Kayak storage is an important component to owning a kayak. Continue reading to learn more about how to store your kayak and keep it in good condition.
So, you have finally done it–you took the plunge and bought yourself a brand-new kayak. Now what? Before you head out to explore or catch some exotic fish (read more about the ins and outs of fishing from a kayak here), you need to understand some basic principles for the maintenance and storing of your kayak. Regardless of where your adventures take you, you will need to know how to safely and efficiently store your yak on the home front and during your travels. Plus, we will throw in some kayak storage tips for in between destinations, too.
Compared to other water equipment and vessels, kayak storage is relatively low maintenance, but the care you take to maintain, transport and store your kayak will extend the life of your purchase and keep you on the water for years to come.
Basic Kayak Storage & Maintenance
Kayaks are an investment you will want to use again and again, but the nature of kayaks makes it hard to ensure regular use. As a result, a lot of time can pass between the times when your kayak is operating at its maximum capability. You can spend less time prepping and more time in your kayak by doing regular maintenance during your off-water time.
In Season Maintenance
These can also be called the best practices of kayak ownership. Here are two basic and easy ways to keep your craft in great condition against the elements of water, weather and travel.
Don’t drag it.
Debris, rocks and sand can all be really damaging to your kayak, especially if it is made of fiberglass. Do not drag it along the ground toward water or back to storage. If you are traveling solo, get a kayak cart to hoist it up on a two-wheel dolly system. But if you have a few companions on your journey, you can buy or make a kayak hammock with handles on both ends. Slide it under the kayak and lift from both sides, placing the kayak in its final destination.
Clean it regularly.
Your kayak is going to spend most of its life in the great outdoors. Which means it will spend most of its life getting dirty. While you will never polish it to the point of its original glory, it also does not need to look like it has been drug through the mud (literally). After every trip, using a mild soap and water to give it a quick scrub. By doing so, you can remove natural culprits of wear and tear, like salt, sand and dirt that would otherwise corrode your kayak.
The downfall of storing anything for the off season is that the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is pretty true. When you are not busy planning your next kayak trip, odds are good you will get caught up in work, keeping up with the home, or spending time with family and friends. The daily chores of life come to mind much easier than remembering to check on our kayaks. But there are still some things you can do to make sure that when you return to your craft ready to take on new waters, it is in fighting shape.
Clean it again.
We mentioned cleaning it regularly, which you should do all year long. But before storing it, give your kayak a good, thorough cleaning. Rinse it well with a hose, paying special attention to the moving pieces–the foot braces, rudder and skeg box. The last thing you want to return to see in storage is a mechanism corroded by last season’s sandy remains. Not only are you protecting yourself against grime but you are drastically lowering the chances of mold.
Spend some extra time giving TLC to the crevices of your kayak. The storage spaces and areas like the cockpit rim are prime real estate for mold and bugs while your boat sits in storage.
Also, be sure to clean rigging accessories and your gear. Clean your seat, deck bag, rod holder and anything else you use during the season. Since our goal is to keep our kayak off the ground and away from dirt, elevate it on kayak stands or sawhorses and get to work. Just as important as cleaning the kayak is to let it dry completely before you store it away.
Protection, protection, protection.
There are two types of covers to use when you’re storing a kayak. One is the fitted kayak cover that will keep threats like homeless vermin and potential scratches away. The second is the hardtop structure where the kayak is housed, which will protect from weather.
Both rain and sun can be detrimental to the life of a kayak. Storms can produce weather strong enough to lift your craft and toss it about, so make sure if you are storing it outdoors, your kayak has at least a sturdy structure around it, if not one with a door. Sun, on the other hand, can melt and warp the kayak. Long exposure to UV rays will make your kayak brittle and more likely to crack. While a few days on a trip will not do lasting damage, storage for weeks or months in any prolonged sunlight will have a less than pleasant outcome. There are also commercial products and spray-on sun guards you can coat your kayak and some gear (like paddles) with. Do your research to find the right product for you.
Assess, evaluate, replace.
Before you store your kayak is the perfect time to take inventory of what shape your gear is in. By the time the new season or next trip rolls around, you may not remember what you needed to replace and it will just make your to-do list longer before you can get back on the water.
Lay out all your gear, equipment and any kayak attachments like cords, handles, mounts, straps, etc. on a flat, dry surface. As you clean and evaluate each to see whether it needs fixing or replacing, set it aside in a safe place to dry. If it needs replacing, toss the old and record need for a new one in a place you will not lose, like a memo on your phone. If it is in working shape, wait until it is dry and put it in a clean, dry, air tight storage container. It may also benefit you to wrap the more fragile individual pieces in microfiber cloths to avoid scratching or breaking in transport to the final storage space. Another note is when storing cords or straps with an elastic nature, store them at their loosest setting to preserve their flexibility for the coming season.
The Dos and Don’ts of Kayak Storage
Do: how to store your kayak
Clean it first
Never put your kayak away dirty. A dirty yak can grow mold, wear down the boat or even attract wildlife. After thoroughly cleaning it with a mild soap and water, let it dry completely both inside and out before putting it away in storage. It may seem counterintuitive to clean something just to leave it in storage for a few months, but trust us–your kayak will stay durable for longer and you will save yourself a big headache when you return to it.
Store accessories properly
In addition to the kayak itself, your gear should be safely cleaned and stored too. Store in an airtight, dry container and make sure you have cleaned and checked all your gear before you put it away.
Make sure it is secure
If you are storing your kayak in a private residence, a lock may be of less concern during off season storage. However, if you store in a public or outdoor location, or if you are leaving your kayak on site or on shore during a trip, you need to have a lock. You can find various types of locks for both suspension storage (which is not actually recommended–we cover that in the next section) or for land based trips.
Don’t: how to not store your kayak
Kayaks should be stored on a flat surface if possible, upside down. A kayak rack or shelf is the optimal place to store it, or on mounted hooks. But you should take caution not to suspend your craft hanging from a ceiling. Not only is this method less secure than a weight-bearing shelving unit, but long term suspension can cause stress on your kayak, weakening its integrity and durability in the long run.
Store kayak in the wrong temperatures
Extreme heat can melt, warp or deform your kayak. Try to store it inside if you can, but if you only have an outdoor option, at the very least keep it out of the sun at all costs. The cold is not as much of a threat to kayaks, but you should note that fiberglass crafts can be damaged by freezing temperatures–especially in the case of temps that drop to freezing and thaw out in a cyclical fashion.
Leave it exposed to the elements
It is true that kayaks are built to withstand a lot, especially your daring adventures. However, kayaks perform much better when they are regularly maintained and this is much less likely during off season storage. Unlike in season, when they are getting sand, dirt and debris cleaned off in a timely manner, in storage weather and exposure to the elements can leave a mark. Use a kayak bag for outdoor storage, but consider using it in indoor storage too.
Along the same lines, when you are traveling with your kayak attached to your vehicle externally, make sure you have protected it well against the wind and debris of a long road trip. A kayak bag would be a smart investment, because it is a great solution for this scenario of storing on the go as well.
Where & When to Store Your Yak
If you have the space, storing your kayak at home in a basement or garage is the cheapest, safest option. After properly cleaning and drying your craft, set it up on a flat surface to spend the duration of the off-season. The other benefit of self-storage is that you can keep an eye on it to make sure the temperature does not get too hot or no critters try to set up camp inside.
In a marina or rental space
If you do not have the space on your home front, you are not completely without indoor options. You can ask a friend or fellow sportsman about storing together, or you can seek out storage facilities near you specifically geared toward kayak, canoe and boat storage. Likewise, if you are traveling to the same location each year or season, check nearby your destination to see if there are storage facilities so you can retrieve your kayak closer to your destination.
If you are going to store outside, protection from the elements is your highest priority. Do what you can to secure a covered space with a tent or sturdy outdoor shelter. A waterproof, sunscreened kayak cover is a must to keep your kayak protected from unwelcome visitors or weather, but additionally you can cover it one more time over with a tarp.
Another consideration is security. Kayak locks are available for both short term and long term storage. If you are storing in a place with many other kayaks, ask about security and make sure your kayak will be stored on a flat, dry surface.
On the Road
Roof of your car
For travel, we recommend Vault Cargo’s Folding Kayak Rack. Unlike a lot of other travel racks, there is no need to remove this one once it is attached to your car. It will be ready to load up the kayak and go whenever you are. It folds down conveniently on top of the car, so garages and low clearance areas are not an issue. This also means that when you arrive at your destination, whether it is at the beginning of a trip or the end, you will not have to worry about storing your rack in addition to storing your yak. Since you will always have to store your kayaks somewhere, perk to not need to worry about storing your rack, too.
Inside your car
If you have the space, stowing your kayak inside a vehicle is an option. The downside to this is a lack of flexibility in the long run. With a top mounted storage rack, your car’s interior is free for any extra or unexpected cargo you may wind up with, and can also stay clear in case you need a warm, dry place to wait out nasty weather, while your kayak stays safely affixed to the roof of the car in its dry kayak bag.
In the air
If your destination is not within driving distance, there are a few extra nuances to keep in mind about air travel and kayaks. First, always consult the airline you are traveling with. While many airlines will be accommodating, the responsibility falls to you the traveler to make sure your kayak is compliant to and from your destination.
Use the website to get a clear understanding of baggage rules and policies. Expect the unexpected, as the saying goes. Flights are unpredictable, so the risk to your kayak is higher than if you were in charge of the travel conditions. Accept the risk that comes with flying your kayak out of your sight, and take extra precaution to prepare your kayak accordingly. Use a kayak bag.
Long term kayak storage options
Besides an existing shelf for a single kayak, probably the easiest storage solution is a large commercial rack. Their design was created specifically with kayaks in mind, so they are elevated rods attached to a central pole. Most of them will be ideal for the flat storage of multiple kayaks, as they all tilt towards the middle. A tarp or bag is still recommended, even on a rack, to protect from dust or bugs.
There are a lot of great do-it-yourself storage ideas for kayaks out there, and the benefit to making your own rack is the ability to specify it to your own needs. You can create a large stand-alone structure for multiple kayaks or create your own wall mount for one or two kayaks.
We do not recommend storing without a unit of some kind. However, if you choose to go without a structure, the idea resting position for a kayak is vertically. Rest the stern on the ground and the bow against a stable wall. You can also lay the kayak on its side with the cockpit facing outwards and hull against the wall. However, ground storage will provide unnecessary wear and tear on your vessel so keep that in mind when finding a long-term solution for your off season of kayaking.
Tips for inspecting your kayak
You should inspect your kayak before and after each voyage to make sure it is operating at its best capability. Just like your everyday vehicle, you need to make sure your vessel is safe and cleared for a long trip.
Inspection post storage
The first thing you need to do when you retrieve your kayak from storage is thoroughly inspect it. Your inspection serves a few purposes. Primarily, it makes sure everything is in working order and ready for another season. But it also gives you a chance to correct any flaws, especially if you are using a third-party storage unit.
Check each piece individually–straps, covers, rims, cables, etc. Bulkhead maintenance is a vital part of safety in open water paddling. You also need to ensure that all fasteners are tight and secure; and that the entire craft is free of holes. While you may come across small scratches and scrapes from regular use wear and tear, the biggest concern that needs correcting would be any deep gashes that will compromise the integrity of the kayak long term.
Here are a few main spots to hit during an inspection:
The hull, or bottom of the kayak, can be vulnerable during long term storage. It is the most malleable piece of a kayak, and extreme temperatures may cause it to warp. In the event of minor damage, you may be able to use the pliable nature of the kayak to your advantage. It is often the case that the hull can be fixed using the “hair of the dog” approach.
If heat or transport has damaged your hull, let it rest in the sun for a bit. Minimal sun exposure has been known to pop a kayak’s hull back into shape. If the sun is too violent, a low heat dryer or light can be used to warm the kayak’s surface and with gloves, you can reshape the hull using your hands. Just be careful not to overheat the craft; which could lead to further damage or a burn on your skin as you work with it.
The more malleable pieces of your gear–the straps, the bungees, the cords–are the most vulnerable. Because of their flexible nature, they are made of materials easily manipulated by time and the elements. Check them to make sure they are still elastic and strong; not rusted, broken or nearly broken.
You should have checked your gear to make sure you were using the “out with the old, in with the new” method back when you put your kayak in storage. But just the same, take another look at all your gear before you get back on the water. Regarding the kayak itself, you may need to re-evaluate after a term in storage anyway. Check your travel log from your last trip (we talked about the importance of keeping a travel log in our blog on Kayak Fishing. Read it here) and see if there was any gear you wished you had last time around that you could properly stock this time.
The Emergency Stash
Check your first aid and repairs kits. Verify that you have a full and working set of everything you will need for both potential bodily harm and potential harm to your craft. Also check the expiration date on the perishable items in your first aid kit to make sure they will still have the same healing effect when you need them. Take note of the pieces with the lowest inventory and stock up extra–clearly it came in handy last time you were using these kits.
And you’re off!
Because of their size and ease of maneuvering, kayaks can easily be a low maintenance water craft. However, they still require some dedication and TLC. A kayak which has not been properly cared for or inspected could have bad ramifications out on the water. This is especially dangerous for solo travelers. The good news is, you should get out of it what you put into it. Your time and attention to the safety, maintenance and storage of your kayak and gear will keep your kayak operating at its best for many years. And that means, you can continue to enjoy your kayaking adventures.