Picture of Truck Bed Utility Rack
new kayaks.jpg

My wife and I recently bought a pair of kayaks, but didn't really have a good way to transport them. So we stopped at the local hardware store on the way back from a hiking adventure, and I went to work on an easily removable and fully adjustable utility rack for our truck to haul our kayaks without loosing any bed space.

So grab your drill, and get to work!

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Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

I got everything necessary for this project at a home improvement store for under $100. It would have been a bit less, but I didn't have any bolts in stock in the size that I wanted...


  • Safety Goggles (SERIOUSLY!)
  • Drill with various drill bits and a driver
  • Saw to cut metal (I used a reciprocating saw)
  • Hammer
  • Sandpaper or Grinder
  • Screwdriver (I used Phillips and a Flathead)
  • Wrench (I used 7/16 boxed end)
  • Measuring Tape
  • Pair of Yard sticks (not necessary, but it helped me)
  • Scissors


Since this rack will need to fit your truck bed, your exact measurements may be different than mine...

  • 1 1/2" diameter Conduit (Mine came in lengths of 10', in total I used about 11')
  • 1" diameter Conduit (Mine came in lengths of 10', in total I used 2 x 6' pieces)
  • 1/2" diameter Conduit (Mine came in lengths of 10', in total I used 2 x 80" pieces)
  • 4 x 1/4" coarse 1/2" long bolts with flat washers, lock washers, and nuts
  • 8 x #4 conduit collars - needs to fit the 1 1/2" pipe
  • 4 x #2 conduit collars- needs to fit the 1" pipe
  • 4 x #0 conduit collars - needs to fit the 1/2" pipe
  • 8 x 1/4" wingnuts (The bolt thread on my conduit collars was 1/4" coarse)
  • Electric Tape
  • 8 x Smaller self-tapping screws
  • 2 x 6' Foam Pipe insulation for 1" pipe (typically found with PVC pipes in plumbing section)
  • 2 x 6' Foam Pipe insulation for 1/2" pipe (typically found with PVC pipes in plumbing section)
  • 4 x Threaded adjustable Hook and Eye (Found in hardware by the bolts and such)
  • Zip Ties
Cueball218 months ago

Couple of questions:

1) Why did you use conduit instead of steel pipe? Perhaps you do not plan to place really heavy loads on the rack. I doubt that the conduit would hold the weight of, say, dimensional lumber too long to carry in the bed.

2) Why did you not use elbows to join the cross members?

Great job on the rack!!!!!

Kurt E. Clothier (author)  Cueball218 months ago

1) Conduit was quite a bit cheaper and a lot lighter weight. I have to remove the rack easily and store the pieces when we hook up to the fifth wheel every could of months. Also, I specifically built this rack to hold a pair of 40 lb kayaks, so nothing too heavy. You are right, it would not be strong enough for a bunch of lumber!

2) I thought about that, but didn't want to spend the extra money on the pieces. Plus, I was kind of rushed - I planned this entire thing on the road in between buying the kayaks and arriving at the hardware store. We currently live in rural area without many stores... This was kind of a proof of concept design. Everything in it could be useful to me in some other project, but bot necessarily elbow joints. I do plan on upgrading this rack with them when I get the time!

Thanks for the comments.

Just out of curiosity, did you consider making this out of galvanized chain link fence pipe? I was considering using this for a project instead of conduit. Any thoughts?

Kurt E. Clothier (author)  baudeagle2 months ago

No, I hadn't thought of that. But if the price is rights and it has good strength.. then go for it.

ski2moro8 months ago

I believe that your truck rack is an excellent idea. Kayaking is a wonderful family sport and I encourage everyone to try it.

As a long time kayaker, I would like to suggest a different method to tie down your kayaks. I have seen kayaks become projectiles because people simply did not understand how to properly tie them down. In the event of an accident, your kayaks will fly off the roof of your vehicle if not secured properly.

You need three points of security - tie them down, keep them from sliding side to side, and to keep them from sliding front to back.

First, please strap each kayak to the support separately. Do not use one long strap for two kayaks. If one boat moves upward/overlaps, the strap will become loose on both boats.

Then, to prevent side to side movement, place a block at the edge of each gunwale on each support or see the illustration below for proper strapping methods.

Finally, tie each boat to the bumper both front AND back to prevent front to back sliding.

Of course, everyone believes that they are a safe driver and nothing will happen. However, if you are in a front end collision, your boats WILL fly forward at the speed you were traveling. Plus, there is not enough difference in the dimension of the kayak for a strap to secure the boat. The impact will dislodge your boats. In addition, the rotomolded boat is somewhat flexible and will compress so that a simple strap will not hold.

Please load safely.

See these images for examples.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 11.43.46 AM.pngScreen Shot 2014-07-29 at 11.44.37 AM.png
Kurt E. Clothier (author)  ski2moro8 months ago

Good points. I wasn't totally done tying them down when I took the picture, it was just getting dark outside, so I did do most of what you said. Actually, each Kayak is tied independently to the rack, you just can't see it in the picture.

This is my first time hauling kayaks, but I have hauled LOTS of other things in the past, so I am no stranger to tying things down. I don't particularly like a rope coming off the front to the bumper for a few reasons: 1) the kayaks only come over the roof about a foot, so the rope would still have 10 feet of cab and hood to go over, meaning it would rub a mark into the center of the roof and bend into the bug guard on the hood - not good. 2) I find it very distracting to have a rope (or two) in front of the window - kind of blocks me from seeing part of the road.

Also, these are fairly cheap kayaks - they are really wide in the center compared to the ends, so there is absolutely no way the middle of the boat could pass through the tied down portions of strap.

I understand, but I have to mention that I actually saw a front end collision where someone's kayaks, which were not tied front and back, became projectiles into the oncoming traffic, breaking a windshield of an oncoming car. On impact, the rotomolded boats flexed inside their straps and literally flew off the top of the car. Had the boats been tied properly, that poor woman would not have been severely injured.

I have been carrying kayaks with the tie-down ropes (Thule) on my hood and back deck with absolutely no rub marks in the paint at all, with thousands of miles and in all kinds of weather conditions. I believe that the Thule supplied rope is solid core braided polyester. It is quite soft. I also have a Yakima J rack that has webbing straps running through a short piece of 1/2" piece of flexible tubing at the contact point. It also has been effective for front to back tie-downs.

As for the distraction of the ropes in the front vision, I understand what you mean, but believe me, you can get used to anything. It is a matter of safety for those around you in the event of an accident, even those that you did not cause.

Best sport ever, Happy Kayaking.
damau8 months ago

Nice instructable. You might want to install the caps mentioned earlier or use some spray foam in ends of the conduit pieces that have their openings perpendicular to the direction of travel (uprights and cross supports) so they don't become musical instruments (think blowing across a bottle mouth). My family owns an electrical contracting business and all of our extension ladders have this done on the aluminum rungs.

Kurt E. Clothier (author)  damau8 months ago

For sure. I plan to do that whenever I can make it back to the hardware store!

jasonparr8 months ago

Great idea this would also be a great way to put side rails on for carrying loads.

Costarus8 months ago

Quality work. I did something similar. Power frame. Convenient to transport long, not heavy objects.

Kurt E. Clothier (author)  Costarus8 months ago

Nice work, it looks great!

rolltidehank8 months ago
The way you attached the rack to your truck is great. No drilling or anything. Great job.
Kurt E. Clothier (author)  rolltidehank8 months ago

Yeah, I was really trying to avoid anything permanent. This whole outfit can be removed without a trace in about 10 minutes... in fact, it has to so we can hook up the fifth wheel trailer!

earz_cd8 months ago

Very nice.

Instead of electrical tape, you could cut a section from a bicycle tire inner tube and stretch it over the conduit.

Also, I've used some barbed plastic plugs (found in plumbing section) to close off conduit. The plugs I found were gray so they gave it a "finished" look. I've found them to fit 1/2" conduit, but they had larger sizes too.

Kurt E. Clothier (author)  earz_cd8 months ago

Thanks for the tips! I really didn't want to use the electrical tape, but I was kind of out in the middle of no where to avoid excessive noise pollution (I'm not really supposed to use power tools outside where we currently live) so I had to use what I had available... I do have some old tubes, so I will probably try to replace the tape with that later.

I wanted to use a plug on the conduit, but I forgot to look for that when I was getting supplies. I will probably add that as well next time I make it back to the store.

Thanks again!

Nice job! This looks like it really increases the versatility of the bed!

Thanks, that's what I was going for.