilize Your Hatchback and/or Third Row Seating
Another option for transporting your kayak without a roof rack is to make use of your hatchback or third row seat if you happen to drive an SUV.
This probably won’t work for longer kayaks (over 12 ft) but if you have a shorter kayak, it could be a great alternative to buying a roof rack.
Keep in mind though that while you will be saving a little money, you will be losing space in your car.
Is It Safe to Transport a Large Kayak With a Soft Roof Rack
As I stated above, I wouldn’t try and haul a large kayak on your roof with pool noodle setup, but it’s perfectly okay if you opt for a soft roof rack such as the Yakima that I recommended.
With that being said, if you only live a couple of miles from where you plan on launching your kayak, then pool noodles will be fine regardless of the weight of your kayak.
Just remember to drive slow, and try to avoid making extreme turns and stops!
How to Load a Kayak Without a Traditional Roof Rack
Another thing to keep in mind is that before you can transport your kayak, you first have to load it.
If you have a small, lightweight kayak that you can easily lift by yourself, or you have a buddy that you usually go kayaking with, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
However, if you have a kayak that’s on the heavy side, then you’ll need to think about this a little bit more. The reason being is that soft roof racks tend to move out of position when you try and slide your kayak on them, which in most cases you will need to do if you are having to load it by yourself.
There are various methods individuals can implement if they are loading a heavy kayak by themselves. However, most of these methods are used when there is a traditional roof rack present.
Now that’s not to say that it can’t be done with a soft roof rack, it just means that there needs to be a little more planning.
For example, here is a guy who is using a bath mat to load his kayak on a soft roof rack.
Can You Transport 2 Kayaks With Soft Roof Racks
Assuming you’re not traveling long distances, and your kayaks are not big then yes, you can transport two kayaks with only a soft roof rack.
If the kayaks are a reasonable width, it’s possible to place them side by side on top of your roof. You might need extra long tie down straps in order to properly secure them.
Another method would be to place them on top of one another. For this method you’ll also need extra long straps.
I personally don’t think that there is an advantage to doing one or the other.
Since you have two kayaks, I’ll assume that you have someone else going with you, so loading them shouldn’t be a problem.
I can’t stress this enough, but these methods are for traveling short distances at low speeds!
If you plan on going long distances at high speeds on interstates and highways, then you need to invest in a traditional roof rack.
Just because you don’t your car/SUV didn’t come with a traditional roof rack doesn’t mean you can travel with a kayak. It also doesn’t mean that you have to pay lots of money to have a roof rack installed.
For some, they might be able to fit their kayak into their hatchback car. For others with SUVs, you might be able to get away with folding down the rear passenger seats and sliding the kayak in.
However, most will need to either use a few pool noodles for a DIY roof rack or purchase a quality soft roof rack such as the Yakima Easy Top Roof Rack system.