The Kayak Cover: A Detailed Guide To Safeguard Your Kayak

If you’re anything like me, your kayak is not just a piece of equipment; it’s your partner in adventure, your ticket to exploring the great outdoors. Just like you wouldn’t leave your smartphone out in the rain or your bike to rust, your kayak also deserves some tender love and care. That’s where kayak covers come into play. Not sure if you need one or know which to choose? Stick around, because this article is going to be your one-stop guide to everything you need to know about a kayak cover. Trust me, your kayak will thank you.

Why A Kayak Cover Matters

Alright, let’s dive in and explore why covering your kayak is so important.

It’s Not Just About Aesthetics

First off, it’s not just about keeping your kayak looking pretty, although that’s a nice bonus. Think of a kayak cover like sunscreen for your skin—essential for protection. You wouldn’t head out for a day at the beach without some SPF, right? Well, your kayak shouldn’t be exposed to the elements without protection either.

Safety Measures

And let’s not forget about security. A kayak cover can obscure the brand and quality of your kayak from the prying eyes of potential thieves. While it’s not a foolproof method, it’s an added layer of deterrence.

Longevity and Resale Value

Lastly, a well-maintained kayak is a long-lasting kayak. You’ve invested in this wonderful piece of equipment, so why not take the steps to ensure it stays in top-notch condition for years to come? Plus, if you ever decide to upgrade or sell, a well-preserved kayak fetches a better resale value.

Elements that Can Damage a Kayak

So, you might be wondering, “What exactly am I protecting my kayak from?” It’s not just about keeping it pretty for Instagram photos; there are legitimate hazards out there that can harm your kayak. Let’s get into some of those factors.

Sun Exposure

Most of us love a sunny day out on the water. But the sun is not as much a friend to your kayak as it is to your vitamin D levels. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can fade the color of your kayak and weaken its material over time. Ever seen an old, sun-bleached plastic chair? That’s what we’re trying to avoid here. UV protection is not just for your skin; your kayak needs it, too!

A red kayak on the white sand beach under the sun.

Water and Humidity

Ironically, the very element that kayaks are designed to glide on can be harmful. “Wait a second,” you might think, “it’s supposed to be in the water!” True, but constant exposure to water, especially saltwater, can erode the kayak’s materials and fittings. Even fresh water, if allowed to sit and stagnate inside the kayak, can cause mold and mildew. Remember, it’s one thing to be in the water; it’s another to be soaked and stored improperly.

Extreme Temperatures

You wouldn’t leave a pet in a car in extreme temperatures, so why would you subject your kayak to that? Extreme heat can cause the material to warp, while extreme cold can make it brittle and more prone to cracking. Proper storage and protection can help mitigate these risks.

Physical Impacts

Whether you’re navigating through a rocky stream or simply dragging your kayak across a gravelly beach, physical impacts can cause scratches, dents, or even punctures. Over time, these can add up to significant damage that affects both the aesthetics and functionality of your kayak.

A man white water kayaking in a red kayak.

Pests and Animals

Pests might find your kayak to be a great home. Beyond just nesting, some animals might actually chew or scratch the materials, causing further damage. Imagine pulling your kayak out for a day of paddling only to find a family of mice has moved in. Kayak covers can help deter critters from making your kayak their residence.

Types of Kayak Covers

Choosing the right kayak cover is a bit like choosing the right pair of shoes. You have to consider the fit, the material, and the conditions you’ll be using it in. Think of your kayak as an extension of yourself; you wouldn’t just throw any old pair of shoes on and head out the door, would you? 

In the kayak cover world, you essentially have two broad categories to pick from: Universal Covers and Custom-Fit Covers. Both come with their sets of advantages and disadvantages, so let’s delve into the details to help you make an informed decision.

Universal Covers

Universal kayak covers are like the all-purpose flour in a kitchen—versatile and widely applicable. They are typically designed with adjustability in mind to cater to various kayak shapes and sizes. Most come with a series of straps, buckles, or drawstrings that allow you to secure the cover around your kayak. The aim here is to offer a functional, albeit not glove-like, fit for the broadest range of kayaks possible.


  1. Versatility: These covers are typically made to fit a variety of kayak models, ranging from sit-on-top to touring kayaks. If you own multiple kayaks or plan to swap them out regularly, a universal cover could be your best friend.
  2. Affordability: Budget is often a significant concern, and universal covers usually cost less than custom-fit ones. They offer a cost-effective way to get basic protection without breaking the bank.
  3. Ease of Purchase: Universal covers are readily available at most sporting goods stores and online platforms. No need to fuss about getting the exact measurements; a general size usually does the trick.
  4. Quick Setup: Given their design, universal covers often come with adjustable straps or drawstrings, allowing for easy and quick setup, even if you’re out on a solo trip.


  1. Loose Fit: One of the primary drawbacks of universal covers is that they may not offer a snug fit. In windy conditions, this could be problematic, as the cover could potentially blow off or let debris in.
  2. Limited Special Features: Universal covers generally come with basic features like elastic hems or drawstrings. They’re less likely to have advanced features like zipper openings, air vents, or reinforced corners for added durability.
  3. Potential for Water Pooling: Due to the loose fit, water might collect in certain areas, leading to pooling. This can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew if not addressed.

Custom-Fit Cover

Custom-fit covers are the haute couture of the kayak world—tailored to your kayak’s specific dimensions for an unparalleled fit. These covers are made to order, typically designed from a template that exactly matches your kayak type and model. The result is a cover that hugs your kayak’s curves and corners, offering a level of protection that’s difficult to match with a universal cover.


  1. Precise Fit: The cover is designed based on your kayak’s exact dimensions, which means it offers top-notch protection from the elements and stays in place, even in strong winds.
  2. Advanced Features: Expect premium features like UV resistance, multiple tie-down points, zipper access, and even pockets for extra storage.
  3. Material Choices: You can often choose the material that best suits your needs, be it for durability, weather resistance, or aesthetic appeal.
  4. Aesthetic Appeal: A custom-fit cover is visually pleasing. If you take pride in your kayak’s appearance even when it’s stored, this is your go-to option.


  1. Cost: Custom-fit covers can be expensive, often requiring a higher initial investment compared to universal covers.
  2. Limited Versatility: The cover is designed for a specific kayak, making it less versatile if you own different types or plan to upgrade.
  3. Availability and Lead Time: These covers usually require a lead time for manufacturing, which could be inconvenient if you’re looking for immediate protection.

Material Considerations

Alright, we’ve talked about the types of covers you can get for your beloved kayak. But what about the stuff these covers are actually made of? It’s like choosing between cotton, polyester, or silk for your summer wardrobe. Each material has its pros and cons, and what works best can depend on a variety of factors like your local climate, where you store your kayak, and your budget. In this section, we’ll examine three commonly used materials for kayak covers: Polyester, Vinyl, and Canvas.


Polyester is one of the most commonly used materials for kayak covers. Known for its lightweight properties and durability, it’s a solid choice for those looking to balance protection and affordability.


  • Durability: Polyester is known for its long-lasting nature, providing a sturdy layer of protection against mild weather conditions and UV rays.
  • Lightweight: The material is lightweight, making it easier for one person to cover the kayak without needing help.
  • Water-Resistant: Polyester often comes with a water-resistant coating, making it suitable for moderate rainfall.
  • Affordability: Compared to other materials, polyester tends to be more cost-effective.


  • Not Waterproof: While it’s water-resistant, polyester isn’t entirely waterproof, which might be a problem in areas with heavy rainfall.
  • Limited UV Protection: Polyester does offer some level of UV protection, but it’s not as robust as some other materials like vinyl.


Vinyl covers are like the armored vehicles of the kayak world. Heavier and more durable than polyester, they offer excellent protection against a variety of elements, including heavy rain and intense UV radiation.


  • Waterproof: Vinyl is completely waterproof, making it an excellent option if you’re storing your kayak outdoors in a wet climate.
  • High UV Protection: The material excels at blocking out harmful UV rays, providing superior protection against sun damage.
  • Sturdiness: Vinyl covers are incredibly tough and can withstand physical impacts to a certain extent.


  • Heavy: The material’s weight can make it challenging to put the cover on by yourself.
  • Cost: Vinyl covers tend to be more expensive than their polyester counterparts.


Think of canvas as the ‘vintage leather jacket’ of kayak covers—classic, stylish, and incredibly robust. Made from woven fabric, canvas covers offer a high level of protection and are particularly popular for long-term storage.


  • Durability: Canvas is extremely durable and can withstand a variety of weather conditions, including snow and heavy rain.
  • Breathability: Unlike vinyl, canvas is breathable, which can help prevent mold and mildew.
  • High UV Protection: The material offers excellent protection against harmful UV rays.


  • Weight: Canvas covers are heavy, making them less convenient if you’re frequently taking them on and off.
  • Price: Quality canvas covers can be on the pricier side, similar to vinyl.

Features to Look For

Choosing a kayak cover is a bit like selecting a smartphone. Beyond the brand and price tag, it’s the features that truly make or break the deal. We’ve already dived into the types of covers and materials you might choose from, but what about those little extra ‘perks’ that can make life so much easier? Let’s get into the features that should be on your radar when shopping for a kayak cover.

Weather Resistance

Choosing a kayak cover is a bit like selecting a smartphone. Beyond the brand and price tag, it’s the features that truly make or break the deal. We’ve already dived into the types of covers and materials you might choose from, but what about those little extra ‘perks’ that can make life so much easier? Let’s get into the features that should be on your radar when shopping for a kayak cover.

What to Look For

  1. Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant: Understand the difference. Waterproof means it’s impervious to water, while water-resistant will only give you a limited protection time under rain.
  2. Sealed Seams: Ensure that the seams of the cover are sealed to prevent water ingress.
  3. Breathability: Especially important if you’re dealing with fluctuating temperatures which could lead to condensation under the cover.
  4. Material: As discussed, materials like vinyl and canvas offer higher weather resistance compared to polyester.

UV Protection

Think of UV protection as the sunscreen for your kayak. Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to fading, and in the worst-case scenario, weaken the material of your kayak. UV protection is an absolute must if you’re planning to store your kayak outdoors.

What to Look For

  1. UV-Resistant Coating: Check if the cover comes with a special UV-resistant coating for extra protection.
  2. Material: Again, materials like canvas and vinyl generally offer better UV protection than polyester.
  3. Color: Lighter colors tend to reflect sunlight better than darker ones, although this is often a secondary consideration.

Ease of Installation

The ease with which you can put on or remove a cover is a crucial, yet often overlooked, factor.

What to Look For

  1. Straps and Buckles: Adjustable straps and quick-release buckles can make the installation process much smoother.
  2. Elastic Hems: These allow for a snug fit, making it easier to put the cover on single-handedly.
  3. Zippered Access: Some covers come with a zippered access point, allowing you to install or remove the cover without having to lift it entirely off the kayak.
  4. Instruction Manual: It may sound trivial, but a well-written, easy-to-understand instruction manual can make a world of difference.

Practical Tips for Using a Kayak Cover

You’ve got your kayak cover. Great! But merely owning a cover doesn’t get the job done. Think of it as a tool in your toolkit—you need to use it effectively for it to serve its purpose. Below are some practical tips to get the most out of your kayak cover.

Keep It Clean

Cleaning the cover might feel like a chore, but trust me, it’s worth it. Dust and grime can accumulate, and you don’t want that mess coming in contact with your kayak, do you?

Check for Ventilation

Make sure that your cover allows some level of ventilation. Trapped moisture could lead to mold and mildew, and let’s be honest, that’s not a problem anyone wants to deal with.

Strap It Down

Windy days can make your kayak cover flap like a flag, potentially allowing debris and water to slip in. So make sure to strap it down well, especially if you’re storing your kayak outdoors.

Regular Checks

Don’t just put on the cover and forget about it. Make it a point to regularly check your kayak and the inside of the cover for any signs of damage or moisture. Prevention is better than cure, folks!

Seasonal Adjustments

If you live in an area with seasonal changes, you might need to adjust your kayak cover accordingly. For instance, in winter, you may want to add an extra tarp for added protection against snow and ice.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to kayak covers, there are some common blunders that many kayakers are guilty of. Here’s what you should try to avoid:

Wrong Size

It might sound obvious, but choosing a cover that’s too big or too small can lead to a host of problems, from poor weather protection to difficulty in putting the cover on. Measure twice, buy once!

Ignoring the Material

We’ve talked about the importance of material choice. Skimping out and choosing a material that’s not suitable for your specific needs is a mistake you’ll likely regret.

Failing to Secure the Cover

Simply draping your cover over your kayak isn’t enough. Failing to properly secure it can lead to the cover coming off, which defeats the whole purpose.

Overlooking Maintenance

A kayak cover needs a bit of love and care too! Ignoring rips, frays, or signs of wear and tear can lead to decreased effectiveness over time.

Assuming It’s a One-Time Setup

Putting on a kayak cover isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ type of deal. Conditions change, and your cover may need readjustments. Don’t assume that once the kayak cover is on, you’re good for all seasons.


You have navigated through the waters of kayak covers like a pro! By now, you should have a solid grasp on why covering your kayak is not just an option but a necessity. From understanding the types of covers available—be it the versatile Universal Covers or the snug Custom-Fit Covers—to weighing the pros and cons of materials like Polyester, Vinyl, and Canvas, you’re well on your way to making an informed decision. 

But remember, owning a kayak cover is just half the battle. Using it effectively and avoiding common mistakes is what truly makes the difference. It’s about embracing practical tips and being aware of pitfalls. 

In short, a kayak cover is not just a piece of fabric you throw on your kayak; it’s an investment. An investment in prolonging the life of your kayak, maintaining its appearance, and ultimately, enhancing your kayaking experience. 

So go ahead, pick the perfect cover, and let your kayak thank you for it! Keep paddling, keep exploring, and most importantly, keep your kayak safe and secure.


Q: Can I Use a Tarp as a Kayak Cover?

A: Sure, you can, but it won’t provide the same level of protection as a specially designed kayak cover. Tarps may not offer features like UV protection or breathability, and they often don’t fit as snugly. So while it’s a quick fix, it’s not a long-term solution.

Q: How Often Should I Clean My Kayak Cover?

A: The frequency depends on where you store your kayak and what conditions the cover is exposed to. If it’s outdoors and frequently subjected to dust and rain, a monthly clean would be beneficial. Otherwise, a quarterly deep clean should suffice.

Q: Is It Necessary to Cover My Kayak If I Store It Indoors?

A: Covering your kayak indoors can still be a good idea to protect it from dust, debris, and potential scratches. It may not need the same level of UV or weather protection, but a cover can still keep it clean and ready for your next adventure.

Q: Can I Use a Kayak Cover for Other Types of Small Watercraft?

A: Technically, yes, but the fit might not be ideal. Kayak covers are designed specifically for the shape and dimensions of kayaks. Using them for other watercraft like canoes or paddleboards could result in a poor fit and less effective protection.

Q: Is a Waterproof or Water-Resistant Cover Better?

A: While a waterproof cover offers better protection against water ingress, it might lack breathability, which can lead to moisture accumulation and potential mold growth inside the cover. A water-resistant cover is usually more breathable but may allow some moisture in during heavy rainfall. Consider your specific needs and storage conditions when choosing.

The author, Sophia Monroe, kayaking.

Sophia Monroe

My initial goal to inspire others to embrace the wonderful world of water sports has evolved into a commitment to share my love to the widest audience possible. In a world increasingly consumed by sedentary lifestyles and digital devices, it's vital to reconnect with nature, prioritize physical activity, mental health, and live life to its fullest. I believe that by providing information and resources, we can empower ourselves to embrace strength, vitality, and a life lived to the fullest. Let's embark on this journey together!

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