How to Tie a Canoe to a Car Without a Rack

Clear skies, calm waters, and low winds are the perfect conditions for a day out on your canoe.

However, for most people, this means you’ll need to figure out a way to transport your kayak to the closest river or lake, unless you are lucky enough to live right next to one.

The best way to transport your canoe is with a roof rack system, but they can be expensive. If you don’t use your canoe very often or you just need to make a short trip, it might not be worth investing in a complete roof rack system.

So, how can you safely tie a canoe to a car without a rack?

There are a few ways to do this, so we will share the easiest, safest, and most cost-effective method.

What You’ll Need

Before tying a canoe to your car without a roof rack, you’ll need a few items. If you try to strap your canoe to your roof without the right materials, you risk damaging your roof!

Foam Blocks or Pool Noodles

The canoe will be placed on top of the foam blocks, or pool noodles, to prevent your roof from being damaged. It will also help prevent the canoe from slipping while you’re driving.

Foam blocks are recommended because they are designed specifically for carrying canoes, but if you want to save money you can do this with pool noodles.

This foam block kit by WOOWAVE is great and affordable. It also includes buckle straps and tie-down ropes!

Cam Buckle Straps or Ratchet Straps

You’ll also need some straps to tie the canoe to your roof. You can use either cam buckle straps or ratchet straps.

While cam buckle straps are easier to use, ratchet straps provide better strength and stability. You’ll need at least 2 straps.

Tie-Down Ropes

Just like cam buckle/ratchet straps, tie-down ropes also help secure the canoe onto the roof of your car.

Tie-down ropes and straps can be used interchangeably, but the best option is to use both ropes and straps to tie your canoe to your roof.

Hood and Trunk Tie-Down Loops

Although these are optional, they are highly recommended.

Tie-down loops will allow you to secure your canoe to the hood and trunk for extra stability. This will prevent the canoe from shifting during acceleration and braking.

Mounting and Securing the Canoe

Before you start tying your canoe to a car without a roof rack, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.

The goal is to prevent the canoe from moving forward, backward, or side-to-side during transport. It should not bounce up and down either. This is what you’ll be trying to achieve.

Tying down the bow and stern will prevent the canoe from moving back and forth, and doing so in a “V” pattern will stop it from moving sideways. For example, attaching tie-downs to the bow of the canoe and the left and right ends of the hood would create this “V” shape.

You should also secure it across the center of the canoe which will help prevent bouncing.

Step 1: Loading the Canoe

First, we need to carefully place the canoe on top of the car.

Before doing this. make sure your foam blocks or pool noodles are already in place. If you are using foam blocks, you’ll be affixing them along the gunwales (the edges of the canoe).

Once the foam blocks are in position, you can lift the canoe and place it on top of the vehicle. Although it is possible to load the canoe onto the car by yourself, it’s a daunting task that can damage your canoe and vehicle if done incorrectly. It’s better to get help from someone else if you can.

The pool noodles will \serve the same function as the foam blocks, but they need not be affixed to the gunwales. The canoe will lie on top of the pool noodles.

Once you place the canoe on the car, adjust it so that it’s positioned in the center of the roof. This will allow even distribution of tension between the straps and ropes.

Step 2: Limiting Bounce

After you load the canoe onto the roof of the car, you need to secure it so it won’t bounce. Bouncing can cause the foam blocks to tear, which can lead to scratches and dents on your roof. You can use cam buckle straps or ratchet straps to prevent bounce.

Pass the two straps through your car with the doors open so that it wraps around the canoe. To even the tension on the two straps, make sure that they are on either side of the centerline/yoke.

Step 3: Restraining Lateral Motion

Next, tie the bow and stern to attachment points at the front and back of the car using the straps and ropes. This will prevent the canoe from moving around while driving.

If you can’t find any suitable anchor points, you can use hood/trunk tie loops.

Following these steps will allow you to safely tie a canoe to a car without a rack. We hope this article has helped you understand how to properly secure your canoe!

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