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Top 12 Kayaking Essentials

While kayaking isn’t strictly a summer activity, it’s certainly enjoyed during the summer months by many who love the outdoors. Water temperatures are ideal, and the weather is beautiful for embracing the art of kayaking both successfully and safely.

Whether you’re a novice or a weekend paddler, these 12 items are essential to bring along for your kayak adventures:

  1. Personal flotation device. More commonly known as a PFD, a personal flotation device is a kayaker’s best friend. Other than being legally required (don’t go breaking the law), it provides buoyancy to help you stay afloat. Here’s a great resource for things to consider when choosing a PFD.
  2. Signaling device. Also required by law, a high quality whistle will go a long way in an emergency. You can attach it to your PFD or place it on a wrist coil.
  3. Bailer or pump. In the event your kayak fills with water, you’ll need a bailer to remove water as necessary. This could be as simple as a cut-open bottle, though a pump will work more quickly to get the job done.
  4. Tow/throw rope. Apart from also being required by law, this item is mighty helpful for assisting fellow kayakers or tying down boats near the shore.
  5. Weather/tide forecast. Make sure you know what to expect from the weather and tides before you venture out — if harsh winds or rain are going to be factors, consider choosing a different time or day.
  6. Appropriate clothing and footwear. Bear in mind the aforementioned weather, but plan on wearing sun protection and waterproof layers that help break the wind. Wetsuits are great in the summer, and dry suits (which insulate more to keep water out) are a good idea in cold water. Well-fitting water shoes are also a must.
  7. Map/compass and communication device. Unless you’re out on a small pond without much of an agenda, you’ll want to know where you’re going, and some directional guidance will help you get there. A cell phone or radio is also handy for communication.
  8. Mini ditch kit. Your survival or “ditch kit” should be easy to carry and include basic items for repair and first aid. Check out these tips regarding what specifics are good to include.
  9. Food. Energy bars, nuts and chocolate will provide you with fuel when you need it, particularly during long paddles or cooler days.
  10. Waterproof case. You’ll want a bag or small case to store your car keys, cell phone, camera and wallet. Make sure it has a tight seal and is stored in a safe place.
  11. Rescue skills. Have the necessary knowledge and skills when it comes to rescue techniques for yourself and others. Practice self-rescue techniques with your paddle (such as the heel hook rescue) in different conditions and temperatures. If you can, take training courses as well to build your confidence and expertise.
  12. Good paddling friends. Find some paddling buddies who not only make your kayaking more fun, but also have trustworthy judgment and a similar level of skill. Ideal places to meet fellow kayakers include social paddles, clubs, festivals and safety classes. To ensure your safety while you’re out, also tell a good friend (who isn’t with you) how long you expect to be gone and what to do if you don’t return within a reasonable time frame.

With all these must-haves, don’t forget a healthy dose of common sense, smart decision making and a hankering for adventure!