Transporting in a pick-up truck

For the last few years I have transported my boats on top of my Jeep Cherokee but now it’s so rusty that it’s not structurally sound. I need a new vehicle and, for various non-paddling reasons, I am leaning towards a pick up truck. I’m sure the this question has been done to death but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to stuff a 14 foot kayak into a 5,6 or even 8 foot bed. I have seen some really expensive rack systems that look to involve a lot of lifting and climbing and then the racks are stuck there making it necessary to be a lot of maneuvering to get “over stuff” into the bed. What cheep, practical solutions that are not lily to damage the truck have you guys come up with?

Make a rack if your truck bed sides have those holes in them… Insert wood uprights. Bolt on cross pieces of wood.

Its better than tying your boat in to the head of the bed and hoping for the best. Though that has been done… It helps if your bed and tailgate is at least half the length of the yak.


– Last Updated: Apr-09-15 11:23 AM EST –

Make a 2x4 frame, maybe 10 or 12 ft long, slice and glue pool noodles on to them for all contact points. Place them in the bed sloped up and over the tailgate door, find a way to anchor them, solidly in the bed with existing spots for that sort of thing.(cutouts, holes and stuff) Then just use the typical strap tie downs to secure them to the padded 2x4 frame.

Truck Bed Extender
Around here in the deep south, where pick-up trucks almost outnumber palmetto bugs, truck bed extenders such as the “Extend-A-Truck” are very popular.

Loading is easy, and cost is relatively cheap ($100) but a major disadvantage is that your kayak is exposed and a minor fender bender could easily destroy your kayak. I most often see these extenders used for short poly kayaks rather than composites.

I’d rather have mine lifted clear and on the roof/above the bed, but that is more expensive and does require more work to load.

Greg Stamer

Two/Four door?
Also, what length bed?

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

four door
bed length is generally short on these things. I’m thinking a ridge line at this point as it is short enough overall that I can just continue using roof racks

Can use combo of tie- downs and
homemade rack.

We have old, very heavy duty slide-in-camper tie downs mounted on 4 corners of the 8’ truck bed and use them for everything imaginable, including tying down or strapping kayaks in the bed. The extra length of a 14’ kayak then hangs about 4’ over the tailgate, which I let down. I’ve added a homemade single piece crossrack made of very sturdy wood sideways across the end of the bed, mounted in the bed stakes, where the tailgate would be up. ( 1 piece of 2x6, 2 holes slightly larger than the outside diameter of pipe, 2 short pieces of pipe to pin the wood crosspiece which fit in the bed stake holes) To this I add more tie downs to the kayak, “just in case.” I don’t want it going sideways or back, either, (rather hilly, bumpy journeys) so I encourage it to stay where it is, should my primary straps fail, with added “stuff.” Yeah, it’s “Ozark,” but it’s not going anywhere.

And I have safety reflective tape on my kayak stern/bow, in addition to using a flag, that is used on truck bumpers, so this really shows up at night. I think a lot of times people aren’t sure just “what” it is they’re following, but they tailgate this less than my regular car. I find that a small, sturdy white plastic bag tied to the kayak is also more visible than the “red flag” they require to be on the back of an oversized load. Yeah, it has its “red flag,” but it gets the flappy bag, too. Red is a difficult color to see at dusk, white glows in headlights, reflective tape really shows up. Have someone drive your loaded vehicle at dusk/night and follow and now see how visible it is. This is where you want “bling” for the stupid people out there.

For one or two heavy plastic kayaks around 13’, that will fit side by side, we’ve put both in the bed upside down, and just have the ends hanging over the tailgate, which is left up, then tie them down to the camper ties and perhaps add extra stern tie downs to the bumper or the towing hitch.

PVC rack
Looks like a slide in camper skeleton.

2 1/2" schedule 80 $100. Slides in and out as a unit. Can even use it to on the ground to hold boats while cleaning.

I use ratchet straps cuz I’m wild and crazy and like to live on the edge.

Ridgeline options.
This compact truck has a factory rack option. Add a 2" receiver hitch if it doesn’t come with one. A truck bed extender like by Yakima, Thule or Extend-a-Truck will give you the aft crossbar. After that, a pair of stackers for boats on edge, surf pads for deck down carry. Kayaks with a lot of bow rocker may need to go stern first as the factory rack doesn’t have a lot of height clearance.

Does that work?

Other options available for other cabs.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Similar solution
I used to have a Ford Ranger and had a detachable roof rack on the roof and a home made rack in the rear stock holes. It was made out of lumber and cost me maybe $30. I got the roof rack for free at a yard sale. It all came on and off in 5 minutes.


– Last Updated: Apr-09-15 3:07 PM EST –

has four tie down ( maybe more) tie down points in the bed.

We often transport our neighbors two 12 foot kayaks in the bed.. Our two boats are on the rack on the cap..
We tie down the bows snug to the back of the cab.. and then creatively spider web to the other two tiedowns by the tailgate ( which is down). So far we have been fine with a couple hundred miles with this arrangement. What is most worrisome is someone will rear end us.

I saw a 16 foot canoe transported in the back of an open pickup. Lots of overhang.. but the driver seemed to be not concerned.

We have a cap on our Ridgeline. And fake raingutters that the Yakima rack we have had forever attatch to

Last year we carried boats 40,000 miles. Might be the same this year. We got our truck naked roofed. Those factory racks limit where you can mount the crossbars. I didn't like the minimal spread

On or off in 5 minutes? Impressive.
I’ve never had any rack on any vehicle that I could mount, adjust and secure in 5 minutes.

It impresses and puzzles me when people say they can do so. I must be a bit slow.

The good ol’ days…,
of welded rain gutters an’ Quik & Easy towers wit 2X4’s. Less than 1 minute ta put on an’ take off. Still have mine.


A ridgeline
isnt much of a truck.

Probably the best bet would be a roof rack or a hitch extender.

The problem you might run into is will the extender be far enough out of that little storage area to make a difference. Rigeline bed with the tailgate down is 6.5’??? ish, so if you get a extender, do you get enough distance to hold the kayak.

The roof rack would work pretty well. Even better if there are stake pockets like a truck bed where you could make a rear support.

common enough
but good for the hull ? good for the lawyer’s children riding in the MB following ?


from rungs, a vee of 1x can screw nail in covered with commercial kayak foam or old rug. HomeDepot sells rug runners.

don’t be dull

be good to your hull

Camper shell with rack
I hauled a 14’ yak on the shell over my Ranger for years without a problem. Thule bars on towers on artificial gutters. It had the extended cab and 6’ bed. I recently upgraded to a new Tacoma with a double cab and 5’ box. I still could use the same arrangement but got a shell with the extended height. Why? I carry a pack canoe these days and can’t clear the bow from resting on the cab roof on a cab height shell. With the extra height the rocker isn’t a factor in keeping the short canoe above the cab. I also installed a factory rack on the cab to obtain a front tie-off point rather than run a line across the cab/windshield/hood. I was going to get the shell regardless of carrying a boat. I used the Thule parts from the Ranger. My only real extra expense was a couple of hundred for the cab rack. A sweet solution for a reasonable outlay.

Multi use pickup system
Here is a rack system I built for my truck. It allows me to place boats over the bed for easy access, or moved forward when I am pulling a fifth wheel trailer. Commercial versions are available, just a little expensive, so I made my own out of aluminum. The photo shows only 1 set of J racks mounted, with another set of J racks and a “stacker” rack I have had 5 kayaks on the roof. My cross bars are made of 1 1/2" X 2" square tube. They can easily hold the weight.

I do not have to lift the boats to the height of the roof, I simply slide them up on the lower crossbar over the tail gate up onto the upper cross bars.

You may want to check…
out the Classifieds on this site. There are a couple of options there, whether they will work for you or not, I don’t know.


Low lift method
I have a rack on top of the cab and a goalpost receiver back (easily removable) in the back. I hoist the kayak to my shoulder and walk right up to the rear rack with the boat parallel to the tailgate and lower it across the bed rails. I climb into the bed, pick up the kayak (about waist high), turn and drop the boat into the cradles.

you do use the bed or a bed extender, check your DOT code to see how far out you need to flag. EX in PA if you are 6’ past the vehicle, you must flag. I flag all the time because most cops dont know the rules and most drivers are texting so the flags motion has a chance to take their eys off that all important phone and pay attention to that silly driving thing.