first experience in camouflaging a boat was my duck boat,
covered in this
article. Based on that article, both Adam Baskerville
of Arkansas and Morgan Parks of North Carollina created
camo covers for their kayaks, which are shown in this
article. It was quite some time after that before
I finally decided to try kayaking for myself. When I did,
I bought a kayak that I hoped would serve me for photography.
I had learned there are locations I could get to by paddling
where my duck boat couldn't go because of the water depth
required by the trolling motor. In the meantime, through
my experimentation with camouflage techniques, I had learned
to get better camouflage while using simpler and easier
methods. One of the things I learned was that if I actually
wore some of my camouflage, I wouldn't need complicated
"blinds" to cover me. That meant I needn't turn the kayak
into a floating blind for effective camouflage.
my new kayak was an excellent mottled olive green camouflage
color, that alone satisfied only one of my five
elements for good camouflage. So, I set out to create
camouflage for my kayak that would bring more of the five
elements into play in as simple a manner as possible.
Trying to take photographs while dealing with paddles
makes photographing from a kayak a bit more difficult
than from my duck boat. I especially did not want my kayak
camouflage to complicate things any further. It had to
be as simple and easy as possible to put on, use and remove,
without restricting the handling of my cameras or my paddling
in any way.
of the good base color of my kayak, I didn't have to deal
with trying to completely disquise a blue or red or orange
kayak. I only needed to add texture, pattern, shape/dimension
and natural movement. My idea was to use camouflage nylon
netting as a "base" to which I could attach "decorations"
that would add these missing elements. You can see in
the photo at right, the netting is so transparent it would
never have worked over a kayak of a bright color. I chose
it because it was lightweight, tough, waterproof and quick-drying
when it gets wet. It would allow me to experiment with
attaching various kinds of camo materials to it to see
what worked best.
bought a package of the netting containing a 12-foot by
56-inch piece. It would be long enough and wide enough
to cover my 10-foot long by 30-inch wide kayak. I began
the project by draping the netting over the kayak. First
I clamped the netting to the bow handle of the kayak,
then stretched it out the full length of the boat. The
left edge (as viewed from sitting in the kayak)
was allowed to hang down to approximately the waterline,
with the excess hanging off the other edge. I tied a rope
around the cockpit coaming and cinched it snug to hold
the rest in place (below left photo), since this was essentially
how the netting would be attached to the kayak anyway.
I would put either a nylon rope or bungee cord inside
the seam around the cockpit coaming - whichever proved
to be the easiest to use.
can see in the left photos what my blue cockpit covering
looks like through the netting. This is what a bright
color kayak would look like, so it's obvious why this
netting wouldn't work with anything but a green or brown,
or perhaps gray kayak. However, this same method of making
a cover using an opaque material as a base instead of
the netting would also work well.
immediate left photo shows how I first cut the netting
around the left half of the cockpit, about two inches
inside the edge of the cockpit, but only on the left
half. I stopped cutting about an inch or two to the
right of the centerline of the kayak. Click on the photo
to see the larger version. The part of the cockpit cover
that is bright blue is where I folded the netting over
the rope and pinned it to form a wide hem. I used safety
pins because straight pins won't hold in netting. Once
this hem is sewn, a rope or bungee cord will run inside
it to hold the netting onto the cockpit by tying it snuggly
up under the coaming.
I cut the netting about 2 inches right of the centerline
of the kayak from the bow to the cutout at the front of
the cockpit. Then I did the same from the cutout at the
rear of the cockpit back to the stern, essentially cutting
off the right half of the netting. Be sure to cut over
to one side of the centerline, as this will become the
pattern for the right half of the netting. This way there
will be overlap where the two halves will be assembled
the left photo below, the darker area is the netting that
I cut off for the left side of the kayak pattern (it's
flipped over in the photo so don't let that confuse you).
Then I laid the rest of the netting (the large piece left
from the pattern cutting) over my "pattern",
and lined up its straight factory edge with the straight
factory edge of the pattern piece. In the photo the
far end is the bow - the closer end is the stern.
Next I cut the large top piece to match the pattern piece
WAIT - first take note that around the curve of the cockpit
I cut it oversize, because that part of the pattern was
already folded over and pinned. You can see in the photo
at right how the netting looks lighter around the
curve of the cockpit. That's where I cut the top piece
about 2 inches from the apparent edge, since that edge
is actually folded over and pinned on the "pattern"
underneat it. If you cut it too close here, there will
be nothing to fold over for the hem around the cockpit
on the second half of the pattern.
all you have to do is lay the two pieces back onto the
kayak, overlapping them along the centerline from the
bow to the stern and pin them together. Fold over and
pin the hem around the right half of the cockpit, and
adjust everything so it lines up on the kayak like it
should. At this point I needed to pin up and trim around
the stern where there was still excess netting that I
did not bother with in the initial fitting. With this
last bit of trimming and pinning, it's time to sew the
two halves together, and sew the hem around the cockpit
where the rope or bungee cord will go. Be sure you leave
a spot open along the hem around the cockput, perhaps
3-6 inches long, where the two ends of the rope (if you
use rope) can come out so it can be pulled snug and tied.
If you use bungee cord, there still needs to be an open
spot where you can insert the cord and adjust it before
the ends are tied.
right photo shows the hemmed edge around the cockpit with
some 1/8-inch nylon camo cord inside. I used this first
to tie on the netting and it seems to work fine. No need
to use the bungee cord. In fact, the nylon cord will stretch
just enough that I can leave it tied, and still slip the
cover on and off the cockpit coaming. Once it's slipped
under the coaming lip it holds snugly. The only other
places required to tie on the netting is at the handles.
I cut a slit over the carrying handles at the bow and
stern so they could slip through the netting. Then each
slit was tied shut under the handle with one short piece
of nylon camo cord to keep the netting from being lifted
in a breeze. If you have the "T" style handles
on a short rope, then use a tiny slit that the end of
the T-handle will slip through. Once the whole handle
is through, it will turn horizontal and not pull back
through in a breeze - no tying necessary there.
that the base cover of netting is fitted and on the kayak,
the next step is to begin attaching the camouflage elements
of choice. I'm starting out with my tried and true Hunter's
Specialty Camo Leaf Blind material, which I keep on hand
all the time. Instead of laying it flat over the netting,
I'm trying a new technique that I first used on my Leafy
Camo Suit. I cut sections of the material about 12-18
inches square, except that one edge is cut jagged (as
if a shark took a bite out of it). This gives 3 sides
basically straight, and one edge shaped like icicles hanging
down. One benefit of this is that the jagged edge you
cut leaves the jagged edge for the next piece already
cut for you. The straight edge opposite the jagged edge
becomes the top.
this top straight edge along the cockpit coaming hem (for
starters), then fold along the edge in a zig-zag pattern
to form pleats, and pin it in place as shown in the upper
left-most photo. The photo next to it shows how this causes
the material to pucker up. Now you can see that this quickly
adds the element of 3-D shape/dimensionality to the cover.
This gives a far more natural look to the camouflage than
when it lays flat. With the jagged ends hanging down,
and the die-cut flaps of the material waving in the breeze,
it adds the element of natural movement to the camouflage.
The material itself adds the other two elements, texture
and pattern, so my cover will have all the elements necessary
for good camouflage.
this basic technique, I added more of these pleated segments
of camo material to the netting. In addition to the Camo
Leaf Blind I will add "tufts of weeds" by using rafia,
available from the floral and crafts section of your local
department store or hobby/crafts center. The photos below
show the project from several angles as it progresses.
The right photo shows the rafia "weeds" on the bow which
completely disguises the bow shape. The far right photo
below does a good job of showing how the pleating gives
an uneven textured surface to the deck of the kayak to
give it a very natural-looking appearance. It doesn't
matter that I'm not completely covering the netting because
the kayak under the netting is a good green color for
camouflage. The more variation there is, the more natural
it will look. Once I get out on the water, additional
elements of camouflage can come from the surroundings
where I'm paddling. A dead broken branch lying on the
bow or stern, small clippings of local plants and brush,
dead weeds and other natural vegetation can simply be
stuffed into the gaps around the camo material to customize
the camouflage to the immediate surroundings.
the hull covering now finished, I tackled the problem
of adding a camouflage cover over the front half of the
cockpit. The large yellow dry bag that sits between my
knees and holds my cameras (see
photo at top of page) needs some serious camouflage,
so incorporating a cockpit cover with the camouflaged
hull skirt seemed pretty logical.
I made an arch
from 1/2-inch CPVC water pipe by heating it with a
hair dryer on high heat to make bending it easier. This
holds the aft edge of the cockpit cover netting up high
enough so I'll have room to access the large dry bag easily.
The CPVC arch slips over a pair of 3-inch
long wooden dowels of 1/2-inch diameter that fit perfectly
into the CPVC.
drilled a hole through the center of these dowels and
slipped them onto wire
clips made from pieces of coat hanger wire, which
in turn clip onto the cockpit coaming. I simply snipped
a coat hanger in half with wire cutters and then bent
the wire into the desired shape with pliers. I first tried
this with a heavy wire coat hanger, but it was difficult
to bend and shape. I then tried using a coat hanger of
thinner wire and it was much easier to form the clips
from it. You can see in the photos that the dowel has
been shaved a tiny bit thinner. Though the 1/2-inch
dowel fits the CPVC perfectly, I was afraid the wood
might swell a bit if it got wet, so I shaved the diameter
just a little to insure there would be no binding when
slipping the arch on or off the dowel clips. If you create
a cover for yourself, your clips will likely need to be
shaped a bit differently, according to the form of your
cockpit coaming. In any case the basic concept of the
clip should work for most any kayak.
the finished dowels clipped onto the cockpit, I slipped
the arch onto the dowels, and laid the leftover camo netting
over the arch. Then I pinned the netting onto the arch
and trimmed off the excess netting, leaving plenty of
overlap for sewing this piece onto the main hull skirt
later. At this point I put my large yellow dry bag in
the cockpit and laid a piece of the die-cut Camo Leaf
Blind material over the netting to test how much of the
yellow would show through the die-cuts. Though it was
not as visible as I feared it would be, I still decided
to sew a piece of camo
material underneath the netting. While I was at it
I also sewed the hem where I'd pinned the netting along
the arch where the CPVC slipped into it.
I made more of the pleated camo pieces from the die-cut
Camo Leaf Blind material, just as I had made for the hull
skirt. I pinned these onto the cockpit cover piece. Then
I sewed these to the cockpit cover piece while it was
still separate from the skirt, since it would be much
easier to handle BEFORE sewing it to the hull skirt. With
the camo elements now sewn on, I inserted the arch and
slipped it onto the dowel clips again. Next I pinned the
edges of the cockpit cover piece into place on the hull
skirt. Now it was time to sew the cockpit cover piece
and the hull skirt together. With that done, the camo
cover was complete. It slips on and off easily, without
having to tie and untie the cord around the coaming, and
it folds and rolls up into a small bundle that will fit
a plastic Walmart bag.
only thing then left to camouflage was myself. For that
I added camouflage elements to a lightweight shirt I wear
for kayaking in warm weather. When the weather turns cooler,
I can switch to my Leafy Camo Suit top and boonie hood.
All that remains is to get a few photos of what this looks
like in use. As soon as the weather and lake water level
cooperate so I can get back into the marsh area again,
I'll add some photos to this article.
Update: The photos at left show the camo in use,
though it's not exactly the right environment (sitting
in open water). The lake level was 2 feet below normal,
so the marsh where I was hoping to take the camo photos
was only a mud flat as I expected (note the background).
In fact, I was bottomed out sitting there by the stump.
I'll try again when the lake level is back where it should
be to get into the marsh where I can give it a fair and
Update 2: Well, here on the right is another attempt
at getting some photos, this time in March when it was
cooler, with fewer leaves. It's still not the sort of
location where I'd be lying in wait for birds, but at
least the weather was suitable for me to wear my matching
"leafy camo suit" jacket and hood for the photo, which
is what I'd be wearing in Fall and Winter. Not too shabby
for sitting right out in the open.