Kayaks offer a sense of freedom and maneuverability on the water that almost no other vessel can match.
Kayaking is growing in popularity, but buying a kayak with special features can be very expensive.
These costs have led to many kayak owners to perform their own kayak upgrades, also known as DIY kayak mods.
Some kayak mods include costly upgrades, while others are simpler and less expensive.
A few popular kayak modifications include installing things like reinforced handles, anchors, and DIY kayak outriggers. Boxes can be added for increased storage, and people who enjoy kayak fishing have a variety of mods available as well. Additional kayak mods include motors, lights, and gear tracks.
The best kayak modifications are those that suit your individual requirements and allow you to add your own personal touch to your boat.
There are several types of kayak modifications that are designed around very specific needs, such as whether you have a fishing kayak.
But there are also other modifications that can be used for a variety of different kayak models, regardless of what the boat is used for.
In this article, we’ll examine a few universally useful kayak upgrades.
11 Most Popular & Recommended Kayak Modifications
Most kayaks are standard, bare vessels that don’t include specific features designed to make operating the boat easier or more convenient.
Every kayak’s first function is that of a water vessel, but there are many upgrades that some owners perform to improve its functionality and versatility.
Some of these features may be very simple and inexpensive, while others can be quite costly and complex, but well worth the price and effort.
Customizing your kayak for your specific needs and preferences will drastically improve your enjoyment when kayaking, and broaden the possibilities of what you can achieve on your paddling adventures.
Let’s explore several of the most popular and useful kayak modifications that can take your kayak to the next level.
1. Reinforced Handles
Most kayaks come with one simple rope handle attached to the front of the vessel – these basic rope handles are often the first thing to break or malfunction.
Installing reinforced handles on the front and back of your kayak will make your boat easier to carry and control, and significantly easier to tie down when transporting the kayak.
Strong handles are also useful anchor points for the kayak, and they’re a good place to tie down important equipment to prevent it from getting lost.
2. A Kayak Anchor
Not many kayaks come equipped with an anchor.
Some higher-end kayaks may come with an anchor, but if yours doesn’t, a kayak anchor is a simple and highly useful modification to install.
There are several types of kayak anchors available, including retractable anchors that are secured to a spool that automatically reel in the anchor via a pulley system after use.
An anchor is necessary for stability, and will help keep your boat where you want it to be in the water.
An anchor is a must-have for all kayakers, especially those who go kayak fishing.
When you’re out in shallow water, if you want to quickly and silently keep your kayak from moving, the best option is to use a stakeout pole.
You can create a DIY pole using an aluminum rod, or you can buy one.
3. Anchor Trolley System
This modification enables you to mount an anchor to your kayak, and allows the anchor to be dropped toward the front, middle, or rear of the kayak, depending on the point of stability required.
An anchor trolley system allows the anchor to be moved along the side of the vessel for more accurate placement, and can be an extremely useful modification.
Installing eyelets is another very simple modification that can be useful for any kayak, regardless of what the kayak is used for.
Installing eyelets in strategic locations through the exterior and interior of the kayak will offer options for attaching leashes, lanyards, and tying ropes.
These are particularly useful for tying your kayak down for transport.
They can also help when it comes to attaching fishing rods and lanyards that hold onto important equipment, such as water bottles and other gear.
These small metal rings may not seem very important, but once you install a few on your kayak, you’ll wonder how you ever used your kayak without them.
When you have an abundance of gear and don’t know where to put it, it helps to install a few storage boxes.
A box is a great way to store just about anything and everything, ranging from your snacks and anchoring kit, to your life jackets, bungee cords, and any extra gear.
Watertight boxes are an especially useful addition to any kayak, as they offer convenient waterproof storage and extra versatility for your kayak.
Large milk crates can be mounted behind the seat, a smaller milk crate can be mounted directly in front of the seat for easy access, and additional boxes can be mounted throughout the kayak for storage.
Mounting these types of storage solutions is very simple.
Boxes are light enough to be mounted with Velcro if you don’t want to drill holes, which also makes them easy to remove if they get in the way down the road.
6. Fishing Mods
A kayak can easily be made into your very own fish-catching machine.
Sometimes, the reason you’re not catching fish is not because of you, but rather because your boat is hindering your success.
If you want to create the perfect boat for catching big fish at your favorite fishing hole, then consider installing a fish finder, which can be done without even drilling holes in your new kayak.
Remember that a fish finder requires a power source in order to work—a lithium battery works best.
Lithium batteries carry more power than other batteries, and yet they are light, which is ideal for a kayak.
You can even make your own fishing crate and rod holder for your fishing kayak using a milk crate and some PVC pipes.
Many kayak anglers use a PVC pipe to make a rod holder or other fishing gear.
If that doesn’t appeal to you, but you love kayak fishing, you can always buy a fishing crate that comes with built-in rod holders.
A rod rest is also a nice mod to add to your boat, and enables you to rest your fishing rods when you’re busy doing other tasks.
Plus, you can position the rod tips perfectly when you are fishing and paddling in shallow water.
You can even install a trolling motor in your fishing kayak so you can focus on fishing, and then you won’t have to worry about paddling.
If you want to stay warm while you’re out on the water fishing, it’s also wise to install a spray skirt to keep you dry and toasty.
Even though modern kayaks are small, they are designed with enough space for fishing tackle, anglers for rod holders, and other useful paddling gear.
Adding outriggers or stabilizers is particularly useful for kayak fishing on the ocean.
A set of simple outriggers, either homemade or store-bought, can add an extra layer of stability when you paddle, and can drastically reduce the chance of capsizing.
8. Battery-Powered Kayak Motor
This kayak modification is the most expensive and complicated modification on this list, but is also potentially the most valuable.
If you travel long distances when kayaking, or if you use your kayak in an area where there are strong currents, having a small, battery-powered motor mounted on your kayak can be invaluable.
These motors and the batteries that power them are light and, therefore, won’t significantly affect the use of the kayak.
The propulsion that motors provide is sufficient to get you out of trouble in rough waters, and it allows you to cover greater distances much faster.
9. Battery-Powered Lights
Lights are not necessary for every kayak, but for those who paddle at night, a good set of battery-powered, mountable lights is vital.
Having lights mounted on a kayak makes your boat visible in case of an emergency, and offers valuable light when you have to paddle in challenging waters at night.
10. Gear Tracks
Adding gear tracks, or rack mounts, is a convenient way to mount various pieces of equipment onto a boat.
Gear tracks are metal bars that can accept sliding brackets, onto which equipment such as a camera mount or fish finders (or any other accessories) can be mounted.
These can help you create a useful modular mounting system on a kayak.
This type of project is a niche and specialized kayak mod, but is invaluable for some people.
For example, photographers will usually need to install camera mounts on their kayaks to help them take pictures out on the water.
However, before you start drilling holes in your boat, carefully consider the adjustments you want to make, and ensure that it really will add value to your vessel.
11. Kayak Carts
Even though this is not technically a modification, a kayak cart is a very useful accessory to have, because carrying a kayak to and from the water is no easy feat.
Regardless of what type of kayaking you use your boat for, or how much you paid for it, there is always room for modifications.
The above-mentioned kayak modifications turn a standard kayak into a purpose-built vehicle designed to meet your specific requirements.
Take the time to consider which modifications would make your kayaking experience easier and more streamlined, and then equip your kayak with more functionality based on those needs.
This list of modifications is a good starting point but, the best kayak mods are usually discovered through trial and error while you’re out on the water.