Some kayakers may consider a cockpit cover to be a superfluous piece of paddling gear that’s just plain not worth buying. A younger version of me held hands with these nay-sayers but after many seasons of unnecessary flogging, I’ve decided to change camps. Now, I consider my cockpit cover to be a critical piece of gear. Here are three reasons why:
1. Cockpit covers keep water and critters out
The main reason to use a cockpit cover is to keep water and various critters out of your cockpit during times of storage and transport. Wanting to keep water out is obvious. Even though kayaking is a watersport it’s just plain not fun to pull up to the launch and sponge out our cockpit to avoid shoving off in a wet seat!
Even less fun is jumping into your cockpit and finding out that it was already occupied. I’ve seen just about every critter you could imagine crawl (or fly) out of a kayaking including: bees, spiders, mice, birds, snakes, and even a skunk! A cockpit cover will certainly not provide Fort-Knox-like security but it will certainly go a long way towards deterring these types of critters from setting up shop in your office!
2. Cockpit covers turn your cockpit into a MEGA hatch on overnights
A cockpit cover can turn your kayak’s cockpit into a huge hatch to store your gear (PFD, spray skirt, dry top, ect) on overnights. I always make sure that my gear finds a home in either my tent or (preferably) in my cockpit before I turn in for the night. This prevents it from getting soaked in an overnight rainstorm or at the hand of the morning dew. Also, it can help keep bugs off of the gear (like ticks or no-see-ums). One piece of gear that I always keep by my side (in my tent) is my paddle. Some may call it paranoia; I call it insurance!
3. Cockpit covers increase your gas mileage
Ok…you’ve got me…the miniscule increase in gas mileage gained from your cockpit cover will hardly put a dent in the mileage lost from having a GIANT sea kayak on the roof of your car! However, the cockpit cover does cut down slightly on road noise and can provide for a place to store your paddle while in transit. Word from the wise: make sure that you buy a cockpit cover with a security strap or clip to prevent it from blowing off and away on the highway!
There are dozens of different brands of cockpit covers on the market and they all do exactly the same thing. I’m a fan of the Cockpit Seals variety but that’s mostly because I’ve been a Seals Sprayskirt sort of guy over the years. If you’re in a pinch or still don’t want to spend the money then consider using a trash bag and an extra piece of rope as a make-shift cockpit cover. Once you’ve used a cockpit cover (or witnessed a skunk crawl out of your boat) you’ll never leave it behind again!