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Key Takeaways

  • To build a kayak rack for your RV, you can choose to craft either a vertical kayak rack, a rooftop cargo rack, or a converted cargo (or luggage) rack design.
  • The easiest DIY kayak rack to construct is the converted cargo rack design, given that you do not need to build the foundation of the rack.
  • An intermediate level of crafting experience and knowledge is required to build a DIY kayak rack, especially if you want to design the platform and frame from scratch.

Having a kayak with you on road trips opens up a lot of doors for additional activities, but how do you build a kayak rack for an RV?

To build a kayak rack for your RV, you can choose to craft either a vertical rack, a rooftop rack, or a converted cargo rack design. The easiest DIY kayak rack to construct is the converted cargo rack design, given that you do not need to build the foundation of the rack.

After extensively researching kayak rack designs, I have been able to gather enough information to determine how you can build one for your RV. My research has indicated that the process of building a kayak rack can vary depending on the design that you choose and the tools that you have available for the work.



Are DIY Kayak Racks Safe?

You need to ensure that the rack you build is safe for transporting your kayak, as a poorly constructed rack can result in a number of hazards while you are on the road. Naturally, creating a rack design that is reliable and secure is going to be paramount.

With safety and security being such essential parts of the construction, I would not advise anyone to attempt to build a kayak rack on their own if they are not experienced with tools. However, if you have worked with tools before and have done similar projects, there is no reason that a DIY kayak rack is unsafe.

Experience Needed to Build an RV Kayak Rack

Building a quality kayak rack for your RV is not a job for an introductory craftsman. If you have never pursued a project like this before, I would not recommend that you start with building a kayak rack for your RV.

The main reason for this is that a failure to build a quality rack that effectively secures your kayaks can result in serious safety risks on the road. In addition, some kayak racks are more challenging to build than others. Depending on the design that you choose, you may even have to do some welding, which is outside the expertise of the average RVer.

All in all, constructing a kayak rack for an RV requires an intermediate level of crafting and building experience. Any kayak rack that you build for your RV on your own should be properly tested for reliability and security before you start actively using it.

Types of DIY Kayak Racks

There are a number of different kayak rack designs that you can pursue. Over the years, many RVers have gotten creative with their rack designs and you can ultimately choose a type based on your preferences.

You should consider the size and class of your RV when choosing a design, as this will influence where you can put the rack. In addition, you should also keep your personal building experience in mind when you choose a design. Depending on how comfortable you are with certain tools, you may find that a specific type of DIY kayak rack is better suited for your capabilities.

Vertical Kayak Racks

Vertical kayak racks are a very popular approach among RVers. This is a great design for building a DIY rack given that you can store your kayaks in the back of your vehicle where they will not take up any space.

Much like the name implies, a vertical kayak rack allows you to stand your kayak rack up vertically.

Converted Cargo Racks

If you want to avoid some of the technical sides of building a rack, opting for a converted cargo rack concept is a go-to option for a lot of RV owners. With this approach, you can utilize an old cargo or luggage rack to store your kayaks.

You may already have one of these installed on your RV, but if you don’t, they are quite easy to find and you can buy them secondhand if you want to save some cash. Once you have found a suitable cargo rack for your kayaks, you will need to make some customizations to increase the support and security of the setup.

Much like the vertical kayak rack, a converted cargo rack will be installed onto the back of your camper.

Roof Racks

Roof racks are particularly popular because they can be installed on just about any type of RV. Whether you have a small Class B RV or a large Fifth Wheel, you can create a great roof rack that will be perfect for transporting and securing your kayaks.

Naturally, if your vehicle does not already have a roof rack, making a custom frame will be necessary. This could require welding, which may be too technical for a lot of casual RVers. However, with the right design and materials, this is one of the most practical ways to transport a kayak.

Easiest DIY Kayak Rack

In general, I find the converted cargo rack design to be the easiest DIY approach. Storing your kayaks with a DIY rack often requires welding and a lot of other craftsman skills that most RV owners simply are not equipped with.

By building a converted cargo rack design for your kayaks, you can save yourself the hassle of needing to do anything too technical. In addition, opting for the converted cargo rack idea does not mean that your kayaks are any less secure. If you construct the rack properly and test it before you head out on your trip, it is just as effective as any of the other approaches.

Tools and Materials

The types of tools and materials that you need can vary depending on the design that you choose for your kayak rack. You may have some of the supplies already at home, but tracking down essential materials will be necessary if you don’t.

  • Steel tubing
  • Hammer
  • Drill/Driver
  • Drill bits
  • PVC pipe
  • Mount rails
  • Metal cutting saw
  • Tie-downs
  • Mounting brackets
  • Welder
  • Safety equipment

If you do not have a welder at home and have never pursued a project that required welding, you may want to avoid buying this kind of equipment unless you plan on actively using it.

How to Build a Vertical RV Kayak Rack

Vertical kayak racks are very common and I find that a lot of RVers prefer to have this design for their vehicles because the kayaks can be conveniently stored in the back of the vehicle.

1. Build a Platform Base

You can start building your vertical kayak rack by constructing a platform base. This will require you to weld a platform that is suitable for your RV and the size of your kayak(s). If you have more than one kayak that you want to transport, make sure that you leave enough room on the platform.

The best way to do this is to create openings on the base that are measured out for the tail end of your kayak. By fitting the kayaks inside of the platform base, you have excellent security when transporting.

2. Mount Rails for Securing Kayaks

Once the platform base has been built, you need to install mount rails to the rack so that you can properly secure the kayaks. Install mount rails for the top and bottom of your kayaks.

Before you do so, make sure that you have measured your kayaks so that you know what height the mount rails need to be.

3. Add Secure Tie-Downs

To guarantee that the kayaks are fully-secured, you can use tie-downs to seal the deal. Choose the tie-downs that you prefer, but just make sure that you test them first for quality.

I find that going with a tie-down kit is the way to go if you do not own one already. You mainly want to use the straps for securing the kayaks, but I also enjoy having the additional gear handy when going on trips with my RV.

You never know when you might need additional support for your kayaks or other camping gear, which is why having more options for security is always recommended.

How to Build an RV Kayak Roof Rack

Roof racks are very practical and highly effective for a wide variety of RV types. This is a great way to transport kayaks - especially if you are not utilizing the space on your roof for other types of storage.

You want to play it safe when designing a roof rack given the amount of wind resistance that your kayaks will be hit with. So make sure the design is sturdy and stable before you put it to the test.

1. Build a Steel or Aluminum Frame

Building a steel or aluminum frame is the most technical part of building a rooftop kayak rack. If you are comfortable welding and prefer to use steel, you can design a frame that is suitable for the size of your RV and kayaks.

If you do not want to do any welding but still want a roof rack, you can choose to use aluminum beams instead. These are a lot easier to maneuver and install, but you will need a metal cutting saw to get the right size for the aluminum beams.

2. Add Mounting Brackets

Add mounting brackets to secure the rack and kayaks. There are a couple of different designs that you can choose from based on your preferences.

Before you buy mounting brackets, I would recommend that you double-check that the size of your frame is compatible with the brackets that you choose.

3. Mount Securely to Roof

Drill and install mounting pads so that you can fit the rack onto the roof of your RV. Mounting pads will give your kayaks more security and they will also protect your roof from getting scuffed by any kayak movement.

4. Tighten All Bolt Holes

With the rack mounted to your roof, you need to tighten all of the bolts that are supporting the rack. Finger-tighten the bolts and then use a wrench to secure them fully. If you have washers to place in between the bolts, I encourage you to use them.

5. Add Tie-Downs

Once the roof rack is installed and your kayak is secured, you want to fasten it additionally with some tie-downs. Much like the vertical rack, you can tie down the kayak with straps that you can buy with a tie-down kit.

The straps should be tightened so that there is virtually no movement from the kayaks on the rack.

6. Test the Rack

Although you should be testing every rack that you plan on building, I recommend doing this thoroughly with a roof rack given the constant wind resistance.

How to Convert a Cargo Platform to an RV Kayak Rack

A converted cargo platform is a great option for building an RV kayak rack. This is one of the most straightforward ways of building a rack given that it is the least technical and you can do so with secondhand parts.

1. Find a Cargo or Luggage Platform

If you do not already have a cargo or luggage platform for your RV, you can find them for a pretty decent price new. However, this is a common secondhand item that you can buy if you want to save some cash.

2. Extend the Base to the Body of the RV

To attach the cargo platform to your RV you need to extend the base to the body of the vehicle. Most RVs have an extension at the back of the underbody to make this process very simple.

If you are not sure how to do this for the specific make and model RV that you own, reflect on your owner’s manual for more detail.

3. Create Vertical Supports

You have a few different options for creating your vertical supports. If you want to save yourself money and keep the design truly DIY, I would recommend using PVC pipe.

PVC is very easy to cut and fit together, which is why a lot of RVers use this material when creating their racks. Alternatively, if you do not want to use PVC and prefer to buy a fully-equipped kit, you can opt for this setup.

4. Add a Divider for Multiple Kayaks

If you have more than one kayak that you want to take with you on your trips, then you need to add a divider to your rack setup. Make sure to add a divider for every kayak that you have so that everything can fit onto the cargo rack.

5. Secure With Tie-Downs

Once the rack has been built, you want to fasten the kayak properly so that there is no movement when you are driving. Much like with every rack design that I covered, a tie-down kit is a great investment and you can secure your kayaks by using the straps.