A Homemade Kayak Rack for a Pickup

••• Canoe Rack image by dwight9592 from Fotolia.com

Explore America's Campgrounds

Carrying a kayak on top of a pickup poses a problem. The cab is too short to support the entire length of most kayaks. You could toss the kayak in the bed and let the stern hang off the end, but then you have to fool with wind resistance, warning flags, a hazard to following drivers and unwanted attention from law enforcement. To avoid the kayak becoming a rudder, wing or battering ram, you need to carry it as level as possible.

Items you will need

  • 10 at least stud length 2-by-4s

  • Two 2-by-6s the width of the pickup bed

  • 3 half-inch galvanized screws

  • 5-inch galvanized screws

  • Saber or reciprocating saw

  • Circular saw

  • Drill and bits

  • Tape measure

Measure the inside of the bed of the pickup. Cut four 2-by-4s to make a rectangle that sits comfortably inside the bed of the truck. Your base frame (the rectangle) will be narrower if the wheel wells stick up into the bed, but this is not a design problem.

Set the 2-by-4s on their sides and screw the ends together to make a one-piece rectangular base frame. Cut four 2-by-4 uprights as tall as the distance from the bed of the truck to 3 inches above the top of the cab. Screw these legs to the inside corners of the base frame, sticking straight up.

Screw two 2-by-4s to the long sides of the frame at the top so the top edges are level with the top of the upright legs. Measure the distance between the inside of the legs at the front and back of the frame. Cut two 2-by-6s to this length.

Cut an arc into the top edges of both 2-by-6s that is roughly the shape of your kayak's hull bottom at the point where it will come in contact with the 2-by-6s. Allow room for the padding. If your truck is wide enough and your kayak narrow enough, you may want to cut two dips into the 2-by-6s to accommodate a second kayak.

Screw the 2-by-6s cross-ways between the front and rear pairs of uprights. You'll need to use 4- to 6-inch-long screws and predrill the holes. Cut carpet strips 8 inches wide and the length of each dip you cut into the 2-by-6s plus 4 inches. Lay the carpet over the top of each dip and staple it down to pad the "cradle" your kayak will nest in. Screw four 1-inch eye screws into the outside of the top of the frame at the corners in front and back.

Set the frame in the bed of your pickup. Set the kayak in the cradle on top of the frame. Tie the frame to the truck bed with heavy bungee cords or tie-down straps from the screw eyes to tie-downs on the truck. Tie the kayak to the top of the frame with bungee cords running across the top between the screw eye tie-down points.


  • Stop after you've driven 5 to 10 miles and check the tie-downs. Tighten where necessary. Check the tie-downs every time you stop after that.