Kayak Cartage Pt. 2: DIY Kayak Trailer

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By Shane Anderson
There are a lot of good kayak trailers out there, and they are designed to do one thing very well--transport your kayak.  There are times however, when you are you going to need a trailer for something other than hauling your kayak, like helping your brother-in-law move.  Now I suppose you could just strap the old Flex Steel sofa to to the crossbars and take off down the road, or give him twenty bucks for gas and a map to the local U-Haul. But if you want to stay on the good side of your in-laws (or the misses) You could build your own DIY kayak trailer like I did.

The benefit of this design is that it can haul more than just your kayak.  It can haul the yard refuse to the compost site, bring home your new Lazy-Boy recliner from the store or even bring that old Flex Steel to Goodwill.  The DIY kayak trailer is built on a 5’ x 8’ mesh utility trailer chassis that you can buy at Lowe’s, Farm and Fleet, or any other large home improvement box store.

I still had my Thule XSPORTER rack system from our old Ford Ranger pick-up sitting in the back of the garage.  I mounted the Rack system to the trailer the same way you would mount it to the bed rails of a pick-up (In other words, you can just follow the instructions that are shipped with rack.)  The rack installs easily with no cutting or drilling and features multi-height adjustment that locks into place.  The best part about this is that you can set the height of the rack so that the kayaks sit above the swing up ramp of the trailer. Or you can just remove the swing up ramp if you have no use for it. This aluminum rack is made of 6000 grade aluminum and is compatible with most Thule accessories and the 72” crossbars can easily accommodate four high volume sea kayaks.

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I purchased four pair of some inexpensive Chinese J-Cradles and mounted them to the Thule crossbars.  After only one season, the foam on the J-Cradles literally disintegrated, offering no protection for the kayaks.  I have since replaced the awful foam with foam noodles (the kind kids play with at the pool) from the dollar store and so far they have held up much better.

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  After placing our sea kayaks on the trailer, I noticed right away that I was going to have to get a tongue extender.  The trailer tongue is simply too short to accommodate 17’ sea kayaks.  Using a pair of side-cutters, I cut off the wiring connector and pulled the wires far back into the tongue so I wouldn’t cut the wires in the next step.  Using a Saws-all, I cut the welded trailer hitch off the tongue and drilled the tubing to fit the Fulton Fold-Away coupler.  I then drove down to a local metal shop to buy some 2” x 3” x 4’ tubing to make my own tongue extender.

I drilled holes in the tubing that I just purchased so I could mount the new trailer coupler.  Once everything was bolted in place all the mechanical work was down and it was time to move onto the wiring.  I went down to our local hardware store and bought a trailer wiring kit.  This is simply a flat four prong connector with the wires already attached to the connector.  I pulled the existing trailer wiring back through the tongue tubing to see how much new wire I needed to add.

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Some people may use so-called “Suitcase” style wire connectors, but in my experience I have as much luck with these as I do getting my kids to clean their room. I much prefer the old school method of soldering all the connections, applying heat shrink tubing over the joints, then wrapping the entire wire harness at least 8” on either side of the splice with electrical tape.  I also made sure that the splice in the trailer wiring harness was well behind The Fulton coupler so as to avoid breaking wires with repeated flexing.

The last thing to do was get a storage box that I could throw all of our gear into.  For some reason, my wife is a little more than adverse to us just throwing our synthetic kayaking clothes in the back of the car after a two week trip when she comes to pick us up.  I looked on line to find something that would fit the bill.  After a few weeks of searching I came across a Tradesman single lid truck tool box.  This can easily be mounted to the trailer using a few bolts, washers and locking nuts.  I made sure to have the bolt heads on the inside of the tool box so as to not tear dry bags, suits, etc.  

The last step was to just shoot the tongue and couplers with some hardware store gloss black spray paint to spruce it up a bit.  After the paint had dried, I bolted on a trailer jack with 6” wheel so I could wheel it around as I needed.  The trailer is light enough for me to move by myself and the kayak loading height is also very comfortable.

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I have used this DIY kayak trailer now for two seasons now and so far have no complaints or regrets.  I have been able to haul kayaks as well as use it as a utility trailer without having to buy two trailers.  The only downside is that now you have no excuse to not help your brother-in-law move next time!

Happy paddling!

© Shane M. Anderson 2013