How to Cover a Boat for the Winter or Long-Term Storage

By Ken Schultz

Jan 27, 2023

Wraps, custom-fit covers, tarps, interior support, pre-covering prep, and other considerations on how to cover a boat for the winter or for any long-term storage

You may not need to cover your boat in winter if you live in a warm part of the country and will be using it regularly, or if you keep it in an enclosed space, such as a garage or barn. But if you won’t be using the boat for a long time, or it will be exposed to weather, especially in northern regions, consider covering it. A proper covering not only protects your boat from the elements and makes it easier to prep in the spring, but it helps preserves the boat’s appearance and value.

Here are some considerations on how to cover a boat for the winter, or long-term storage in general.

• Start by doing a thorough boat cleaning. Employ a power washer if you can, and allow time for the boat to dry, to prevent the onset of mold, before taking the next step.

• No matter how you cover your boat, be sure to remove the drain plug and raise the bow up enough so that if water does enter, it can exit out the transom.

• Consider removing the engine battery and/or the electric motor batteries, which you can store in a warm environment and periodically charge.

• The top boat-covering option is probably wrapping, which provides a tight enclosure. Boat dealers know best how to wrap a boat for winter, which varies depending on boat type and shape. It’s expensive to do this every year, which is why a wrap is generally reserved for large boats.

• When it comes to how to cover a boat for the winter in a reusable way, a custom cover, either provided by the boat manufacturer or made by a separate party, is also a top option. Such a cover must be durable, made from waterproof material, and fit properly. A custom cover also enhances your boat’s resale potential.

• Most boat manufacturers and dealers frown on tarping a boat, yet this is what many of their customers do, especially for small boats without large consoles or tops. Though economical, tarpaulins often don’t cover a boat sufficiently and are hard to secure. If you’re wondering how to tarp a boat for winter, use the heaviest gauge tarp that you can get, make sure its dimensions are more than enough to cover the width and length of your boat, and use rope instead of stretchable cords to secure it.

• With a custom cover or a tarp, you probably need one or more interior supports (boards, pipes, rails, stands, etc.) that will help create a tent-like covering and prevent water from pooling and sagging down the cover.

• Finally, know that heavy wind, rain, and snow will strain a cover and its supports more than you might anticipate, so overcompensate with materials and securing methods.

Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar, and his writing has appeared on various websites for more than two decades. His author website is