Truck Bed Utility Rack




About: Jack of All Trades, Master of One: Being Me!

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!

Step 1: 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

Step 2: Make a Plan

As I have mentioned, this is yet another project you will have to customize to fit your needs. My truck bed is short, so my measurements won't work for a long bed, step side, or other strange type of truck.

  1. Measure the corner mounting holes. Mine are a bit less than 1 1/2 " wide. The two forward ones are 6 1/2" deep while the two rear ones are only 6" deep.
  2. Measure the height off the roof over the truck bed walls. Mine is about 26" above the bed, so the rack needs to be about 27" to ensure whatever is on it will clear the roof. The vertical supports will need to be this height plus the depth of the mounting holes.
  3. Measure the bed dimensions. My truck bed is 6' across by 6 3/4' long.

I want to connect the pipes together at the upper corners, and anchor the vertical supports to the bed at each corner mounting hole.

Step 3: Cut the Pipes

Please wear safety glasses whenever you are cutting, drilling, sanding, or otherwise working with any materials!!!

I cut the poles based on the measurements in the previous step. Your lengths may vary...

  • 2 x 33" lengths of 1 1/2" pipe
  • 2 x 32.5" lengths of 1 1/2" pipe
  • 2 x 72" (6') lengths of 1" pipe
  • 2 x 80" lengths of 1/2" pipe

After the metal pipes are cut, the edges should be sanded down. You can sand paper or a grinder for this step.

In order for the vertical support pipes to fit into the mounting holes, one end of each needs to be hammered down a bit. This is relatively simple to do.

  1. Mark the end of the pipes to be beaten - I needed 6.5" and 6" on my pipes.
  2. Find a solid surface that won't fracture from hard blows (a wood block will work)
  3. Hold the pipe firmly with one hand (It may help to wear gloves as well)
  4. Use a hammer to slightly flatten the end of the pipes. It doesn't take much... better to need to do more than to do too much.
  5. Ensure the pipes fit in the holes. If not, flatten them some more!

Step 4: Create the Anchors

I am using adjustable hook and eye pieces attached to a pipe collar to hold the rack to the bed. This allows the rack to be removed without needed to screw anything into the bed in any way. These units have two threaded ends - one is a hook, and one is an eyelet. On my units, the hook is reverse threaded, so twisting the center will either tighten or loosen both threads.

  1. Remove the tightening bolt from four of the #4 collars.
  2. Place the eye of of the hook pieces in between the collar tabs, and replace the bolt.
  3. Loosen the hook and eye pieces most of the way.
  4. Place the collars over the vertical polls
  5. Tighten the collar at a height such that the hooks are loose in the mounting hole along side the pipe.
  6. Slightly tighten the hook and eye (not a lot, just to keep it where it is)

My collars were actually a bit to wide to get a firm grip on the pipe, so I wrapped copious amounts of electric tape around the pipe under the collar. This worked OK, but I later removed the electric tape and used a pair of self-tapping screws to ensure each collar stayed in place when the hook and eye were tightened.

Step 5: Create the Pipe Mounts

Next, we will create the mounts that connect the vertical pipes to the cross ones. This involves bolting the #4 collars to the #2 collars.

  1. Remove the tightening bolts from 4 of the #4 collars and all of the #2 collars.
  2. Connect the collars together: Bolt >> Flat Washer >> #4 Collar << # 2 Collar << Lock Washer << Nut
  3. Ensure the collars are perpendicular to one another (The hole for the pipes) and firmly tighten the nut
  4. Repeat for all 4 collar sets.
  5. Replace the tightening bolts, but use a wing nut instead of the standard nut.
  6. Slide the mounts over the top of the vertical pipes and tighten the wing nuts firmly.
  7. Run the 1" pipe through the #2 collars on both sides of the truck bed
  8. Tighten the wing nuts on the #2 tightening bolts a bit.

Again, I wrapped electric tape around the pipes to ensure a tight fit. I also made sure all #4 tightening nuts were pointing into the bed and #2 bolts were pointing down. The last bit is just preference, but I think it looks nicer that way.

Step 6: Add Support Rails

At first, I wasn't going to create rails to run along the truck bed, but I think it is necessary for a sturdy rack. To add the #0 collars for the 1/2" pipe, I connected them through the tightening bolts for the #2 collars...

  1. Remove the tightening bolts from the 4 #2 collars (on the 1" cross pipes).
  2. Drill out the end hole of the #0 collars such that the square peg of the #2 tightening bolts fit through it.
  3. Connect the #0 collars to the top of the #2 collars: #2 Tightening Bolt >> #0 collar << #2 collar << Flat Washer << Wing Nut
  4. Run the 1/2" pipes through the #0 collars (they will run along the truck bed, not across it)
  5. Tighten the #0 collar bolt.

Again, I wrapped the 1/2" pipes with electric tape for a snug fit.

Step 7: Adding Foam

To keep whatever is mounted to the rack from sliding around so easily (and from scratching), I added foam pipe insulation to the cross and support pipes. Again, since your truck bed may be a different size, your lengths might be different than mine

  • 2 x 6' foam for 1/2" pipes
  • 2 x 5.5' foam for 1" pipes

You might want to do this before you tighten all of the bolts on the collars in the previous steps, but it is easier to do those steps without the foam in place.

  1. Loosen the #2 Collars on the 1" pipes enough to slide the pipe out of one of the collars
  2. Loosen the #0 Collars on the 1/2" pipe enough to slide the pipe out of the one of the collars
  3. Remove the pipes from one of the collars (Do one pipe at a time!)
  4. Slide the foam over the pipe
  5. Put the pipe back through the collar
  6. Repeat for the remaining top pipes
  7. Wrap a zip tie over the two ends and middle of each foam piece.
  8. Cut the ends off of the zip ties.

Step 8: Tighten the Anchors

With the pipes all in place, you can now tighten the four anchors. This will hold the vertical pipes down into the mounting holes. I found it easiest to use a flat head screw driver in order to twist the hook and eye unit. Tighten each unit a bit, then go around and do it again. Be careful not to over do it, as the hook might puncture the metal on the bed wall top.

The rack doesn't have to be 100% stable... the hooks will keep it from coming off of the bed. It is bound to have a bit of play in it due to the way the pipes are hooked together.

Step 9: Mount Your Gear

With the rack done, you are ready to mount whatever you can fit on top of it! This could be a boat, ladder, or anything else long enough to cross the two 1" pipes. Remember to strap whatever it is to the rack (and even down to the bed) to keep it from flying off while you drive!

Metal Contest

Participated in the
Metal Contest

Great Outdoors Contest

Participated in the
Great Outdoors Contest

squeeze more awesome out of summer contest

Participated in the
squeeze more awesome out of summer contest



  • Beauty Tips Contest

    Beauty Tips Contest
  • 1 Hour Challenge

    1 Hour Challenge
  • Backyard Contest

    Backyard Contest

29 Discussions


2 years ago

Nice build Kurt, It's nice that you can completely disassemble it if you want to.

I have limited storage space at my place and this rack could break down to a small bundle of conduit, with a few bracket sticking out.

1 reply
Kurt E. Clothiertgschwan

Reply 2 years ago

Thanks! And yes, that was my intention. We traveled in an RV, and I stored the bundle of conduit on the RV roof with our kayaks.


4 years ago on Introduction

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

2 replies

Reply 2 years ago

Hey Costarus, I like your stake hole posts on this rack...what did you you use for these? Did you have a way to anchor the rack down? It looks like you welded your joints, is that right? Nice clean look!


3 years ago

Very nice instructable. I have tried a few of my own design but this looks like a winner. The two things I have done differently is I lowered the rear cross support a little bit so the boats a raised above the roofline. The second thing I did was to extend the cross supports outside a few inches. This allows me to have my canoes overlap the uprights. Also it lets me hook the canoe on the front support then lift it onto the rear. My kids are a bit too small to help with them and my wife doesn't canoe. I don't know how kayaks would be managed.

I am curious about the clamps. You mentioned that you used screws on the ones you attached to the bed but not the others. It seems to me that screws would make the whole rack more secure.

Finally, when I saw your parts list I assumed the threaded eye and hook would be used as a turnbuckle to create an X pattern for adding stiffness to the sides. from what you have said in the comments it is pretty sturdy. Do you think running a cable tightened with a turnbuckle from the top front to the rear bottom and one from the read top to the front bottom would be of value? I would probably also put one behind the window since it wouldn't be in the way.

Either way this is terrific!

1 reply
Kurt E. ClothierHogHunter

Reply 3 years ago

HI, thank you for the compliments

The anchors in step 4 definitely do better with screws - I think I mentioned that somewhere here. This entire project has been improved in a few ways since I made this guide, but the basics are still the same, and it does still work great.

Really, any part could be made more stable with screws, just as long as it doesn't impede the portability of the rack since that is the point of it.

The threaded hook and eye is strictly used as a temporary method of clamping the rack to the truck bed - although, (and I can't remember if I mentioned this or not) I have changed this a bit, so the hook goes down through a metal loop on the inside bed rail instead of how it is here since it was starting to put upward dents in the metal (and would likely eventually break through). Of course, the rack is also held down by the ratchet straps holding down the kayaks.

I also thought about putting a cross-X support like you mentioned. Whenever I tie everything down, I have been using rope to tie the top of the front down to the bottom of the back which significantly reduces sway, and I do recommend doing that as well. If you want to use cable and threaded hooks, I think it would work very well.

In any case, just make sure your boats are tied down individually - front, back, and sides just in case anything unexpected happens.


3 years ago

Wow very innovative love it cant wait to build it for the 20 mile marathon im doing next month


3 years ago

Great design! Have been looking for a good DIY removable rack that I didn't have to mount into the bed. All the comments are very helpful. I ended a way to haul a 60# cedar strip canoe as well as long dimensional lumber (12-16').


4 years ago on Step 9

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
4 replies

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 solved this issue a while ago... I have a rope going from the front of the kayaks backwards to the rack, and a rope from the back of the kayaks forward to the front of the truck bed. It cannot move forward or backward, unless, as mentioned, the entire rack suddenly breaks apart. Plus, there is no stupid, annoying rope in front of my window or messing up the bug guard.

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.


4 years ago on Introduction

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.

2 replies

4 years ago on Introduction

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!!!!!

2 replies

i built this but clamped and screwed it togeterh and i have a kayak on it all the time and use it for school work and i have haulled close to 300 pounds of bamboo at once it did flex a bit and it only took damage to the side pipe when i unloaded it but that was my fault.

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.