Canoe Storage: How To Store Outdoors and Indoors

Canoe Storage

We’ve all seen them—weathered and worn out canoes stored on the side of someone’s house or in their yard on the ground. They’re a reminder that properly storing your canoe is vital to keeping it in good, sound operating condition.

Simply cramming your canoe into your garage, or worse leaving it outside on the ground, will prematurely age your canoe. And improper storage may even make your canoe unusable.

So, what is the right way to store a canoe? Canoes should be stored upside down, supported by the gunwales, and in a cool dry place. There are many different ways to store canoes, but each one has the same goals: keep the canoe off the ground, out of direct sunlight, and away from moisture. Also, store your canoe securely to prevent theft.

We’ll take you through some common storage ideas and options for your canoe. That way, you can make sure you prolong the lifespan of your canoe.

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Canoe Storage – Preventing Damage

During the offseason, especially in “winter” states, you need to store your canoe correctly. That way, you’ll avoid unwanted damage, such as:

  • Discoloration
  • Deformation
  • Holes from rodents or other animals
  • Moisture build-up and mold
  • Warped paddles

Many people think they can turn their canoe upside down and lay it on the ground to sit until they’re ready to take it back out in the summer. However, resting your canoe on its bow and stern tips will damage your it.

Here are some canoe storage ideas to help you keep your canoe in shape:

  • Putting it up on blocks
  • Garage or carport suspension
  • Putting it on sawhorses
  • Purchasing a canoe storage rack

What you choose to do depends on the space you have on your property, your budget and your preferences regarding how you would like to store your canoe.

Storing a Canoe the Right Way

When storing your canoe there are a few things that you need to take into consideration, such as:

  • Keeping your canoe out of the sun to avoid degrading the plastic manufacturing materials
  • Avoiding accidental damage during storage
  • Taking proper precautions when storing your canoe outside in the elements

This kinda goes without saying, but the goal is to store your canoe in a way that’s not only convenient, but avoids premature aging and damage over time.

  • Take precautions if you need to keep it outdoors
  • You need to properly prepare your canoe for winter storage if you are in an area that experiences harsh winter weather
  • Storage is different if your canoe is made from Composite & Polyethylene
  • Also, if you have a Royalex canoe, storing it will be a bit different.

Seats and thwarts typically don’t need much preparation for storage, although, when you’re preparing to store your canoe for the winter, it’s the perfect moment to inspect the seats. You’ll notice any early signs of damage so that the necessary repairs can be made. 

Also, when storing, make sure that you don’t overtighten bolts as this will cause issues especially in frigid temperatures. Stainless steel can become brittle in the cold, and there’s the risk of bolts breaking if they are screwed in too tight

Protection Against the Sun When Storing Your Canoe

Ultra-violet light can and will degrade almost any material used to make a canoe hull. The only exception is aluminum canoes, and even then aluminum, exposed for long periods to sun and the elements, tends to oxidize like any other metal.

In addition, strong sunlight can also cause cracks and fading on any painted surfaces. It can also damage gunwales and deck plates.  

If there’s no shade available (for example, on the beach at your cabin), use a strong, weatherproof tarp to protect the canoe if it’s being stored for an extended period outdoors. While the tarp should cover the canoe completely, ensure it is suspended above the hull to discourage fungal growth or mold in high humidity conditions. 

Also, you should consider using a protective product, such as McNett UV Tech spray or Armor All Kayak and Water sports Protector. These are useful for reinforcing the UV protection of:

  • Fiberglass
  • Vinyl
  • Other plastic canoes 

Avoiding Damage to Your Canoe During Storage

Never store heavy objects on top of the canoe, as over time, this will cause the hull to become deformed. Likewise, never store your canoe on one side. You may see Kayaks being stored in this way, and due to their different structure, it is safe. But it’s not the way to maintain the life of your canoe. 

If possible, store your canoe inside as this will protect the hull from temperature extremes. This will also protect your canoe from other environmental factors, such as:

  • Constant exposure to rain
  • Freezing conditions and snow
  • Ultraviolet damage from the sun

However, a canoe shouldn’t be stored near a source of direct heat (a stove or a furnace). Extreme heat can be as detrimental as cold to the canoe’s hull and could deform or even melt some canoe materials.

Outdoor Canoe Storage

If inside storage isn’t an option, you’ll need to provide some protection from the outside elements. Use a cover that’s waterproof and strong enough to keep heavy rain or snows off your canoe. While a plastic cover will protect it from most weather conditions, please don’t make the mistake of wrapping it tightly or letting the plastic touch the hull.

Here’s why…

If moisture gets trapped between the canoe and the cover, it can result in the hull becoming discolored or molded. Also, the constant movement of a tarp or other covering on the surface of your canoe will cause abrasion marks on the hull. And believe it or not, this affects the smooth surface that’s designed to help your canoe glide through the water.

In any event, you should expect some slight damage to occur if you store your canoe outside, there’s just no avoiding it as inside is far better than outside.

And left directly in the elements, any canoe will discolor, degrade and become damaged much more quickly.

Protecting Against Hull Damage During Storage

You can expect the hull of your canoe to become deformed if its weight isn’t distributed evenly. Plastic hulls are the most at risk of this, but wood-hulled or fiberglass canoes can also be affected.

To avoid this kind of damage, make sure the canoe is supported at several points along its length. Use padding, cradles, and wide straps (if it’s hanging) that match the hull’s shape. 


  • Store your canoe upside down, directly on the ground
  • Support your canoe just at the ends/tips
  • Stand it on one of its ends
  • Hang it from the grab handles or thwarts
  • Lie it on its side (it’s not a kayak!)

Instead, support your canoe upside down in at least two points and all the way across its beam at the gunwales. The best location for this support is about 1/3 the way from each end, toward the middle of the canoe.

For example, at minimum you could use two sawhorses with 2x4s and some padding on the boards to support your canoe. Turn the canoe upside down and make sure the 2x4s extend past the gunwales of the canoe.

Protect Against Theft Of Your Canoe 

A canoe is an investment that needs to be protected. If stolen, you’ll not only have to pay to replace it; you may also lose precious time on the water. 

Even if it’s insured, you’re unlikely to be reimbursed unless you can prove that you made every effort to prevent its theft. And as for the time you’ll need to spend reporting the robbery and filling in paperwork… let’s not go there!

The first way to protect your canoe is to keep it securely stored inside. If that isn’t an option, try to keep it out of open view and find a place that makes it harder for a thief to remove the canoe quickly and easily. 

It may also be a good idea to invest in a long and tough security cable. Thread it through a carry handle and attach it to a fence post, tree, or building. If you can store it your canoe in a garage or shed, make sure that these are well-protected with strong locks. If the garage has windows, try and position your canoe out of the line of sight

Preparing Your Canoe For Winter Storage

To prolong your canoe’s life, it’s good practice to prepare your canoe before storing it for the winter. You’ll need to take care to preserve the gunwales of your canoe. Although, this process is different for different types of canoes such as:

  • Wood
  • Vinyl
  • Aluminum

Preparing Your Wood Gunwales for Storage

Gunwale Guard preservative should be applied before storage. However, it is vital to ensure that your gunwale has had time to dry out completely before using this – otherwise, mold and rot could become a problem. 

The drying out process could take up to 2 or 3 weeks. If you don’t have time, you could improvise and use a hairdryer to speed up the process. It’s also a good idea to remove the screws which connect the gunwales to the hull, to minimize the risk of cracks in the cold. 

Preparing Your Vinyl Gunwales For Storage

Vinyl Gunwales are much easier to prepare. Just wipe them down with any household cleaning product and dry thoroughly. It would be best to use UV protectant such as 303 UV protectant spray for vinyl, plastic, fiberglass, etc. to keep your gunwales from becoming brittle. 

Preparations for Aluminum Gunwales For Storage

Aluminum Gunwales probably need cleaning and inspection for chips or scratches, which need to be sealed to avoid corrosion. If not sealed, these dents can result in corrosion, which can gradually become more severe and even damages the canoe irreparably. 

Composite & Polyethylene Canoe Winter Storage 

Composite and polyethylene canoes only need a little attention to prepare for winter. Just clean the hull and store the canoe upside down with gunwales in slings or resting on a sawhorse.  

303 Aerospace protectant will help avoid premature fading if a canoe is stored outside, but if you want to put the boat under a cover, make sure that it’s suspended above the canoe.  

Royalex Canoe Winter Storage 

In areas where freezing is likely, Royalex ® does need some extra attention prior to winter storage. As Royalex canoes are particularly at risk of cracking in the cold, it’s recommended to store them inside whenever possible and insulate them with at least a tarp. 

Canoe Storage Ideas to Keep Your Canoe in Tip-Top Shape

When you store a canoe, you have several options. Although these options have the same goal, keep your canoe from sustaining any damage while it is not in use. The method with which you store your canoe is especially essential if you plan to leave it sitting for a few months at a time.

One of the to protect it is to keep your canoe off the ground. Keeping it off the ground will prevent any moisture issues, as well as rodent damage.

The four main ways to store a canoe are:

  1. The block method
  2. The suspension method
  3. Sawhorses
  4. Canoe storage rack

Using Blocks for Canoe Storage

While a rack is probably the best option, an alternative would be to rest the canoe on foam blocks, as these will also provide some protection for the integrity of the canoe structure.

It’s not a good idea to rest the canoe on cinderblocks as they may absorb water, which can damage the gunwales overtime. But other storage block, that contact your gunwales at at least 4 points are better than storing your canoe directly on the ground.

The Suspension Method for Storing Your Canoe

You could also choose to suspend the canoe upside down, using overhead supports and wide straps in a pully system. Or if you have space in your garage or shed, create a permanent overhead location for your canoe.

If you choose this option, it’s vital to ensure the canoe’s weight is distributed evenly.

Canoe Storage With Sawhorses

A sawhorse is a specially constructed wooden storage rack (triangular wood 2×4 construction) that cradles the canoe. Sawhorses are a great budget option, and they can be found at several big box construction stores like Home Depot, Lowes or online at Amazon.

Some sporting goods stores like REI may even have versions that are specifically made to store canoes.

Canoe Storage Rack to Store Your Canoe

Using a canoe storage rack will cut down on the hassle of having to suspend your canoe with rope or foam blocks. The racks are designed to evenly distribute your canoe’s weight to minimize the risk of damage. Purchasing a rack will make for a hassle-free, easy storage method. Just make sure you have the available space to put it where it won’t come into contact with other stored items.

Canoe Paddle Storage

Although we’ve been concentrating on storing the canoe itself, you should also think about your canoe paddles. Canoe paddles should be stored upright to avoid warping the shafts. Ideally, pad any points of contact with the wall or floor to prevent scratching of the ends. 

Storing Paddles Outside

As with the canoe itself, paddles are also susceptible to damage from:

  • Strong UV light
  • Rain
  • Freezing temperatures  

Outside storage is not recommended if you want to prolong your canoe paddle’s life.

Under no circumstances should paddles be stored inside the canoe for long periods. Not only can they be affected by high humidity, but rodents can also use the canoe as shelter and can damage them. 

Prevent Paddles From Warping

However, even inside, if stored improperly, solid wood paddles can easily warp, which will make them less effective or even unusable. Leave them leaning against a wall, and this is likely to happen.

In addition, placing a paddle flat on the floor or a shelf can result in warping, splitting, or denting if other items are thrown on top of them or the paddles are left for long periods. 

The most important thing is that your paddles are kept dry. While its good practice to clean your paddles after each use, this is extra important to do before being stored for the winter.  

Using Paddle Racks For Canoe Paddle Storage

By far, the best option is to store them inside hanging vertically on a paddle rack. These can be bought in a range of materials and come in every shape and size.

Paddle racks can either be free-standing or wall-mounted, but the main idea is to get your paddles stored vertically.

Storing Different Canoe Materials

The type of material that your canoe is made of can also influence the best way to store it. Let’s consider each of the most typical materials used, in terms of their overall durability.

These materials include:

  • Plastic
  • Royalex®
  • Fiberglass
  • Aluminum
  • Kevlar®

Each material can affect the way you should store your canoe. Below, you’ll find a little bit of information about each material, and how canoe storage strategy is affected. This way, you can store your canoe correctly depending on the material it’s made from.

Plastic Canoes 

These can be made of thermoform, which has a tough and durable surface; it is also resistant to UV rays. They’re great for families and fun canoeing. Although they’re not the best choice for white-water canoeing, they can take quite a bit of rough treatment, so it should last for years.

UV sprays can help plastic canoes resist sun damage.

Royalex® Canoes

Although production of these stopped in 2014, plenty are still available on eBay and other marketplaces. These canoes are made from bonded layers of ABS and vinyl, and ABD closed-cell foam. 

Low cost and durable, they’re not the fastest of canoes. In terms of storage, factors to consider are that they are heavier than many other canoes, so if you have to carry them over distance, they’re not the easiest choice. They’re also prone to cracking in freezing conditions, so store them in a warm dry place if possible.

UV sprays can help Royalex canoes resist sun damage as well.

Fiberglass Canoes

The advantage is that they’re lightweight and easy to carry.  This is important if you have to take your canoe long distances or over rugged terrain. A downside is that the hull can be easily scratched on rocks if it is not appropriately handled.

You’ll want to store these away from human traffic, so they don’t get accidentally damaged or bumped.

Fiberglass can also benefit from UV protection sprays.

Aluminum Canoes

At one time, these were the lightest on the market, but other lightweight materials have since been developed. However, although they are now considered somewhat old-fashioned, they are still unbeatable because they require so little care. 

They can be left outdoors and even neglected. More or less, they will last forever, so storage conditions are not a significant issue (however, they still need to be secured to prevent theft).

Take care of an aluminum canoe and it will last multiple lifetimes. Other than denting and scratching, these canoes can take outdoor punishment pretty well.

Kevlar® Canoes

Kevlar is a woven fabric that’s more than five times as strong as steel. The most important advantage is that it’s incredibly light. As Kevlar is the material used to make bullet-proof vests, they are exceptionally resistant to bumps and cracks.  

If they do develop a problem, repair kits are available.  Although expensive, a Kevlar canoe is the best choice if you have to carry your canoe over rugged terrain or long distances.

And yet due to how expensive they are, I’d have a nice, dedicated storage location, clear of everything else around it to store your surely expensive Kevlar canoe.

Storing Your Canoe Properly Will Make It Last Longer

It’s important to remember that each storage method above has one goal: prolong the lifespan of your canoe. As long as you store your canoe properly, it will be in great shape when you pull it out for the next season.

Modern canoes are built to last a long time, take good care of them and you’ll not only protect your investment, but you’ll enjoy your canoe for years to come.


I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

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