How To Tie A Canoe To A Car Without A Rack

Much like if you have a kayak, you’ll have the same transportation issues if you purchase a new canoe. Transporting from home to the water can be difficult if you look at transporting a canoe on car without rack.

Canoes can be slightly larger, so you could be stumped about how to carry these on your car. Luckily, it isn’t too hard to tie a canoe to a car, so it is safe as you travel. While a pickup truck could make things more straightforward, there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with a heavy canoe.

In our guide, you can learn several ways to carry your canoe on your car roof, whether you have roof racks or not. By the end, you’ll learn how to keep your canoe balanced and how easy it is for transporting canoe without roof rack. (Read Is It Safe To Kayak In Flood Water)

Tie A Canoe To A Car

How To Tie A Canoe To A Roof Rack

The best way to transport a canoe with a vehicle depends only on your vehicle type because there are several ways.

Long, hefty boats are ideal for transportation in pickup trucks, as they offer space and lots of tie-down points.

The best way to transport your canoe, though, is to hook it to your car’s roof or to a roof rack that is already there.

Using roof racks for canoe transportation eliminates the requirement for a canoe trailer or trailer hitch.

A properly fastened and tied-down heavy canoe on a roof rack also has less risk of shifting about.

You may safely secure a canoe to a roof rack by following the instructions below.

1. Lift Canoe Onto Rack

Load your canoe onto the vehicle’s rack by lifting it. For lower automobiles, you can load one yourself; however, if you have a taller vehicle or a heavy-weight canoe, it is safer and easier to do this with two people.

2. Protect Your Gunwales

Before attaching your canoe to your car, you can place cloth or foam blocks between the canoe’s gunwales and the vehicle’s racks. This will protect them from damage when you fasten them down tight.

Place the canoe upside down and ensure no parts of your canoe touch the roof of your car.

3. Spread The Balance Of Your Canoe

When you transport a canoe, this step is vital. To prevent the canoe from toppling forward or backward, position it on the crossbars, so it is evenly balanced.

The yoke should sit evenly positioned between your crossbars. Next, place the canoe straight and parallel to your vehicle. Doing this now means you won’t place any uneven pressure on one side of your boat during transit.

4. Place Cam Straps Across The Top

Throw the non-buckle end of your cam strap to the other side of the car while standing on the passenger side.

For attaching the canoe to each roof rack bar, repeat this process for both the front and rear straps.

5. Wrap The Straps And Pass Back

Wrap the strap over the roof rack bars on the driver’s side of the vehicle, then send the cam strap’s non-buckle side back to the passenger side. This should be done for the front and rear straps.

6. Wrap And Buckle Straps

To start tightening the cam strap, wrap the non-buckle end around the bar on the passenger side, up through the buckle, and then back down.

7. Tighten Your Straps

Since your canoe sits upside down when you transport them, the buckle near the bottom of the canoe is the highest point to start with. Therefore, before the buckle contacts the bar, you will have plenty of room to tighten the strap. (Find the Best Shoes For Kayaking)

Repeat with the front strap and the one at the other end toward the rear strap.

8. Tie Off Your Loose Ends

Tie off the loose ends of these straps once they are snug, so they don’t flap in the wind.

9. Tie Down the Bow And Stern

Finally, tie a bow and stern rope to the front and back of your boat.

Different places to connect are going to be available for each vehicle.

Many cars come equipped with pre-installed tie-down points underneath the front and back of the vehicle. If not, think about buying hood/trunk tie-down loops.

Make sure you pull tight, tie-down points are secure, and tying a rope at these points will stop your canoe from trying to swivel as the wind hits it.

10. Double Check

Once you have made sure the canoe is secured to the vehicle, you are ready to travel. With two hands, try shaking the canoe; the vehicle should move along with it.

You can use bungee cords to secure your canoe; however, these may not hold it as tight as your ratchet straps since bungee cords can still flex as the weight of your canoe shifts during transit.

Transport Canoe with your car

How To Transport Canoe Without Roof Rack

There are alternative methods to secure the canoe to your vehicle if it lacks a roof rack. The use of foam blocks, which can be purchased at your local paddling store, is one of the best options.

1. Position Pool Noodles On Your Car

Get robust pool noodles that can withstand some abuse and support the weight.
These lightweight, inexpensive foam pool noodles will make a nice bed for your kayak to rest on, protecting your car’s hull and roof from dents and scratches.

Compared to the foam block method, these are less expensive and simpler to carry a boat on most cars.

Because of their design, foam blocks are more challenging to mount on your car’s roof than pool noodles, and they might move about more freely as you make your way down the highway to the lake.

Once you have your pool noodles, spread them out on your car’s roof. One pool noodle should go in the middle, one in the back, and one near the front of the roof of your car.

You can use any number if you wish to add more cushioning, yet, you’ll find three is enough to protect your roof and canoe.

However, if you only have two, then two pool noodles won’t be enough and won’t offer enough padding if you want to carry two canoes or even two kayaks.

The length of the pool noodles can differ; ensure they are longer than the width of your car or vehicle’s roof.

Here, you can cut each pool noodle to the correct length. For additional security, it is possible to pass straps through your pool noodles; thus, you are securing the pool noodles inside your car. (Learn How To Tie Down A Kayak In A Truck Bed)

2. Lift Kayak Onto Your Car Roof

It’s simpler to do this with a partner on your side to share the hard lifting. Then, you can each grip the bow and stern of the canoe and lift it.

It is preferable to position your yak with the hull on the noodles and face up.

However, if your boat’s hull is curved, you could find it more practical to set it up upside down on the car’s roof, where it will be more stable and less likely to rock back and forth.

You can lift any component of the kayak to reposition the pool noodles. Ensure they are parallel to one another once you have secured the noodles and your canoe or kayak rests on them.

Naturally, the canoe will be set up perpendicular to the pool noodles with its bow or stern facing the direction your car is moving.

Secure Canoe With Straps

3. Secure With Straps

Your car’s front and back doors should be open, and you should have two sets of either ratchet straps or spring-loaded straps with adjustable buckles.

Secure the central piece of your canoe by placing the ratchet strap over the body, with the ends of the straps at either side of your car, with all of the doors open on your car.

For the ratchet straps to meet inside your car, grab the two strap ends and pull them through the front doors.

Until you finish this step, keep all car doors open.

Remember to keep the buckle on the outside near your yak, so it’s simple to tighten. Twist and tighten them so it’s a snug fit but doesn’t over-tighten.

By twisting the ratchet straps, you can reduce wind resistance and the loud noise the wind will make as you drive. This could also help you get better gas mileage.

However, you might not want to transport your canoe on a homemade rack for an extended time.

The second ratchet strap should then be fastened in the same manner via the back doors of your car.

Avoid overtightening the straps to avoid damaging the hull of your canoe or the roof of your car.

Remember that the ratchet straps could loosen if you’re traveling somewhere with cooler temperatures.

4. Tie Down The Bow And Stern

Tying down the bow and stern of your yak will help keep your canoe stable when driving without a roof rack.

It is prevented from rotating and from moving forward or backward. The same tie-down strap you used to secure your canoe can be used for this, as can spring-loaded or ratchet straps.

Rope can be used for this, but to prevent it from coming undone, you’ll need to know how to tie a trucker’s hitch knot.

Each ratchet strap should be fastened to a tie-down point underneath your car with a carabiner or hook after threading through the front and back carry handles or toggles.

If your vehicle has a towbar on the back, you can use it to secure your ratchet strap or tie-down strap.

Your car should have tow points, also known as towing eyes, placed into the front of the car for towing purposes.

You can finally transport a kayak without a roof rack if you use them to secure the front straps. If you wish to secure more than one kayak, you might need more straps.

Putting hood loops is ideal for your rope or straps to tie to. They comprise a loop on a small piece of rubber that is held in position once you close the hood of your car. (Find the Best Kayak Stake Out Poles)


Now you know you don’t have to spend a fortune to be able to transport a canoe or kayak without a roof rack wherever you need to go.

Remember that safety is always essential when carrying your boat, so make sure it’s secure by attaching it using ratchet straps on top of your car before you drive away for your next paddling excursion.

How To Tie A Canoe To A Car Without A Rack