How To Store Kayak Outside In Winter

How To Store Kayak Outside In Winter

Winter can wreak havoc on a kayak. Cold temperatures and more moisture can combine to create a recipe for damage to your kayaks that can drastically reduce their lifespan.

In fact, properly storing your kayak when it’s not in use is important in any season. If you’re a new kayak owner, taking the time to learn how to store your kayak and why it’s important is just as critical as learning proper paddling techniques.

If you live in a place that experiences cold or wet winters, you’ll need to know how to store a kayak outside in winter. And that’s exactly why we’re here to give you multiple options to play with through this article.

We’ll start by identifying the specific reasons why winter is so hard on kayaks and providing some general do’s and don’t for kayak storage. Then, we’ll present several winter kayak storage ideas so you can choose the right one for your situation.

Why Winter Is Hard On Kayaks

If we want our kayaks to still be in useful shape by the time the weather warms up again, we must care for them properly during the winter. Here’s why winter can be so tough on your kayaks if you store them outside.

Freeze-Thaw Cycles

Freeze-thaw cycles are the major force responsible for creating cracks in large granite boulders on the summits of cold mountain passes. And if they can break rock apart, imagine what they can do to your kayak.

If you don’t store your kayak properly in the winter, the regular expansion and contraction of snow and ice on your kayak can cause the rotomolded plastic itself to crack. This will lead to leaks and the need for major repairs when spring comes around.


Just like how humans tend to spend more time indoors during the winter, the rest of nature’s creatures are also looking for places to stay warm. Many families of mice or squirrels have spent a comfortable winter underneath an overturned kayak.

The problem with this is that critters tend to chew up foam kayak seats, bungee straps, and even rubber hatch covers.

They use these materials to add insulation for their burrows, but you probably won’t be too happy with that when you overturn your kayak in the spring.

Snow Load

Snow load can place a lot of weight on your kayak if you store it outside without a cover.

Sure, you can build clearing off your kayaks into your regular snow removal routine, but it can be easy to fall behind if you live in a place where you receive a lot of annual snowfall.

The extra weight can cause a kayak to crack, bend, or dent. Kayaks are not made to handle a lot of weight when they’re stored on the ground and leaving too much snow on them during the winter can cause significant damage.

Kayak Storage Dos And Don’ts

To get the most out of your kayak, you need to know how to care for it both on and off the water. So let’s start by identifying some simple dos and don’ts related to kayak storage.

DO … Store It Up Off The Ground!

The best way to reduce the potential for damage from snow load is to store kayaks up off the ground. And even if you don’t get a lot of snow, leaving your kayak on the ground for several months can cause the bottom side to become dented.

Storing your kayak on the ground also makes it easier for certain critters to find a home inside. By storing it on an elevated rack, you’ll reduce the likelihood of small animals repurposing your kayak for their winter home.

DON’T … Just Leave It Outside!

As we mentioned above, there are all sorts of reasons why you shouldn’t just leave your kayak outside in winter. Snow load can cause large dents or complete collapses.

Freeze-thaw cycles can crack the molded plastic of your kayak and require significant repair in the spring. You can, of course, store a kayak outside in the winter, but leaving it unprotected is a surefire way to minimize the lifespan of your boat.

DO … Cover It Somehow!

If you elect to store a kayak outside in winter, it must be covered somehow. This will keep snow and rain from getting on or in your kayaks and this moisture is the primary cause of damage from freeze-thaw cycles.

But covering your kayaks also protects them from falling leaves, pine cones, and other debris that comes with winter. It will keep the snow load off your boats and also make them easier to clean and prep when it’s time to paddle again in the spring.

DON’T … Store Seats, PFDs, and Other Accessories Inside!

It can be a natural thought to store seats, PFDs, and other accessories right in the cockpit of your kayak. This keeps everything organized in one place, and it’s honestly not a bad solution if you’re going to store your kayak inside for the winter.

But when you store your kayak outside, seats, PFDs, and other accessories can easily become insulation materials for small animals. They love chewing up PFDs, for example, to use the foam as added insulation in their burrows.

Additionally, these accessories can mold or rot if they get wet during the winter, which isn’t really a problem with the molded plastic of your kayak.

So it’s always best to store your kayak accessories inside where they can stay safe and dry throughout the winter.

DO … Clean Your Kayaks Before Storing Them!

No matter how you ultimately decide to store your kayak, it should be thoroughly cleaned before it goes into storage for any length of time.

This helps to reduce the long-term effects of dust, dirt, saltwater, and any other debris sitting on your kayak’s surfaces.

You can get away with simply hosing your kayak off if it’s not super dirty, but a gentle scrubbing with soap and warm water will help remove any grime that’s really stuck on there.

Once you’re done cleaning your kayak out thoroughly, make sure it dries completely before putting it in storing. Placing a wet kayak in storage can increase the likelihood of mold or mildew developing inside.

Winter Kayak Storage Ideas

So now that we’ve provided more general do’s and don’ts of kayak storage, it’s time to share a few tried-and-true storage solutions. These ideas are meant to give you plenty of options and we’ll cover how to select the best one for your situation later on.

On Stands and Covered With Tarps

Portable kayak stands are probably the easiest and most affordable way to store a kayak outside in winter. While many of them are designed for your kayak to sit on top with the deck and cockpit facing up, we recommend flipping your kayak over during the winter months.

This prevents moisture from getting inside the cockpit or storage compartments. It also reduces the likelihood of a tarp ripping or tearing in the spots where there’s nothing underneath to support it.

If you take this approach, you should certainly wrap your kayak in a tarp (or tarps) to minimize direct moisture contact.

If you’re storing multiple kayaks side-side-by-side in this manner, you should also consider placing a thin sheet of plywood on top of your kayaks after they’re wrapped in tarps.

This will make it much easier for you to push snow off the kayaks if it does accumulate.

The only thing to consider if you take this approach is the security of that plywood if you live in an area that receives substantial wind gusts during the winter months.

Covered On A Sidewall or Fence

Wall-mounted kayak racks are a great way to store kayaks outside. They get your kayaks up off the ground and have the added benefit of flipping them over so that moisture can’t accumulate in the cockpit.

If you choose this solution, make sure you install the rack into the beams of your fence or the framing on a sidewall of your house.

If you install them into thinner fencing material or drywall, the rack could rip out of the wall with the extra weight of snow or ice in the winter.

With this solution, it’s still recommended to wrap your kayak in a tarp to further reduce the amount of moisture that comes in direct contact with the hull of your kayak. Bungee cords are also a great way to make sure your tarp stays in place throughout the winter.

With this solution, you’ll still need to check on your kayaks regularly through the winter. We recommend clearing them if any more than 4-6 inches of snow accumulates on top to prevent denting or warping.

Under A Deck

Storing your kayaks under a deck in the winter is a great solution because you won’t have to worry about snow load. That being said, your kayaks may still be subject to moisture dripping through your deck planks.

There are many ways to store kayaks under a deck and they largely depend on the set up of the deck and how much walking space there is underneath.

In the photo above, the owners used wall-mounted kayak straps to suspend their kayaks off the ground.

Even if you store your kayaks under a deck, we still recommend getting them off the ground somehow. That could be through the use of kayaks stands or simply propping them up on blocks.

If you take the latter approach, be sure to place your kayak on the blocks with the cockpit facing down. Also, we still recommend wrapping your kayak in a tarp to reduce moisture exposure unless your deck is designed to shed water out and away from your house.

On A Kayak Rack

A kayak rack is a great solution for outdoor kayak storage because it can be set in the most convenient location in your yard. You don’t have to rely on having enough wall space or fence clearance like you would with a wall-mounted rack.

If you choose this route, the cheaper option involves creating your own DIY rack using two-by-fours. You can see a simple T-design in the photo above, but this option will be more time-intensive than the other.

The other option is to purchase a pre-manufactured kayak rack. Then, you’ll simply need to assemble it and decide the best place to set it in your yard before you load your kayaks on.

As you can see from the photo, the best way to set your kayaks on a rack like this is deck down. Once your kayaks are all secure on the rack for the winter, we recommend covering the entire structure with multiple tarps.

Depending on the number of kayaks and size of the rack, you’ll need to use multiple tarps and enough string or bungee straps to tie them down adequately. Make sure there’s no seam at the top of the rack for water to leak in.

If the wind is a concern in your area, it may be helpful to further weight the entire rack down using sandbags.

Once your tarps are on, the whole structure can catch a lot of wind, so sandbags are a good idea to keep it from blowing over if you live in a windy location.

In An Open-Air Storage Shed

Our final winter kayak storage idea requires the most up-front investments in terms of both time and money. But building your own covered, open-air kayak shed is a great long-term solution for properly storing your kayak.

The design featured in the photo above is simple enough. You simply need to make sure the dimensions of your shed are large enough to completely fit your kayaks underneath because you don’t want to leave the bow or stern exposed to snow or moisture.

A good rule-of-thumb is simply to add 12 inches to both the length and width of your largest kayak. Then you can use those dimensions as your guide when determining how much material you need for proper construction.

The shed shown above would require you to regularly remove snow and/or ice from the flat roof. So if you live somewhere that receives a lot of snow in the winter, you may consider an angled or A-frame roof that will shed snow naturally.

There are a lot of directions you could go with your own covered storage shed solution. But if you want more help designing and creating your own covered storage solution, check out our article on how to build a kayak storage shed.

Choosing The Right Outdoor Kayak Storage Solution

We hope you’ve added a fair number of ideas to your toolbox in terms of the best way to store your kayak outside in winter. But before you go, let’s cover a few critical factors that will help you determine which solution is best for you.

Number of Kayaks

The number of kayaks that you need to keep out of the elements for the winter will play into your storage choice. If you’re only storing a single kayak, for example, there’s no reason to buy an expensive kayak rack that can hold up to four boats.

The best solution for that scenario would probably be portable stands with a tarp covering. But if you have 3-4 kayaks to store, putting them all up on stands is going to be prohibitive in terms of both cost of the stand and space in your yard.

So think about how many kayaks you need to store before settling on a solution. As you start to store more kayaks, a wall-mounted or freestanding rack begins to make more sense because they’ll save space and give you just one place to cover or wrap your kayaks.

Yard Space

The amount of space you have to store kayaks in your yard also comes into play. For example, storing your kayaks on a sidewall or under the deck makes sense for small yards where you want to maintain space for outdoor winter activities.

If you have enough yard space to do it, however, building a more permanent open-air kayak storage shed is a great option.

This will make storing your kayaks every time as simple as placing them in the shed and it eliminates the need to worry about tarping them and regularly clearing snow all winter.

Your Environment

The regular winter conditions in your area should also be accounted for when picking the right kayak storage solution.

Those that live in climates that receive heavy amounts of annual snowfall are those most likely to need a solid structure under which to store their kayaks.

On the other hand, if you only deal with rain and the occasional night with temperatures dropping below freezing, storing your kayaks might be as simple as placing them neatly under your deck.

If this is the case for you, your larger concern will probably be small animals or insects creating homes in your kayak during the winter. And you already know the value of a quality tarp in alleviating that issue.

The three main winter factors that cause damage to your kayak in the winter are temperature swings, moisture, and critters. So identifying which of those factors is most prevalent in your environment will help you choose the best kayak storage solution for your situation.


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Author: Peter SalisburyPete 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.