Kayak covers - fitted vs tarp

I need to store my kayaks outdoors. There are lots of suggestions on this forum about different products and methods, but I am looking for advice on advantages of a fitted cover vs a tarp system. My gut feeling is that a fitted cover would keep the boat cleaner and protect from critters, but a carefully placed tarp would provide just as good sun protection. I’m also wondering about moisture: it seems like a fitted cover, even if perfectly waterproof, would be more prone to moisture build-up due to trapped humid air – but not sure if that’s a problem? One boat is fiberglass, the other is carbon kevlar. The glass boat has a foam lumbar support, while the carbon kevlar has closed cell thigh pads – seems like either could get moldy. Any thoughts?

Dampness does not harm a boat so you don’t need a cover to be waterproof. When I had to store my kayaks outside I placed them upside down or on their side with breathable cockpit covers (bug proof) and covered them with lightweight canvas 6’ by 20’ painters dropcloths wrapped like a burrito and secured with bungee cords or lash straps. The tarps get funky after a while but can be machine washed with bleach to refresh.


@willowleaf thank you. So you don’t have problems with mold on the fabric or foam parts? (I’m noting that you prefer breathable cockpit covers.) Both my cockpit covers are neoprene – do you use nylon?

Fitted, No bugs in the boat.
Tarp, bugs in the boat.

I store all mine in a garage and I have cockpit covers for all them, no bugs, except for the Pamlinico, that has a cockpit Drape Kind of like a tarp just with built in Bungees to hold it down. Whenever I take it out I need to shoo the spiders and bugs out.

Other than that not a heap of the difference.

Just make sure if you use fitted you air the boat out, so you don’t build mold.


My sister has heavy sewing machines that can sew canvas. She was going to make a cover for my kayak so i could keep it on my truck ladder rack. I believe she was going to use leftover awning material that is UV resistant. It would be water resistant as well, but if its upside down on a rack supportive rack and not wrapped to tight, it should breath well enough. Use a separate cockpit cover thst breaths to keep bugs out. Store it in a place where you have ventiation but not direct sunlight. Moss and mold will grow on the side of your house that get full shade. Look at your siding to figure out of the location is prone to moss or mold. If you use it regularly, you shouldn’t have problems, which gives you an excuse for paddling more frequently.

Another option might be a simple lean-to roof against the house with a tarp draped in front to keep out sunlight and rain, and use the cockpit cover as well.

Look at places like Joanne’s Fabric, or a place that sells material for boat awnings.


I have a couple of uncoated nylon cockpit covers but also sewed several for the fleet, using breathable colorful print outdoor canvas fabric from Joann’s Fabrics with a nylon tunnel stitched around the edge with bungee cord run through. At one of the kayak skills camps I went to there was a workshop where participants made them out of bug netting, which makes a lot of sense to enhance air circulation.

I’ve never had trouble with mold on any of my boats in 22 years of storing them, though the canvas covers get greenish black staining from mildew and light moss after a while.


I used a piece of plastic window screen and a length of bungie to make a bug cover. Then store upside down, recommend a little stand to get it off the ground, or even just a couple 4x4 chunks, but higher will get less rain bounce from the ground. Still could add a tarp over it or put it under a lean to.


I’ve stored 3 kayaks – one rotomold, one fiberglass, one carbon kevlar – outdoors in the elements for more than 5 years without incident. I built a crude lean-to with a slanted roof and open front and sides, roof and back wall covered in a tarp. Then 3 boats on cantilevered arms, each with its own tarp covering. No water infiltration, no critters, no mold.

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@kapungo thanks for your reply. An (unsolicited) suggestion in return, if I may: I’m not sure what you are referring to as far as a plastic window screen, but if it is clear or translucent, and you are leaving your boat outdoors for long periods, consider replacing that with an opaque material. Unless it is in a well shaded spot, it is being exposed to UV light, which is very damaging to your boat.

I’ve used both the tarp method and a fitted cover. I’ve never had problem with mold or mildew with either and I also have a neoprene hatch cover. We usually have two or three kayaks on our outdoor rack for the winter. The tarp, if I didn’t wrap it just right would become a sail that in a good Nor’easter would crash the boats, rack, tarp and ties. I rigged a counterweight system that finally worked, but it was just too much hassle. The boat covers we have are ok, but still need to be carefully wrapped and tied with bungies. If it’s not done just right, they take on water that then freezes. Not good. It’s a pain to put the boats away for the Winter and no method is perfect. I try to keep them from getting waterlogged, or blown apart and safe from the critters who might like to use them as hibernation spas. Beyond that, well…

I am a weekend kayak warrior, renting in suburbia so I had to store my kayak outside. I bought a fitted, nylon cover from icoveritall.com about 3 years ago and it’s still going strong! It’s kept dry with no mold, despite hanging outside through all weather. It’s easy for one person to put on and take off. No animals can get it and I like how my kayak is ready to go when I am - not too pricey!

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The window screen is the stuff you buy to in a roll to replace a screen in your home windows, mine was dark. Not sure why UV would matter regarding the screen though when it is upside down? For the boat itself I agree leaving them in the sun all the time does speed degradation of the hull, but some people do it for decades.

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IMO boats need to breathe and to avoid sunlight. I live in the north and we get super low temps and lots of snow and quite a bit of sunlight in the summers.

I keep them off the ground, upside down on cantilevered racks where the boats are slopped slightly towards their drain holes, and under a shade tree. When we come home they are most times muddy inside and out, I give them a good hosing flip them over and done. In the spring there are a few bugs and they get cleaned out with the hose as well.

Once or twice a year I wipe the hulls down with a product called Fluid-Film that is a wool wax product. There are similar products made just for boats. I think it seems to help with sunlight damage and shines the boats up nicely.

My lower cantilevered rack was hard to load into and hard to work on the boat when on it. I built a couple fold down extensions that could be removable but so far I haven’t removed them. They provide a nice area to work on the boat and also flip it over and slide it in place.

No covering for me and these plastic boats. If I had something more expensive or fancy materials I might rethink it.

I’ve stored all 3 of mine outside for years .Only thing I would use is a Seals cockpit cover. No bugs,snakes,mice,water,mold or trouble.Mine hang on the wooden fence & I nailed a HF tarp to the fence for sun protection.

For a handout on kayak storage that my wife and I produced to accompany our talk on kayak transport and storage look HERE. This was part of the Chesapeake Paddlers Associations’ annual introductory classroom course, primarily for sea kayaking, normally offered in late winter. It was a supplement to a Powerpoint presentation.

The key to storage is that the boat be clean and dry for long term storage to prevent mold, mildew, and corrosion. Also protect the boat from UV exposure.

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Years stored like that few bungees simple loop and stopper knot. Never a problem. Three more on other side. Mold on deck none on tarps or hulls right on the water.

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A huge factor is whether you are in saltwater or fresh. If you have paddled in saltwater, make sure you rinse everything thoroughly before storage. Salt residue holds moisture which leads to mildew and corrosion.