Winter Kayak Storage – How to Keep it Looking New

After storing my paddle crafts for nearly 5 decades, it’s clear to me that while I’ve learned a whole lot, there’s always more to learn with the advancement of technology and manufacturing.

I’ve written extensively on how to store a canoe over the winter in a cold climate, but kayaks come in a variety of shapes and design styles (much more so than canoes) and that can pose a unique challenge.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years from both experience and lots of research!

How to Store a Kayak Over Winter in a Cold Climate

If you live in a colder or wetter climate, it is important to take the necessary steps to protect your kayak from the elements. This can be done by proper storage and covering.

Your kayak should be stored in a covered area, such as a garage or shed, where it will be protected from wind, rain, snow and light. A tarp or cover can also be used to protect your kayak from the snow and ice. Make sure that the cover is waterproof and fits tightly around the kayak.

Where is the Best Place to Store a Kayak Over the Winter?

As a rule, the best place or environment in which to store a rotomolded polyethylene (plastic) kayak is inside a 4-sided shelter at room temperature (around 68ºF) on a kayak stand that holds the hull evenly with no added pressure on any part of the hull.

It’s also crucial that the kayak is NOT left where sunlight can hit it directly, or even indirectly like through a North-facing window. Light is far more likely to make your kayak hull brittle and faded than any variation in temperature.

These rules apply to any kayak made from any material including fiberglass, Kevlar or wood.

Storing your kayak inside your garage is an ideal option. The temperature is more moderate and won’t cause any potential problems.

What’s the Best Way to Store a Kayak Indoors?

If you have precious little room in your garage for storage, it might make sense to prioritize a spot for your kayak since a garage is the ideal location for kayak storage.

The first step should be to clean the kayak well with soap and water (or maybe just clean water) followed by a good rinse if soap is used.

It’s best to store composite kayaks upside down, while recreational and fishing kayaks can be stored upright.

If you own an expedition/sea kayak or a plastic recreational kayak, there are lots of options for exactly how they are secured during storage.

Storage Options:

OPTION 1 – use a set of straps/belts slung under the hull about 1/3 in from both the bow and stern, and use a pulley system to raise the kayak to the ceiling.

This option maximizes space conservation since there’s probably a decent amount of airspace in your garage that is not being occupied.

If it’s possible in your case, I would suggest this is the best option for long-term kayak storage from every perspective (safety, space conservation, kayak preservation, etc.) except maybe from the point of view of ease of access.

However, if this is only long-term storage for Winter, you won’t need to access and store it daily or weekly like you might during the paddling season.

OPTION 2 – Plastic or composite kayaks are often best stored on their sides in a cradle system that is attached to a wall. This system may need to be custom made from steel, or perhaps a DIY option from wood might work.

It looks much like 2 large hooks that can cradel the kayak sitting upright or on its side depending on how you position it.

OPTION 3 – If you have space on an open floor, you can use a set of kayak stands. These X-shaped stands fold up easily and feature nylon straps as the surface on which the kayak sits.

This is an inexpensive option and you can even make your own if you really want to.

OPTION 4 – Use a FREE-STANDING kayak rack with a perfectly-designed set of hooks for multiple kayaks. This is a great option that offers the ability to move storage locations easily and quickly.

Here’s one of the best options for portable kayak stands that are designed for 2 kayaks

OPTION 5 – Purchase or make your own stand up kayak rack. You don’t even need to have an actual rack for this option. Some paddlers have used a garage or shed interior wall (especially in a corner) as the main support and a padded base to add protection to the bow (or stern) as well as support.

This isn’t my favorite option since the ceiling height of many garages won’t fit a 16-foot kayak facing straight up. Also, gravity will put pressure on the hull in a way that a gentle, horizontal cradle with 2 support straps or padded beams (spread evenly under and around the kayak) would not.

If you choose to store your kayaks vertically, be sure to face the bow towards the ceiling (or sky).

In my opinion, this option is best for very short term storage, like daily or weekly.

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Stand up racks can save lots of floor space, but you’ll need a ceiling tall enough to fit the length of your kayak.

  • With all these storage options, it’s best to ensure that whatever surface your kayak touches during storage, it’s a soft one. Good options are foam in addition to nylon straps instead of hard surfaces like wood or steel touching the hull directly.

Protective Measures:

Aside from washing the hull and ensuring there are no cracks in the hull (which can split further with expansion from ice), there’s no real need to apply any other sealants or chemical protectants.

IMPORTANT Whether storing inside or outside, the most important thing you can do (in my opinion) is to ensure direct UV light (including indirect daylight) does not have access to any part of the kayak hull.

In practical terms, keep the kayak 100% covered on all sides with a UV-protective cover if stored outside. If it’s stored inside and must be near a window, keep the parts facing the window covered with a UV cover or use window blinds.

If your kayak is in a garage but on the opposite side from any windows, it becomes a bit less important to keep it fully covered, but I still would keep mine covered with a fitted UV-protective cover in all storage environments.

If your kayak has any wood elements with screws, it’s always a good idea to slightly loosen the screws (especially in a very cold environment) to reduce the chance of any wood splitting.

If you are using a protective cover (which I highly recommend) there are some differing views on what is best.

VIEW 1 – Be sure to use a tightly fitted waterproof, breathable kayak cover on your craft to protect it from the elements.

VIEW 2 – Be sure to cover the kayak, but if it’s outdoors, use soft foam separators placed along your kayak’s hull to keep the protective cover off the surface of the kayak to prevent sticking, molding and staining of the kayak hull.

Either one of these views would work better than exposing the hull to harmful sun rays all day every day, but I like the idea of keeping my cover separated and not super tight against the hull. Why? It’s the same reason I like to have my camping tent suspended well over my head instead of wrapped tightly around my body when it’s raining.

Unless you’re using plastic, covers are more weather-proof when not in contact with another surface.

What to do Before You Store Your Kayak

Before storing your kayak, you should take some preparatory steps to protect it from the elements. First, make sure that the kayak is clean and free of debris as mentioned earlier.

You can clean it with a mild detergent and water as mentioned earlier in this article.

Remove any soft fabric items like neoprene or foam seats and soft hatch covers, etc. to protect them from any storage scenario hazards (mostly outdoors).

Give the hull a good look and be sure to treat any deep scratches or cracks appropriately to prevent further deterioration, especially if stored outdoors.

What to do During Storage

Once your kayak is clean and covered, you should store it in a dry, covered area. This can be a garage or shed. If you live in an area with particularly cold winters, you may want to store the kayak indoors to prevent the cold weather from damaging it.

Periodically check to see that your kayak is protected from direct or even indirect daylight which is the #1 enemy to your canoe during storage. Temperature extremes are typically less damaging to a plastic kayak than UV sun rays.

However, cold weather is not a particular threat to most rotomolded polyethylene kayaks (currently in good condition with no large cracks) and won’t usually warp the hull or make it brittle, etc.

When you are ready to use the kayak again, make sure to inspect it for any signs of damage. If you notice any cracks or other damage, you should repair it before using the kayak again.

Tips for keeping your kayak in good condition while it’s stored

1. In order to keep your kayak in good condition during storage, it is important to take the necessary precautions. This includes covering it with a waterproof tarp or cover and storing it in a covered area.

2. Make sure that the kayak is free of any dirt, dust or debris before covering it.

3. If you live in a cold climate, make sure to cover the kayak with a tarp or cover that is specifically designed to protect against the elements (ie. UV protective).

4. Make sure that the kayak is secured tightly to prevent it from blowing away in bad weather. It’s also not a bad idea to lock your kayak if it’s stored outdoors using a heavy cable lock, and be sure it’s not easily visible to passersby.

When storing your kayak, it is important to keep it in and covered area if possible. This will help protect it from damage due to moisture or extreme weather conditions.

If you live in a cold climate, you may want to store your kayak indoors to prevent it from becoming damaged by the cold weather – especially if your kayak has wood or composite components.

When you are not using your kayak, be sure to inspect it for any signs of damage. If you notice any cracks or other damage, you should repair it before using the kayak again. Be sure to follow all manufacturer’s instructions when performing any repairs.

What to do When You’re Ready to Use Your Kayak Again

After storing your kayak for the winter, you will need to do a few things before using it again. The first is to inspect it for any damage. If you notice any cracks or other damage, you should repair it before using the kayak again. Make sure to follow all manufacturer’s instructions when performing any repairs.

The next step is to give your kayak a good cleaning. This can be done with mild soap and water. Be sure to rinse it off well so that all the soap is removed.

Finally, if applicable, you will need to check the inflation of the kayak’s cart or trailer tires and make any necessary adjustments. You should also check the tightness of all screws and bolts to make sure they are secure.

Is It Okay to Store my Kayak Outside in the Winter?

We’ve talked about this a bit through the article, but to summarize, the answer is YES. You can store your kayak outdoors, and if you follow some best practice guidelines, you’ll probably have excellent success:

1 – Store the kayak under an overhang or other roof scenario rather than in the direct path of falling snow and rain.

2 – Be sure to cover the entire kayak with a UV protectant fabric sheet/cover or otherwise, be sure no direct sunlight or other bright daylight has access to your kayak’s hull. If it does, the plastic will deteriorate eventually from the destructive power of the sun’s rays on plastic.

3 – If possible, keep your cover slightly separated from the hull using foam or other soft material for separation.

4 – If possible, store your kayak in a location that won’t be easily seen by anyone passing by.

5 – Store polyethylene (plastic) kayaks on their side using a kayak storage hook or upright on a set of webbed kayak stands. If it’s stored on its side with hooks, it won’t gather and hold as much snow, but neither will a traditional kayak cover protect it as well.

6 – It’s never a bad idea to lock your kayak with a heavy cable to deter theft.

7 – Remove any scupper plugs and other loose or easily removed items like rod holders, the seat, storage crates (fishing kayak), etc.

IMPORTANT: I don’t store my kayak outside, but if I did, I would first cover it with my UV cover (available on Amazon) and then I would cover it again with a black, thick plastic cover that is 100% waterproof. I would leave it more or less open at the bottom for moisture to escape a bit so that air can flow around the hull, while it is simultaneously protected from falling snow/rain and direct sun/daylight.

Is it Okay to Hang a Kayak by the Handles?

It is not good to hang a kayak by the handles because it is simply not designed to be stored using the handles. If a kayak is stored by the handles, odd pressure points will be used to support the kayak and eventually the handles can break, or worse!

What if My Kayak Freezes?

In researching this question, it seems as though there is a large community of believers that cold is actually GOOD for a plastic kayak given the preservative qualities of sub-zero temperatures on things like food.

Others say warmer is better than colder weather since cold weather can cause trapped moisture to expand and cause damage in the form of ice.

As a general rule, it is true that many outfitters in northern states and in Canada store their kayaks out of the rain/snow under roofed, but wall-less storage racks outside in the freezing temperatures.

The freezing temperatures do not cause the hulls to somehow deteriorate more quickly or crack or break, etc.

How to Properly Store Your Kayak over Winter – Key Takeaways

By taking some of the following measures, you can ensure that your kayak will be in good condition when spring arrives.

  • If you live in a colder climate, it is important to take the necessary steps to protect your kayak from the elements. This can be done by proper storage and covering.
  • Your kayak should be stored in a covered area, such as a garage or shed, where it will be protected from the wind and rain. A tarp or cover can also be used to protect your kayak from the snow and ice. Make sure that the cover is waterproof and fits tightly around the kayak or separate it with foam separators made from foam floor tiles, pool noodles, etc.
  • kayaks should be inspected for any signs of damage before use and repaired if necessary. Be sure to follow all manufacturer’s instructions when performing any repairs.
  • If possible, store your kayak indoors and keep it from direct daylight.

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Pete Stack

After 40 years of experience canoeing, camping, fishing, hiking and climbing in the Ontario wilderness, Pete is eager to combine his love for the outdoors with his passion to write. It is our hope that his knowledge can be passed on through this site and on Rugged Outdoors Guide on YouTube.

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