Stake Pocket Kayak Rack

Truck > Mods > Kayak rack


We had kayak carrying well in hand with the Sequoia.

All three kayaks on!

With the F-150 it was a whole new ball game. Emily has moved from a sit-upon to the real thing. As long as the crew cab is, it's too short (in my opinion) for kayaks. We're not interested in installing a front hitch receiver, so that's out. And the truck came with a tonneau cover when we bought it - we'd like to keep it on and in use while camping. So, the search began for a stake pocket rack. There are very few on the market and none that suit our needs at a reasonable price... so we designed and built our own.


The rack had to be in two separate parts so we could move it back past our travel trailer when it's parked in the driveway. We decided to make it out of 2 x 4s and framing hardware. Here's the plan...

Kayak rack plans - rack plan

... the side elevation (left shown)...

Kayak rack plans - rack elevation, side

... and the end elevation (rear shown).

Kayak rack plans - rack elevation, rear

The stake pockets all have sockets in the bottom. Turns out the rears are slightly tighter than the fronts, so I drew plans for those too.

Kayak rack plans - stakes, plan

And elevations.

Kayak rack plans - stakes, elev


Before I made any of the rack's actual parts, I cut a test stake out of a short piece of 2 x 4. This turned out to be an excellent use of time and material because it helped me to set up tools and refine methods.

Test stake*

The stakes were the first parts I made. I set up a stop block on the mitre saw...

Cutting the stakes

... and cut the four stakes

Four stakes cut

I marked the rear stakes 1.5" from the bottom...

Rear stakes marked for shoulder cut*

... and, with the band saw, removed the 1/8" that would allow them to fit in the rear stake pocket sockets.

Shoulder cuts on rear stakes

Next, the sides of the stakes were removed...

Cutting the stake cheeks

... and the four stakes were cut.

Rear and front stakes

Because the stake pocket holes have rounded corners, the stakes themselves must be rounded. For this I used a router table with a 3/8" roundover bit.

Rounding the stake corners*

Stakes rounded.

Stake corners rounded

Test fit. Some are a little loose in the pockets but that's not a problem.

Stake test fit

Here are the stake feet.

Stake feet cut

Stake feet and crossbars attached.

Cross bars cut to length

Time for paint. As with most all of our outdoor lumber projects we're using semi-gloss exterior latex. Three coats... durable finish, easy cleanup.

Time for paint

Painting complete - time for a test fit.

Test fit

Mounting the tie down rings

Tie down ring

The last step was to install the cradles. We already had two pairs; a third was purchased for Emily's new boat.

The cradles will fit over a 2 x 4 but the stock M6 carriage bolts are too short. We found longer ones in 1/4-20 size, which meant foregoing the stock knobs for nylock nuts. The photo shows a galvanized 1/4-20 carriage bolt beside the stock part for comparison; we actually used stainless steel carriage bolts.

These carriage bolts are the right length but 1/4-20 is too thick

The outer racks were installed first.

Outer J-racks on cross bars

We loaded the larger boats, then used Dawn's as a reference for the placement of the centre racks.

Addind the middle J-racks

For all of the photos of this project including some close ups of the rack, check out our Flickr album.


Loading the kayaks is a simple process, shown below in seven steps.

Step 1: Rest the bow on the tailgate.

Loading - step 1

Step 2: Pull the kayak into the bed.

Loading - step 2

Step 3 - Rest the bow on the forward rack.

Loading - step 3

Step 4: Slide the boat forward until the stern clears the aft rack.

Loading - step 4

Step 5: Pivot the boat on the forward rack and place the stern on the aft rack.

Loading - step 5

Step 6: Position the boat on both racks.

Loading - step 6

Step 7: Tilt the boat cockpit inward and secure to the rack with straps.

Loading - step 7

In our case the middle boat - Emily's - is racked left of centre with the cockpit facing the passenger side. And while the boats can be loaded by one person, it's faster and easier with two.

The Kayaks

All three of our boats are made by ClearWater Design and were purchased directly from the factory at 1959 County Road 15, Prince Edward, Ontario. Dawn's Iqaluit was a factory second, my Inuvik was an experimental colour, and Emily's Guppy was a demo model... all were well discounted. They are very rugged boats and lots of fun to paddle.



Our first trip with the kayaks loaded on the rack provided an acid test. Roads varied from rough rural at 80 km/h to smooth freeway at 100 km/h. Close to our destination we crossed a set of railroad tracks at about 70 km/h and were surprised by a severe and umarked hump which resulted in a crashing bounce for the truck and trailer. When we arrived at the campground we were pleased to see that everything was still secure.

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