A kayak cockpit cover keeps the gunk out of your cockpit when travel down the road and helps save gas money — I lose about 1 mpg when traveling without cockpit covers. It can also keep gear inside of your boat. For example, I strap by paddle float and pump into the cockpit, but a cockpit cover can ensure that they stay in the cockpit and that the wind doesn’t rip them out. When you’re storing your kayak (especially if you store it outside), a cockpit cover will keep debris and mice from getting into the boat — if you leave something for mice to eat in your under deck bag, they’ll find a way to chew their way in. Depending on the trip and whether or not you want to carry the extra weight — I don’t — you can bring along a cockpit cover to cockpit during the night or when you’re away from your campsite — I tend to use my spray skirt. I’ve used several different brands, but I’ve used multiple different NRS styles and for this NRS Cockpit Cover review, I’ll stick to two of the current models.
NRS Nylon Cockpit Cover Review
The NRS Nylon Cockpit Cover is one of the most basic on the market. It’s made from a urethane coated nylon that seems waterproof to me. There’s an adjustable bungee cord sewn into a sleeve that runs around the perimeter of the cockpit cover. To adjust you pull the cord and tie a knot. The cockpit cover easily attaches to the kayak coaming and I find that I can pull it onto the cockpit after loading the kayak on to the top of a car or trailer — I can’t do that with the neoprene version. I’ve used these basic nylon covers for years, because of the low price you often find them used by outfitters to cover the cockpits. They work great for storage, they pack small if you want to bring one on a trip and they’re lighter than the neoprene version.
The problem with the nylon cockpit covers is that they don’t travel well. If you’re traveling short distances below highway speeds, you’ll likely be fine, but on longer trips above highway speeds, they come off. One recent cover that I had managed to make it to Florida from Minnesota twice, but on the last trip, it came off on the Interstate on the way home and completely shredded. Along the way, at every gas stop, I usually had to put a corner or two back onto the rim. I always use a carabiner or plastic clip to attach the front handle to the front bungee and then I often strap my kayaks on my car so that one strap goes over the rear of the cockpit and pins the cover in place, so the edges just come off. Without the carabiner, I would have lost the cover long before I shredded it. Another problem with all cockpit covers is that sunlight degrades them, so you should treat them regularly with 303 Aerospace Protectant. 303 helps prevent the nylon from deterioration from exposure to the sun. On a side note, you should treat your canoe or kayak regularly with 303 as well, especially plastic boats, but it also helps composite kayaks and canoes as well.
Overall, if you’re looking mainly for a cockpit cover for storage and not so much for traveling and you want to save $15, then get the nylon cover.
More info: NRS Nylon Cockpit Cover
NRS Neoprene Cockpit Cover Review
The NRS Neoprene Cockpit Cover is constructed essentially the same as the nylon cover, except that it’s made out of neoprene. It adjusts the same way. The fit is extremely tight and hard to get on, so make sure you order the right size and if your cockpit pushes the upper end of the recommended length and width, you may want to buy the next size up. I noticed that over time, the neoprene has stretched and it’s easier to get on now than when I first bought one. NRS makes another version that uses stretchy neoprene, but I haven’t used it. The NRS Neoprene Cockpit Cover is heavier than the nylon version and takes up lots of space in a hatch, so for kayakers that want to use a cover on a kayaking trip, this one probably isn’t it. It shines on the road, because even at highway speeds it stays on the kayak, and I trust it more, although not completely, to keep stuff on the inside of the cockpit.
Just like with the nylon version, I’d recommend attaching it to your kayak using a carabiner or plastic clip and you should also use 303 to treat it against sunlight.
Overall, if you’re only buying a couple of these and you plan on using them for car travel, then the neoprene version is worth the extra $15. If you’re just using it for winter storage, the neoprene is probably overkill.
More info: NRS Neoprene Cockpit Cover