Truck Bed Racks
Truck Bed Rack Guide
A good truck bed rack can make a world of difference for yourself and your vehicle, not only because bed racks increase your cargo carrying capacity, but they offer a huge range of possibilities to literally upgrade your car and lifestyle. Depending on the style of rack you choose, you can add accessories for overlanding, fishing or pretty much any outdoors activity. Alternatively, you can use it more for a day-to-day purpose and adapt it to your work or travel needs. As you can see, truck bed racks can quickly become the best aftermarket accessory for your vehicle.
Now, the question you want to answer is which truck bed rack is for you? In short, it will depend on a few key factors: such as the height, the weight capacity, the mounting design, the aftermarket accessories available, as well as your budget. Based on those factors, you will know which one to get. This guide will help you with that.
We will begin at looking at the some of the best truck bed racks in the market. The list will go over just a few, not all the models we offer, because otherwise it can be too overwhelming. The idea is to cover completely different designs and specify why they work and we recommend them. However, you will find there are more models and even brands, which can also be what you want and need. Our recommendation is you thoroughly go over this guide, as well as reading a bit more about other models so you can make an informed decision.
Finally, after reviewing the truck bed racks, there is a section on the factors to consider before buying one, which goes over characteristics such as the height, the design and the load rating. We left that at the end as a reminder that these are factors you shouldn’t overlook.
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Best Truck Bed Racks
As mentioned before, these are some of our preferred bed racks mostly due to the quality of the brands that make them, as well as the versatility of the designs. Each bed rack in the list can be used for more than one purpose or use, which gives you flexibility when purchasing one. Clearly, some are more suited for a certain use than others, hence why we categorize them under a certain type, but all of them are good enough for a well-rounded use of cargo carrying and overlanding.
Leitner Overland Bed Rack
Leitner Designs’ bed racks are the definition of an overland bed rack. Made of forged aluminum, the Leitner Active Cargo System is lightweight, yet sturdy enough to carry even the heaviest of cargo. Thanks to it being forged, it reduces rattling and noise as well as offering an elegant design. It also includes support arms at the center of the rack for better stability and an increased weight capacity.
As a matter of fact, the weight capacity of the ACS is of 1400 lbs when parked or static, and 800 lbs when driving on a normal road and 400 lbs when driving off-road. Clearly, it’s a strong and reliable system that enables you to mount from roof top tents, to the heaviest of accessories. Other features of this rack include powder coated steel brackets, as well as a height of 23” measured from the top of the bed caps.
The main reason why this is considered an overland bed rack is thanks to how many aftermarket accessories can be added to it and the wide range of uses you can give to it. The ACS by Leitner allows you to add many different things such as the Gear Pods (which are essentially sturdy and long lasting storage boxes), road showers, recovery boards and tracks, Rotopax and pretty much anything you can imagine. It is designed in such a way that attaching accessories to it is quite simple and smooth, so turning it into a full overlanding rack is a piece of cake. Add to that the impressive weight capacity as well as the tough off road look, and you know you got yourself an overlanding bed rack.
Don’t forget, it can also be used for other things, such as carrying ladders or kayaks or other longer cargo, since it has the same height as the cab of any pick up truck in the market. You can even increase the height by adding optional load bars over the top of the rack itself. Now you know, if you want an overland bed rack, the Leitner ACS should be your top choice.
- Static Weight Capacity of 1400 lbs
- Wide range of extremely useful rack accessories to upgrade its storage capacity and use
- Perfect to carry anything, from heavy to longer cargo
- Weighs only 85 lbs
- On the more expensive range of the spectrum due to the quality and craftmanship
Leitner Designs Truck Bed Rack With Tonneau Cover
You guessed right, Leitner Designs also manufactures an extremely reliable truck bed rack that works just fine with most tonneau covers. You might wonder why is it so hard to find bed rack working with covers, and the answer is that depending on the mounting system, which most of the time is on the inner rails of the bed, the covers interfere with the mounting points of the rack. Therefore, it’s hard to have one with the other. And, if you choose one bed rack that works with tonneau covers, you risk getting one that’s not strong enough to hold the weight you need to carry.
Well, Leitner designed the ACS tonneau, which works with retractable tonneau covers such as the Retrax, as well as other well-known brands. This patented truck bed rack will work only with t-slot rail tonneau covers, meaning those covers that are installed or attached onto the t-slot rail on the inside of the bed of your truck.
Given it doesn’t attach on the same exact spots as the other ACS, the ACS tonneau has a static weight rating of 800 lbs. This is still quite impressive and allows you to carry most heavy cargo, even tents. The dynamic weight rating is of 400 lbs. On top of that, it’s almost an exact clone of the ACS forged, with an aluminum construction, a height of 23” from the top bed caps, powder coated steel brackets and a myriad of compatible accessories.
You can add to it the famous gear pods, road showers, MaxTrax boards, Rotopax, other gear and it is even compatible with the Decked Drawer System if you want to. It’s also compatible with other brand accessories such as Yakima, Thule or Rhino-Rack, meaning it will work with most of the gear you can find in the market, making it a great system not just for overlanding, but carrying stuff or adapting to outdoor adventures.
- Works with most t-slot tonneau covers
- Has an impressive static weight capacity of 800 lbs
- Made in USA
- High quality and craftmanship
- Slightly more expensive than other bed racks
Front Runner Truck Bed Rack For Roof Top Tent
Front Runner is one of the best overlanding brands in the entire world. Our team at Off Road Tents has had the pleasure to visit their headquarters and factory more than once, and every time we’ve been we have been impressed by the attention to detail, quality control and even technology they use to manufacture their products. The truck bed racks are not an exception.
These truck bed racks are quite different than most other in the market, as they are essentially a platform sitting over legs, and the platform style suits perfectly roof top tents. It is just much easier to install any tents over the longer platform, which has mounting points on any of the slats, and allows you to comfortably position it where you consider it best. Plus, thanks to all the rack accessories Front Runner has for their platforms, you can make the task easier with either a quick release roof top tent mount kit, or just the standard roof top tent mount kit.
Another great feature about this bed rack is the fact that it sits at quite a low height, meaning, not only is it easier and simple to mount any tent or cargo to it, as the rack itself sits lower than the cab, but it also reduces noise and wind resistance. Pretty much anything you mount to the rack won’t go over the cab of your truck, meaning there is pretty much zero wind resistance or noise. Do be aware that since it sits a mid height, it will block some of the vision you get at the back of your cab as it can cover some of the rear window. Also, longer items such as canoes, kayaks or such, that normally need to overhang over the cab, might not be suitable to be used with this rack.
Finally, it has a 660 lbs load rating, meaning you can safely carry anything you can imagine over it. And if you don’t want the full platform truck bed rack, Front Runner also makes the typical bed load bars, which are cross bars for the bed of your truck. They will also work with roof top tents and other accessories, just not as versatile as this truck bed rack.
- 660 lbs load rating, ideal for any type of cargo
- Extremely easy to install roof top tents thanks to the long platform
- Tons of aftermarket rack accessories to add to it
- No noise or wind resistance
- Mid height bed rack, won’t work much with longer items that must sit above the cab
Tuff Stuff Adjustable Truck Bed Rack
Adjustable truck bed racks are great as they can fit almost any truck as well as enabling you to use them for different cargo carrying scenarios. At Off Road Tents we sell multiple adjustable bed racks, from those with adjustable heights, to those with adjustable widths. In this particular case we are looking at the Tuff Stuff 51” Adjustable Truck Bed Rack, which has an adjustable width ranging from 51” to a maximum of 68” wide.
This particular truck bed rack has a unique sliding center rail system, allowing it to be installed on various different vehicles and beds, from full-size Ford F350s, to Ford Ranger as well as mid size Toyota Tacomas. As to the height, it is not adjustable, but it still sits tall at the same height of any cab, allowing you to easily carry longer items such as ladders or kayaks, or even a roof top tent.
It has a load rating or weight capacity of 800 lbs when parked, which is more than enough for the heavier items you are thinking on carrying. As to the price, it’s perhaps one of the most affordable systems in the entire market, and for the quality you get, this is what we consider a smart purchase. Don’t forget it has an adjustable width, meaning if you buy it for a Tacoma, you can uninstall it and then use it over another vehicle such as an F150. Therefore, it’s not a one vehicle truck bed rack, but an adjustable and universal system.
- Adjustable width from 51” to 68”
- Universal fitting, can be installed on multiple vehicles
- Excellent price
- 800 lbs load rating
- Not many accessories to use with
- Design wise it’s not as sleek as other models
CBI Truck Bed Rack Tacoma
You might wonder why on Earth we took the time to talk about a vehicle specific bed rack in this collection, and we haven’t really mentioned other specific vehicles, but that just is because we sell a majority of Tacoma bed racks. Therefore, we decided to explore one particular bed rack for a Tacoma. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other options for other trucks from the same manufacturer. As a matter of fact, CBI also makes bed racks for Gladiator, Ford, you name it. You just search for them below and you’ll find them.
What makes the CBI truck bed rack for Tacoma special? First of all it’s made in USA at CBIs headquarters, therefore quality, craftsmanship and even design are top of the line. Second, you can choose to get it made from either steel or aluminum. You want a lighter bed rack, or a stronger one, it’s your choice. Both will have slightly different purposes with steel being more suitable for heavier cargo as it’s stronger and sturdier, but aluminum being the lighter choice and still quite strong.
On top of that, this bed rack as a 500 lbs load rating, and it works for both short and long bed Tacomas. Again, you have the flexibility of choosing what’s best for you and your ride. It sits at a slightly lower height than that of the cab, which reduces a bit the noise and wind resistance if you aren’t carrying anything, but enables you to still carry longer items such as ladders, kayaks or more and be tied over the cab. It kind of gives you the best of both worlds of truck bed racks, and that can always be a smart choice.
- Made in USA
- Choice of different lengths and materials
- Sits right below the cab for little noise and wind resistance
- Could have a higher load rating
BillieBars Low Profile Truck Bed Rack
Low profile truck bed racks are really, really convenient as they sit at the lowest possible height, have zero impact on wind resistance and noise, and sometimes depending on what you mount over them you still manage to have visibility from the rear window of your cab. Most low profile truck bed rack systems tend to be the classic load bed bars, and this is just the case with these Billie Bars.
Made in USA, most BillieBars can also be installed with a tonneau cover, giving you even more flexibility. They come in different heights, with the most common one being just 6” tall above the bed. It all seems too good to be true, and it is! Oh wait, no, there is something even better: BillieBars have a 1000 lbs load rating and you can mount anything over them and still have it sit at arm’s reach. Honestly, it cannot get more handy than that.
These low profile bed bars are designed to fit many different trucks found in America, from the Tacoma, to the Gladiator, the Ford F-Series and many more. It’s as simple as taking a look at all their different styles and choosing the one suitable for your truck. Installation on any truck is quite simple thanks to their patent pending style. Weighing only 50 lbs and easily removed, these truck bed bars are one of the preferred choices for carrying stuff over your bed.
- Made in USA
- Can be used with a tonneau cover
- 1,000 lbs load rating
- Easily installed and removed
- Despite coming in 3 different heights, there aren’t ones that are the same height as the cab of your truck
RCI Universal Truck Bed Rack
Before we had spoken about universal bed racks that can fit more than one type of vehicle. They are useful and a smart investment because even if you change your truck, you can potentially use the same bed rack on a new one. Well, that’s the case of this RCI universal truck bed rack. If you search below you will find that it comes for many different trucks, but it’s almost essentially the same model, we just make it easier for you.
It comes in different heights, the one pictured being 18” tall, or the same height as the cab. However, you can also get the 12” tall version, which is essentially a mid-height bed rack. Any of these versions comes with a 750 lbs load rating, being strong enough to carry even the heaviest of items. Plus the side panels that go from front to back are perfect to attach and install other overlanding accessories such as shovels, Maxtrax, Rotopax and more. This universal bed rack is also quite handy for outdoors adventures.
A great thing about the RCI universal truck bed racks, is that you can purchase separately C-clamps, and depending on your truck they allow you to have a quite simple drill free installation. Otherwise, you can also buy separately the tonneau cover adapters, so that this bed rack will work with most tonneau covers. Nonetheless, be aware it’s not compatible with all covers or all trucks.
- 750 lbs load rating
- Works with most trucks in the market
- Has side panels which are great to install other overlanding accessories
- Can have a drill free installation
- Will not work with all tonneau covers in the market
OVS Truck Bed Rack With Adjustable Height
OVS is a great brand of overlanding equipment that makes really smart items, and the Discovery truck bed rack is not an exception. The best thing about this truck bed rack is that it has an adjustable height, as a matter of fact the rack towers which hold the sides of this system have 6 different heights. Therefore, you can adjust the top rails of the bed rack to either be at the same exact height of the cab of your truck, or even sit at quite a low profile.
Another great feature of this truck bed rack is the fact that it can be installed without any drilling, which makes it convenient for those that want to do it at home and don’t like suing power tools. It is also a universal bed rack, working on a Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado, Nissan Frontier and many other mid size trucks.
As to the load rating, we are talking at 1350 static, which is one of the strongest in the market. The dynamic, which is when the truck is in motion, is of 450 lbs, but that is still strong enough to carry even the heaviest of roof top tents as well as other accessories. Speaking of accessories, thanks to the side mole panels, this bed rack allows you to mount or attach to it plenty of rack accessories or items without interfering with whatever you carry over it.
- Adjustable height with 6 different heights
- Universal bed rack for most mid size trucks
- 1350 lbs of static load rating
- Drill free installation
- Despite the drill-free installation, there are many components to the rack that can make it a lengthier process to install than usual
Cali Raised LED Kayak Truck Bed Rack
Cali Raised LED is a great brand that manufactures great products at an affordable price, their bed racks are an example of that. With the option of getting a truck bed rack for a Tacoma, Tundra, Colorado and more, you have the versatility to find one for your vehicle. On top of that, their systems can be low profile (low height), mid or tall. The tallest one being 17.5” tall, pretty much like your cab, thus making it perfect as a kayak truck bed rack.
With a weight rating of 1,100 lbs static (when parked), these bed racks are perfect to carry any item you can think of. However, as mentioned before, the height is ideal for kayaks if you choose the tall one. You can have the kayak tied to the bed rack side panels, and have it overhang slightly over your cab, even if you don’t have crossbars. Plus, thanks to the affordable price, you’re not going over the top with this system, it’s good for kayaks, canoes, ladders, tents, or just carrying stuff. It’s a win-win deal.
Installation depends on the vehicle you are getting one for, but it’s not complex at all. It sits over the sides of the bed of your truck, and clamps onto the inside rail of the bed. As a bed rack itself, it weighs only 55 lbs, being extremely lightweight, and it comes powder coated in black for a sleek design, and thanks to the side panels you are looking at the option of mounting a plethora of accessories to it, optimizing the space of your vehicle.
- Affordable price
- Comes in 3 heights, the tallest one being ideal to carry kayaks
- 1,100 lbs load rating when parked
- Weighs only 55 lbs
- Doesn’t allow you to use it simultaneously with a tonneau cover
Thule Truck Bed Rack
Thule is perhaps one of the best known brands in the automotive and outdoors industries, with racks, backpacks, tents a hundreds of other accessories under their wing. Amongst their bed racks, they have one that we highly recommend due to the price, quality and versatility, that is the Thule TracRac TracOne.
This universal Thule truck bed rack is easily installed to almost any truck with a drill-free system. It has a weight capacity of 800 lbs when parked, meaning you can mount over it from roof top tents, to canoes or even heavy cargo. The height is also adjustable as you can move it up or down slightly to accommodate it to your liking and needs. It comes in either black or silver, depending on which color fits better with your ride.
Finally, the price is excellent and truly affordable. If you then factor into it the fact that you can change truck and still keep the rack and use it on your new truck, it means you’re not really ever breaking bank, you are making a lifelong investment. Plus, backed by the Thule Limited Lifetime Warranty, this is a no brainer.
- 800 lbs weight capacity
- Universal truck bed rack
- Drill free installation
- Could be sturdier for heavier cargo
Truck Bed Rack Accessories
A truck bed rack isn’t really complete if you don’t get truck bed rack accessories for it. In this section we will take a look at a few of the accessories we think are perhaps the best to get. Keep in mind not all accessories are suitable for all rack systems, as some are custom made for the system of the same brand. However, some are universal and we’ll point those out.
Bed Rack Bike Mount
Many of the mentioned brands above make their own bike rack or bike mount, some even have hitch racks for the bikes so you don’t need to put them over the bed rack. However, we think that if you already have a bed rack, getting a bike rack adapter or mount is perhaps the best idea, since you know your bicycles will be better attached to the rack.
Front Runner makes an incredible bike rack pro mount which fits with any of their bed racks. Unfortunately it’s exclusive of the Front Runner platform bed rack, but this pro bike carrier keeps your bikes in place even with both wheels on (so you don’t need to take one off), it’s sturdy, bolted to the slats and thanks to how low the Front Runner racks sit, it’s easy to put bikes on and off the rack.
Alternatively, other brands such as RCI make a special clamp and mounting system to make it quite simple to mount your bike to their rack. This one isn’t universal either, but other brands, almost each one, makes their own system, so just ask us if you need one for the specific rack you get.
Bed Rack Lights
This is what we call a universal truck bed rack accessory: lights. Any bed rack can have pretty much any light, whether that’s an LED light bar or a pod, or even rock lights installed on it. Plus, dare we say this is the most recommended accessory to get. The lights will help you guide yourself at night if required to mount or take off cargo from your bed rack, or just to inspect the surroundings of your vehicle.
Another great alternative is to install lights to either the back of the rack or the sides, simply to have a much better view of the road and your surroudnings if you’re backing up, need a lighted path or campsite. Never underestimate how useful and handy more lights can be for you, and certainly some on your bed rack are a good choice. Plus, the way most racks are made today, you have side panels, top load bars, corners, etc where to easily attach a smaller light pod or even a bar. Therefore, get one.
We have many different brands that you can take a look at, from Heretic, to KC Hi Lites, Cali Raised LED, Baja Designs, Rigid and more. The one you want will depend on quality and budget. So take a good look at what you really want, as well as what type of rig you want to create and what would be the best light system for you.
Bed Rack Shower
Well, some water never hurt anyone, and a good shower system which can help you shower or simply clean your truck or items you use is key. A good bed rack shower can be a total game changer. Imagine camping for a few days and being able to actually get yourself clean, or coming back from a trip to the beach and using your shower to clean your surf boards, or your feet, etc. All in all, having the possibility of a shower to clean stuff is great.
Leitner Designs designed an excellent shower pod. It can be very easily installed to any of the ACS systems, but even to other bed racks, probably with some custom work or bracket done. But, the reason we are including it here is because this shower pod is portable, so we consider it the best choice for any bed rack. Even if you can’t attach it to another system, you can easily carry it in the bed of your truck and have it ready for any situation. Otherwise, there are other brands such as the RoadShower by Yakima, which is universal and can be clamped to any bed rack or roof rack!
What To Consider When Buying A Truck Bed Rack?
Perhaps one of the most important sections of this article as it will help you determine what you really need when looking for a rack. We will look at three particular factors that will affect the use and flexibility of your bed rack: height, load rating and the design.
The very first factor to consider when picking a truck bed rack is the height. There are normally four different heights: low (which are commonly bed bars sitting at no more than 10”), mid height, which is a rack sitting at around 12” tall, full cab height at 18” tall and finally roof rack height at around 20” tall.
As just mentioned, the lowest profiled truck bed racks tend to be load bed bars, which are two crossbars sitting on your bed and can be as low as something like 4”, and maybe sometimes tall at around 10”. These are perfect to carry items that you want to have at arm’s reach, and you don’t want to deal with putting on or off a very tall rack. The other advantage of low-profile systems is that they have literally no wind resistance or make any noise at all. However, do consider that a lower profiled rack will mean less space in the bed of your truck for taller accessories and if you put on a tent or a larger load the rear window of the cab might be blocked by this item.
A mid-size bed rack gives you a lot of the advantages of. Low profiled one: no wind resistance or noise, it has the same disadvantages (blocks the vision of the rear window) but has some extra advantages such as the fact that most of these mid height truck bed racks have side panels to mount a few extra accessories. Plus, they do have more clearance for items that can go in the bed itself.
Full cab truck bed rack systems tend to be some of the best sold. They are taller, giving enough clearance to fit even bikes or tall items in the bed, they have larger or more than one side panel to install extra accessories, and sit tall enough to leave a good vision on the rear window of the cab. Just keep in mind, these being tall at around 18”, will offer wind resistance if you carry a tent, and make some noise. However, that’s also the advantage these have is they let you carry longer items.
The last style are roof rack height bed racks, which are slightly taller that a cab rack height, at around 20”. These are the exact same height as your roof rack, and are perfect for those who buy bigger tents, such as a hard shell, and want it to sit over the bed rack but have the overhang sitting on the roof rack. It’s perhaps the safest choice out there for bigger, bulkier loads, as it allows you to share have these items overhang right on top of the roof rack you have.
The load rating or weight capacity is really important, as it defines how much weight you can actually put on your bed rack. There are two types of load rating: static weight capacity (which is when your vehicles is parked), and dynamic weight capacity which is when you are in motion.
The static load rating is always at least twice as much as the dynamic, and you always want to make sure that if you get an item that weighs, say 200 lbs, your bed rack must have at least a 200 lbs DYNAMIC weight capacity. Then, when you are not driving, you can add much more weight safely. That means, if you want a roof top tent that weighs 150 lbs, get a bed rack with at least a 150 lbs dynamic load rating, and then the static load rating will be around 600 lbs so you know you can safely have yourself and a few more people sleeping on the tent.
The design of the bed rack is also a key factor in your decision of what to get. Do you want a simpler rack that’s only two crossbars to carry a few things? Or do you want something more like the Leitner ACS which enables you to carry tons of rack accessories, potentially still have a tonneau cover? Do you want a fixed bed rack, or one with an adjustable height? As you can see, the design is an important factor to consider before purchasing.
Truck Bed Rack FAQs
How to install a truck bed rack?
First of all, and the most important rule of all is to follow the installation guide that often comes with the rack you purchased. Every bed rack is different and requires a different approach to installation. While some are more difficult in comparison to others as they may require drilling and so on, installation is not difficult and is not very time-consuming. If you have experience with bed racks, the good old DIY approach with the manual should do the trick. On the other side, have a skilled mechanic with you if installing it for the first time.
What do you use a truck bed rack for?
Truck bed racks are mostly used to carry additional items and things on your truck. They give you an extra cargo carrying space and capacity to carry more things, heavier things, and even longer things such as ladders or kayaks that must be placed at a higher level than that of the bed. A truck bed rack can give you that taller point to carry these items.
What are bed rails on a pickup?
Bed rails of a pickup truck are these inner rails that fit inside the bed of any truck and allow you to tie or attach items and cargo to them. Most truck bed racks either attach, bolt or clamp onto these bed rails, in other cases it’s tonneau covers that attach to them, or if you don’t have any of these, you can just tie cargo and accessories to them to secure them in place.
What is the benefit of a bed rack?
The main benefit of a bed rack is that it allows you to carry heavier and bulkier items on the back of your truck, without fully compromising the space on its bed. Essentially, you can carry both items in the bed and more over the bed rack. It increases your cargo storage space.
What are bed racks made of?
Truck bed racks are mostly made of either aluminum or steel or a mix of both. They tend to be predominantly aluminum since it’s a lighter metal and allows you to have a lighter structure at the back of your pick up truck.
Are truck bed rails universal?
The short answer is no, not all rails fit every bed. However, it is also important to note that not all mattresses, bed frames, and side rails are interchangeable.
Do truck bed racks have an adjustable height?
Not all bed racks feature an adjustable height. When you find a bed rack that you consider getting, always check its description to see if the height is adjustable.