Putting a Kayak on a Truck


I don’t know if this is an overworked topic on this board. I am relatively new to the sport of sea kayaking and wanted to enlist the aid of those with more experience than I. I have two basic questions. Both concern putting an 18’ Kayak on a Ford F250 Crew Cab Shortbed without a Camper shell.

One: Without inflaming the Thule vs. Yakima debate, what are peoples thoughts on the selection of Pick-Up Truck Racks available out there. The up/down adjustability of the Thule looks semi-useful. The rigidity of the Yakima looks, well, rigid. Trac Rack makes a cool looking rack, but then what do you do for saddles or rollers. I’ve seen several other alternatives but without knowinng more about them I really feel like I’m guessing.

Two: Suppose that I use a Bed Rack, do I also use a Crossbar on the roof? That is to say; An 18’ boat centered on the Bed Rack would hang the stern about 6 feet past the back of the tailgate and leave the bow somewhere above the front of the sunroof or the windshield.

If I put a crossbar on the roof I could move the boat forward by half the distance between the new bar and the front bar of the Bed Rack. Right? Tell me what I’m missing. Is there a Truck Rack FAQ that I haven’t found?


I don’t know much about truck racks, but I can tell you what a friend did. He built the racks like a square bed elevated to roof level out of 2x4’s. Cut a couple rounded notches in the cross pieces and lined them with foam. Then did almost the same with from the front end of the truck with aluminum tubing. The yak had full support from the front of the truck to the tailgait. A couple of eyelets for the bungee chords and it was fine. (Toyota 1 ton. 15’yak)

Trac Rac
I got the TracRac. I have a GMC Sonoma Extended Cab. Instead of buying saddles, I used my foam blocks and some foam pipe insulation to rig a very serviceable mount on the Trac Rac. Let me know if you would like pictures and a description of how I rigged it.

I didn’t want to spend the big dollars on the saddles and adapters.

The TracRac is a very solid product, requires no drilling, and I am absolutely happy with it.


Whatever you do
Put something over the cab. Lower budget route - look at the “basic” (meaning non name brand) contractor style racks with over cab extensions. Little more cash - go with a Yakima (or Thule) cross bar over the cab and counterpart rack mounted on the bed (think the Yakima I have is called the Outdoorsman). Don’t leave the boats hanging that far off the back. Even with my setup, which consists of a big Yakima basket thing over the cab, and the bed rail mounted rack on the back, my 18’ boats still stick out about 18 - 24 inches. I’ve come all too close to hitting stuff while backing up even with that small overhang.

As for saddles - if you go the lower end route, a trip to the hardware store and local outfitter could be quite revealing. Some mini-cell, a little treated wood or some steel, and a little thought could go a long way. Higher budget, I think that both Yakima and Thule now offer “multi mounts” that will fit a wide variety of rack styles.

Yakima Sportsman
I drive a Dakota king cab and have the Sportsman 300 for compact trucks, with saddles. I would not trade a system like this for anything. I had the 2x4 deal on my old GW and it does horrible things to a hull with those foam blocks. I tried the half over the cab the rest over the truck and that sucked, it made it hard to strap it down. I went with two towers over the bed and it is great. I can climb all over the place when loading boats and I have the saddles aligned with the bulkheads. I am sure the thule versin of this is just as good. my 2 bits


Rack option
I’ve installed a number of these options for people in the past. The single tailgate bar by Yakima or Thule is the first step. You can experiment with a foam block just over in front of the cab brake/bed light if you want to go the lower budget route but I usually see people get fed up with it and put a cargo bar (again Thule or Yakima) with saddles as the final solution. Another note is wheter your hull is rounded or chined. I have a Tahsis and the Thule Hydro Glides allow it to slide up ok, but usually with the boat canted at 45 degrees or so for the flat pads like to sit on a uniform surface not an angle. Rollers on the back might be the way to go and Set-2-Go Saddles up front. As pkm said, my $.02. Hope it helps.



Thule Xsporter
I just put it on my new F150. It looks great. The bars in the lower position are good for bikes and boards. The install is easy, the adjustment to get everything square requires much more patience. I’d have gone cheaper like the Yakima Outdoorsman but wanted something to go with the shiny new truck. Boats in a truck bed will stick out further- I just pay attention when backing up.

Thistleback - your rack
I drive a GMC Sierra extended cab with a bed tonneau cover. I like the sound of your setup. Can you post a picture?