several kayaks and canoes sit face down on wooded storage structure with snow on the ground below. Winterizing kayaks

How to Winterize and Properly Store Your Kayak

When the warm weather ends, and you find yourself kayaking less, you may begin to wonder what you should do to prepare your kayak for winter? Kayak winterization is a crucial step before placing your kayak into storage and  this process involves a straightforward and relatively quick set of tasks that come with major benefits for you and your kayak.

Winterizing a kayak involves five straightforward steps: inspecting, cleaning, drying, protecting, and storing. Once winterized, there are multiple ways to properly store your kayak indoors or outdoors. No matter your storage situation, it’s important that you store your kayak above the ground to prevent cold temperatures from warping the material and use the proper padding and support to reduce damage that can compromise your kayak’s structure.

Preparing your kayak for seasonal or long-term storage is a straightforward process, and it’s important that you take these necessary steps. Let’s take a look at how to winterize your kayak for storage, and then explore what storage options are available.

several kayaks and canoes sit face down on wooded storage structure with snow on the ground below. Winterizing kayaks

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Why Should I Winterize My Kayak?

I don’t know about you, but where I’m from winters can be brutal. So, when it comes to protecting my kayak in winter, I want to make sure that my kayak is fully protected during these cold months.

Winterization for kayaks is all about getting your kayak ready for long-term storage so that it’s clean and protected when it’s not in use. Depending on where you live, an increase in moisture and freezing temperatures can impact a kayak’s structural integrity. Frayed bungee cords, warped parts, and even color bleaching are common but avoidable issues when kayaks are left out in wet and cold weather, especially during winter months when everything begins to freeze.

Winterizing your kayak can protect it from all of these damages. Plus, winterizing your kayak before you store it means you’ll be able to use it sooner in the spring without needing to dedicate time to cleaning it and replacing any damaged parts.

How Do I Winterize and Protect My Kayak?

Kayaks, like other motor vehicles and camping equipment, require winterization to extend their longevity and durability. Fortunately, kayak winterization is a simple process that doesn’t take much time at all. All you need is about 30 to 60 minutes of your time and a few easily accessible products.

A large part of winterizing your kayak is finding a protected place to store it until next use in the spring (or whenever you decide to use it). However, there are a five steps you’ll want to take before securing it in a safe place for the winter. This includes:

1. Inspect Your Kayak

The first step to winterizing your kayak is to inspect it to ensure it’s in good condition before storage. You’ll start by checking to make sure bungee cords and ropes are tight, elastic, and unfrayed. Replace any hardware that may have been damaged, loosened, or lost during the previous season. Scratches and holes are the most common damages kayaks sustain during use, especially if it’s been dragged along shorelines or used in shallow, rocky water. 

Most kayaks are made out of polyethylene, which is a difficult material to work with in terms of repairs. So, make sure you are taking care of your kayak while it’s in use, too, and don’t wait until winter to address any damages that occur during the year. 

2. Clean Your Kayak

After inspecting your kayak, the next step to winterize it involves cleaning it. Even if your kayak looks like it’s in great condition, it’s a good idea to hose your kayak down and scrub all surfaces. Remember to remove the seat and target those hard to reach and hard to see surfaces – they get dirty, too.

3. Fully Dry Your Kayak

Make sure you remove any access water from your kayak after cleaning it. Water may get trapped in the storage compartments, and any moisture that freezes during the winter months may cause the material to warp. Sponges, paper towels, and fans are all great materials to use to dry your kayak. If you’ve got some time to spare before storage, air drying your kayak will work just fine as well.

4. Protect Your Kayak

303 UV Marine Protectant is safe to use on vinyl, plastic, rubber, fiberglass, and other materials and will help protect your kayak from dirt and dust during storage season. Spray all outer surfaces and wipe away any excess liquid with a towel or cloth. Allow your kayak to sit overnight and dry before moving it into its final storage location. Directions for use may vary depending on the brand, so make sure you read the product directions before applying.

5. Store Your Kayak

Garages, sheds, and even basements are great indoor storage options if you’ve got the space available. It’s best to position your kayak above the ground to prevent any unwanted rodents from nesting in it during the winter months. The ideal storage temperate is 50 degrees fahrenheit in areas with stable humidity. 

several colorful kayaks sit on their side in a wood structure. Brown leaves on the trees sit in the background as its fall. Its important to winterize your kayak around this time

What’s the Best Way to Store My Kayak?

No matter your storage situation, anyone can safely store a kayak during off-season. When considering the right storage location for your winterized kayak, you’ll want to keep in mind these three important storage factors:

Temperature During Kayak Storage

Extreme heat and cold temperatures can damage your kayak in different ways. Extreme heat can cause deformities with the material and repeated freezing and thawing can cause the the material to warp over time. Storing your kayak in a climate-controlled area is the best option but outdoor locations will also work with the right storage cover or weather-resistant tarp.

Moisture During Kayak Storage

Too much rain, snow, and humidity will impact the longevity of your kayak’s materials. Kayak owners who store their kayak outdoors during the off season will want to invest in a weather-resistant tarp to protect their kayak from inclement weather. Storing your kayak hull-side up (bottom) will also prevent water from collecting, and freezing, inside your kayak.

Sunlight Exposure During Kayak Storage

Believe it or not, the sun’s UV rays can cause your kayak’s material to become brittle over time, which will lead to structural damage. Prolonged sun exposure can also bleach the color of your kayak, depending on the material.

two red kayak sit in a kayak storage rack on the wall underneath indoor steps.

Once you’ve found a place to store your kayak, you’ll want to begin thinking about how your set-up will evenly support your kayak’s weight. The stern (back) and bow (front) of your kayak is more likely to become deformed or bent over time when one end of the kayak is supported and the other is not. Whenever possible, it’s best to store your kayak with the hull facing up to prevent dents on the bottom, sides, stern, and bow from forming during extended storage.

So, how do you go about evenly supporting your kayak during storage? Well, choosing the right place to store your kayak goes a long way. Here are two of the best storage options for your kayak:

Storage Rack

A storage rack is a piece of equipment that hold your kayak evenly in your preferred location. Sometimes these attach to the wall, but others can be freestanding if you don’t have a flat wall available to kayak storage.  Whatever rack design you go with, it should protect the hull of the boat. Racks that support the kayak on its side or preferably hull-side up are the best rack options. They also provide equal weight distribution.

Kayak Suspension

Suspending your kayak from your ceiling is a great option for those tight on living or storage space. Again, the best way is to suspend your kayak is with the hull facing upwards. You can use wide webbing straps that wrap around the body of the boat (never the grab loops) to secure your kayak to the ceiling.

a red kayak and a red and white kayak sit hull up on a white wooden rustic barn with peeling paint. These kayaks are stored for winter

In general, be wary of vertical storage. Kayak owners may be tempted to lean their kayak vertically against a garage wall or the side of their house for storage. And while vertical storage can work as a short term solution, extended time and pressure on one side or end of the kayak can cause structural damage that impacts your kayak’s buoyancy.

The last thing you want to have is a leaking or low-floating kayak in the spring! If you do need to vertically store your kayak temporarily, make sure you add a padded material between the floor and your kayak to absorb some of the pressure.

Is There Anything Else I Need to Consider with Storage?

Depending on your storage situation, you may want to consider using a security cable or bike lock to secure your kayak in place. Utilize your kayak’s grab loops by threading the lock cable through one loop and around the fixture you want to link your kayak to (a deck railing, for example).

Hopefully you’ve found answers to your questions about kayak winterization and storage. When you break it down, 30 minutes of your time at the end of Kayak season could save you hours, maybe even weeks, of kayak repair in the spring. Taking winterization steps now will help you get back on the water sooner!

For other tips like these, check out our kayaking tips page so you can be even more confident getting on the water.

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