How to Store a Kayak Outside in the Winter

April 08, 2024

How to Store a Kayak Outside in the Winter

Winter can be a challenging time for your kayak, especially if you have to store it outside. No matter how durable high-quality hardshell kayaks are, the extreme cold, snow, and ice can weaken the integrity of your kayak. At a minimum, this will shorten the lifespan of your watercraft, or the result could be major damage, rendering your kayak unusable.

Whether you're a seasoned kayak enthusiast or a novice just starting out, it’s imperative to know how to effectively store your kayak outdoors during the winter, especially if you don’t have another place to store it. Read on for our expert tips on winter kayak storage.

Preparing Your Kayak for Winter Storage

To ensure that your hardshell kayak remains in good condition throughout the winter, it's crucial to properly prepare it before storing it. Follow these steps:

  • Check the owner’s manual: Be sure to check the owner's manual for any particular recommendations on cleaning and care, as different manufacturers & models may have different storage instructions.
  • Clean your kayak: Use a soft brush or sponge and mild soap for this. Pay attention to areas where dirt, mud, or salt residue may have accumulated. Rinse it thoroughly to make sure no soap is left behind. 
  • Dry your kayak thoroughly: Dry your kayak outdoors, then finish it with a dry towel. Select a dry and well-ventilated area for this final drying process to avoid moisture build-up and combat the potential growth of mold or mildew during winter storage.
  • Protect your kayak: Apply a UV guard, like 303 Aerospace Protectant, or a kayak-specific wax to the hull. Ensure any fittings, like handles, straps, or bungee cords, are secured. If you have a sit-inside kayak, use a cockpit cover to prevent critters, leaves, or snow from entering the area.
  • Remove any accessories: Before storing your kayak, remove any kayaking attachments like seats, dry boxes, and other parts. This will prevent those parts from getting damaged or lost while in storage and help you prevent any damage.

    Note: Closed deck hardshell boats typically have permanently mounted seats and storage compartments, so those won't be removable. But if you own a sit-on-top hardshell or inflatable kayak, they may have seats and should be removed. 

Best Practices for Storing Your Kayak Outside

Unless you have an inflatable kayak, odds are good that you’re considering outdoor storage for your kayak. There are some essential factors that will play a part in safeguarding your kayak against winter’s rigors. Keep these tips in mind, and your kayak will be ready for your next adventure when the winter season passes.

Choose a Sheltered Area

Try to find a sheltered area where the kayak is protected from wind, snow, and harsh weather conditions. This could be under a covered patio, inside a shed, or even a carport. Keeping your kayak away from trees or structures that could shed debris during winter storms is also a good strategy since falling branches or other debris can cause substantial damage.

Elevate Your Kayak Off the Ground

Elevation can make a difference when preventing snow accumulation or water pooling damage. Choose a storage location that is slightly elevated or create an elevation. This will help to keep your kayak dry during the damp winter months.

Secure Your Kayak

The best way to position your hardshell kayak for extended storage is on its side. The side walls are stiffer than the top deck or hull and are less likely to deform over time. This is why most kayak racks and cradles position the boat on its side. Standing it on the end in a corner are viable options if you can securely prop it up and it won’t tumble. Upside-down storage is another safe and efficient method, such as on padded sawhorses. Avoid having the kayak's weight supported by the bottom of the boat long-term, as this could lead to deformities.

Use a Protective Cover

Cover your boat with a kayak storage cover that can easily withstand winter conditions. Tarps are preferable over trash bags, which might not cover the watercraft completely or withstand cruel winter conditions. Use a paracord with a loop at each end and a bungee cord to secure the cover.

Use Proper Support & Positioning

How you support and position your kayak, whether outdoors or indoors, can significantly impact its long-term health. To maintain your kayak’s shape and integrity over time, keep these things in mind:

  • Consider using kayak racks or cradles: Often padded and adjustable, kayak racks or cradles can hold your kayak securely and are shaped to accommodate the kayak’s hull structure.
  • Avoid pressure points: When selecting a storage method, consider the layout and size of your kayak and anticipate where pressure points may occur. Use soft padding materials to lessen the effect of pressure and avoid dents or deformations.
  • Decide on horizontal vs. vertical placement: Storing your kayak horizontally, either on its side or upside down on a rack, is generally a solid choice. Vertical storage (propped on its end) can also be a space-saving solution if you can ensure it won’t tip over. Avoid letting your kayak sit on its hull for extended periods as it can cause warping.
  • Distribute the weight evenly: Ensure your kayak's weight is well distributed across the supports to avoid deformations or cracks. Crossbars padded with pool noodles on the cockpit rim or supports on the bulkheads (if your kayak has them) can work well.

Winter Maintenance Tips for Your Kayak

Just because you’ve stored your kayak for the winter doesn’t mean you can just walk away and return in the spring. Being proactive and following a winter maintenance schedule can significantly increase the lifespan of your kayak. Here are tips for keeping your kayak in good shape throughout the winter season so it’s ready for future adventures:

  • Regularly inspect for damage: Check your kayak cover or tarp for any signs of wear, tears, or damage. Repair or replace the covers as needed to maintain their effectiveness.
  • Facilitate ventilation: Kayak covers have built-in ventilation to prevent condensation and moisture buildup. But if you choose to cover it with a tarp or another material, leave a small gap in the covering for breathability.
  • Check for moisture: Look for any signs of moisture buildup, which can lead to mold, mildew, and damage. If you notice any moisture, wipe it dry and ensure the kayaks are well-ventilated.
  • Prevent water freezing inside: When storing your kayak outside in freezing conditions, take precautions to prevent water from freezing inside the kayaks, which can cause cracks and damage. Turn your kayak upside down or angle it to allow any water to drain out, and make sure to open the drain plug if one is present.
  • Keep an eye out for unwanted visitors: Mice can gnaw through your kayak’s protective covers. Remove them promptly to prevent damage and consider using sonic repellents or traps near or on the cover to keep them away.
  • Lubricate moving parts: For kayaks with moving parts such as rudders or footrest tracks, make sure to give them a good clean and apply lubricants (use ones that don’t attract dust or grit) to increase their lifespan and maintain smooth operation. This should be done before storing the boat for the winter.

Preventing Theft

Preventing the theft of your kayak while it's stored outside during the winter requires taking certain precautions. Here are some tips to help protect your kayak:

  • Secure the storage area: Store your kayak in a secure area, such as a locked shed, garage, or fenced backyard. This helps deter opportunistic thieves by restricting access.
  • Use a kayak lock: Invest in a sturdy kayak lock or cable to secure your kayak to a fixed object, such as a sturdy post or railing.
  • Remove all valuables: Take any removable accessories or valuable items, such as paddles or fishing gear, out of the kayak and store them separately.
  • Cover your kayak: Use a kayak cover or tarp to conceal your kayak from view and make it less tempting for potential thieves passing by.
  • Install security cameras: Visible cameras can act as a deterrent, and recorded footage can help identify suspects in the event of a theft.
  • Use motion-activated lights: Install motion-activated lights around your storage area to illuminate the area and deter thieves during nighttime hours.
  • Communicate with your neighborhood watch group: Encourage your neighbors to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.
  • Register your kayak: Some kayak manufacturers offer registration services, and having your kayak registered can help law enforcement recover it if it's stolen.
  • Regularly check your storage area: Periodically inspect your storage area for signs of tampering or attempted theft. Check that all your security measures are in place.

Indoor Storage Tips

Indoor storage isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s one of the best ways to protect your kayak from weather and theft. If you can swing it, here are indoor storage tips for keeping your kayak in optimal condition until it’s time for spring paddling:

  • Find the right spot: With innovative storage techniques, you can tuck or hang your kayak away in different areas of your home, like your garage, shed, or basement.
  • Choose a safe position: Kayak wall mounts or hangers are space-efficient and will keep your kayak off the ground. If you can’t drill holes or don’t have rafters, propping it against a wall is a decent alternative, or you can use a freestanding rack.
  • Add support: Remember, whatever storage method you choose, it's essential to support the kayak evenly across its length to prevent warping or deformation.
  • Avoid damp areas: Choose rooms that are dry with controlled temperature and humidity. If you opt for a basement or a shed, ensure it's well-ventilated and free from water leakage. Consider using a dehumidifier in a particularly damp climate.
  • Prevent sun damage: Keep your kayak away from windows to prevent damage from UV rays. 
  • Keep your kayak clean: Always clean and dry your kayak thoroughly before storage to prevent unwanted surprises the next time you're ready to hit the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I prepare my kayak for winter storage?

Prepare your kayak for winter storage by inspecting all rigging components, cleaning the cockpit, removing and washing the seat, and scrutinizing the hull for damages. Consider using a protectant spray or wax. Finally, make sure to store your kayak in a dry place.

Should I store my kayak upside down?

It's a good idea to store your kayak upside down or deck side down with the right support. This position helps to prevent moisture accumulation in the interior sections of your kayak, thereby eliminating the risk of mold growth.

Are sawhorses suitable for storing my kayak?

Yes, sawhorses or padded 2x4s can work as support bars for storing your kayak. The goal is to distribute the kayak's weight evenly across these supports to prevent pressure points or hull distortion. However, specially designed kayak cradles are your best bet to preserve the integrity of your boat and limit the amount of occupied floorspace. 

Can I store my kayak vertically for an extended time?

While it is possible to store a kayak vertically, there may be better solutions for long-term storage. It's generally safer to securely store your kayak in a horizontal position. Nonetheless, vertical storage can be a viable option with the proper precautions.

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Erika PaciniHead of MarketingErika is a novice adventurer and dedicated member of the Outdoorplay family for over two years. With a passion for hiking, biking, and all things outdoors, she's always on the hunt for new trails, waterfalls, and secluded beaches to explore. Erika's passion for the natural world and mindfulness fuels her desire to inspire others to deepen their connection with themselves and nature through outdoor adventures.