Is a roof rack necessary?

Is a roof rack really necessary? I’ve been transporting my kayak(s) on my roof for over a year, and it seems to work just fine. I just lay the boat fat upside down on the roof, throw two straps across the beam, and cinch them down good and tight. It doesn’t move around, and there’s no vibration/noise from bow/stern lines. When I transport two boats, I just lay the small one flat on top of the larger boat. Is there any advantage to using a roof rack and J bars?

Roof racks exist because they serve a useful purpose, e.g. safe and dependable transport of kayaks. To evaluate the question, a photo of the carrying technique you describe seems called for, since it frankly sounds somewhat sketchy…

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Tying boats onto your roof is an accident waiting to happen. With a rack you can tie close to the hull to give lateral stability. That is important during the summer storm season, when getting passed by a truck, or when a pothole attacks your tire.

J-bars work on certain boats, but I don’t have one that fits them, so not as important in my case. I never thought of not using a rack, not since I got side swiped with a canoe on foam blocks. All hell broke loose.

Racks are more secure and safer 99% percent of the time but they are also another failure point if not attached correctly or inferior quality for their use.

Nothing wrong with no rack. I have used foam blocks, towels, and yoga pads no problem! Key is how the boat is secured to the vehicle. Thru the 4 doors and a stern line to help keep it centered and from becoming a missile.

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My concern with carrying anything on the roof is what could happen if I hit someone. There are reports of other vehicles being stabbed by flying boats .
I use a rack and stern tie downs.

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Are racks necessary? Absolutely not. Do they enhance convenience and the ability to add attachments? Yes.

A kayak or canoe secured to the top with belly straps going through the inside of the car is more “fly off” secure than belly straps attached just to racks, because the racks themselves can loosen from their roof attachments.

Bow and stern tie downs have nothing to do with whether racks are used or not. They can and should be employed in either case.

Bow and stern lines are more effective in preventing fore and aft slippage if they are tied like this \ at trunk and this / at hood, rather than the usual / at trunk and and \ at hood. (See Rolf Kraiker video below.) If you use the latter and more usual configuration, consider using a snotter line from the bow to prevent forward movement under hard braking.

Side-to-side motion of the boat can be minimized with or without racks by using V lines at both bow and stern, but racks also allow the attachment various stopper devices to prevent lateral movement.

You mean like this. ?

I have a hard time believing that this is serious

…agree, I think our collective chain is being pulled…

spoof or no?..One reason I have opted to go the inflatable transport route was my prior experience with transporting on the roof top without a proper fixed rack system. I had used the “soft” pads which did a satisfactory job and the kayak was very secure. The problem was to the vehicle. I ended up with dents on the edges of the roof. I am not sure what caused them, as there was no part of the kayak or cam belt hardware touching. I can only surmise it was caused by excess tension on the “through the car” belts. Should I once again acquire a hard shell boat, I would also use a proper rack.

We may well being fooled, and then again it is a valid question for a first time poster to ask and something that seems clear to anyone who has been here for any time and reading posts.

My answer is no need for a roof rack if you have a trailer or long bed pickup the boat can fit on.

Besides that it is like digging a hole with a claw hammer instead of a shovel. It can be done it will work it can even be done safely, but doing it is just about as big an improvement with a rack as digging with a shovel is.

When would I haul a canoe or kayak without a rack? Maybe if I was away from home without a rack on the car and I found a killer deal on a boat and I needed to get it moved or something like that. Otherwise for regular car top transfer I’m going with a rack. :canoe:


When you don’t have $400-$500 for Thule/Yakima rack system, but do have $20 for traditional canoe blocks or $50-$75 for a roof-width, strap-on inflatable or foam rack.

I admit I have never heard of anyone carrying a canoe or kayak with nothing at all between the boat and vehicle roof, but I have seen people use rugs or large towels. That’s certainly not something I would recommend for long distance or high speed traveling, not the least reason being potential roof damage.

Here’s Henry Chestnut:

Plenty of other folks stick short boats (mainly kayaks) in the beds of pickup trucks or inside the back doors of large SUVs and various kinds of vans.

And you can most certainly pile boats directly on top of boats.

I didn’t have $400-$500 for Thule/Yakima, but I did have $40 should have been 20 but lumber is going thru the roof (pun intended).

Nothing wrong with DIY, mine are true racks just not store bought and maybe a bit stronger than store bought. One advantage with DIY you can incorporate a loading system as well.

I loved the pics. :canoe:

Illegal to transport a kayak in New York State without a rack. I’m fairly sure it’s the same in other states.

Although it’s a good idea, I’ve never heard of this anywhere. Can you cite a reference?

There are laws regarding failure to properly secure a load if it comes loose or endangers someone, but I’ve never seen anything that specifies how it must be done for a non-commercial load.

Posted it here three times before. Rack has to be designed to carry the item you are carrying. Look up definition of a rack it’s not pool noodles or nothing.

When I recall the distant past, I logged lots of miles using foam blocks and tie downs front and rear. It certainly works.
I also recall many times pulling over on the side of the road to adjust and tighten the boat or boats on the roof.
It annoyed me enough that my first rack was largely home made, mounting to the rain gutters.
My first Yakima rack came with a used kayak I purchased, and still use it 16 years later. My second was purchased on Ebay to fit my vehicles that don’t have roof rails, and it’s still in use on my pickup.
A good rack is a blessing.