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Your Kayak Hatch Guide

Kayaking has become increasingly appealing to those looking for an accessible aquatic adventure. Whether you are an angler, rapids rafter, or a lake paddler, a kayak will serve you well.

Since kayaks are more compact and ideal to travel with, maximizing storage is really important. That’s how a kayak hatch will become your best friend. Knowing the ins and outs of kayak hatches is truly helpful in being able to pack all the gear you need to focus on enjoying the experience.

An Intro to Kayak Hatches

If you’re new to kayaking, you may be wondering, what is a kayak hatch?

Simply put, a kayak hatch is a sealed compartment inside a kayak’s hull. They’re usually air- and water-tight areas accessible through a sealed opening towards the bow or stern of the boat. Some kayaks have two hatch openings at both ends.

Why is a kayak hatch important?

The main purpose of these hatches is to create storage spaces within the kayak. Hatch openings allow you to maximize the hollow hull of the kayak to store extra gear, food, safety equipment, and any other essentials you want to bring along on your trip.

The seal on these compartments also traps in air to enable the kayak to float better on the water. This not only helps you sit on the water better, but it makes it easier and faster to recover from an unexpected spill.

Bulkheads vs. Hatches

If you have a sit-in style kayak, you may see a bulkhead listed instead of a kayak hatch. This is because sit-in kayaks have interior walls, to further trap air as a safety feature in case the cockpit floods. The air trapped in the bulkhead walls helps counteract the extra water the cockpit takes to ensure your kayak doesn’t sink.

Don't worry, there’s still space to store equipment in a bulkhead. For storage purposes, there isn’t a big difference between a kayak hatch and a bulkhead hatch—they’re sometimes used interchangeably for sit-in kayaks.

Kayak Hatch Covers

An important part of the kayak hatch is its opening, or hatch cover. Hatch covers come in many different sizes and shapes. It’s important when looking at a hatch cover to ensure the closure mechanism—be it a screw lock, twist lock, or neoprene cover—is something you can easily operate, and that it is a manageable size for you.

Many kayakers add straps or extra buckles to further secure the hatch cover and ensure a watertight seal on the hatch itself. This ensures all of your belongings below deck remain dry throughout your trip.

How to pack a kayak hatch

From safety equipment like a First Aid Kit and emergency radio to paddling essentials like extra clothes and food, the number of things to bring with you on the water adds up fast. Packing it needs to be intentional, so that you properly balance the kayak and have access to essentials while paddling.

A good rule of thumb is to put heavier equipment towards the middle of the boat, and lighter gear towards the bow or stern. This means loading heavier things like gallon jugs of water or overnight camping gear first and putting extra clothes and food in last.

Everything you want to keep dry should be in a dry bag, and some hatches even have an installed dry bag right at the opening of the hatch for your immediate essentials, like your phone, water bottle, snacks, etc, for easy access while kayaking.

What if my kayak doesn’t have a hatch?

Every kayak has a hatch, but not all kayaks have hatch covers that allow you access and fully utilize it. If your kayak doesn’t have a hatch cover pre-installed, you can have it installed after the fact if that’s storage space you need to access.

We recommend following the manufacturer instructions for installing a hatch cover, and even taking it into a local shop to help you with this process, since the drilling and cutting of your kayak deck can be tricky. ‘Measuring twice to cut once’ is key in this process, as is utilizing the flat part of your deck near the bow or stern to drill into.

You may not have thought much about your kayak hatch before, but now you know about the different purposes it serves to keep you safe and well-equipped out on the water. Now you’re all set to load it up and enjoy the ride on your next paddling trip!

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