This 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:
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:
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:
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!
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).
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: