Last week I was doing the rounds on social media I was asked whether I had any recommendations for an inexpensive pontoon boat cover support system to help stop water from pooling when it rains.

Without doubt, the best one that I have used, as well as many other pontooners I know, are the Vico Marine support poles (see on Amazon).

They are cheap, they extend up very high, and can also have vents at the top to prevent internal cover moisture that can lead to mold and mildew. For me they work great and I wouldn’t recommend any other product.

Let me qualify that a bit first though, as I didn’t use Vico Marine as my pontoon boat cover support pole system until last winter.

Handy Hint: You might also like this guide on how to winterize a pontoon boat.

Prior to that I had been through three different solutions. Here’s what I’ve tried previously, and why I have now settled on my recommend product.

  1. Regular cover poles that came with my cover: I found that they used to fall down and were hard to place under the cover – terrible solution.
  2. Tried using light stands: They actually worked quite well but were really bulky to store and a pain in the ass – ok solution.
  3. Vico Marine pontoon boat cover support: I have combined the poles, Boat Vent 3, and pole base which works great, is easy to store, and prevent mold and rain pools – the clear winner!

The Vico Marine Boat Vent 3, poles, and pole base are trademarked and patented. You won’t find anything else like it on the market.

What you get in the support system kit

  • Vent and support your boat cover with up to 170lbs of pressure
  • Quick and easy installation
  • Prevents mold and mildew build-up in your boat
  • Cam lock mechanism for easy adjustability
  • Poles made from premium anodized aluminum

Why this is the best pontoon boat cover support system

Vico Marine has tested their telescoping pontoon boat cover support system poles with up to 170 pounds of pressure. That gives them more than double the support strength of standard thumbscrew mooring poles.

Using die-cast collar and stainless-steel parts, the pontoon boat cover support poles are made from heat-treated and anodized aluminum tubing. The poles and rods have also been ribbed to offer more strength and are UV resistant.

They are very lightweight and can be collapsed down in minutes. Easy to store, you can slot them away easier under your boat seats if required or lean them up in your garage like I do.

Handy Hint: To see the full product specification and the latest prices view the Vico Marine system on Amazon.

And they won’t damage your pontoon deck flooring either.

With fully synthetic TPR rubber bottom crutch tips, you won’t get any hard to shift scuffs or marks unlike other pontoon boat cover support systems on the market.

The latest incarnation of this kit is Boat Vent 3, following on from the success of the Boat Vent 2 package. Boat Vent 2 had been in existence for 20 years, and in that time became a huge seller in the marine industry due to the innovative approach to venting and tenting.

Ventilation is hugely important, as without it moisture will gather underneath the cover, leading to mold and mildew which can be hard to shift (here’s how to clean mildew quickly from seats).

The Boat Vent 3 pontoon boat cover support pole system is a big improvement on the previous version. It now includes:

  • Easier to install and set-up
  • Easier to take down and collapse
  • Easier to adjust and move around
  • Better ventilation (40% more than Boat Vent 2)
  • Better floor and cover gripping
  • No reinforcement piece needed
  • Installs in less than 15 seconds
  • Improved venting and grip
  • Center seam option
  • Easiest, fastest way to vent & tent your boat cover
  • Protects against snow loads or heavy rain vs. sew in vents (will not allow pole to rip or tear cover
  • Only quick change, replaceable vent in the market

How easy it is to install and set-up?

It’s the rubber swivel pole base that really makes thing easy. It sits on the boat floor and grips on tight, but still lets you swivel and move it around whilst holding your pole in the best place.

This means you don’t have to constantly get in and out of your pontoon boat as you fit your boat cover.

support pad

This is the support pad that sticks to the boat floor or carpet, leaving no marks.

The large base uses a thermoplastic rubber on the pad. It sticks nice and tight to the floor and doesn’t’ scratch up your deck or tear he carpet up. Because the base is large it helps spread the weight of the poles and cover.

To place the pole, telescope it out, and slot it into the vent circle. I would estimate you could get it down to around 20 seconds per system once you have done it a few times.

How many pontoon boat cover support systems will you need?

When you order this online you will notice that the system comes in a few different sizes. I advise that you buy 2 shorter length sizes for the front and rear, with a taller system in the middle… so 3 in total.

By doing so, you can get a good pitch shape to let the rain water and snow run off.

It’s worth remember that they are telescopic, but still measure your pontoon boat up at first. For an 18 foot to 21-foot pontoon boat I’d recommend you buy 3 in order to get the correct tent pitch and coverage shape.

One of the poles will be set on the swivel base at the bottom and the air vent system at the top. Then you would have the remaining two at either end of the pontoon boat.

Don’t forget, each package you buy will only come with 1 pole.

Will it be compatible with your boat cover?

The Vico Marine pontoon boat cover support kit can be used with almost any boat cover on the market. Even custom boat cover makers are now manufacturing their bespoke covers to accommodate the Boat Vent 3 system.

Do you need to have an air vent in your boat cover?

You can use it just as a support pole with no ventilation in the top of the cover, but there would then be nothing to hold the Vico Marine pontoon boat cover support system in place, as the vent system clips the cover down when pulled tight.

The vent end is used to attach the pole to let it stick up vertically.

support vent

The vent part is what clips to the top of your cover for the poles to attach to securely.

Without the vent hole and system helping to clip the cover and poles in place, just a little wind could knock down the supports.

It is quite simple to cut a ventilation hole into your cover and you can see how to do that I the next question.

If you live in a very dry area, then ventilation is going to be a massive issue, as the hot air will produce a lot of damaging moisture and mold. But for almost every pontoon owner I would recommend it if you want to keep your pontoon in good shape when covered.

What if my cover doesn’t have vent holes in it for this system?

Vico Marine have already thought of this, and also sell a circle cutter (view on Amazon) that cuts a perfectly sized circle every time – to the size you need for the Boat Vent 3 system.

All you do is place the cutter where you want the ventilation hole to be, press down hard on to it, and then rotate the handle in a clockwise direction.

With one full circular turn you will have the perfect shape to slot your boat cover vent into.

If you don’t want to spend the extra money on a specialist cutter, this package does come with paper diagram that you can cut-out and place on your cover to cut around. You need to be very careful though if you do this, as you can leave frays, rips, and tears in the canvas which can spread over time, letting rain water in.

See the Vico Marine pontoon boat cover support in action

To see how easy the kit system is to install, watch this video from Vico Marine where they demonstrate their trademarked and patented Boat Vent 3, support pole, and pole base.

The YouTube video shows you more details on the benefits I have already highlighted and how you can set yours up once you get it.

You could make a DIY support system… but I don’t advise it

You can try a homemade solution, and in fact I’ve published some ideas and images on how you can build you own using PVC.

But… a buddy did this with his Jon boat years ago it worked okay until the wind got underneath and lifted the rail supports off the rail and they fell down.

That’s not the only issue; here’s some comments from other pontooners on Facebook who went down the homemade approach with reviews also.

Pontoon boat cover support system reviews

“When you get done messing around with making something from PVC, get the Vico Marine rods as they work great and stop mildew. Trust me I tried the PVC pipe approach system and four other hacks before I did what the pros do.”

“I went through this myself last year which was my first year owning a pontoon. Save yourself a bunch of trial and error trouble and pay for the Vico Marine pontoon boat cover support poles and vents. The base of the poles swivel and grab, the pole extends and is sturdy, and the vents are easy to cut and place in the cover, keeping air moving through and mold down.”

“I bought a trailer cover which was of really good quality with lots of straps, but the most important thing is to buy the Boat Vent 3 system with poles from Vico Marine. It has easy to place poles with vent and rubber articulating foot on pole to make your life easier. The vents keep mold out. Check it out.”

“Here’s what I learned from tinkering around with wood, PVC, and metal. Save yourself the cost and hassle of reinventing the wheel and get a Boat Vent 3 system. It’s really hardy, lets air in to keep mold out and by the time you mess around with homemade solutions you might as well have something that works.”

“I used to make cover support poles from 2-inch PVC using a rounded cap on one end and a 4 inch to 2-inch reducer as a base to keep things stable. By using a rounded cap, the support rods for your pontoon boat cover won’t tear through the fabric. But it worked great until we had a bad storm.”

Another problem you will have with PVC is that the sun can bend it very easily into funny shapes. After the bending it’s garbage.

Plus, I think you’ll find that most custom cover makers are using Boat Vent 3 pole systems now so it will make your life a whole load easier.

I would also suggest that given the low price point of Vico Marine, plus the fact you can get all the ventilation parts too, by the time you’ve built your own you may as well as bought a cheap system like Vico that does the job better.

For example, I’ve seen some guys spend upwards of $150 on PVC piping and parts to create their own tent structure. It took them a couple of days to build, when they could have just spent the money on the Vico Marine pontoon boat cover support poles and base kit.

The last word…

Vico Marine say in their marketing that it’s the best support system on the market, and I completely agree.

If you want to tent your boat cover, then you really can’t go wrong.

I only recommend pontoon boat accessories that I can personally vouch for, have seen in action, and trust. And this is one of those items. To see what else I recommend for your pontoon boat, take a look at the best gear you can buy, and a list of smaller, yet essential accessories.

If you are also looking to buy a new cover, then take a look at my reviews of the best pontoon boat covers if you don’t want to pay for a custom one to be made.