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Kayak Storage Tips

Posted by on March 6, 2013

So…Have you had a conversation with your kayak this winter?

Sure, we all tend to lavish attention, praise and some even a dose of abuse on our plastic and composite friends during the warm and sunny days of the paddling season; but when was the last time you sat down with your kayak to talk about the upcoming Red Sox season? Dusted her off? Played her favorite piece of jazz? Or even re-positioned her on her cradles or hanging straps.

You know who you are…Shame on you!!

Kayak Dave’s post of kayak thefts and safeguarding your kayak led me to think of storage and longevity; but first let me tell you of a lesson well learned. Twenty-two summers ago, I purchased my first RM (plastic) sea kayak, a Wilderness Systems Alto. When I got home I cleared off a 5’ workbench in my garage and laid my new 15’ Alto on top of it. The good thing was that it was out of the sun and out of sight of nefarious eyes. The not so good thing was that 5’ of kayak were hanging off each end of the hard wooden bench. It was summer so the garage temperatures were probably in the low 80’s during the day. When I went to paddle it 3 or 4 days later; I was shocked to see that the rocker in the middle section was noticeably flatter than it should have been!

There are a few lessons to take away from this:

#1. Rotomolded (plastic) kayaks are essentially dynamic materials that are impacted by heat, sun, and tension or forces exerted upon it. Several times each season, we will try to cover our smiles when we see a customer drive into the kayak shop with an over-tightened kayak on the roof of their vehicle that resembles a banana more than a kayak. Also, it is normal for older plastic kayaks to develop undulations on their hulls over time. At the kayak shop we refer to these wavy hulls as having “wows” on them. These undulations rarely compromise the integrity or the longevity of the hull. Many of the shops’ rental kayaks have “wows’ to them and are safe and useable for many seasons.

Example of a kayak hull with a "WOW"

Example of a kayak hull with a “WOW”

#2. Composite and thermoformed kayaks have greater structural integrity and rigidity/stiffness than plastic RM kayaks possess. (Note: Thermoform plastic kayaks resist warping in the summer better than do roto-molded kayaks BUT are more prone to cracking in the Winter when low temperature make the material more brittle).

#3. Composite and roto-molded kayaks tend to have the greatest structural integrity and rigidity when stored on edge and with supports approximately 1/3 of the way in from bow and stern and/or roughly where the forward and aft bulkheads are located. (Note: I am not sure if it is necessary; but I will reposition my RM and composite kayaks that are hanging by straps in my heated garage a couple of times during the long off-season; by changing the direction they are stored or by moving the straps 6” fore and aft.)

A good example of properly hanged kayaks. Straps are located at 1/3 points (over bulkheads) and kayaks are on edge.

A good example of properly hanged kayaks. Straps are located at 1/3 points (over bulkheads) and kayaks are on edge.

#4. Plastic has a degree of “memory” to it which simply means that it wants to return to the shape of the mold in which it was created, over a period of time. The good news is that if you leave your “warped” plastic kayak out in the sun on a flat grassy surface for a period of time it will strive to return to its original shape (but never 100% there). Check it every 15 minutes or so over the course of an hour. If it has not changed in an hour it most likely will not. Others paddlers have recommended the cautious use of a hair dryer or heat gun on a low temperature setting to carefully and judiciously heat the affected area by warming the broader area of involvement and gently pushing with your hand on the target area of concern. Obviously, you need to be careful not to heat so much as to burn your hand on the warmed plastic or to melt the plastic nor set on fire your beloved kayak. Others have suggested pouring “warm water” into the targeted area. Having a kayak with bulkheads makes this approach more doable and the heat distribution is more uniform with the use of water than the use of a focused artificial heat source. PLEASE use great caution when carrying heated water. Water coming out of the faucet is more than hot enough. Common sense and caution are the key words here


So…if you have yet to have a conversation with your kayak this winter then maybe it’s time to go say “Hello!”

-Boreal Alvik

3 Responses to Kayak Storage Tips

  1. Henry Gasko


    My wife andI purchased a couple of Wilderness system kayaks in March 2013 (Aspire 105 and Tarpon 120) and are storing them in our garage. My question is, what happens when it gets hot in the garage. You see, we live in Australia, so when I say hot, I mean 48 degrees C outside a couple of years ago (about 120 F). I’m not sure how warm it would be in the garage, but probably similar.

    So should they be stored in this environment? Inside or outside (there are no other options really)? If so, what is the best way – right side up, upside down, standing up, hanging from straps?

    Any suggestions would be most welcome.

    Henry Gasko

    • arrudad

      Hi Henry!

      Hot environments are certainly not the ideal place to store kayaks made of polyethylene but there are some things that you can do to make it work. First, I suggest storing them inside the garage despite the heat as being out of the direct sunlight is always better in the long-run. If you must hang the kayaks then I suggest using the widest straps possible (old fire hose) placed about 1/3 of the kayaks length from each end. Hanging the kayaks on edge may also work for you as the seam is almost always the strongest part of the hull. Finally, avoid leaning the kayaks directly against rigid structures or supporting them across the hull with lumber as the hull tends to absorb these shapes when the plastic gets warm.

      Hope these tips help and try to stay cool down there!

      -Kayak Dave

      • Henry Gasko

        Thanks for the reply Kayak Dave. I wasn’t going to hang them unless this was the best option. At the moment they are placed one on top of the other on the ground (right side up). I suppose I should place them side by side on the concrete floor to avoid stressing the bottom one. Is upside down better to give them slightly more support?

        Also, is there a maximum temperature that they can take? If it gets very hot inside the garage, I could bring them into the house where it is a bit cooler. Obviously this would be inconvenient – they take up a lot of space! But it might be the best option for a few months during summer.

        Thanks again,


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