Although kayaks have lower maintenance requirements than many other boats, most kayaks benefit from simple winter lay up procedure. As with most outdoor gear, each off season lay up should begin with a simple wash down, followed by a visual inspection.
Structural problems in kayaks are often caused by weather-related damage. These include damage from ice, cold temperatures, direct sunlight, wind-related actions and other winter occurrences.
In much of North America, icing can cause damage during the winter season. Ice damage comes in several forms, many of which can affect kayaks and other paddle craft. Cracking and hull deformation are serious winter-related problems, both of which are preventable.
In addition to kayak damage from ice, winter conditions are often an underlying cause of problems. For example, winter storms can contain ice, sleet, snow, and high winds, which when combined, often bring down limbs or entire trees. Flying debris can not only crush or puncture a kayak hull, but can also damage skirting, covers, paddles, and other gear.
Although most kayaks have few moving parts, corrosion or binding can occur with foot pedals, rudders, and even 2 piece paddle locking mechanisms. Prior to winter lay up, a quick inspection and, if required, lubrication can help prevent such problems.
To minimize damage to kayaks, the best option is usually to invert the craft, insure that it is well drained, and store it out of the elements. In situations where indoor storage is not available, special covers may be useful. Several styles of kayak covers are available. Most have an opening on one end, which allows the entire craft to be inserted before closing the cover. Other styles simply lay over the craft and are secured with a flap.
Regardless of the design, kayak covers help keep water, wildlife, debris, and other objects from contacting the hull. Once covered, a kayak can be stored (inverted) in a sheltered area, and tied down if necessary.
When storing a kayak inside a building, a variety of options are available. Specialized racks are popular for long term storage. These include wall mounted racks, overhead slings, and other options. Oars, life preservers (PFDs), and other accessories should also be inspected and stowed out of the elements during the off season.
Having a winter storage checklist can be a good way to insure trouble free kayak operation. The following winter kayak storage checklist covers a few of the basics:
– wash and inspect hull
– invert and drain well
– lubricate any moving parts
– remove and store accessories (remove batteries from electronics if required)
– disassemble 2 piece paddles; lubricate locking mechanisms
– loosen any tie down straps
– install cover if kayak will be stored outside
– invert, store, and secure the kayak out of direct sunlight