The main reason so many people are migrating to life on the road is the personal freedom to go wherever they want at any time. There is nothing like waking up and looking out your door to nature’s symphony while you enjoy a hot cup of coffee.

And when you’re on the road, it only makes sense to enjoy the local natural amenities where you have decided to park for a few days. If you’re close to waterways that are worth exploring, you’d regret not bringing your kayak.

But where should you store a huge kayak on your RV?

Let’s take a look at how to build a kayak rack for an RV in a few different ways and some of the easier alternatives 🙂

Size matters

Before you get your tools out and start designing intricate plans, you need to know a couple of measurements.

What is the total length and width of your kayak, and can it fit on your roof lying down or on your rear when vertical?

For most kayak enthusiasts, a lake kayak is the way to go. They are shorter than ocean or river kayaks and a little wider, so you have a smooth ride on the water.

In these cases, having the kayak on the rear of your RV would work well.

Longer ocean and river kayaks may have to ride on the roof, and that gets a bit more complicated if you have solar panels.

If you’re considering bringing kayaks for your kids, here’s my take on the best kids kayaks: 8 Best & Most Durable Kids Kayaks (in 2022).

Roof mount vs rear mount

A roof-mounted kayak faces the driving speed and wind of the open road.

If your kayak isn’t strapped down well on the roof, you risk losing it on the road and gifting your kayak to the unfortunate driver behind you.

That is why I tend to go for the rear-mounted version.

This involves some sort of platform coming from the rear construction or bumper of your RV. It’ll hold the weight of your vertical kayak and allow you to run heavy straps to keep it steady and secure.

The benefit of using a rear setup is that it doesn’t take much more room to put two kayaks side by side or one kayak and a bit of extra gear like a large cooler.

Weight is a big concern no matter where you place your mounted kayak. The average lake kayak weighs 30-50 pounds without added gear. If you’re a fisherman, bump that number up to 70 pounds at least.

That can be a lot of weight for your roof to handle when it isn’t distributed well.

Here’s an article on the best lightweight kayaks: 10 Best & Most Lightweight Kayaks for Your Next Adventure (in 2022).

Here’s how to build a kayak rack for your RV

When you begin to model what you’re looking to build, take an honest evaluation of your skillset:

  • Are you capable of welding?
  • Do you have a tow hitch hookup on your RV?
  • Have you ever held a water noodle?

The majority of us probably haven’t picked up a welding torch before and cannot rely on that skill to get us by. In that case, we need to shop around for a reliable base unit we can hook into our tow hitch.

Else it’ll be really hard to build a kayak rack for your RV.

You can pick up a simple aluminum cargo carrier from Amazon for anywhere from $100-$200. Here’s one from MaxxHaul with extremely positive ratings.

Then you want to line the bottom with cut water noodles that can be tapped down and wrapped around the metal so it won’t damage your kayaks.

YouTube video

After that, all you’ll need are a few straps to hold the top, base, and middle in place.

Most people attach their straps to their ladder racks, and any other holds on the roof of their RVs. This is the least expensive solution and works fine.

However, if you want a more permanent, long-term solution, you really should invest in a full metal cargo carrier that can hold a bit more weight.

Getting a steel cargo carrier and a couple of milk crates works really well.

These tend to hold up to 500 pounds giving you way more capacity to work with for anything else you want to carry. Just line the milk crates with water noodles, insert your kayaks, and strap down for the ride.

Most YouTube videos you’ll find about DIY RV kayak racks will involve some minor welding or steel modifications to nail down a sturdy design.

The milk crate trick is my favorite to avoid any of that mess.

Putting your kayak on the roof

If you decide placing your kayak on top of your RV is the way to go, all you really need are two decent cross beams and straps.

Not all RVs have roof racks when you buy them from the lot.

Investing in a respectable roof rack assembly that you can put in yourself is a great way to enhance the capabilities of your RV.

Not only will you be able to carry a couple of kayaks, but you will also be able to haul other essentials as well. It’s amazing, trust me.

You can always go without the roof rack and put the kayaks directly onto the roof with a lot of padding. It’s the cheapest way to go and requires a lot more pool noodles.

You’re trying to protect your kayak and your roof at the same time from any scratching or potential damage. Again, straps are your friends.

Picking up an inflatable kayak instead

I love to go kayaking, so when I make this suggestion, don’t everyone immediately put on a sour face 🙂

The technology behind inflatable kayaks has gotten a lot better in recent years.

They were so popular during the pandemic that I was able to sell my old $140 inflatable for almost twice the original purchase price.

Inflatable kayaks break down into a carry bag that you can store inside your RV when not using and make an easy solution to the whole problem.

Even the oars separate for travel.

All you need is a decent way to inflate the kayak while traveling, and you can enjoy hours exploring lakes and slow-moving rivers.

(These are not the kind of water device you want to take down rapids.)

Time to call a buddy

For my money and peace of mind, I suggest investing in a decent cargo carrier at the rear of your RV that can hook into your tow hitch.

If you can afford the $200-$400 price tag of a simple steel rack, you’ll save a lot of time and the headache of learning how to build a kayak rack for an RV.

That is unless you have that one buddy who really knows their welding! 🙂

If you can get hold of a friend that will forge a simple cargo carrier from local parts, then that is the way to go. It’s super cheap.

They’ll be able to customize your rack for your kayak, bike, cooler, and even grandma’s electric wheelchair, all at a price that usually involves a six-pack and home-cooked meal.

Final thoughts

Do your due diligence and look around at some of the more inventive examples of DIY RV kayak roof and rear-mounted racks on YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest.

It might seem odd, but many brilliant solutions are on social media because outdoor living has been so popular lately.

Too many people have been cooped up for an extended amount of time and need a break from family and enclosed spaces.

Whatever your personal decision, always practice safety first.

Make sure your rack is road-ready, doesn’t have a lot of rattle, and keeps you, your family, and any other person driving near you safe. An accident or highway ticket goes a long way to ruining your weekend getaway.