ArticlesBuild It Yourself

Make Your Own Kayak Cockpit Cover

Having just recently finished a Skin-On-Frame Greenland kayak, I’ve been paddling it as much as possible, and it generally sits on top of my car when not in use. The other day a thunderstorm blew through and filled my boat up with water, so I decided that I better go get a cockpit cover. At the local outfitter, I discovered that they wanted $40 for a cover that probably wouldn’t fit my boat very well anyway, so I left and drove to a fabric store determined to make my own. I spent less than $5.00 there, and now after a couple hours of sewing and design I have a waterproof nylon cockpit cover that looks just as good as anything that I could have purchased. If you follow these 10 simple steps, you can easily make one too.


  • ½ yard of 430 Denier Packcloth $5.11/yard
  • 1 Mitten Hook $0.15
  • 6 feet Shock Cord $0.20/foot

Step One: Trace your cockpit shape on paper to make a pattern.

Step Two: Pin or tape the pattern you created in Step One to the fabric that you will be making the cover out of. Note: In the sample picture I sewed some scraps together to make my cover have a black stripe down the middle.

Step Three: Extend the pattern onto the cover fabric by three inches. I use white chalk, because it comes off easily and really calls attention to the line when you are sewing.

Step Four: Make a second line 1 inch back from the line you drew in Step Three. This will be two inches away from the paper pattern. This is where you will fold the fabric to form a sleeve for the shock cord to run through.

Step Five: Cut the fabric to the outside seam that you drew in Step Three.

Step Six: Make a buttonhole on the back of the skirt where the shock cord will leave the sleeve. This is easy to do. Just sew two bar tacks parallel to each other about ¼”” away from each other. Then sew two more bar tacks at 90 degrees to the first two that you sewed. These will close off the buttonhole and make a box of stitches. Cut into the fabric a slit that runs inside of these stitches.

Seven: Fold the seam that you made in Step Four and stitch it with a double stitch. This forms a sleeve for the shock cord.

Step Eight: Run shock cord through the sleeve that you sewed in Step Seven, and then test fit the cover on your kayak.

Step Nine: Seam Seal any stitches that run across the fabric. The sleeve doesn’t need to be sealed, because it will be under the cockpit coaming and that coaming won’t let the stitches leak. On the example in the pictures, I had to seam seal the seams between the black and grey fabrics.

Step Ten: Put the cover on you kayak and feel safe knowing that water will no longer accumulate in your cockpit during a Thunderstorm.

After finishing this project, my kayak now stays dry in the rain, and the only time it fills up with water is when I’m practicing wet reentry, or reentry and rolls.

Reader’s Covers

Jason Bowling made this one:

kayak cockpit cover

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  • Thanks for posting this. I want to make my own cockpit cover too!

  • I’m looking at doing this as well. I’ve got my paper pattern… but when I experimentally fold the edges in, the paper bunches heavily at the curves, as there is extra material. How did you deal with this on the more curved sections?



    • I don’t remember any bad bunching. If you get it, just cut a small dart in the fabric which will remove the bunching.

  • You were quite correct…. paper and fabric fold completely differently. :-) I made a prototype out of medium weight nylon to check fit. There was some bunching around the more sharply curved sections, but they were pretty easy to handle. I plan to order some Cordura to make a full strength one now.. just need to verify it stays on when being transported on the car.

  • I made a second cover out of 1000D coated Cordura. For my cockpit, adding a full 3″ to the outline of the cockpit cover resulted in a floppier cover than I wanted – I was concerned wind might grab it and beat it to death on the freeway, so I reduced it to 2.5″ on the “production” cover. Rather than a button hole, I went with a small break in the channel, with the hemmed edge double stitched and a triangular reinforcing patch just behind it on the cover. Seems to fit well. I’ll send you a pic today.. thanks so much for the effort you put into these DIY posts, they are a huge help.

  • This looks great. Going to make a few of these. Might put some grommets on the holes where the shock cord comes through. Also might use a cord stop/lock so I can cinch it tighter if need be. What size shock cord did you end up using?

  • I didn’t see this article until after I made my own. My kayak has a 46 x 23 ” opening which can allow quite a bit of water inside. I decided to make my own and after hours of searching for the right material I decided to chop up an old rooftop cargo bag. I basically did the same thing with the edges, but I sewed in a zipper in a U shape that I can unzip and sit inside when I’m in my kayak and it starts raining. It’s not perfect looking considering my sewing skills, but it works great as a cockpit cover and a halfskirt when needed. After making the cockpit cover I realized the cover was actually water/air tight, after adding the zipper it keeps rain out but allows the cover to breathe a bit.

  • Pictures of my cover, soon to be dyed a different color. Just happened to be the color I had.

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