Rack suggestions for aluminum truck topper, please

I just bought a used aluminum truck topper for my 2000 Chevy Silverado 1500 standard cab long bed and request suggestions for a rack for transporting canoes, kayaks and sometimes long metal roofing, lumber or other construction materials.

I do have some Thule gutter mount clamps, but no gutters on the topper. I’m not sure how well the short artificial gutters would mount to the corrugated - non-smooth surface of my aluminum topper.

Easily removeable when not needed would be appreciated, but not a deal breaker.

Adjustable distance between load bars would be appreciated, but not a deal breaker.

Inexpensive or able to use current parts and materials is highly desirable.

I do have a cab mounted Yakima bar and a Thule Goalpost for the hitch, but the Yakima bar doesn’t carry a load well and the Goalpost interferes with opening the tailgate and topper door and the load bar spacing is too far apart for many loads and shorter boats.

I’d prefer that the set up not be too unsightly and not increase wind drag more than necessary.


I might try the EZwheeler BR-M1X2 or BR-M1X2, if I don’t come up with a rain gutter solution.

Yours is the same situation I’ve had on my last three pickups. I’ve used the short “gutter” substitutes and attached them by drilling through the horizontal square braces that run through the inside if the topper. I drilled from the inside out for the first bolt and then loosely placed the gutter on the outside to locate the other holes. Once those four brackets are in place, and that’s a bit of a fussy job, any manufactured rack that has tall enough towers to clear the roof will do. (A Pannon products after market rack is the brand I think I used for my next to the last truck. No need to go with the really expensive rack system brands, IMHO)
On my last truck I used a ladder rack made by the topper manufacturer (Lakeland, if that matters) and just mounted it by the manufacturer’s instructions. I did have to modify it a bit to allow straps to pass…

If your truck is wide enough to carry your two widest boats, or if you’re content to carry only one boat, you might not even need to extend the racks further, in which case you’re done.

In my situation, and I suppose most others, the racks needed to be a bit wider. To increase the rack width I’ve used 2X4s long enough to support my two widest canoes for the cross braces. (Of course you want to add a couple extra inches so the straps aren’t in danger of slipping off the very end. A small screw on the very end might be useful insurance if you want…) These can be held to the manufactured metal cross braces by putting carriage bolts (with epoxy in the holes to make things a bit more secure and rot resistant) from the top of the 2X4s on either side of the manufactured rack’s metal cross supports. Hold it all in place with a stout metal strap across the bottom drilled to clear the carriage bolt’s diameter and held in place with insert lock nuts.

If you want you can route out a groove on the underside of the 2X4s to fit the metal bars which then allows the 2X4 height to be slightly higher in the rear to minimize air getting under the canoes and acting like a mini parachute - I think that may improve fuel economy a bit. Just make sure your adjustments don’t cause the curve of the canoe sheer line to hit the roof of your cab… extended cabs exacerbate that issue.

I’ve painted the wooden components on my last two racks and used contact cement to glue carpet on the top of the 2X4s to make life easier on wooden gunwales. Once done, if you’ve used the “mini gutters” the whole rig can be pulled off using the tower clamps, leaving only the gutter pieces on during the off season if you want. On my last truck with the topper manufactured base racks, it was more or less a permanent set up, which I didn’t mind.

There may be a better way of doing this, and perhaps someone else will speak up about it, but this method has served me well for close to thirty years,

Thanks PJC.

I did manage to find that description in an older post of yours.

Regarding the artificial gutters, because of the structure of the internal supports of the cap, I’d only be able to put one of the mounting screws through an existing support. I’d have to reinforce the other side of the bracket on some other way, which I haven’t devised, yet.

I am a life long owner of pick up trucks with caps, and I gave up on aluminum a long time ago for fiberglass.
Your cap hasn’t got the strength to support anything unless you are content with installing some inside vertical supports from the bed up to the underside of some of the cross supports, or outside supports not connected to the aluminum cap

JackL, it does appear that I’d have to add reinforcement somewhere to support a rack that will carry very much using this very lightly built aluminum cap.

If I could buy new, I’d go with a different style, but I got this one for $50, so It’s what I’ll be working with for a while, unless I get a tonneau that mounts inside the rails, so I can mount a rack in the stake pockets.

This is my first experience with a topper of any kind and I’m going to see if I can make it work.

My stepson is a welder and a specialist in aluminum, so he may be able to help me out with some reinforcements in the rack mounting area.

Talk to your stepson. PJC’s method is probably fine, and similar tricks have been used on these aluminum toppers by countless canoers for decades and I know I’ve never seen or heard of a structural failure. But if you want to increase the strength, have your stepson rig up four lengthwise external brackets with good rigidity that span two or even three of those internal cross beams, and mount your cross bars to those. You’ll still have the issue of the sidewalls not being built for really “heavy” loads, but “heavy” is a relative term. That your cap isn’t strong enough to support anything at all unless columns run from roof to cargo bed is not the case. I’ve seen some pretty heavy loads carried on toppers that are built exactly like yours and with nothing elaborate about the cross-bar mounts, and I’ve seen a guy who weighed about 230# standing on one of his cross-bar supports that also had no special modifications at all. The most weight one of those bar supports will see when carrying two canoes will be less than 50# .

Actually, keeping it really simple, you could lay a pair of 2x6’s lengthwise on the roof, bolt them through a few of the internal cross beams, and then attach a pair of 2x4 cross bars across those lengthwise rails. You’d have a really good rack for less than the price of a pair of Thule tie-down straps! Seriously, with the load spread reasonably evenly along the length of the roof, this would be pretty indestructible.