What to Bring on a Kayak Trip
Are you planning a kayaking trip? Whether you’re planning a quick trip on calm waters near the shore, or will be paddling for a while to a faraway destination, having a checklist of gear is vital so you don’t forget any of the essentials. The conditions of your trip, along with your abilities and preferences, will determine what you add to your list.
If kayaking is a new hobby, there are some must-have pieces of equipment you’ll want to include on your list of essentials. There are also some items that may not be required for your excursion, but you may want them on hand to enhance your experience. If you need to know what to bring kayaking, this is the kayak gear guide for you. Check out our full guide below or jump to the section you need!
- Getting Started Kayaking – Essential Kayaking Gear
- Clothes and Accessories for Kayaking
- Camping Gear for Kayaking
- Kayak Safety Equipment List
- Rescue Gear to Bring Kayaking
- Get What You Need to Launch Your Kayak
Getting Started Kayaking
So what is the essential kayaking gear you need to get started? Consider this your beginner equipment list: the basics to always have on hand as you journey off into the water.
Let’s start with the obvious, first — you’ll need a kayak. But what type of kayak is the right one for you? A simple, short recreational kayak will work for most beginners. Try to look for a kayak with a large cockpit, as this will make climbing in and out easier. These kayaks also tend to have back support and may include a foot pedal that can assist you in steering when you’re navigating choppy conditions.
Or you may opt for a sit-on-top kayak, which is a kayak without a cockpit. If you’re worried about becoming trapped in a kayak, this can be a great option. One downside is that you’ll need to be prepared to get a little wet, as water will drip off the paddle and onto you.
Ultimately, there are several types of kayaks, and you’ll no doubt find the perfect one for you. If you’re still unsure of which is right for you, check out this kayak buying guide to find exactly what you need.
2. Buoyancy Aid
A buoyancy aid is similar to a life jacket, but it allows for more movement of your neck and arms. This is ideal for kayaking since you’ll need to move your arms quite a bit while paddling. Even strong swimmers should wear a buoyancy aid because water can be unpredictable and dangerous, so it’s best to never take your buoyancy aid off while you’re on the water. You’ll also want to put your buoyancy aid on while you’re on shore. Wearing a buoyancy aid will help put your mind at ease so you can enjoy your excursion even more than you would’ve without one.
Of course, you simply can’t go kayaking without a paddle. When you decide to purchase your paddle, be sure you don’t confuse kayak paddles with canoe paddles. Kayak paddles are designed with blades on both ends and tend to be between about 82 inches to 102 inches long. The taller you are, the longer your paddle will need to be. If you’re planning a lengthy kayaking adventure, you’ll want to take an extra paddle with you in case yours breaks or you lose it.
4. Wetsuit/Dry Top
What should you wear for a kayaking excursion? Your choice of clothing will probably vary by weather conditions. For hot, sunny days, you may want to wear a T-shirt and shorts, especially if you’ll be paddling through flat water.
On a cold day, you may want to wear a wetsuit or drysuit. A drysuit is a watertight suit that allows you to wear normal clothes beneath it. These tend to be more expensive than wetsuits, but the choice ultimately boils down to your preferences. You may also want to consider wearing kayaking gloves.
Many kayakers choose to wear a kayaking cagoule or a dry top. Keep in mind that you will definitely get wet, and though the air might feel warm, the water could be quite cold. If you happen to fall in the water, you should prepare by dressing for the temperature of the water.
5. Wet Shoes
If you’re going kayaking, you’re going to want wet shoes. Wet shoes are made with rubber soles that grip and will help you walk on slippery surfaces. It can be best to avoid wearing flip flops since they don’t grip surfaces and aren’t supportive. If you don’t have wet shoes, you could get away with wearing a pair of trainers, but they may become soggy and heavy quickly.
Fortunately, wet shoes are rather affordable, and they’ll make your kayaking trip even better!
6. Rope Bag
This bag has rope tucked loosely inside so you can rescue another kayaker. While you hold one end of the rope, you’ll throw the bag toward the kayaker who needs help. If you’re paddling without a group or an instructor, you’ll want to bring a rope bag as part of your kayaking kit.
7. Dry Bag
If you want to bring your cell phone or a set of dry clothes with you, pack them in a dry bag. These watertight bags will keep your belongings dry even if you capsize. Most come with a clip and a roll top to keep items secure.
Clothes and Accessories for Kayaking
If you already have some outdoor hobbies, such as hiking, you may already have clothing that’s durable, versatile and comfortable, all of which you’ll want for kayaking. Proper kayak attire will also keep you warm in cold, wet conditions.
Keep these general tips in mind for your kayaking clothes and accessories:
- Dress in layers: Particularly for your upper body, you’ll likely want to wear more than one layer of clothing.
- Dress for water temperature: Regardless of what the air temperature is, you’ll want to dress for the temperature of the water. The water temperature can be much colder than the air temperature, and you’ll need to be prepared for that in case you capsize.
- Don’t wear cotton: Cotton absorbs water, so if you wear cotton, you’ll stay wet and uncomfortable throughout your trip. Instead, wear quick-drying clothing like nylon or polyester. Wool may also be a good option, as it will insulate when wet.
- Wear sun protection: The sun can still be dangerous even on cloudy days, especially when you’re on the water. Opt for clothing made of UPF-rated fabrics, along with sunscreen to block UV rays reflected off the water.
- Wear fabrics that resist abrasion: To help avoid tearing up your clothes, wear fabrics that can withstand rough materials, water and sand. You may also want to avoid wearing clothing with hardware that can rust, as water can corrode metal.
- Wear comfortable clothes: You’ll may be sitting for a long period of time, so you’ll want to wear clothes that will be comfortable the entire trip.
So what should you wear specifically for warm or cold weather? We have plenty of tips and tricks to help you out.
Here are some suggestions for what you may want to wear in warm or cold conditions:
- Underwear: Many kayakers choose to wear a swimsuit as their first layer for warm conditions. If you don’t want to wear a swimsuit, you can opt for noncotton underwear and sports bras made for outdoor activities.
- Wetsuit: A wetsuit is needed for pretty much all but the mildest of conditions. For cold water but hot weather, you can opt to wear a sleeveless wetsuit.
- Drysuit: Wear a drysuit for colder weather and waters. This waterproof material will keep you dry, and your layers underneath will keep you warm and insulated.
- Tops: For your top layer, you may want to consider wearing a rash guard, as they’re made to dry quickly and stretch, along with being designed to protect against UV rays. They’re comfortable as well and can be easily layered under a wetsuit or other clothing. If you don’t want to wear a rash guard, you may choose a wool or synthetic base layer instead.
- Bottoms: For your bottom layer, wear whatever is comfortable for you and will dry quickly, such as quick-dry pants or board shorts. You may also want to avoid a superthin fabric that might not withstand the frequent movement in your seat.
- Footwear: Water shoes or waterproof booties are a great option because they’re light and they’ll protect your feet from the water. Avoid shoes that slip off easily, like flip flops. You’ll also want to avoid water sandals, which can collect sand and gravel. In colder conditions, include waterproof socks or thick, noncotton socks for warmth.
- Middle layer: If the conditions of your trip won’t require a drysuit or wetsuit, then you may want to wear a fleece jacket to keep warm.
- Outer layer: If it’s going to be windy or rainy, you’ll want to bring rain pants and a waterproof jacket. Or you may want to consider a paddling jacket, which keeps out water at the neck and wrists.
- Gloves: Paddling gloves can protect your hands from wind, cold and blisters.
- Hat: In colder conditions, you may want to wear a beanie to keep your head warm.
- Glasses retainer: If you want to prevent your glasses from sinking or floating away, bring a retainer that floats so that you won’t lose them.
Camping Gear for Kayaking: What to Bring
Are you planning on camping during your kayaking trip? Luckily, when you decide to go camping with a kayak, you can carry more gear than you could fit in a backpack if you were hiking. Besides the items listed above, such as a kayak and paddle, there are some items you’ll want to bring specifically for a camping trip.
For a one- or two-person tent, look for:
- A built-in bathtub floor and a ground tarp
- A bug screen for insects and ventilation
- A tent fly that extends the length of an entire tent wall
- Minimal hardware, like poles and stakes, to help you transport it more easily
Or you can skip the tent entirely and rely on your survivalist skills to create a lean-to shelter or even just use a camping hammock.
2. Sleeping Bag
Along with a shelter, you’ll also want a sleeping bag. Your sleeping bag should include:
- A bag liner
- Head venting
- Foot venting
- Moisture-proof insulation
A sleeping bag should be versatile enough to handle warm or cool conditions. You may also want a cushioning pad to put underneath your sleeping bag.
The undergarments you choose should be a good base layer, drawing perspiration away from your skin and insulating you from the cold by trapping warm air. Bring several changes of undergarments, even if they seem easy to wash.
For colder conditions, consider packing a pair of thermal underwear. If you decide to wear your thermals during the day, don’t sleep in them to prevent bringing dirt and perspiration into your sleeping bag.
To avoid dehydration, you need to have an ample amount of water with you. The key is to drink water before you begin feeling thirsty. You may be able to collect fresh water when it rains and filter it, but other than that you will still have to process any water you find, so you’ll want to bring a reliable water filter.
If you bring water with you, you’ll want at least a gallon for every day of your trip, per person. You can bring flexible containers, stash water bottles in your kayak or maybe bring a hydration system in your backpack. Whatever you decide, make sure you bring plenty.
5. Food to Bring on a Kayak Trip
Keep any food you bring along well-sealed and fresh. You can color-code certain meals by packing them in the same color containers or you can color-code by day. Try to pack meals that are easy to prepare and require minimal utensils and pots.
You may want to choose a soft-sided cooler rather than a rigid cooler, as soft-sided coolers can fit in spaces that rigid coolers cannot. If you’re taking your camping trip in the winter, a cooler can also prevent your food from freezing.
6. Cooking Utensils
The best way to pack your cooking utensils is to use a stacking system and bring utensils that have multiple purposes. Here are a few cooking supplies you may want to bring:
- Camp stove
- Matches or igniter
- Small pots
- Large pot
- Large spoon
- Can opener
- Dish soap and cloth
7. Additional Kayak Camping Essentials
- Bowline: This is for tying off your kayak, regardless of how far you are up the shoreline.
- Cockpit cover: This is for stowing your gear in the kayak at night to keep it dry and keep animals out.
- Repair kit: This kit should contain tools that will allow you to fix a broken rudder or do a quick patch job.
- Lantern or flashlight: You may also want to bring extra batteries in case you need fresh ones for your flashlight.
- Duct tape: Of course, you can’t go camping without having duct tape handy.
Be sure to add these items to your list before you hit the water for your kayaking and camping adventure.
Kayak Safety Equipment List
Safety should be a top priority for every kayaker, and making sure you bring the proper safety gear with you will put you at a much lower risk of facing danger during your outing. You already know you need a personal flotation device (PFD), but here are a few more items you need to stay safe:
1. Flotation Bags
To minimize water collected in your kayak and prevent your kayak from sinking if you capsize, you may want to use a flotation bag. These are generally used more often in whitewater kayaks than sea kayaks, which are already built to trap air at the stern and bow.
These inflatable flotation devices attach to the outside of your kayak and are usually used in a pair on either side of your kayak.
3. First-Aid Kits
A first-aid kit should be a must-have for any kayaking excursion. Store your kit in a waterproof bag that’s clearly marked and will be easy for you to access while you’re kayaking. In an emergency, you want your response time to be as fast as possible.
As with most sports, you’ll want to wear a helmet during your kayaking trip. A helmet can protect you from getting hit in the head by your own paddle or by others paddling beside you. If you capsize, your helmet will also protect your head from your kayak.
5. Spray Deck
This waterproof skirt wraps around the kayak cockpit and protects your body and inside of your boat from the water. For sea kayaking, you may want a nylon spray deck, as they are easily ventilated and roomy. For surf and whitewater kayaking, you may want a neoprene spray deck, as they can withstand breaking waves and keep out water when rolling. Double-check that the grab loop is not tucked in the kayak when wearing the spray deck. This loop should be on the outside so you can pull it if you capsize.
Rescue Gear to Bring Kayaking
No matter how prepared you are, there’s still a chance you’ll meet unfavorable conditions that could result in you or another kayaker needing help. Be sure to pack and practice using the following kayaking rescue equipment:
1. Paddle Floats
A paddle float is your best chance of getting back into your kayak alone after a capsize. This paddle float attaches to the blade of your paddle and stabilizes your kayak for you to reenter. You can get either a foam or an inflatable paddle float. A foam paddle float allows for quick assembly and potentially less time in the water, whereas an inflatable paddle float takes longer to set up but tends to be better for flotation and may be the preferred choice for larger kayakers.
Though you may be wondering why a kayaker would need a knife during their trip, you may be surprised at just how handy a knife can be for kayaking safety. Make sure to purchase a kayaking knife because a normal kitchen knife won’t do. Knives made specifically for kayakers come with plastic sheaths to prevent you from accidentally stabbing yourself or someone else. These knives are typically worn on your buoyancy aid where they’ll be easily accessible in an emergency.
3. Bilge Pumps
This pump allows you to remove water that collects in your kayak after you’ve re-entered. A hand pump tends to be the most popular option, as it’s quite affordable and doesn’t require much effort. It’s also designed with a foam collar so it won’t sink if you accidentally drop it overboard.
4. Tow Lines and Throw Bags
If you get injured or become tired, a tow line can be used to attach your kayak to another kayaker. If another kayaker capsizes, you can use a throw bag to toss them a rope so you can pull them to safety.
Get What You Need to Launch Your Kayak
Now that you know what things to bring on a kayak trip, it’s time to jump in the water! But how and where do you launch a kayak?
The quickest, easiest way to launch a kayak from a dock is with EZ Kayak Launch from EZ Dock. At EZ Dock, we offer a floating dock design that makes getting in your kayak and launching a fast and simple process. With its wide entry centers and built-in paddle notches, the EZ Kayak Launch is great for beginners and seasoned veterans alike. Its innovative design creates greater stability and prevents wet feet. This one-piece docking section attaches to other EZ Dock sections or traditional docks, so it can be installed nearly anywhere. Learn more about our EZ Kayak Launch and check an item off your kayaking gear list today!