without a doubt, our kayaks spend much more time in storage than they do on the water. Yet, for most paddlers, storage is an afterthought rather than part of the purchase process.
Whether you live in an urban condominium or have a yard in the suburbs, we all have challenges when storing our hardshell kayaks. However, proper storage is essential—it protects your kayak from the elements and extends the boat’s life. Also, proper storage saves space, making room for even more kayaks.
There are many storage solutions available, from DIY ideas to premium racks costing hundreds of dollars and everything in between. There’s no one best storage method, only what works for your location, convenience and budget.
The most important part of storing your kayak is ensuring it’s well supported off the ground, with its weight evenly distributed. For a typical sea kayak, this means support near the bulkheads. Check the manufacturer’s suggestions for the best storage position for your kayak, and use padded cradles or wide straps to avoid pressure points.
Outdoor vs. indoor storage
If you have enough room to store your kayak inside, then thank your lucky stars. Indoor storage keeps your kayak out of the sun’s UV rays, which can degrade and discolor hulls over time. It also limits exposure to precipitation and extreme temperatures, and offers a better chance of keeping critters from ransacking your outfitting.
Take extra precautions if storing your kayak outside. To avoid UV damage, try to keep it in the shade as much as possible, cover it with a kayak cover, or rig a tarp roof over your rack. A simple spray on and wipe off of UV protectant will offer extra peace of mind.
Insects, spiders, snakes, rodents and other small animals are known to make homes in kayak cockpits. Fit your cockpit with a cover to keep visitors out but be sure the cockpit is dry before covering it to avoid mold and mildew. Depending on visibility, you may want to add a cable and lock to keep your kayak from disappearing in the night.
Before putting your kayak away for any length of time, ensure it’s clean and dry. A simple rinse and dry is likely enough. However, if you paddle in either saltwater or muddy water, wipe down with a mild soap and water solution.
Best kayak storage solutions
Wall-mounted cradles are a versatile way to store your kayak. The cradles can mount to any vertical surface that can support the kayak’s weight—inside the garage, along an exterior wall or even on a sturdy fence. Wall hangers are shaped like a capital letter U with one side mounted to a flat surface.
This method is easily customizable, so your kayak is getting support where it needs it most—under the bulkheads for sea kayaks and about a third of the way in from each end for shorter recreational kayaks. The hangers’ height is up to you and depends on how many kayaks you want to mount and what you want to store underneath. Remember, the higher the kayak, the more effort to hoist the boat into position. Some wall-mounted racks allow for stacking two or three kayaks.
Hanging straps work similarly to wall mounted cradles. Straps are typically nylon and two or more inches wide. Straps are inexpensive but trickier to load the boat onto solo and must be mounted to a stud as they’ll be bearing the kayak’s full weight for long periods.
Free standing racks
Freestanding racks come in a variety of sizes, offering storage for two to six or more kayaks (see page 210). This is a popular option for those with multiple kayaks and available floor space. Store-bought freestanding racks are durable and cost a few hundred dollars. If your budget is tight, build a DIY rack in an afternoon with some basic carpentry skills and a bundle of 2×4’s (paddlingmag.com/0085). PVC and plumbing pipes are also popular materials for DIY freestanding racks. While these racks typically take up the most space of the options listed here, with wheels or casters installed you can move them around.
With great height comes more space-saving possibilities. A hoist system installed on garage rafters uses a pulley system to pull the kayak up, up and away, allowing you to park your vehicle or store other items beneath. Hoists should use wide straps or a sling to support the kayak’s hull—do not hang your boat from its grab loops as these are not made to support the boat for months at a time. Measure the height of your garage before committing to this storage method, and factor in vehicle clearance if needed, plus the depth of your kayak and hoist system. A hoist system may also fit under a building overhang or a second-story deck.
The sawhorse storage method is cheap and straightforward. From repurposed construction sawhorses to nylon camp stools, a bow and stern support can often be cobbled together from items you already have. Several manufacturers make durable and lightweight, folding sawhorse-style racks, which can accompany you to the put-in or the front lawn for boat maintenance. You can use these anywhere: the garage, backyard or alongside the house.
The simple pool noodle is a choice many use to keep their kayaks just off the ground. Available for a buck or two, throw these colorful foam tubes on the ground, drop the kayak on top, and away you go. The pool noodle is a cheap and temporary solution but not ideal for long-term storage as the noodle will compress and before long, your kayak will be resting on the ground. Plus, it won’t get the kayak out from underfoot.
If you live in an urban setting with limited storage available, don’t own a vehicle, or simply want waterside access, then storage at a local kayak club or marina might be the best option. Some clubs offer just a rack, while others offer free parking, showers, security and more. This all comes at a price, of course, and fees will vary greatly based on location and facilities. A club near me offers outdoor storage without any frills for $400 a year, plus the cost of cable, lock and insurance. It’s not cheap, but some may find it pays itself off in convenience. Bonus: the annual fee usually drops for each subsequent boat stored.
Whatever you do
Do not store your kayak directly on the ground. This can damage the hull over time. Resist the temptation to store your kayak vertically, resting on its bow or stern, for the same reason.
Sea kayaker Alan Drummond can be found paddling anywhere there is water.
“I have too much storage space,” said no one ever. | Photo: Kevin Light