4 Essential Tools for Shrink Wrapping a Boat

Planning on shrink wrapping your boat? Great idea! Think you can cut some corners by wrapping with the wrong equipment? Bad idea!  

shrink wrapped boats

Regardless of what you read online, it's never a good idea to attempt to shrink wrap your own boat with equipment that wasn't designed for that purpose. Using inadequate tools can lead to a boat not being shrink wrapped properly, or worse, the boat being damaged during the wrapping process. Here are four essential tools you should never substitute for alternatives when shrink wrapping a boat:

Essential Tool #1: Boat Shrink Wrapping Heat Gun 

The heat gun is the most expensive tool needed to shrink wrap a boat. A quality heat gun costs a lot more than a few hundred dollars. However, damage to a boat from using the wrong heat tool will be costlier than the gun itself! 

Boat shrink wrapping tools heat gun

Quality heat guns operate at 3,500°F, the required temperature for proper shrink wrapping. Most cheaper heat guns only reach temperatures of about 1,200°F. Some foolhardy folks online suggest using propane torches instead of investing in a real heat gun. Propane torches are basically flamethrowers not meant for shrink wrapping, and pointing one at your boat's hull is ill-advised! If you think a good heat gun costs too much, consider this: You'll be using it for years to come, so the cost will even out. Get some friends to share the expense to offset the cost. 

boat shrink wrapping winterize

Essential Tool #2: Strap Tensioning Tool

Without a strap tensioning tool, your boat wrapping project will fall apart. The woven cord straps are what keeps the shrink wrapping in place, therefore the strapping must be tight. Simply tightening the straps by hand will not be enough.

Boat shrink wrap tensioner tool

If you rely on hand-pulled straps, it will pull up the strapping instead of remaining anchored when the wrapping film is heated. Improper strapping will also allow the cover to sag (preventing water and snow from running off) or blow around (providing entry points where rain and snow can penetrate).The strap tensioning tool ensures the strapping is tight enough to maintain the cover's shape and form, and to keep the cover in place throughout the winter.

Essential Tool #3: Long-Cuff Leather Safety Gloves

When working with a heat gun producing 3,500°F, the use of safety gloves is common sense. Especially when you consider that you have to pat shrink wrap film that has been heated to melting point. Some people think they can save a few bucks by using everyday work gloves, but we highly advise against this.


Shrink wrap leather gloves

Dr. Shrink wrap knife


Instead, we recommend you use a pair of long cuff, gauntlet-style leather safety gloves when shrink wrapping your boat. The long cuffs provide extra protection for wrists and forearms, which is reassuring when using a heat gun spitting out a 3,500°F flame! Also, these loose fitting gauntlets can fly off in a split second by the flick of an arm if they were to catch fire, which isn't possible with tight-fitting work gloves.

Essential Tool #4: Fire Extinguisher

Do we really need to explain this one? Just in case someone wasn't paying attention: boat shrink wrap film is flammable; your boat is flammable; and the heat gun produces a 3,500°F naked flame! 

Shrink wrap boat safety burnt boat

Flammable materials + naked flame = fire hazard. You must always have a fire extinguisher on hand when wrapping a boat, period. Any type of fire extinguisher will do, and there should be one on your boat anyway. Unless you want your boat to end up like the one pictured above, make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy before shrink wrapping your boat! 


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