Kayaking is one of my favorite summer activities!
There’s nothing like paddling around on a nice river or lake and escaping into the natural world on a nice warm day. But one of the biggest deterrents of even going out is the bright and unrelenting sun. It seems no matter how much sunscreen I apply and reapply I end up with cheeks, neck, and shoulders that rival a blushing lobster and I don’t even burn easily! So I thought it be nice to add a canopy to my kayak
I’ve seen different types of kayak canopies, also called biminis, that usually retail for $100+ so I wanted to see if I can make one that works just as well at a much cheaper price.
This Instructable will walk you through what I did to make mine and also give tips on possible improvements and other materials that could be used to fit your availability and needs. My total cost was about $25, with the most expensive component being the fabric for the canopy.
Step 1: List of Materials
QTY (2) 10’ long ½ diameter PVC Tube
QTY (2) ½” PVC Elbow
QTY (2) ½” PVC 90 degree Tee
QTY (4) ½ PVC End Caps
QTY (2) ½” Conduit Hangers
QTY (2) ¼”-20 Wingnut
QTY (2) #10 x ½” Screws
QTY (2) #10 Washer
QTY (4) 3/16” x 2” Eye Bolts
QTY (1) 5/32” braided poly rope (really any water resistant rope between 1/8”-1/4” should work)
QTY (1) 2 yards of a fabric of your choice *
QTY (1) Spool of Heavy Duty Nylon Thread
*I used Utility Fabric which is a lightweight banner material that looks and feels very similar to tent/fly material. I also considered using a 3’x5’ flag, like a Jolly Roger which might look really cool on a boat. I still might make one later for times I’m out on the water and feeling buccaneer
Step 2: Tools
Drill with size 1/8” & 3/16” bits
Saw (I used a coping saw but you can use just about any type)
File or grinder/ Dremel
Needle Nose Pliers
Vice (optional, helps when drilling hole in the caps and elbows)
Sewing Machine (optional, but recommended)
Step 3: PVC Frame
The PVC Frame consist of 2 major parts: The Canopy Supports (consisting of 2 supports) & The Support Frame (consisting of 2 Uprights, 2 Cross Members, and 2 Stabilizers)
Note: Dimensions shown are for the cut PVC lengths only. Each PVC Elbow adds ½” in each direction so overall dimensions are 1” greater than shown in picture
Step 4: Cut the PVC
Use a saw to cut the (2) 10’ pieces of PVC as follows, use (1) piece for the Canopy Supports and (1) piece for the Support Frame:
QTY (2) Canopy Supports @ 60”
QTY (2) Uprights @ 30” This dimension can vary on your height and type of kayak. A sit-on-top kayak may need taller uprights as would some one with a relatively tall upper body. To check, sit in your kayak as you normally would and have someone measure from the top of your kayak to the top of your head and add 2-4”.
QTY (2) Cross Members @ 18” QTY (2) Stabilizers @ 12” These can be longer or maybe slightly shorter, it just happened to be what I had left over after cutting the uprights and cross members
Step 5: Canopy Holder
Find and Mark the Top of the PVC Elbows and Drill out using 1/8” drill bit
Attach the Conduit Hanger onto the elbow by using a #8 screw and washer
Repeat for the 2nd holder
Remove the hex nut from each Conduit Hangers and replace with a ¼”-20 wingnut. This will make assembly and disassembly tool free.
Round the edges of the Conduit Hangers with a file, a bench grinder, or a Dremel like tool. This will keep the canopy from catching or tearing on the edges of the Conduit Hangers
Step 6: Caps & Tie Downs
On each PVC cap Find and mark top center (or as close as you can get)
Drill hole using 3/16” drill bit
Screw in the Eye bolt and tighten the nut on the inside of the cap with the needle nose pliers
Install Caps/Tie Down on both ends of the Canopy Supports
Step 7: Assemble Support Frame
Dry assemble the frame as pictured and make sure everything is relatively square and stable
Attach the Canopy Supports to the Support Frame by either completely unfastening the wingnut and bolt & clipping the supports in or by loosening the wing nut, removing the support end cap, and sliding the support in
Step 8: Fabric Canopy Cutting
Cut fabric to 25” x 56”.
For reference the 25” side will be called W and the 56” side will be called L
Step 9: Fabric Canopy Hemming
Hem all four sides as follows:
Take one end of W and create a 1” fold. Pin and repeat with the opposite side
Sew a ½” hem on the two folded/pinned edges
Follow the same procedure for L
These hemmed edges will help keep the fabric from fraying
Step 10: Fabric Canopy Pockets
Measure and fold one of the W sides to 2 ½” and pin.
Repeat with the opposite side.
Insert the Canopy Supports (with the caps on) into the pinned pockets to be sure they fit. Install onto the Support Frame to be sure the Canopy is not too loose or too tight. Make adjustments if needed.
Sew both pockets as shown in the pics: Sew about 24” down one end of the pocket and move to the edge and sew 12” down from the other end*
*This will make it so the Canopy can be installed on the Canopy Support while it is already installed on the Support Frame. It will also allow the Canopy Support to be adjusted forward and backward on the Support Frame.
Step 11: Attach to Kayak
This part can also vary depending on the type of kayak you have
I happen to have a storage hatch with bungee cord strap downs on the stern of my kayak that I was able to use to mount the Support Frame.
You can also use paddle clips or something like the above pics
if all else fails you could wrap a bungee cord around the hull of the kayak and slip the stabilizers under it
Step 12: Tie Downs
Thread rope through the Eye bolt on one Canopy Support down to the stern hole or handle at the tip of the kayak and up to the other eye bolt and tie down. These don’t need to be super tight, just put enough force on them to hold in place but not too much that the supports bend much.
I just used simple slip knots to adjust the lengths
Do the same for the front eye bolts
Step 13: Break Down and Storage
All pieces can be disassembled and rolled up into the canopy
The elbows can be threaded together with the tie down rope and attached to the package
*There should be enough fabric left over to make a carrying case if desired
Step 14: Complete
Hit the Water and enjoy the Shade!
*water pic coming soon!
Step 15: Notes
Unfortunately, it has stormed just about everyday since making the canopy (of course!) so I don’t have any pics of it out on the water, but as soon as the weather clears up I’ll update the post
Alternatively, tent poles or any fiberglass pole could be used for the Canopy Support or even incorporated into the entire frame. This could make the frame break down into an even smaller package if desired.
Additional, cross members can be added if stability is a concern. Mine seemed fine, but I have not been in any kind of wind to know how well it will hold up