advice solo car topping kayak no rack

I recently purchased a used 15.4’ touring kayak and want to be able to load it onto my 4door sedan on my own. Unfortunately I don’t have any roof rack system on my car (costs over $500 to get one for my car). I do have foam blocks and have just ordered kayak cart.

I watched a Youtube video of someone tying the foam blocks to the kayak first ( While I don’t have the upper body strength to lift it overhead like the video shows, I’m thinking strapping the foam blocks to the kayak rather than placing the foam blocks on the roof and then trying to place the kayak on top is a better idea to help prevent the blocks from slipping. I could then place a blanket on the car, then put the kayak w/ the foams strapped onto the blanket and pull it up that way - that shouldn’t scratch my car. Thoughts?

What sort of car?
Year, make, model?

There might be other options.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

yoga matt
Some kind of foam matt might help protect the car. Just don’t drop the kayak on the roof as you might dent the roof which would be real bad.

trollt roll troll

– Last Updated: Sep-08-15 8:13 PM EST –

everyone wants one....

Buy a Subaru.

Failing this….the rigging is fairly complex if you’re at square one.


Library step ladder from Walmart high enough for your reach to the middle and past that on the roof.
2 loooong cam straps (Seattle Fabrics) added to the loooong straps coming with the foam
A loooong rod such as what comes with a metal broom
A stiff but non marking pad for the end of the rod to rest on.
A roll of paper towels and a 2-3 jugs of water
A carrier or 2 of 3/16th’s” cord found at Walmart.

With a clean and waxed car roof. Place clean wiped foam blocks on roof, strap thru windows right ? Pad the liner’s edging maybe with a section or 2 of cut poly water jug

Lift the kayak, possibly from the ladder steps, off the Walmart cardboard cut open and layed on ground so the yak stays clean.

Slide the hull onto roof perpendicular or tangential to the fore aft position of the blocks.

Pivot the hull near blocks then using the rod and pad pry the hull up and onto the first block

Go to the other end and do same

At this time a gust of wind will rise and trash the yak into the ground….so you need a temporary hitch immediately and during the car topping …from opposite sides

The looooong cam straps loop around the hull at the roof top foam blocks traveling the same path as the foam straps. One loops from bottom one from top. Use a hitch in the loooong one if possible.

The walcord you tied to bow and stern , 2 each end now tie into the trunk and hood

My opinion…
First, $500 for racks is realistic for new racks. Used racks are an option. The classified ads here, E-bay, Craigslist are sources for less expensive ways to find the parts you need to build that rack for less than $200 if you have the patience. I’ve even got some old Q towers and bars I need to part with if I get around to it.

Pads with front and rear tie downs are all we had back in the day. It works well if done properly. It’s just hard to find good tie down spots on today’s cars. You can create one with a short length of PVC and a loop of web strap or rope. The PVC gets placed under the hood or trunk of the car with the loop sticking out to tie to. With today’s thin metals, I’d consider this carefully before I did it. Placement would be crucial.

Lastly, no matter what you use you will likely end up with some scratches on your roof. Accept it. It’s part of the game. The big money racks are less inclined to scratch, but stuff happens.

All the best,


Turnpike Special Using Foam Blocks
Check out this 4Runner with a 21 foot long Fenn Mako 6 Surfski cartopped to it (two straps up front & one rear):

The surfski is resting deckside down on two foam blocks and secured with three 20 ft. long cam buckle straps.

The 26 lb. surfski was loaded on the car by a short 5’4" tall, 17 year old, racer on her way from Philadelphia to Gloucester for the 2015 Blackburn Challenge. Rigged this way, the 4Runner was able to get up to turnpike speed of 70mph or more, but cruising/traveling speed was around 60 with periodic stops for double espresso.

The surfski was cartopped the same way for the return trip back to Philadelphia via Boston.

The foam blocks and straps are easily transported inside your carry on bag for use at other paddling destinations. We did the same thing in San Francisco a couple days later,


– Last Updated: Sep-09-15 2:15 AM EST –

You don't need upper body strength to load boats on a car, you just need to practice balancing it and using your legs to do the heavy lifting. Having as long a boat as you have actually makes this easier. I'm a 65 year old 5' 5" woman who can barely do 5 pushups in a row and I have solo loaded 65 lb canoes and kayaks for years. All you have to do is lift the bow onto the back of tge car, resting it on something - a carpet scrap, yoga mat or, better yet, one of those suction cup shower grab bars you can get at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Then walk to the stern of the boat, lift and shove forward. There are other ways too, depending on the weight of your boat and balance. I carry my 46 pound 15' kayak to my car,(a fairly tall SUV with a thule rack) by balancing it on my head, which is inside the cockpit centered in the seat. Sounds difficult but it is actually easier than trying to haul it and pivot it off your shoulder. With the weight over your center of gravity your legs handle the work. Grasping the coaming I can tilt the bow up onto the roof at an angke and then once a good portion of the weight is on the front rack I can lift and slide the stern sideways onto the rear rack. I unload the same way.

Yes, you can use yoga mats and foam blocks and straps, and I did for the first two years I hauled touring kayaks. But it is a pain in the butt and you will quickly tire of it. Best to plan to get a roof rack as soon as you can because it will make loading much easier, be safer and will protect your car. Look up the compenent part numbers for racks on the Thule, Malone and Yakima sites and write them down. Then watch Ebay and Craigslist for used parts to build a rack to fit. I have done this with every car I have owned since I got into kayaking (6 models so far) and never paid more than $200 for a complete Thule rack.

Carry 5 Surfskis With Thule Racks
For about $20. Yes I saw it done this past summer by two Fenn Dealers who had to get the skis to a race real fast w/o hauling the big trailer. All it took was two 8 ft. length 2x4’s, foam padding and plastic cable ties and in 15 minutes, they were heading to the starting line to deliver the skis in time for the race. Now I prefer flat over round. I don’t think I could of done that with my round Yakimas?

Thanks - your post makes me feel much better. I’m sure I’ll get a roof rack eventually but baby steps - I just dropped a bunch of cash on the kayak and all the necessary gear. I’m really determined (yet intimated) but confident I’ll figure out something.

Good Boy Kayak Racks Are The Best
When you’re ready for a more permanent setup. Paddlers who use them are in the water or out of the parking lot in seconds, while it takes me a good 15 minutes or more to remove or secure my kayak to the car with the foam blocks. Don’t forget to add a few twists to the straps to reduce the buzzing noise, and place thin foam type material between the straps and the rubber door seals to protect the seals.

Foam blocks and a foam sleeping bag pad
Worked for me for years, even when driving fairly long distances. Theput the thin foam pad down longitudinally, put the foam blocks on top of the pad, and then ratchet strap the kayak on top of it all.

Willowleaf nails it on the head - you don’t need a rack, just some patience and ingenuity. And a rack will make things a lot easier/faster.

I purchased a new Acadia that came in a
huge blister pack bag. I folded it over, doubling it up and put it on the roof of the car. Then, just used cam straps to hold the boat down on the roof with the bag for cushioning. Perfect!

DO NOT buy a cheap set of roof racks because the leave permenant divots in the roof.

Finally tried it!
I finally took my newly acquired kayak yesterday and it was not daunting as I thought it would be. I didn’t load it as described in my original post. I bought a kayak cart and used it upside down on the back window to roll it up onto the roof. I did have a friend nearby as backup but I tried as best as possible to do it on my own. I feel pretty confident loading and uploading on my own if I had to. Next time I am going to try lifting overhead as Willowleaf described - with this method I think it’s better to strap on the foam blocks to the kayak beforehand.