How To Care for Your Craft

Proper storage can extend the years of your canoe or kayak.

Whether it’s the end of the traditional summer paddling season, or just time to start organizing equipment after your last paddling trip, a little forethought goes a long way. Most of the gear storage is pretty straight-forward once you find room for your (dry and clean) apparel, PFD and paddle. Boats, on the other hand—especially hardshell kayaks and canoes—are another matter. Storage space is often hard to find indoors, as is outdoor space that’s safe from the elements. Here are a few pointers to help you care for and safely store your key paddling possession to prolong its on-water performance for seasons to come. 

Cleaning and Pre-storage Care 

Clean your kayak of dirt, bugs, leaves and other residue before storing it away. Spray your boat with water and rub it down (use a rag or scrub brush) with a mixture of mild detergent and water. Rinse it off well and, if applicable for your kayak, open the drain plug and empty out the water. Let the boat dry completely, opening all storage hatches so they can dry as well. This cleaning process is especially important if you paddle in saltwater, which can degrade the hull and other materials (notably any outfitting buckles or zippers). For canoes, maintain wooden gunwales, seats and deck plates according to manufacturer recommendations so they don’t dry out, crack or warp. If possible, detach all removable fabric sections (e.g., seat backs and cushions) and store them separately indoors. 

Rodent Protection 

Whether you store your canoe or kayak indoors or out, take steps to prevent a pest or rodent infestation. (Hint: Make sure all traces of food are removed before storage.) Areas that critters especially like include kayak cockpits and storage hatches; make sure all (dried) hatches are securely closed, and consider bungee-ing a piece of plastic around your cockpit as additional protection. Also remove any fabric, if possible, that might attract bugs or rodents, and try to store the boat off the ground on a rack to keep it out of reach. 

Inside vs. Outside

The best storage solutions keep your boat off the ground and away from moisture and direct sunlight. If possible, store your kayak or canoe inside, where it’s protected from the sun, rodents, moisture and winter’s freeze/thaw cycle. But kayaks and canoes are bulky and can’t always fit inside a garage, basement or other storage area, so oftentimes outdoor storage is your only option—which is fine if you do it correctly. 

Outdoor Storage

Try to store your boat in a shaded location to protect it from the sun, which can degrade fiberglass, plastic and wood (including wooden seats and gunwales in canoes). If you can’t find shade, place it off the ground (e.g., on a rack or atop 2x4s) and cover it with a plastic tarp, ideally where water and snow won’t put weight on the hull. Note: Don’t wrap the tarp too tightly, which might foster mold and mildew; keep a few folds and air pockets in the tarp so the hull can breathe. Better yet: Create a tent-like sheltered area for it out of PVC pipe. Another trick: Spray a UV protectant onto plastic, fiberglass and even Royalex (canoes) or other composite hulls to minimize the damage of UV exposure. Bear in mind that repeated freezing and thawing can also harm certain hull materials if water finds a seam and expands. 

Indoor Storage

To store a kayak or canoe indoors, which is the best solution, get creative. Look up! If space is at a premium, assess your garage to see if there is any room on a wall or ceiling that might work; the same holds for your basement or other storage areas. Look for an ideal spot: with consistent temperature and humidity to limit mold and mildew growth. If possible, avoid storing your boat right next to heat sources. In a city? Reach out to area paddlesports outfitters to see if they offer boat storage services before asking a friend if they might have extra garage space—or ponying up for a storage unit rental. 

Boat Positioning

Ideally, spread out the weight of your boat over its entire length whenever you store it. Support it at several points along its length, using padded cradles, angled surfaces and/or straps that conform to the hull.


Don’t store your kayak on the floor right-side-up or on its side; the weight could flatten its hull. Ideally, store it with its weight distributed evenly on a rack or hanging system. Another option: Stand it vertically against a wall, at a slight angle with the cockpit facing outward.


A canoe should be stored upside down, supported by the gunwales. Avoid storing it in any of the following ways that can warp the hull and/or gunwales: by supporting it only from its bow and stern; by hanging it from its grab handles or thwarts; or by lying it on the floor, upside down or on its side. Hulls can deform over time if exposed to uneven weight distribution.

Rack Solutions

Depending on space constraints, one of the best solutions is to buy a custom-designed storage rack, available in all shapes and sizes, from those with straps to hang your boat from the ceiling to brackets, slings, and hoists designed for wall storage (some of which store multiple boats). Hand-built racks can be as simple as placing wooden planks on the ground so the boat’s weight is distributed evenly, or mounting straps or L-shaped brackets to studs in a wall. You can also hang a kayak or canoe upside down using straps anchored to the ceiling and extending them around the hull; or stand a kayak vertically on a pad with its cockpit facing outward, with a strap holding it in place. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.