A kayak offers freedom and maneuverability on the water that almost no other vessel can match.
Kayaks are growing in popularity, but kayaks with specialized features are very expensive to purchase. This has led to many kayak owners doing their own kayak upgrades—which is known as DIY kayak mods.
Kayak mods include costly upgrades, such as outboard electric motors, and simple kayak mods, such as installing eyelets to tie equipment to or adding pad eyes (pad eyes are attachment points where you can add seats, leashes, etc.).
Reinforced handles, anchors, and DIY kayak outriggers are all useful kayak mods as well.
The best kayak modifications are those that suit your individual requirements and allow you to add your personal touch.
There are several kayak modifications that are designed around very specific needs, depending on whether you have a fishing kayak, etc., but there are modifications that can be used for every kayak, regardless of what the narrow vessel is used for.
Let’s take a look at some universally useful kayak upgrades.
11 Kayak Modifications
Most kayaks are standard, bare vessels with no features that are designed to make operating a kayak easier or more convenient.
Every kayak functions first as a water vessel, but there are many kayak upgrades that owners do to improve the functionality and versatility of their kayak.
Some of these features are very simple and inexpensive, and others can be quite costly and complex but well worth the price and effort.
Customizing your kayak for your specific requirements and preferences will drastically improve your enjoyment when kayaking and expand upon what is possible for you to achieve on your paddling adventures.
Let’s examine several of the most popular and useful kayak modifications to install that will take your kayak to the next level.
Most kayaks come with one simple rope handle attached to the front of the vessel. These basic rope handles are often the first feature to break or malfunction.
Installing reinforced handles on the front and back of your kayak will make it 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 make a good place to tie down important equipment to prevent it from getting lost.
A Kayak Anchor
Not many kayaks come equipped with an anchor. More high-end ones may come with one, but if yours did not, a kayak anchor is a simple and highly useful modification to install.
There are several types of kayak anchors, including retractable anchors that are secured to a spool that will automatically reel in the anchor via a pulley system after use.
An anchor is necessary for stability, and it will help keep you where you want to be in the water. An anchor is a must-have for all kayakers, especially those who go kayak fishing.
When 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 DIY a pole by using an aluminum rod, or you can buy one at the store.
Anchor Trolley System
This modification is a way of mounting an anchor to a kayak that 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 is an extremely useful modification.
Installing eyelets is a very simple modification that is useful for every kayak, regardless of what the kayak is used for.
Installing eyelets in strategic locations through the exterior and interior of the kayak will offer locations to attach leashes, lanyards, and places to tie ropes onto.
This is useful for tying the kayak down for transport, and for attaching fishing rods and lanyards that hold onto important equipment, such as water bottles and other gear. These small metal rings may seem unimportant, but once you install a few on your kayak, you will wonder how you ever kayaked without them.
When you have so much gear and don’t know where to put it, instal some storage boxes. A box is great for storing anything and everything, ranging from your snacks and anchoring kit, to your life jackets, bungee cords, and any extra gear.
Watertight boxes are a useful addition to any kayak. They offer convenient waterproof storage and extra versatility for your kayak.
Large milk crates can be mounted behind the seat, and a smaller milk crate can be mounted directly in front of the seat for easy access. Boxes can be mounted throughout the kayak for storage.
Mounting this type of storage solution is very simple. These 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.
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 fishfinder requires a power source 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 with 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, 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. It means you can rest the 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 instal a trolling motor into your fishing kayak so you can focus on fishing because you won’t have to worry about paddling.
If you want to stay warm while out on the water fishing, 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, add an extra dimension of stability when you paddle and drastically reduce the chance of capsizing the vessel.
Battery-Powered Kayak Motor
This kayak modification is the most expensive and complicated modification on this list. However, it is 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, do not affect the use of the kayak very much. The propulsion that the motors provide is sufficient to get you out of trouble in rough waters, and it allows you to cover greater distances much quicker.
Lights are not necessary for every kayak, but for those who paddle out at night, a good set of battery-powered, mountable lights is vital.
Having lights mounted on a kayak makes it visible in case of an emergency and offers valuable light when you have to paddle in challenging waters at night.
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 accept sliding brackets onto which equipment such as a camera mount or fish finders (or any other accessories) can be mounted.
It’s a way to create a useful modular mounting system on a kayak. This is a niche and specialized kayak mod, but is invaluable for some. For example, a photographer will definitely need to install camera mounts on his/her kayak.
However, before you start drilling holes in your boat, carefully consider the adjustments you want and ensure that it really will add value to your vessel.
Even though it’s not technically a modification, a kayak cart is a very useful accessory to have because carrying your kayak up and down to the water is not an easy feat.
Regardless of what you use your kayak for or how much you paid for it, there is always room for modifications.
Modifications turn a standard kayak into a purpose-built tool designed to meet your specific requirements.
Take the time to consider what 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, usually, the best kayak mods are discovered through trial and error while out on the water.