I am planning on purchasing a kayak for next year, and am trying to strategize on how to transport my boat. I have a small 4 door car no rack and my wife has a slightly larger 4 door crossover style vehicle no rack.

I'd be transporting this maybe 30 miles or so for general usage but would need to take this as much as 300 miles for some family vacations. I'd love to use a "cheap" solution(plain foam blocks) but I do want to be as safe as possible so my guess is that cheap is not an option.

What is the best way to transport a kayak? Are foam blocks ok or am I asking for trouble? Is there a strategy for using plain foam blocks without a rack over long distances? I'm fine with pulling over every 45 minutes or so to check things.

The kayak I had in mind is the Wilderness Systems Aspire 105.

  • You can buy what we chose for our 2 sit on top kayaks which are two J bars per kayak that are completely adjustable for how far back you want the bar. Unfortunately the site we got them off has a 'out of stock do no show' ruling which is rather annoying so I can't grab a link for you.
    – Aravona
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:48
  • a trailer behind your bike should work fine
    – njzk2
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 18:19

3 Answers 3


You can get roof bars for just about any kind of vehicle*. It's the only real option for safely transporting a boat on top of a car.

If you meant what type of fittings would be good to go on top of the roof bars (J-bars, uprights, v-bars, foam etc.) then post up the kind of kayak you're talking about and I'll add a specific answer.

You mentioned foam blocks, if you meant these strapped directly onto the roof then you'd be best to avoid this as it's really not that secure and will damage the roof of your car - a lot. Handi-racks are the same (they're only really suitable for surf-boards).

For a fairly normal plastic boat like the Aspire 105 you can just strap it straight onto the roof bars, preferably upside-down (this is because it's going to deform the boat a little bit and it's better to deform the deck than the hull). Uprights, J-bars or foam blocks would be suitable and will cut down on deformity but they're really not necessary.

ps. invest in some decent straps and tie the excess through grab-loops whenever possible - a kayak flying down a motorway on its own is a heck of a sight.

  • So I bought a rack for my car and it doesn't have any tow loops. There are some holes in the metal frame of the car, but no proper loops. Is it ok to secure the (bow/stern) tie down hooks to these? And how many tiedowns should I have? The kit I have looks to provide one for the bow and one for the stern, but some people say you need two.
    – hernan43
    Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 12:59
  • You don't need any; they're complete over-kill, especially for something of that length.
    – Niall
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 20:04

I do most of the transport for our scouts group and have found that the solution is mostly the simplest. Get a set of roofrails and crossbars. You should be able to get them for any type of car, make sure they're factory spec and/or from a good brand so they won't simply fly off as it's the only thing connecting the whole construction to the roof.

Simply put the kayak upside down on two crossbars and use a ratchet strap to strap down firmly. I do however recommend using the bigger car as you'll prevent overhang and you can have the crossbars further apart (put them as far apart as possible).
You can put some rubber/foam padding between the kayak and the crossbars if you want to.
If you find the kayak wobbling around to much you can attach a rope from the ends of the kayak to your bumpers (use tow points if possible).

  • 1
    It's possible to back up the roof rack's attachment to the car by passing straps through the vehicle doors (and windows, for 2-door vehicles). I had a good set of bars torn off by an unexpected gust of wind as I rounded a corner once. Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 15:47

One possible alternative: a folding/origami/collapsible kayak. There are multiple manufacturers in this space, with design ideas ranging from folding shells, skin-over-skeleten, or even sections that nest for storage. For one example, here's an image of a Oru Kayak next to its folded version: 42"x10"x18" and 20lbs.

Oru Kayak Inlet, https://www.orukayak.com/products/oru-kayak-portable-folding-lightweight-recreational-kayak-for-beginners

The advantages of such a kayak are obvious: instead of needing a truck/suv for transport and a garage for storage, it can be easily transported in a sedan (or even with a cargo bike or public transportation) and stored in the corner of an apartment closet.

However, there are some downsides in comparison to a hardsided kayak. In addition to cost, they are less durable, don't paddle quite as well, and the outfitting/seat/cockpit is more rudimentary and less comfortable.

Despite these tradeoffs, a folding/origami/collapsible kayak can be an excellent solution if transport and/or storage are preventing you from owning a typical hardsided kayak.

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