How to Protect & Winterize Your Kayak, Raft & Other Seasonal Equipment

Fall is upon us, and winter is just around the corner. The rivers are low, the temperatures have dropped, and birds are heading south. You know what that means – it’s time to winterize your kayak or boat.

When it gets too chilly for river trips, most of us turn our attention toward getting ready for the winter season: chopping firewood, buying ski passes, and bringing the lawn furniture inside. What many people don’t think about, though, is how to protect their summer toys from winter weather.

Just like your motorboat, RV, or camper requires winterization, so, too, does your kayak or raft. In this post, we’ll walk you through the process of putting these things to bed for the winter, so they’re ready to go out and play next spring.

Let’s get started.

Why Winterize?

Kayaks are durable, but a frigid winter takes a toll on even the most robust material. By winterizing a kayak or raft, you’re protecting their longevity. Freezing temperatures and moisture buildup weakens the materials and puts them at risk of warped seals and brittle parts. Winterizing them, meanwhile, protects them from the elements and ensures they’re ready to use again next spring when the world warms up once more.

How to Winterize Your Kayak or Hard Paddleboard

Winterizing a kayak or paddleboard is a simple process, and can quickly be done in an afternoon. Follow these tips:

  1. Check all rigging. Look for bungee cords that are losing their elasticity or whose ends are fraying. Check the kayak’s deck for UV damage or hardware issues, and replace parts, if necessary.
  2. Clean the cockpit. Remove the kayak seat and use a hose and a damp rag to clean out any gunk that’s built up.
  3. Inspect the hull. Look for dings, scratches, and holes that could impact your paddling. If your boat has deep scratches, take it in for repair before you put it away for the season.
  4. Store the boat somewhere dry. A garage or shed is ideal for kayak storage, as it keeps the kayak out of the elements until you’re ready to use it again. Be sure to store the kayak up off the ground to avoid rodent nesting.

How to Winterize Your Raft or Inflatable Paddleboard

While kayaks are made of fiberglass, most rafts and inflatable paddleboards are coated in synthetic rubber, PVC, or urethane. Here’s how to protect your inflatable boat from the winter weather:

  1. Clean the surface. Before the weather gets frigid, wash the raft with water and inflatable boat cleaner. Let the cleaner sit for about 60 seconds, and then scrub with a gentle brush or sponge. Clean the floor and tubes thoroughly.
  2. Clean the underside. Take the frame off your raft (if applicable) and flip it over, still fully inflated. Inspect the bottom of the boat for damage or scrim shots. Protect weak spots with Gear Aid Aquaseal Repair Adhesive. Repeat the cleaning process on the underside. Finish by coating the entire boat, top, and bottom, with a UV protectant. We like 303 Aerospace Protectant.  This is a premium surface treatment that provides superior protection against harmful UV rays that can cause discoloration, fading, cracking, and chalking. Treated surfaces repel dirt, soiling, staining, water spots, salt water, mildew. 303 is very helpful to prolong the lifetime of your raft.
  3. Deflate the boat. Store it by rolling it up and keeping it inside. If you prefer not to completely deflate it, leave your raft, cataraft, or inflatable kayak softly inflated. Store it inside (in a garage is ideal) and out of direct sunlight.

Protect Your Boats This Winter

Here at Glacier Park Rafting, we understand the importance of keeping your rafts, inflatables, and kayaks in excellent condition. By following these tips, you can protect the lifespan of your boats and ensure they’re ready to get on the water next spring.

Want to go rafting in Glacier National Park next summer? It’s never too early to book your summer trip with us.

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