Kayak Stands

Kayak & dinghy standsThis is almost trivially simple and can be done with endless variations, but I’m posting it to help prevent any more “consumer moments” than necessary.  You can buy things like this for $100 or so, but it’s a fast project that can be accomplished with mesh slings, some PVC from the local building supply store, and an hour or two of time.

Easy Homebrew Kayak Stands

© 2010 by Steven K. Roberts
Nomadic Research Labs

There are lots of good reasons to keep kayaks and dinghies off the ground… including general boat hygiene, keeping rodents and spiders from nesting in them, speeding the washing and drying process, raising them to a working height that’s easy on your back, and expanding available storage space by opening the area beneath the boat.  This little trick is a lightweight solution to the problem, and can be scaled to whatever height and width needed.

I used 3/4-inch Schedule 40 PVC for these, and it has been quite adequate.  I wouldn’t quite trust them with body weight, but that’s not the intent… it just keeps my boatlets off the eternally moist concrete floor or muddy lawn.  The units shown here are made from the following components… quantities shown are for a pair of stands, good for one kayak:

  • 8 PVC vertical members, 24″ long
  • 8 PVC horizontal members, 13″ long
  • 16 PVC 90° elbows
  • PVC cement (not necessary but recommended for maximum toughness)
  • 4 bolts, 2.5″ long 1/4-20 with lock nuts (either 2 regulars jammed, or one nylock).
  • 4 washers (1/4″) washers between the tubes – good form but not really necessary
  • 2 Fabric slings, approximately 10×17 inches with sewn-in tunnels.

All this is non-critical dimensionally.  If you want it taller or shorter, just adapt the vertical members accordingly… if you want the stands to be a little stiffer and heavier, you can upgrade to 1″ PVC.  The pivot point is midway down each long tube, and is easily drilled with a 1/4-inch bit (if you’re free-handing, you will get more accurate results by drilling a smaller pilot hole first).  You can glue them with PVC cement if you want them as tough as possible, though I find it more convenient to just press the fittings on… it’s plenty strong and you can break them down if you ever need to.

The important part is the fabric saddle; I recommend a strong synthetic mesh instead of a densely woven cloth that will hold moisture against the hull and cause mold:

4 PVC folding stands, with 2 different fabric types

Completed kayak stand with two 1×2 foot rectangles of PVC pivoting on 1/4-inch through-bolts at midpoint of the long dimension. The 10×17 inch mesh sling constrains the opening to a suitable width for typical kayaks, which can be stored either right-side-up or upside-down according to your preferences (and whether rain is an issue). The slings shown here are our original ones with sewn edge-binding; this has proven to be unnecessary, and the new ones conform completely to the shape of the hull. Order info is below if you would like a pair of slings (NOT the PVC frames; they would be too expensive to ship and are really easy to build).

You could use simple web straps and slide-release buckles (or, I suppose, even rope) instead of the somewhat more complex sewn tunnel shown in the photos, but I would advise caution with this… not only are there moisture-retention issues, but some hull materials like rotomolded polyethylene will take a “set” if stress is concentrated in a small area over time, especially in hot weather.  After considerable experimentation, we settled on a strong mesh that has held up over 5 years of use without any sign of degradation from the evils of ultraviolet, moisture, and stress:

Mesh detail

Large-hole polyester mesh, 450 denier, 24 gauge, 4.5 oz per square yard.

This is, in principle, a simple home project – the total cost of the PVC parts for each stand assembly is only about $8.00.  The slings are a bit trickier, as sewing an open-weave mesh requires careful handling.

Feel free to copy the concept, but if you don’t want to “try this at home,” as they say in the idiom, you’re in luck… we’ve decided to add these slings to our product line of technomadic tools.  (Ordering information is at the bottom of this page; you can get the slings from us and assemble your own PVC frames.)

As with all fabrics, long-term ultraviolet exposure is the enemy and will eventually cause failure… so parking them in the sun forever is not advised. If you can tarp it over, both your slings AND your kayak will last longer.

Here are a few photos of the units in use:

Chris Sanchez sent this photo of his stands with the added split pipe insulation

New Hobie Revolutions

The day the new Hobie Revolution kayaks arrived, they were put to use immediately!

Delphin Dinghy on 5 folding stands

During a project to make a custom cover for my 11-foot Delphin dinghy, we used five of them. This was good for all the wrestling and fixturing; when the dink sitting quietly in my yard, it was perched on three stands.

2 kayaks on folding stands

Storing a boat upside-down works beautifully, and help keep it from being colonized or flooded.

There are lots of ways to do this more beautifully (and expensively) with wood, aluminum tubing, or other materials… but for a quick solution to an annoying problem, simplicity and low cost are Good Things.  The same technique can also be used to keep your sailboat mast off the ground while the boat is in surgery or off-season storage, as it’s easy to relocate the stands as needed to gain access to parts of the rig that need to be serviced.

Cheers from Nomadic Research Labs!
Steve

Mesh Slings for Sale

Due to the tricky sewing and exotic fabrics involved in making a proper sling that will neither hold moisture against the kayak hull nor induce deformity by concentrating the load over too skinny an area, we have decided to produce these here in the Pacific Northwest and make them available.  The cost is $29.50 for a PAIR, plus a flat $2.00 for shipping in the US regardless of how many you want (one pair is a 3-ounce package in a poly bubble envelope).

For each stand, you’ll need to locally acquire the PVC and bolts as specified above.  A pair of stands will support any kayak, including doubles, and has been tested here in the lab to 250 pounds (a week loaded with a 2×10 board stacked with concrete blocks had no significant effect on the slings). The design has evolved to maximize the sling’s ability to conform to hull shape; by removing the edge binding shown in one of the photos (which was largely cosmetic), we have made certain that loading on the hull is as uniform as possible.

The shopping cart over in the Kayaking department of our online store will allow you to purchase a package of two slings via PayPal.  Washington state residents will be charged sales tax.  

We can also take a check or MO the old-fashioned way, as well as credit card over the phone (using Square for processing) – please email for contact info if you prefer this instead of PayPal…. or if you want a huge quantity, or have other special requests.

Cheers and thanks from Nomadic Research Labs!

The slings are made in the USA (Washington State).

User Feedback

If you use this design and would like to share a photo or comment, please contact me.  Here are comments and photos from some of our customers…

Chris Sanchez in Las Vegas:

Thank you so much for the instructions on how to build my own stands! The mesh slings I purchased from you worked out great, and they saved me tons of money. Anyone wanting to save money and own reliable stands for your kayak, you’ve come to the right place. They were pretty easy to build and definitely hold my kayak up off the ground. They’re a life saver. 

I really like what Chris did with split pipe insulation, softening the points where the hull rests against the PVC.


Martha in Arlington Heights, Illinois:

Thanks so much for providing the directions and the slings for the stands on the internet. I was investigating storage options for my Necky Looksha and Perception Tribute and I was horrified at the price tags. Google led me to your much more reasonable solution.


Logan in Richmond, Kentucky:

Hey, special thanks for the mesh to make the kayak stands.  Finally got around to making them not to long ago and they work great on keeping my two Hobie Revo’s up off the ground.  Thanks again!


Jerome in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey:

What a great and practical solution to the boat sling problem. The ones I have been using cost $100+ each. That gets impractical after a while.


Scott Kafer in Odessa, Florida:

The whole project took about one hour to assemble — a slow and easy pace.  My hardware store cut all the PVC to length making the overall project move right along.  Also, I’m not sure you need to cement the joints, mine is merely press-fitted and works just fine.  FYI, my sit-on-top tips the scales at 52 lbs.  Another good point to note (with use of the stands), you can rinse off and dry your kayak prior to placing same on a roof rack — thus sparing the car’s paint from the hazards of salt water and sand.  That’s important to note since many folks shy-away from roof racks due to the issue of salt water and sand.  Thanks for a great product!  Your stands cost much less than half  of what I’ve seen in kayak stores — and the quality and build is superior!


John in Northport, New York:

Got the mesh slings, and put the stand together following your instructions for supplies: 1,2,3.  Easy as pie.  They’re great.  Thanks!  I’ll spread the word.

Here’s John’s Hobie Adventure Island on the stands, with a Hobie kayak cover:

Adventure Island on stands

8 Responses to Kayak Stands

  1. Lorraine de Castro says:

    Great idea to use the classic sling or directors chair design for a stand.

    Now, maybe you could come up with an idea for a way to hang the kayak from a wall so as to not have anything touching the grass!!!

    With the stands we still have to go around them with the power mower… grass gets everywhere, dirt, leaves… a mess!

    Thanks,
    Lorraine

  2. Steve says:

    Hmmm… I haven’t tried it, but with a mix of pipe clamps and a little additional PVC, it might be possible to adapt the same stands. Picture the X up against a wall. If the top rail were attached with a couple of pipe clamps (ideally by changing the corner elbows to tees, so the clamps don’t “scrunch up” the sling tunnels), and the two legs likewise are attached by using elbows to create a connecting tube, then it should work (though would not be self-adjusting except for the mesh stretch. Worth the experiment!

    Cheers,
    Steve

  3. Terry Lincoln says:

    I’m thinking about mounting the stands on a 2×4 platform with a set of wheels from my old lawn mower so I can move it while on the stand.

  4. tom says:

    If Are you selling the mesh? Why not a complete stand.

    thanks

    • Steve says:

      Hi Tom, and thanks for the inquiry! Complete stands, once packed for shipment (even if unassembled), would cost more in postage than the value of the actual PVC material. But the question does come up every few months, and I’m starting to think seriously of doing a full kit that includes the slings, cut and drilled PVC, hardware, added pipe insulation for the top, and instructions. If you’d like to be our first victim, please let me know and I’ll come up with a price. We’ve heard from a few folks who live in big cities where it’s kind of hard to get big-box-store hardware like this, so it probably makes sense.

      Cheers!
      Steve

  5. Ken Zaback says:

    Looks like the mesh slings can accommodate a larger diameter pvc pipe. How big can you go on the pipe? You used 3/4. The pictures show a larger opening in the sling tunnel. How big a diameter on the pvc can you go? Thank you.
    Ken Zaback

    PS: I just purchased the mesh sling

    • Steve says:

      Hi, and thanks for the order! The tunnels can accommodate 1.5″ diameter (tightest at the ends where the additional stitching is). This translates into 1″ NPT being fine, and that will definitely make for a stiffer stand than the 3/4″ stuff. The 1″ Schedule 40 PVC has an outside diameter of 1.315″

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