How To Size A Kayak Cockpit Cover?

How To Size A Kayak Cockpit Cover?

Covering the cockpit of your kayak is really important when storing and transporting it. With so many different styles of kayaks out there, however, the question is: how to size a kayak cockpit cover?

The answer is going to depend on the shape and dimensions of your kayak’s cockpit. There are some “universal” designs out there, but ensuring a snug fit is important to prevent the cover from flying off while you are driving down the highway.

The best kayak cockpit covers will completely seal your cockpit from water, dust, and other airborne debris. They can stay in place in high winds and are durable enough to last for the lifetime of your kayak.

In this guide, we will explain how to size a kayak cockpit cover, explore some of the benefits of adding a cockpit cover to your collection of kayaking accessories, and discuss whether or not these covers will work on all types of kayaks.

Let’s dive right in!

Photo by Algonquin Paddler via Flickr

What Is A Kayak Cockpit Cover?


A kayak cockpit cover is a round or oval-shaped sheet of fabric that can be placed over your kayak’s cockpit to seal it off from the elements. It will usually have some type of bungee cord or string around the edge that allows you to tighten it around the rim of your kayak’s cockpit.

This bungee cord or string is essential for keeping the cover in place. These covers are designed to stay in place when you are driving down the road at 65 miles per hour or when heavy winds arrive with a winter storm and your kayak is stored in an outdoor storage shed.

Can You Use A Cockpit Cover On All Kayaks?

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Unfortunately, the definitive answer to this question is no. Cockpit covers, as you might have already guessed, will only work on kayaks that have a defined cockpit.

This is typically limited to sit-in kayaks or touring kayaks that are designed for sea kayaking or to handle cold weather paddling. If you have a sit-on-top recreational kayak or fishing kayak, there are full kayak covers that will make more sense than a cockpit cover.

Benefits of a Kayak Cockpit Cover

When you are first getting into kayaking, it can be easy to get a little discouraged with all of the “added” accessories that you will be encouraged to acquire. If you are still not quite convinced that you need to add a cockpit cover to your kayak gear checklist, here are a few more reasons you should!


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First and foremost, your kayak is going to be exposed to the elements whether you are using it or not. It is best to store your kayak inside your garage to reduce UV exposure and prevent the natural degradation that comes along with it.

Whether you store your kayak inside or outside, however, putting a cockpit cover on between uses will prevent dirt, dust, water, and other debris from accumulating inside the cockpit. This means you won’t have to sit on a dirty seat next time you head out for a paddle.

If the rest of the exterior of your kayak gets a little dirty, it is much easier to spray down or wipe clean than the cockpit. Because it is enclosed, you will need to drain any water that accumulates inside when you wash it.

Plus, you will typically need to allow the kayak seat a few hours to dry if you don’t want to sit in a wet kayak for your entire paddle. This makes a quick clean before each use less feasible than it would be for a kayak without a defined cockpit.


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All kayaks are bound to naturally degrade over time, but you can slow that process down significantly if you are a conscious kayak owner. A cockpit cover can help you extend the longevity of your kayak by protecting the interior from the elements.

If you frequently transport your kayak on a roof rack or kayak trailer, that exposes it to high winds that can tear or otherwise damage straps and other interior components. It also exposes the inside of your kayak to road dirt and water from any rain you run into along your travels.

Instead of allowing your kayak’s cockpit to bake in the sun or get saturated every time it rains, a cockpit cover will keep it protected. In the long run, that is going to extend the longevity of your kayak, and that is especially true when it comes to the straps and plastic components that are common to most kayak seats.

Gas Mileage

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When you add to the height profile of your vehicle by placing a kayak on top, you are naturally going to impact your vehicle’s gas mileage negatively. You can somewhat negate this impact by storing your kayak face down on roof crossbars, but not all vehicles are set up for this.

If you are transporting your kayak in a J-style roof rack, for example, the cockpit will naturally catch the wind as you are driving down the road. This is going to be true regardless of whether you place the kayak up there with the bow or the stern facing towards the front of your vehicle.

Essentially, the cockpit of your kayak will act like a large sail that your vehicle will have to work extra hard to move through the air. By placing a cockpit cover on your kayak, however, your entire setup will become more aerodynamic.

Instead of catching air and slowing you down (plus making your vehicle work overtime), air will now naturally pass over your kayak as if it were one complete piece. While the impacts on your gas mileage might be minimal if you only travel short distances to launch your kayak, they will be dramatic over longer distances.

No Spring Surprises

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If you live in an area where the temperatures plummet during the winter months, the odds are high that you will wind up leaving your kayak in storage for long periods of time. Of course, you can always pick up the items on our cold weather kayak gear list and keep paddling year-round!

The majority of folks, however, will keep their kayaks stored throughout the months where paddling is a little less friendly. Unfortunately, critters and insects do not all take a break during these times as well.

In fact, many are more likely to explore the areas underneath and around your home for a warm place to survive the winter. For many, the open cockpit of an overturned kayak winds up being the perfect place to create a winter den.

Plus, all that foam used to create the seat and thigh braces inside your kayak’s cockpit can wind up being the perfect insulation for a cold critter. The only way to prevent this is to seal the cockpit of your kayak so that insects and critters can’t climb inside.

For many kayak owners, simply moving your kayak into the garage or under the deck can feel like you are doing enough to protect your kayak from the winter elements. Adding a kayak cockpit cover, however, is an essential addition to your kayak winter prep routine.

How to Size a Kayak Cockpit Cover?

The good news is that sizing a kayak cockpit cover for your kayak model is a relatively simple endeavor. Here is a quick breakdown of the basic steps you can use to measure your kayak’s cockpit for a cover:

Step 1: Get Your Measuring Devices

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The first thing you will need to do is make sure you have the proper tool to measure the cockpit of your kayak. We recommend both a standard retractable tape measure and the kind of soft and flexible measuring tape that is typically used for body measurement in suit fittings.

This will make it easier for you to quickly acquire all of the dimensions you will need to then search for a properly-sized kayak cockpit cover.

Step 2: Take Your Measurements

PC Spencer Cooke via YouTube

Using your retractable tape measure, start by measuring the length and width of your kayak’s cockpit. Measure the length from the centerline of your kayak and from the outside edge of the cockpit’s rim to the opposite outside edge.

When measuring the width, you will want to use the widest point of your kayak’s cockpit. This will typically be even with the location of your kayak seat and the width should also be measured from outside edge to outside edge of the cockpit rim.

Once you have noted your length and width measurements down, set down your retractable tape measure and pick up your flexible measuring tape. Use this tape to measure the entire circumference of your kayak’s cockpit.

Once again, use the outside edge of the cockpit rim when measuring the circumference. It can also be useful to make a small mark on the rim of your cockpit to ensure that you get a more accurate circumference measurement.

If you are more of a visual learner, check out the quick video below, which contains a tutorial on how to measure the cockpit of your kayak for a cover.

Step 3: A Cheat If You Do Not Want to Measure

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If you are unable or unwilling to measure the length, width, and circumference of your kayak’s cockpit for any reason, you can still get these dimensions elsewhere. This can be useful if you are shopping for a cockpit cover and a kayak simultaneously.

In this case, you would not even have a physical kayak in your presence to measure, so we feel it is imperative to cover an alternative. Fortunately, all quality kayak brands will advertise the dimensions of the cockpit for all of their different kayak models.

So a simpler method can be to pop online and look up the exact specifications for the kayak you want to install a cockpit cover on. This will also allow you to track down an appropriately-sized cockpit cover if you are concurrently shopping for a new kayak.

Step 4: Go Shopping For Your New Kayak Cockpit Cover!

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Now you can fire up your computer’s search engine or head down to your local paddle sports store to find a cockpit cover that will fit your kayak. It really is that simple, but there are a few additional buying considerations that we feel are necessary to cover before we let you go!

How to Choose A Quality Kayak Cockpit Cover?

Size is not the only concern when you are shopping for a new kayak cockpit cover. In the interest of helping you make the most educated decision possible, we have outlined a few more criteria that you should consider when comparing and contrasting cockpit cover designs.

Material Durability

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The material that is used to make a cockpit cover is going to dictate how well it prevents the ingress of water, dust, and other airborne debris. The most common materials used in the construction of kayak cockpit covers are nylon, cloth, and neoprene.

Nylon is usually going to be the best choice if you are most concerned about keeping water out of the cockpit of your kayak. It is more waterproof than neoprene, but it does not tend to be as durable in the long run.

Neoprene is the best choice if you are concerned with your kayak cockpit cover’s long-term durability. It is going to be highly effective at keeping dust and other debris out of your cockpit and is particularly great for storing kayaks in brutal weather conditions.

Neoprene just does not quite measure up to nylon when it comes to waterproofing, however. Cloth covers can’t quite measure up on either front (durability and water resistance), but they tend to be the most affordable kayak cockpit covers on the market.

Method of Security

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Some kayak cockpit covers are simply built with an elastic bungee cord around the edges. While these are very easy to secure around the rim of your kayak’s cockpit, the bungee cord does tend to stretch out and lose some of its elasticity over time.

That is why we recommend choosing a cockpit cover that has some sort of clip or cord that allows you to cinch it down in place. This will provide a more secure fit and also help you keep your cockpit cover tight even if it loses some of its elasticity over time.

Brand of Manufacture

PC Seals Skirts

You should also consider who makes the cockpit covers you are comparing when you are seeking to finalize your buying decision. It should come as no surprise that not all brands are created equal.

The best-case scenario is that you can find a cockpit cover that is made by the same brand that manufactured your kayak itself. This will help you ensure a more snug fit because cockpit shape can vary slightly from brand to brand.

If you are unable to find a cockpit cover from the same brand that manufactured your kayak, we would also recommend several brands that make universal models. Seals, NRS, and Harmony Gear are three of the most trusted names out there when it comes to making quality kayak cockpit covers.

How to Install a Kayak Cockpit Cover?


Fortunately, the process for securing your kayak cockpit cover in place is quite simple once you have chosen a model that is the correct size. Here are some quick steps to help you install your new kayak cockpit cover:

  • Place your kayak on the ground with the cockpit facing up.
  • Straddle your kayak so that the cockpit is just in front of you and you are facing towards the bow.
  • Secure the front of the cockpit cover around the front edge of the rim of your kayak’s cockpit.
    • Each cover should have a small tab, loop, or string at the front to help you differentiate the front from the back more easily
  • Pull the cover towards you and around the rim so that it stretches across the entire opening.
  • Tighten down the bungee cord or tie down the string along the edge tightly to secure it in place.
  • Don’t hesitate to double-check your work.

If you are installing a kayak cockpit cover for the first time, it helps to test your work by driving around a neighborhood or on county roads before you hop right onto a major interstate. It is going to be easier to turn around and retrieve your cockpit cover on these types of roads than on a major highway if it does happen to fly off.

Final Thoughts

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There are all kinds of creatures and objects that could make their way into your kayak’s cockpit if you leave it uncovered. Most of these things are going to be relatively harmless, but there is nothing worse than having something start biting your leg when you have just climbed into your kayak and shoved off from the beach.

Kayak cockpit covers are affordable accessories that will help to protect the inside of your kayak and can also have some important benefits when your kayak is left in storage or it is secured up on your roof rack during your next road trip.

Whatever the case may be, investing in one of these covers is worth it to maximize the lifespan of your kayak. Plus, it will bring you some well-deserved peace of mind knowing that nothing is lurking inside your kayak’s cockpit the next time you hop in for what should be a leisurely paddle!

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How to Size a Kayak Cockpit Cover

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Peter Salisbury

Pete is the Owner of Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.