Hauling Kayaks in a Pickup Bed?

I am currently car-topping a pair of kayaks, 12’ and 14’, on a roof rack equipped with Malone Seawings.
We are planning on selling this car and buying a pickup truck, this fall/winter.

We are considering carrying the kayaks inside the bed of the truck, using a truck-bed hitch-extension. Obviously we will need to pad and secure the kayaks well and use a flag at the back.
The truck bed is just over 5’, the tailgate adds about 18" and an extension adds a few more feet, but we would still be sticking out pretty far (6-7 ft). As far as I can tell, as long as we flag the kayaks, this is perfectly legal (here in TX), but I wanted to put the idea on the forum and see if this makes sense or is a really bad idea, or - whatever -

Thanks in advance!

Should work. I had an F150 with a 7 foot bed and two 14’ kayaks. Drilled thru the front of the box and installed eye bolts to tie the bows to. Made a cradle out of a 2x4 and a 1x4 that was band-sawed to match the bottom profiles of the kayaks, with eye hooks in the 2x4 for tie down. The 2x4 was bolted to the end of the lowered tailgate. It stayed on the truck for years whether I was hauling boats or not.

I used stainless steel hardware, was somewhat paranoid about electrolysis in our salty winters but that wasn’t an issue. Make sure someone can reach the nuts between the cab and the bed before drilling, and use nuts and flat washers on both sides to lock them to the sheet steel. I used thread lock too.


Having hauled 12’ to 18’ kayaks and canoes on a wide range of vehicles (and having driven behind a similar range of vehicles upon which others had attached boats) my reaction is: please, no.

What is technically legal in Texas is still not advisable. having 7’ to 9’ of a boat extending past the bumper is not OK in this or any other universe — the cockpits would extend beyond the truck! There is no way you could secure them effectively to prevent them being a mortal danger in an accident or even a panic braking or swerve event. The inertia of a 50# boat abruptly changing speed or direction at highway speeds is immense.

Also, I drove pickups long enough ( during a 30 year career as a construction manager) to know that other motorists run into the back of them with unfortunate frequency. If you haul boats that way, hanging out of the bed, they are going to get hit. Most drivers are not looking beyond a narrow visual field which vertically tends to remain about even with a line between them and the middle of the rear window of the vehicle ahead of them. And that is how they gauge following and stopping distance between themselves and the preceding vehicle. Why do you think those of us who haul low trailers put tall flags on both rear corners of them? I learned early on that my work trucks needed to have either a cap or a full frame ladder rack on them to clarify the vehicle’s dimensions to the idiots tail-gating me ( a particular necessity during my years in Michigan, where tail-gating is apparently a sacred condition of residency.) A troubling percentage of drivers never see anything below the level of their own dashboard.

You are also going to have a lot of trouble gauging your own backup clearance.

Best way to haul boats on a pickup is with a Thule rack atop the cab and a rear cross bar either on an enclosed cap or, if you need/want to keep the bed open, on a hitch-mounted t-bar set at the same elevation as the front rack. Since you have such a short bed anyway, the t-bar would be a very viable option for centering and securing the boats.

I cringe EVERY time I see people hauling kayaks low in pickup beds or inside vans and hatch back cars. It does not require a PhD in physics to visualize what a 50 pound 14’ missile propelled at 60 mph might do to a windshield or human body. I either pass such vehicles as quickly as is safe to do so or drop far enough back that any chaos they could wreak would not be an immediate concern directly ahead of my path.

I would not be surprised to see others weigh in that they have hauled their boats hanging out of their truck beds ir tailgates for years with no problems. I would group such responses with those from people who brag that they have paddled for years without a PFD or dressing for immersion with “no problem”. You don’t “need” safe practices until it’s too late.


I would invest in an ADARAC truck rack system and attach your current Malone Seawings to it. There are two different models, the deluxe one is better if you plane to put a tonneau cover on the bed. I put one on mine and it is much better than having boats sticking off the back of the truck and you do not have to worry about your other items blowing or falling out of the bed. Between the ADARAC and one Yakima bar on the roof, I can carry just about any size kayak or canoe.

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Well, I hoped the feedback would be more postitive, but I appreciate the posts.

I should state that the reason we would rather not mount the boats high is that my bride and I are both well past our prime, and do not do ‘up’ very well. We’ve been managing lightweight (Eddyline) kayaks and the SeaWings with stingers (load assist) pretty well, but moving them on a truck makes things a lot further up than it already is, unless we could use the bed, or else go to a trailer.

I recognize that even if bed-level kayaks were solidly locked down, there remains the concerns of our own maneuvering, and especially, other drivers. I know enough to understand Willowleaf’s tailgator/visibility concerns to know even my brilliant red kayak may not be much help. It will help ‘some’, no more.

Well, we can’t keep things as they are, I don’t feel good about putting them both on top of my little Impreza (and would have to spend $$), and a trailer is something my wife abhors, and we do not already own.

I appreciate any further comments - thanks!

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if you are past your prime as you say, then consider a small kayak trailer. When I could no longer lift my boat above my head that is what I did. It so small and light, it tows behind anything and super easy to get a boat on being waist high. Yes, its a extra get started expense but worth it in my opinion.


The other option is getting lighter kayaks. I’m 70 and currently have 5 kayaks and a solo canoe in usage rotation. The heaviest (a 15’ plastic sea kayak) is 45 pounds and the others range from 24 pounds to 37 pounds. Three of the kayaks are folding models, a 24 pound 12’ Pakboat Puffin, a 27 pound 14’ Pakboat Quest and a 37 pound 15’ Feathercraft Wisper. You need not break down and then set up a folding kayak each time you use it. I generally set mine up in the Spring after keeping them stored in their duffel bags over the winter, then roof rack them for local trips. The lightest boat per foot of length is the 18’ long wood and nylon skin-on-frame which is only 31 pounds.

I have no trouble solo loading a boat under 40 pounds onto a roof rack, and even the 45 pounder is still tolerable since it is long enough for me to angle the bow up onto the rear rack and then lift and shove the stern forward.

Another advantage for us “old folks” of folding kayaks is that they can be checked as baggage on airline trips to take along on vacation, then be transported in the trunk of a rental car and stashed in your hotel room or rented cottage. I took the 12 footer to a cottage stay in England 3 years ago and paddled it with members of the canoe and kayak club in the small town I was staying in.

Personally, I wish that car makers had not shifted to building taller vehicles in recent decades, also so heavily marketing commercial sized trucks and “utility” style vehicles to people who really did not need something that massive. The ideal kayak and canoe hauling vehicle for me has always been either of my old school 1990’s Volvo station wagons. My 1992 Volvo 740 was just about ideal: steel rain gutters that securely handled a roof rack, long and flat roofline that was 56" above the ground which is about shoulder height for me, and secure attachment points beneath the steel bumper for hooking on bow and stern security lines. I did eventually get a Subaru Outback but the horizontally shorter roof line meant I did not have great clearance between the racks. I had a couple of Dodge Caravans, which required a small step ladder for securing my boats, but at least they took cheap rack set ups and were also long and flat.

The tall, wind tunnel curvature monstrosities that pass for “station wagons” today are a pain for boat hauling. I have a 2 kayak trailer and a light duty hitch on my Mazda CX5, but since I don’t have a driveway or garage on my property, wrangling the trailer in the dirt and gravel dead end alley 100’ below the back of my house means I rarely use it. If YOU have a driveway and place to park a trailer, I would strongly recommend that option. If you kayak frequently, you could just store the boats on the trailer during the season (taking precautions against UV exposure and oilcanning, but since you have cradles that should not be troublesome).

I am just curious, by the way. What is the utility of a pickup truck with a 5’ bed? Serious question.


My 14’ Equinox is 45 lb, her 12’ Skylark is 41 lbs. We paid enough for them, and enjoy them too much to consider swapping them. At any rate they’re not too heavy for us using our current system - but that’s going away…
We just want a better loading situation next time, not a worse one - starting to feel like ‘no-joy’ in that regard.

Yeah, that’s alway been a consideration - I know there’s some very nice ones.

Yer gonna need a bigger truck. :slight_smile:

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:thinking: :grin:

I move my 14 ft boat around in 5 foot truck bed with a T Bone extender. I go straight to the lake, paddle then straight home. There are three red flags on the T Bone and one on the boat.
People tailgate sometimes whether I have the boat in the bed or not.
Boats fly off trailers,car roofs, pickups get rear ended, trailers come loose, the point is things can wrong when moving our boats. Not sure that the truck bed is any less safe than other means of transporting a kayak.


I will be a positive response. Think about it a bit, how are cheap metal jhooks bolted to a aluminum cross arm and two of the least expensive cam buckle straps ever produced going to hold your boat better than a truck bed?
Answer, they wont.
For background, I have hauled lots of stuff, from groceries to graders. Here is the magic. If it is secured, it wont move. I have also been hit by people from girls farding in the car to a tractor trailer. You cant stop stupid and having the boats on top wont stop the tailgaters.
If you tie the front of the boat to the front of the bed, preferably with a right and left line, then tie the rear of the boat to the hitch in a 4 point DOT approved tie down back to the bed hooks, or the extension you mentioned, it WILL NOT fly out, odds are it wont move at that point either, however, to pass the dept of redundancy dept test, secure the boats around the middle with a line/cam buckle/ratchet strap and eliminate the possibility of shifting. Flag it and go.
As to not knowing where your back end is, well, if you are aware you have a rear end, you are ahead of 45% of drivers on the road. If you want to know where the back of the boat is, turn around in your seat and look, or if you have to back close, have the wife get out so the argument can begin.


Surprised at the negative response. I felt far more secure with the boats in the pickup than I ever did with them on a roof rack. Good gas mileage too. I did hit a sign once backing up.

On a pickup bed the kayaks are at eye level for cars and clearly visible to anyone in a higher-up. With red flags in their face, nobody ever pulled up too close at a stoplight. Never saw anyone cringing.


I’ve hauled kayaks a few times in the bed of my old Ford Ranger, 6’ bed. I would advise you to get a roof rack and learn to load it properly and you won’t need a trailer. I built the rear rack from lumber.

You’ll probably be just fine with them sticking out the back, but if you need to drive a long way, in wind or very hot weather you are going to end up having problems. The biggest problem is people do not expect to have seven or eight feet of a kayak sticking out of the back, and someday someone is going to think they can whip around you in a parking lot and they will take out your boats, tailgate and hitch etc… I saw this happen at an intersection in Ft. Colins Colorado. I’ve seen many local mishaps here with kayaks in truck beds here in southern california with newbees headed to the beach with their gerryrigged tailgate extensions. Loading a kayak on a pickup where one person can get up in the bed and guide it while the other person pushes from the ground up is very easy.


I carry 14’ and 16’ in my Tundra’s bed from home to the lake, usually around an hour. I use a t-bar extender. For longer trips, I use my racks.
I have had one accident in the neighborhood when a kid in a hurry hit the boats.
It ruined my t- bar but the plastic boats slid up his hood and the t-bar took out his radiator.
State Farm bought me another t-bar . The agent couldn’t believe that was the extent of my claim.
His car was another story.


I found a list of the restrictions on overhang of vehicular loads in each state. Check for yours.


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Did you notice that he is talking about hauling 12’ and 14’ boats in a 5’ bed? Having 9’ of a 14’ kayak (2/3rds of the length and weight) hanging past the bed is not the same as having a foot or two of a rec boat hanging over the tailgate on a full sized bed.


with a extension
They are not wagging in the breeze, they are sitting on a firm platform https://www.samsclub.com/p/tailgate-extender-non-folding/prod19541277?pid=CSE_Connex_ATV&_Snowmobile_Accessories&source=ifpla&CAWELAID=730010300000879497


Extension is only 48" so you will still have 5’ of boat hanging free beyond it. Did you check your state’s restrictions on overhang? They range from 3’ to 10’.

5’ bed, plus a tailgate, plus a load support

It is perfectly safe, legal almost everywhere, and fine for the kayaks. Plenty of stuff to tie them down to. A flag on each and off to the river