How to Tie a Canoe to a Car Without a Rack?

One of the most common questions I see on Quora and Reddit that gets asked by fishermen is how to tie a canoe to the roof of their car without a roof rack.

There are many different methods and it can be quite frustrating when you’re in a time crunch and need to get on the road quickly.

If this sounds like you, then keep reading because I’ve got something that will make your life super easy!

What equipments you’ll need to tie a Canoe to a car without a roof rack?

When you strap a canoe to your car without the right materials, it can damage or destroy both. So, to make your life easier we have researched a list of gear that will make transporting a canoe much safer and more secure.

Foam Blocks or Pool Noodles

Foam blocks are a special type of pad that is used on the side edge of your canoe to cushion your canoe and protect your car.

They will also grip and won’t let your canoe slide around too much while you are driving. We recommend the foam blocks because they are made especially for canoes.

But if you don’t want to spend this money on foam blocks, you can always use pool noodles for carrying canoes. For foam blocks, we recommend Attawood canoe foam blocks.

Cam Buckle Straps or Ratchet Straps

You can use ropes to tie the canoe to your roof but we do not recommend this. A canoe is an investment.

So why not protect your investment from damage by spending a little extra for a cam buckle or ratchet straps.

Between these two cam buckle is a little bit easier and cheaper but ratchet straps provide more security. For tieing the canoe you will need at least 2 straps.

Hood and Trunk Tie-Down Loops

These tie-down loops are optional for you to buy. But they provide extra security. When you are carrying a canoe without a roof rack this kind of extra security matters a lot.

The tie-down loops let you use your hood or trunk as anchor points so that your canoe does not move too much in mid-air while driving.

Mounting and securing your canoe on your roof

Here comes the part where you will mount and secure your canoe on your car without a roof rack.

When doing this you have to remember that you need your canoe to be stable while driving, so no back and forth movements, no left and right movements, and it shouldn’t bounce either.

Step 1- Loading your canoe

Before loading your canoe on your roof make sure to attach the foam blocks or pool noodles at the edges of your canoe to cushion your canoe while loading onto your car.

Now it is time to load the canoe. You can do this by yourself but if you can get some help from a friend or neighbor. You have to load the canoe upside down so that foam pads or pool noodles rest between the car roof and the canoe.

After placing the canoe on top of your car, adjust it to the center of your roof. This will distribute your canoe weight evenly.

Step 2- Securing your canoe

After loading your canoe, it’s time to secure it with straps. First, pass the straps from the top of the canoe to through the door of your car to wrap the canoe.

It will prevent the bouncing of your canoe. The bouncing is bad for your car because it can damage your foam blocks and then the canoe may scratch your car. So, prioritize the bouncing issue.

Now, tie the bow and stern to the front and back of your vehicle with the straps. Use hood and trunk tie-loops for the anchor.

Attach tie-downs from the bow of the canoe to the left and right corner of the hood. It will make a nice “V” shape which will prevent shifting of the canoe sideway.

Now, tie the stern of the canoe to your car hitch or trunk.

Alternative ways to transport a canoe without a roof rack

You can carry your canoe on your roof with the above technique. But if you want a more safer or alternative option to transport a canoe, there are a few ways we can talk about.

The most commonly used options are using temporary pads or using a canoe trailer.

Temporary Pads

Temporary pads are like an inflatable roof rack for your car. They may look weak but they are pretty strong. They can carry canoes with ease.

For temporary pads, we suggest the Inflatable Roof Rack From Handirack. It is a more convenient option for those who don’t want ant permanent roof rack for their car.

And more importantly, it is a lot more affordable than any other roof rack system.

Canoe Trailer

A canoe trailer, in other words, a Kayak trailer is a great option for those who have to transport their canoes on a regular basis. It isn’t a fair option for the occasional users.

Because it costs more for providing more security and convenience. Some of them even cost up to 4-digit. So, if you have made up your mind to buy a trailer then we would recommend the MicroSport Sports Trailer from Malone.

Final Thoughts

Carrying a canoe on your roof without an appropriate roof rack is a very daunting task. It’s tough to balance, and it can be hard even if you know what you are doing.

But with these steps we shared above, you should find that carrying your canoe up there becomes much easier!

If this seems like too much work or if you don’t want to deal with balancing something heavy on top of your car, check out our guides on Kayak and Canoe Roof Rack.

Carrying your canoe from your car to the water can be difficult. You should use a canoe cart or kayak cart to do that job.