Whether you’re making a permanent move, vacationing, or competing in another country, knowing how to pack and ship your kayak safely is a crucial piece of knowledge for any outdoorsman. If you do it right, your craft will arrive intact and ready to hit the water.
To ship your kayak safely and securely:
- Get the right packing materials and container.
- Fill the kayak with soft wrapping materials.
- Generously wrap your kayak in cardboard.
- Add a thick layer of bubble wrap.
- Place your kayak in its shipping container.
- Tape it up and ship it.
So, let’s go through all the steps of packaging and shipping your kayak together. I’ll share some hacks and pro tips along the way to help you ensure that your kayak makes it to your destination without any delays or damage.
1. Get the Right Packing Materials and Container
Before you can start wrapping up your kayak, you’ll need to get your shipping supplies. Ensuring that you have the correct container and padding is crucial if you want to keep your kayak from breaking or getting damaged in the shipping process, so always get plenty of extra materials to stay on the safe side.
To ship a kayak, you will need:
- Enough cardboard to wrap the entire kayak.
- Enough bubble wrap to wrap around the kayak twice.
- Two or three rolls of heavy-duty shipping tape.
- Sawhorses or something to prop your kayak up on while you package it.
- A plastic tarp (optional).
- A box or crate large enough to fit your kayak and any other accessories such as paddles inside.
- A partner (optional).
If you want to wrap your kayak on a budget, there are several places that you can find the materials you need for a low cost or for free.
Finding the cardboard to use to create a “cocoon” around your kayak is simple. You can use old flattened boxes. When I ship my kayak, I get my boxes from grocery stores or liquor stores, which often give away cardboard for free if you ask for some. Usually, for my kayak, around 20 to 25 medium-sized boxes will do the trick.
When it comes to a shipping box, you may be able to find a used one for free at a store that ships kayaks. You can try calling a sporting goods store, a boating store, or Walmart to see if they have anything available. If not, you may have to purchase a box or shipping crate that is large enough to fit your kayak in it.
If you are handy with a drill, you may also want to consider building a custom kayak shipping crate from plywood. All you need are six pieces of pre-cut plywood that match your kayak’s measurements (you can usually have it cut for you at a hardware store), some wood screws, and a drill.
In addition, during the packaging process, if you don’t have sawhorses, you can use chairs, tables, or stacked plastic totes to prop up your kayak.
If you’re like me, you already have the other materials such as bubble wrap, a plastic trap to wrap your kayak in, and shipping tape in your home. However, if not, they are widely available and inexpensive at most stores, and you might be able to find a deal at your local dollar store.
Also, I highly recommend grabbing a partner for this process since it takes some finesse to do it alone. With a partner, you can hold down the materials while the other person tightly tapes them in place, making the whole process much faster.
2. Fill the Kayak With Soft Wrapping Materials
With enough pressure, your kayak will break, so filling in the hollow of your kayak with some soft materials can help to reinforce it.
You can choose to fill your kayak with used paper, newspaper, bubble wrap, towels, blankets, or anything else that you may have lying around. Make sure to push the materials up into the bow and stern, where the kayak is most breakable.
Try to fill the kayak along the edges, pushing your wrapping materials up tightly against the side of the yak to reinforce it.
3. Generously Wrap Your Kayak in Cardboard
Cardboard will provide extra support for your kayak, protecting it from impact forces such as dropping and jostling.
Since cardboard has three layers, it will serve as a bumper that absorbs shock, making this step one of the most critical parts of safely shipping a kayak.
To wrap your kayak in cardboard, lay a flattened box or sheet of board underneath the bow. Next, put another box on top of the bow and tightly wrap the board around the kayak, taping it in place as you go.
You can now repeat the same process with the hull. After that, keep wrapping the kayak in boxes, taping them as you go. By the time you are finished, you should not be able to see the surface or seat of your kayak anymore.
4. Add a Thick Layer of Bubble Wrap
After the cardboard bumper is securely taped down, you can add a thick layer of bubble wrap.
Generously wrap the entire kayak in bubble wrap, covering every inch of the cardboard. Try to tape down the bubble wrap as you go, keeping it tight against the kayak.
You can repeat this process twice for extra security, coating the kayak in a double layer of wrap.
Always be generous with the tape during this process. Most professional kayak dealers and shippers coat the entire kayak, bubble-wrap and all, in a layer of tape. Although this may be overkill, the more tape you use, the safer your kayak will be.
If you have a plastic tarp, now is the time to use it. Wrap your kayak in the tarp tightly and tape it down. This extra layer will keep the bubble wrap from coming loose, and it will apply more pressure to the shipping materials, making them more effective at cushioning your craft.
5. Place Your Kayak in Its Shipping Container
Next, it’s time to put the kayak in its shipping vessel.
If you have extra padding left over, place it on the bottom of the box or crate before you put the kayak in, trying to form supports that will keep it from tipping and moving around.
Once your kayak is in, try to put some paper, bubble wrap, towels, or blankets, around the bow, hull, and sides of the kayak to keep it secure during shipping. The more padding you add now, the more likely it is that your kayak will arrive intact, so don’t be afraid to add a ton of cushioning.
6. Tape It Up and Ship It
Now, it’s time to send your kayak on its way!
Be sure to secure the lid of your crate or box with the utmost care. Add tons of tape, preferably heavy-duty shipping tape, if you are using a box. If you have a crate, use wood screws, not nails, to secure the lid.
Remember, your kayak will be heavy, and it will get moved around a lot during the shipping process, so if you want the box to stay intact, make it incredibly secure.
Next, add the label and mark the container with a large, noticeable “Fragile” tag or sticker.
Once you are done, load it on the truck or send it out in the mail!
As far as shipping goes, if you are traveling within the country, you may be able to find a professional boat shipper with a trailer who will move your kayak at an affordable price. Internationally, I’ve always had success with FedEx and USPS.
If you choose to use a shipping service, I always recommend purchasing insurance on your kayak. That way, if anything unforeseen happens, you’ll get a refund and a check to cover the damages.
When shipping your kayak, you will need to use tons of padding such as bubble wrap, tape, and cardboard, and a secure shipping container to ensure that it arrives safe and secure. You should always use plenty of tape and padding to protect your kayak from drops since you never know what it will have to endure while traveling. However, if you keep it padded and tightly packed, it should always arrive undamaged.