Oval Hatches vs Round

Just a general Q for everyone…

  1. How many ppl find the extra width of oval hatches often comes in handy when packing gear?

  2. how many ppl find round hatches to be easier to put on and take off with cold, wet fingers?

  3. Does either kind of hatch have more ‘issues’ than the other?

Not just the shape
We have a variety of them on our boats. Here’s my take.

The big oval Valley hatches, that close really securely, are generally watertight. They are also so secure that I have been unable to get one open on my husband’s boat if he realized after we were off that he needed something from his rear bulkhead while we were on the water. Colder water tends to make hatches suck down harder even in not-cold weather.

My looser and easier to remove Kayak Sport big oval hatch in the Vela will leak some no matter how much I treat it and set it on just right - just due to its enormous circumference. But the water is never enough to be an issue as long as I used dry bags, and if needed my husband can get the thing off on the water.

The big oval hatch in the Vela is also probably about the only thing that allows me to load the boat with much in the rear, because the boat is also very shallow back there. So I don’t have depth.

The round hatches in the Explorer LV have been bone dry for its entire life. Except for the day hatch they are the Kayak Sport ones, softer than the Valley hatch, and are easy to get off in all situations. They also can be closed down fine with a whack of the paddle blade if I take off from the beach and then realize a corner wasn’t quite down. The stiffer Valley hatches have to be locked down by someone else coming over to your boat if you miss it.

The above Kayak Sport hatch covers sink if they end up in the water. Tethering is not optional. The Valley hatch covers float, so you have a better shot at retrieving them. But in open water paddling, spare hatch covers are a good idea regardless of the flotation rating of your hatch covers.

Boat depth matters a lot in loading. The Explorer LV has a greatly reduced deck height so I would have to use all smaller dry bags even if the hatches were larger. I would also have to separate the tent poles from the tent regardless of hatch opening size to load it most efficiently. In a boat with a taller deck, a bigger hatch opening would allow me to get larger stuff in there intact.

Replacement cost for the bigger oval hatches is pretty painful compared to the 10 inch rounds.

In sum, I’d suggest that you just adapt to whatever hatches are on the boat you like - smaller drybags, aggressive use of same if it is a little wet - all hatch cover solutions have pros and cons.

Dry bag usage
It’s always a good idea to compartmentalize gear

instead of dumping it into the ““catch all”” bag.

Oval can be nice for shock-corded tent poles

and similar items that resist a small round hole.

Personally with all the stuff I’ve read and talking

to folks over the past 10 years,- protect yourself.

Always put stuff in dry bags, dry boxes, aloksak, etc.

and avoid getting grit, sand, dirt in the hatches.

my $0.02
1: yes. Especially with things that are larger.

2: haven’t see much difference

3: never seen a round hatch blown off in a big wave, but have seen a couple of the oval hatches. Not common, but can happen in more extreme conditions.

Excellent post
Thanks Celia… as always, a comprehensive and well thought-out answer to a question.

And yes, it was a major wrestling match with an oval Valley hatch (while noting how much easier the round VCP hatches were) that in part prompted this inquiry.

There are a couple of boats I’m looking at that are all-round-hatches… Tiderace Xcite and NDK Explorer, for instance. Obviously I’m not going to make a buying decision based mostly on THAT, but it is one more factor on the list.

Btw, did not know that Kayak Pro hatches sink. ‘Tether it’ indeed. Though obviously it’s a good idea no matter what.

Love the oval hatch
So much easier to load the boat with the oval hatches.

I like to pack a camp chair. I know, I know, it ain’t “minimalist.” But my bad back loves that chair. The chair folds down to 30"x5". There’s no way the chair is going into a round hatch.

My tent could go in round hatches, but I think it would be difficult to pack it in the tent sack that was provided with it, which results in a 22.5" x 7"packed size. Certainly it would go if I separately pack the tent, fly, and poles. But with oval hatches the sack-packed tent drops right in.

BTW, I can’t find those chairs anymore. They’ve been replaced on store shelves by larger chairs with arm rests and drink holders. I found a trashed one on the river and took it home to scavenge for parts, and I have a couple of them I keep fixing. They cost about $5 and weren’t the strongest chairs, only rated for 225 lbs. Maybe that’s why they stopped selling them in our country full of big peep.


Oval good
Kajaksport hatches seal tight, have never leaked. The oval one on my Millenium is a bear to put back on, but it does make it much easier to put long bigger items into the rear storage area.

depends, a lot
I find oval hatches really nice for when I load a kayak for a week’s trip. Most oval hatches I have are VCP (Valley) and they seal very well but I had some issues with durability and installation/removal.

The alternative to VCP is SEA-LECT Designs: seal well and are still easy to pop on-off. See review here: http://gnarlydognews.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/gear-sea-lect-designs-hatch-covers.html

I also have several Kajak Sport hatch covers. Not ALL Kajak Sport lids are the same; I found the dual density (hard middle/soft edge) leak terribly when temps are higher (70F+).

Replaced them with the all rubber ones and the same kayak is not totally leakproof.

More info on hatch covers here: http://gnarlydognews.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/shop-repairing-leaky-hatch.html

I commend your work
You’ve put a lot into determining hatch leak cause and I commend you for that.

It seems we have two major issues: First, a poor fit between hatch cover and frame; second, deterioration in the case of VCP hatches.

Apparently the sea-Lect hatches are made of longer-lasting material. But if there’s a badly formed hatch frame, does it really solve the leak any better than a new VCP cover?

my leaks have been rim to kayak
Other than blown rotted Valleys, my leaks have been rim to kayak leaks. Like Andy, I have a Kajaksport kayak (mine’s a Viviane), and it’s got a large oval on the front, and an extra large oval on the back, and they don’t leak. P&H seems to have had issues sealing the rims to their kayaks, at least for a time a number of years ago anyway. I resealed a couple of mine and one of my friends, I believe all of the '03 to '06 years. I think the round ones are a little less ugly on the deck, but I think function outweighs my personal opinion about looks.

If I were building one, I would certainly note a couple things. Leaks between the rim and kayak have shown themself to be common in my experience. All these tupperwear lid covers can be a bear to put on and take off in some situations, so you commonly see a lot of pressure put on them, including things like smacking them with the paddle as noted above. So the intallation of the rim has to be very, very solid.

My Experience
1) How many ppl find the extra width of oval hatches often comes in handy when packing gear?

It helps, but most of my kayaking is day trips.

2) how many ppl find round hatches to be easier to put on and take off with cold, wet fingers?

I’ve never noticed a big difference.

3) Does either kind of hatch have more ‘issues’ than the other?

Now yer talkin’. My Wilderness Systems experience says round is much drier than oval. My Dagger experience says round is light years, no, light centuries drier. I really like my Alchemy but the oval hatch leaks like a screen door.

oval hatches are easier to orient
With the round hatches, it’s hard to tell if you’ve got them pointed in the right direction.