Constructing a 6-kayak Rack

My friend Patrick Farneman armed me with a welderSo I decided to built a new kayak rack.

Constructing a welded steel rooftop rack to haul 6 skin-on-frame kayaks around probably isn’t high on the priority list for many folks out there, but I hope that some ideas here will be helpful for the unending need for kayak transport.

The frame construction seems like it should have been easy to design. But as with most things, I made it way too complex at first and then, with time, simplified. Eventually I realized that the simplest method to design a rack would be to attach a separately framed rack onto my existing bars, both to save money and hassle in trying to locate the proper bracket attachments to get the rack to mount to my Jeep’s roof securely. After that the design flowed naturally.

The design above seemed like a good idea– fairly common and inexpensive steel tubing and a few welds with strength in enough directions with the brackets. In truth, the construction did end up pretty simple, but I managed to flash-burn my face by not wearing a full face mask. So now I look like a raccoon, but a raccoon with six kayaks securely on top of one car!

I made sure to use a high-quality spray paint designed to cover and fight rust. That made a lot of sense, since the metal showed quite a bit of rust after being out in the rain a single day! We will see how it holds up to the abuse a rooftop rack takes over time, but most of the wear will be on the padding I put over the bars anyway. There I used pipe insulation, an excellent padding but perhaps less than timeless durability.

The photograph above shows the cleats I welded on that took quite a bit of extra time. They allow easy looping of my tie-down straps, making it simpler and quicker to add and remove kayaks from up top.

And that’s how the rack is attached, so you get the idea of how to retrofit a less-fancy rack system to your car if you’ve got factory rails on your car or can get ahold of just the expensive Thule or Yakima towers and use third-party bars.

That’s it! Off to the races! And BTW, if you notice that the kayaks seem very far forward, that is because the entire rack system is designed to allow me to tow my “mobile skin-on-frame kayak workshop” trailer behind me as I go, which is more than a common occurrence! Happy paddling!