When you decide to venture out on a paddling adventure, whether it is river paddling or on the ocean or lake, it is important to know the different kinds of gear and equipment that are available for use. The right gear for each type of environment is necessary for the safety and expediency of every kayaking trip. Most kayaks include a hatch, a place to stow items that might not be immediately necessary. Certain items, such as your personal flotation device, should never be stowed in your hatch. It is important to note that carrying these items with you in your kayak is not enough—make sure to practice utilizing the kayaking gear, and take paddling classes or instruction courses often to keep your skills intact. Many rentals and kayaking schools will help you select the right kayaking gear, and answer any questions that might arise.
General Kayaking Gear
Every time you go river paddling, there are specific kayaking gear items you need to make sure you bring along with you. A paddle, whistle, and personal flotation device are obvious choices, and should be with you every single time. Important protective gear for your body, such as sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, water shoes or sandals, or gloves for colder weather, should be included. In colder water, a wetsuit or drysuit might be necessary to bring along as well. Extra warm, dry clothing and extra food and water are good ideas to bring along as well, for your comfort and safety, in case of emergencies. Dry bags to keep your supplies dry are also helpful to include. Both a sponge and a pump should be included in your gear; a sponge removes small amounts of water from the cockpit of your kayak, and a pump removes large amounts of water after a capsize. A paddle float is necessary, as it will help you rescue yourself if you are capsized.
Kayaking Gear for Oceans and Lakes
More precautions must be taken when you are paddling out into open water. You must remember to include all of the above mentioned items, as well as some extra items for your own safety. To start, your kayak must include adequate flotation, using either two floatbags or bulkheaded hatches. An extra paddle, and a paddle leash, are excellent ideas for any kayaking trip, but are most necessary when venturing out into open water. In order to keep water from entering your kayak cockpit, take along a spray skirt. In case of navigational emergencies, be sure to bring along a cell phone with a waterproof case, a marine compass, both a nautical chart and a tide chart, and a navigational aid, which will aid you in finding compass directions. A towing system, and rescue stirrup will help you in case of rescue, and a knife, and first aid kit, and waterproof flashlight or strobe will aid you in many other emergencies. If you are venturing out even farther, signal flares for rescue, a kayak repair kit, and a VHF radio will be necessary.
Selecting the right kayaking gear for each trip will keep you safe and comfortable, allowing the maximum amount of excitement and fun. Make sure to practice using your kayaking gear, so that you can spend less time worrying about your safety, and more time paddling!