I am a freelance writer, author of 5 books, grant-writer, poet, river rat, amateur astronomer, and nonprofit consultant from Texas.
Level Your Long Loads
This handy frame lets you haul anything that's too long for the bed by strapping it to the top of the frame. It lifts in and out over the tailgate and uses bungee cords or rachet tie-downs to hold it in place when in use. Always remember to stop about 15 minutes after you start your trip to recheck the tie-downs. Sometimes a shifting load can loosen the straps or bungees.
One note: If you have wheel wells in your pickup, install the lower side boards high enough that the bottom edges of the lower side boards will clear the wheel housings by an inch or two.
This thing is easy to build and loadable by two fair sized men or by one relatively manly man who understands Archimedes principles of leverage. If the frame is too heavy for you to build with 2x6s (or if you're cheap), you can build it with 2x4s. With only a single boat up top, the 2x4 frame works fine.
The heavier frame isn't impossible, even if you're not a big he-man. The fact is, that you can load a piano in the back of a pickup all by yourself if you know how its done properly.
But, that's another weblog.
Drawings and story (c) 2011 by Tom King. All rights reserved.
- 4 pressure-treated 12 foot 2 by 6 boards (use 2x4s for lighter framework)
- 4 pressure-treated 8 foot 2 by 6 boards (or 2x4s)
- Box of 3 and a half inch long galvanized screws
- Eight 1/2-inch carriage bolts, 4 inches long with nuts and lock washers
- Carpet strips, 6 inches wide the width of the pickup bed
- Eight half inch lag bolts, 4 inches long
- 3/8 inch eye screws
Tools You'll need:
- 2 spring clamps
- Staple gun and 1-1/2 inch staples
- Tape measure
- Carpenter Speed Square
- Bungee cords
- Drill and drill bits
- Circular saw
- Ratcheting tie-down straps, 12+ feet long
Assembling the Framework
Loading the Rack
I custom fit this rack to my truck by screwing big 1-1/2 inch eye screws in convenient places on the wooden rack so that I can stretch bungee cords between them and anchor points in the truck bed. You can use rope and some fancy knots too if you'd rather. Doesn't matter which, but if the rack isn't tied down, you'll regret it. A canoe can go airborne on you and take the rack with it and that my friend would be a big old mess and dangerous to anyone driving behind you.
When you're loading a canoe or any long load, the easiest way, especially if you're loading by yourself or if your helpers are a 12 year-old and an 10 year-old, you can just lay the boat or what have you behind the truck, lift the end closest to the vehicle and leave the other end safely on the ground. I put an old quilt under the stern of my canoe so it doesn't get scratched when I slide it forward.
Slide the end of the canoe or long load onto the back end of the rack, then move to the low end, lift it up and slide it onto the rack. Then, tie it down immediately. Make it a habit to tie the boat down right then, lest you get distracted and forget. It's easy to do. You wouldn't be the first person to take off with an untied boat on top. At about 30 or 40 mph, they tend to become airborne if not secured properly.
With the rack tie-downs in place you shouldn't need to tie the front or back ends down, but I do it anyway because I prefer to be overly safe than massively sorry. It's pretty easy to run a line through the painter eyes on the bow and stern of the boat and tie the ends to the steel eyes you'll find under the bumpers of your truck or car. These are left from the manufacturing process and are used by car makers to attach the vehicle frame to the assembly line. They make handy tie down points for car-topping a canoe.
If the bow or stern tie-down ropes rub against the paint on your hood or tailgate and you don't want them to do that, get yourself some of those foam swim noodles they sell for kids to play with in the pool. Get the ones with hollow centers. Cut the noodles long enough to protect your truck's paint where the tie-downs touch the truck. Feed the ropes lengthwise through the holes in the noodles and then when you tie them down, just slide the noodles over the rope where it rubs against the hood. The noodles will prevent chafing.
If your rope won't easily go through the noodles, you can split the noodle halfway through, push the ropes into the cut and then duct tape the noodle back together as shown.
This rig not only secures your canoe, it protects your truck as well. And the more bungees involved the better I always think.
Actual Photos of Completed Racks
Padding and Protecting with Swim Noodles
© 2011 twayneking
twayneking (author) from Puyallup, WA on February 22, 2012:
Thanks for your concern, Floyd, but I wrote the "original" website. The 2-by-6 frame was overkill and too heavy to make lifting it in and out of the truck bed practical. Bolts tight and tied down to the bed, the 2-by-4 frame is plenty strong. I use the lighter frame to carry a couple of normal sized canoes. If I were hauling a pair of 20 foot war canoes, I might prefer the 2-by-6's but that's mostly cause I like things over-engineered. Not to fear, Floyd. the engineering is sound and the 2-by-4 framework does fine. I did add a couple of metal angle braces to stiffen the structure a bit. I used nails on the 2-by-6 frame for the same purpose. Either way you want to do it, the construction is the same. - Tom
Floyd Young on February 22, 2012:
The original website states to use 2x6s NOT 2x4s, this is bad information that could cause someone to get hurt or damage property.