The $40 Duck Boat: How to Camouflage a Kayak

Illustrations by Robert L. Prince

Turn a Craigslist find into a duck boat for $40
By Joseph Albanese

Need to get where the ducks are, cheap? Get online and grab a used kayak. With a little paint, and a lot of elbow grease, you can transform a neon-yellow eyesore into an invisible duck slayer for less than the cost of dinner and a movie.

One of the things I learned from my three-year tenure in a sign shop, and through rehabbing a dozen old boats, is that the painting is easy. The challenge is in the prep work.

Step 1
Attach a paint-removal wheel ($7; ­eastwood.​com) to a cordless drill, and rough up the kayak's plastic surface at a low RPM. Dedicated sanders and grinders spin too fast and could weaken the boat's structural integrity. Be sure to cover every square inch of exterior surface, paying special attention to corners and edges.

Step 2
Wipe the roughened surface with Xylol ($11 at Home Depot stores). Of all the solvents on the market, this is by far the best for polyethylene plastics used in most kayaks, as it has a very similar base and won't cause an adverse chemical reaction. Be thorough to avoid adhesion problems down the line.

Step 3
Using a side-to-side motion, spray your treated surface with an adhesion primer like Dupli-Color's Adhesion Promoter ($8; duplicolor.com) in even bands. Within one hour, apply the topcoat with an ultra-flat spray paint specially formulated for plastics, like Krylon Fusion ($6; ­the​paint​store.com).

Step 4
Finally, sponge a second and third color over the primary coat. Dab it on in a random pattern. Most commercial camo patterns are available in D.I.Y. stencil packs, but they're hardly required to trick the ducks. If you're really hard on gear, end with a flat clear coat like Krylon 1311 ($8; walmart.com).

Hide a Canoe
This technique works well on most plastic canoes, too, except for those made from Coleman's proprietary Ram-X material, which flexes too much to hold paint. If you're in that boat, get a large sheet of burlap, be creative with a fabric spray paint, throw the finished cover over the boat, and start shooting ducks.