DIY Truck box kayak carrier

Recently we purchased some Canadian Tire special kayaks. High end right? Most of the summer we have been pulling them around on the utility trailer or in the back of the truck. This has worked fine until we had to head to a family reunion and decided to stop for a weekend in beautiful Jasper Alberta. We wanted to take the kayaks with us but we are also pulling a travel trailer thus necessitating alternative arrangements for carrying the kayaks. After some online research I discovered that most truck box racks clamp to the bed rail but my truck has a tonneau cover which I really like having. I found one that uses an adapter to put into the stake pockets but the total cost of it was something in the neighborhood of $1600. I felt stupid about forking over 3 times as much money to carry them as the kayaks cost in the first place so I decided to build one instead. So for $30 of wood (eight foot two by fours) and $50 worth of u-bolts and carriage bolts I built this.  
Originally I had intended to put the back level with the front but I had cut all the risers to the same length, not thinking that the various bits of hardware holding the tonneau cover on would interfere. In the end the back bar ends up about 3 inches lower than the front. This meant I had to do some tricky compound miters to get the cross braces to fit but it actually turned out better that way because it lifts the front end of the kayak a bit more and gives it better clearance over the truck cab.

All in all it took me about 5 hours with pretty basic tools. I used my circular saw, hand saw, chisel and drill. I used a miter saw to do the complex angles but I could have done it with my hand saw. I bolted most of it together to provide some ability to tighten it up as the wood shrinks. 

It works but if I was to do it again I’d add another 4-6 inches on the front rail. As it is it’ll be easy to replace if I decide to. Tomorrow I’ll post a couple more pictures with a close up of the joints and with the kayaks on for perspective. 

10 Replies to “DIY Truck box kayak carrier”

    1. Originally I intended to put a pin through the stake pocket to hold it down. The risers are all sitting in the stake pockets on the truck, but after I got it set in place I realized that wouldn’t work. I ended up drilling a 3/8 inch hole through the bottom rail on the rack and through the box rail on my truck, on both sides. I then dropped a carriage bold through the hole and bolted it into place. It didn’t move after that. Next time I put it on I’m going to try to find a wing nut or something I can hold and the a regular bolt I can tighten from the top to make it a little easier.

  1. Thanks for giving me the boost I needed to get my rack built. Photo here – I put a link to your site there, too. I made a few modifications, mostly I made the front and back separate because my husband and I are too old to pick the whole thing up LOL. I also left off the braces on the front and the back mostly because I ran out of wood. Thanks again! PS the c clamps won’t work on my truck bed so I have to find a plan B. I know I can pick up some have the clamps they used to hold the camper shells.

  2. I would love this kind of DIY Kayak Rack but my Tonneau cover comes all the way over and covers my bedrailes. Any suggestions

  3. I would love this kind of DIY Kayak Rack, but my Tonneau cover comes all the way over and covers my bedrailes. Any suggestions?

    1. Nothing off the top of my head. If your tonneau is attached by rails you can pull off you could potentially attach it to the carrier but that would probably require a different design. Alternatively you can look into the cost of a different cover, I know mine ran me about $300.

      1. Thanks Mr. Birch. I like the idea of building that carrier in the box of my truck, then removing it when I’m done , but my cover wont allow it

  4. Thanks Mr. Birch. I built one using 2×4’s. The front width of the truck bed is wider than the rear so I had to make a small adjustment. I used 3″ deck screws and didn’t screw it to the truck. The riser studs simply fit the inside of the box and present sliding from side to side. I finished with a hand propane torch to give it a rustic look. Love it! I can back the truck up to it and lean it up over the tailgate and slide it forward. Easy peasy! The boat and rack are held down by (4 pack) ratchet straps from Harbor Freight for $12. Total cost of the project with straps ….. $52.

    1. Looks good. One of the reasons I went the route I did was I wanted to keep the tonneau cover in place so I had to put the risers in the stake pockets. I bolted it down to the bed rails for the same reason, I couldn’t get a strap to hold it down without opening the tonneau.

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