Preparing your kayak for winter paddling

Kayaking in the winter is great fun, and we discovered a very simple modification you can make to your kayak that makes paddling in cold water and weather even more enjoyable.

We wanted to use our kayaks all year round, we also like to be comfortable. The thought of sitting in a lake or creek with the water around 34°F didn’t sound very enticing.

We decided we’d try to insulate the bottom of our boats, but when we checked on-line we couldn’t find any advice on how to do it. We had a further think, and ended up buying two half-inch sleeping pads from Walmart for $5.00 each. Their closed cell foam construction meant they wouldn’t act like a sponge and the foam would also provide  insulation against the cold hulls of our kayaks.

For such a small investment we had nothing to lose in trying it out.

Picture showing a blue closed-cell foam sleeping mats being used to insulate the inside of an Ascend FS10 kayak

Half inch blue closed-cell sleeping mat used to insulate the hull of Gary’s Ascend FS10 kayak

To fit the sleeping pads in our Ascend D10 and FS10 kayaks we cut them roughly in half giving us two lengths of insulation the width of the pads (measure your kayak to get the best fit). The two lengths of insulation wrap around inside the hull from side to side. For our Ascend kayaks it worked best to cut one piece to go from side-deck to side deck and the second, front piece, to go from just above the foot rest to just above the opposite foot rest. We then cut out notches in them to go round any fittings.

All that is needed for the job is a sharpie to mark where to cut the foam, and a craft knife to do the cutting. Our plan for holding the insulation in place was to use self adhesive Velcro pads. However, we found that with the front sheet of insulation fitted around the foot supports, and with the rear sheet trapped under the seat and fitting tight under the side decks we didn’t need any fixings at all. Of course other kayaks will be different.

Photograph showing insulation inside the hull of a kayak, and internal fixings for fishing tackle and a dry box.

The rear sheet of insulation goes right up to the side deck, the front sheet goes just above the foot rest – which can be seen to the right of this picture.

Does insulating a kayak work?

Absolutely, yes. In fact it works so well we now keep the insulation in our kayaks all year round. We’ve found it very effective against the cold water, we’ve been comfortable in our kayaks even when there’s ice forming on the water.

Photograph of Ginger davis Allman in her Ascend D10 Kayak on a partially frozen Lake Springfield, Springfield, Missouri

Ginger kayaking among the ice on Lake Springfield

We also discovered a couple of unexpected advantages:

  1. Any drips and splashes of water that get in the kayak tend to stay under the insulation which helps to keep our legs dry
  2. When it starts to warm up the insulation stops the inside of the hull collecting condensation where the warm moist air normally comes into contact with the cold hull.

It’s such an inexpensive and simple modification it is really worth trying. Just make sure you tell people where you got the idea from 🙂

3 thoughts on “Preparing your kayak for winter paddling

  1. Mitch Lassiter

    Did you secure the insulation in any way, or does it stay in place all on it’s own? Does it slide when getting in or out?

    1. Gary Post author

      It stays in place pretty well without any fixing as it is under the seat. We were going to use some strategically placed velcro tape to hold it in place, but we found we didn’t need it. If it does move it is easy to put back in place.


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