What Gear Do I Need to Kayak

Pacific Ocean, Northwestern Vancouver Island, Bc, July 22, 2018:

Kayaking is an exciting and adventurous outdoor activity that requires a good gear kayak to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. The right equipment is essential for kayakers to navigate the water, protect themselves from the elements, and keep their belongings dry. Whether kayaking on a calm lake or navigating through rough rapids, there are several gear essentials that every kayaker should have.


Top Picks: Types of Kayaking Gear

Kayaking gear is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience on the water. There are several types of gear that every kayaker should have:




Paddle 2

28 Ratings


  • Portable Kayak Paddle
  • Suitable for All Levels of Oars
  • Practical details – clip lock, sticker, and hook
  • Blade: Glass Fiber Reinforced Nylon (GFPA)
  • Quality Assurance

The paddle is the most essential piece of gear for kayaking. It helps propel the kayak forward and steer it in the desired direction. Kayaks need a paddle with a blade at each end and are gripped with the hands a little over shoulder-width apart. The blades are usually set at an angle to each other, commonly 45° for whitewater paddles, although some paddlers prefer a lower “feather,” and older paddles may have much more – up to 80 or 90°.

The paddle twists between each stroke so that the blade enters the water at the correct angle, and this rotation is controlled by the paddler’s dominant hand, whose grip is often enhanced by having an oval cross-section to the shaft, making it easy to feel when you have the proper grip.

Feathered paddles may thus be left- or right-handed. Many left-handed paddlers have been brought up with right-handed paddles, but it is tough to change once paddling becomes reflexive. Paddles are among the most easily lost equipment on a river, so bright easy-to-spot colors are helpful. The paddler in the photo has added yellow/orange reflective strips to his all-carbon paddle.

A lost (or broken) paddle will end your trip, so many paddlers will carry a split paddle (one that breaks down into two or more pieces that will fit inside the boat). Only some people need splits, but you should be sure that there are some on every trip – and the best way to be sure is to have your own!


Pros Cons
Pros The cost of a kayak is easily a deal-maker or breaker for most users Cons Typically, your legs have more endurance than your arms
Pros Fish are easily spooked when something in their environment is amiss ConsThe main pitfall of a traditional paddle kayak is the lack of full control when multi-tasking
Pros When fishing in shallow waters, a paddle kayak is significantly more efficient  
ProsPaddle kayaks require minimal maintenance  
ProsPaddling your kayak the traditional way is an excellent upper body workout and builds strong arm and core muscles  


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Life Jacket

Life Jacket Airhead

1148 Ratings


  • US Coast Guard Approved
  • Open-Sided: Open sides allow better ventilation to keep you more relaxed throughout the day.
  • Designed for personal watercraft and general boating safety
  • Side release buckles open and close quickly to ensure safety and security on the water
  • Soft UV and stain-resistant 200-denier polyester shell with lightweight Poly-E flotation inside
  • This life jacket follows the sizing determined by the USGC and is designed to fit adults that weigh over 90 pounds and have a 50-60-inch chest size

A life jacket is crucial safety equipment that can save a kayaker’s life in an accident. Choosing a life jacket that fits well and is comfortable is essential.

A kayak life jacket can save your life, and it’s always better to have one and not need one than not have one and need it. One of our favorite PFDs is the Onyx Movement Dynamic because it is not only U.S. Coast Guard Approved but also affordable, comfortable, and made from 200 Deniers ripstop nylon.

If you enjoy kayak fishing, PFDs work wonders as extra storage for your small fishing gear. Some PFDs are explicitly designed with fishing in mind, so they are kitted out with large fold-down pockets that act as little shelves for your kayak fishing accessories. Do you need an in-depth review of different PFDs? Then check out Best Kayak Life Jackets and the Best Fishing Life Jackets.


Pros Cons
Pros Low-maintenance Cons Some find these PFDs bulky and restrictive while paddling, especially when stand-up paddle boarding.
Pros Inherently buoyant ConsOn a hot summer day, a standard PFD can be pretty warm
Pros Versatile Cons It can’t be adjusted to suit your build
ProsMost standard PFDs provide pockets for stashing snacks, tools, sunscreen, emergency gear  
ProsRequires no special care  


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Spray Skirt

Spray Skirt

248 Ratings


  • Fits sit-in style kayak cockpits up to 40″ long by 22″ wide
  • Constructed from durable 210 denier nylon
  • Dual-side adjustability for a tight fit
  • PVC sealed seams for water tightness
  • Mesh storage bag included

A spray skirt is a waterproof cover that fits around the waist of the kayaker and seals the cockpit of the kayak. It helps keep water out of the kayak and the kayaker dry.

Another kayak accessory that you will find helpful is a spray skirt. However, a spray skirt is only necessary if you paddle in the surf zone, rock gardens, or tidal races. But, because spray skirts are designed to keep water out of the cockpit, they are an excellent accessory because they prevent water from dripping off your paddle and into your lap.

In addition, they can also serve to keep both spray and waves, as well as sun and wind, out of your cockpit and retain heat inside of it. Thus, spray skirts can be used to keep your waist and legs dry as well as to regulate your temperature while paddling.

Furthermore, you should be aware that spray skirts are available in nylon and neoprene or, in some cases, a combination of both. Also, while nylon spray skirts are more relaxed because they retain less body heat, neoprene spray skirts will keep you both warmer and drier.


Pros Cons
ProsSuitable for all body types ConsIt keeps you dry and helps regulate temperature
ProsSticks to the cockpit for better waterproofing  
ProsIt keeps you dry and helps regulate temperature  


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938 Ratings


  • Waterproof Lining the Hybrid design uses cold-molding EVA foam inside
  • Helmet adults have a head size adjustable system
  • Excellent Ventilation System vents in total have been strategically placed and use channels in the front to draw fresh air
  • Multipurpose sports helmets are suitable for outdoor sports, such as water sports, boating, surfing, Kayaking, scooters, pulleys, fishing, etc.
  • Stainless rivets on adult helmets are made of 304 stainless steel

A helmet is essential for kayaking in whitewater or other dangerous conditions. It protects the kayaker’s head from impact with rocks or other objects. Helmets vary from simple and functional to serious (and expensive) fashion statements.

Still, all must fulfill the function of protecting your head from rocks in a capsize or swim or occasionally from branches and other people’s paddles when upright! To this end, they must fit well enough to stay on and be comfortable enough that there is never a temptation to remove or forget it.

Some helmets make it challenging to hear; others don’t provide as much protection as you’d like to the sides of the head. Loose-fitting helmets don’t provide much protection and can fall forwards and impede your vision, making it all the more likely that you will need that protection.

Some helmets have a broad peak which gives better protection to the face (and keeps the sun out of your eyes), but the peak can be caught by the water and cause the helmet to be pushed back, rendering the protection moot, so a good fit is even more critical here. The club had helmets among its equipment for hire.

Still, these were older plastic models not up to modern standards and could only be used on relatively easy water. They have recently been taken out of service and will be replaced with some more modern kit shortly.


Pros Cons
ProsDurable construction ConsHigher price point
ProsExcellent protection Cons Can feel heavy
Pros Sleek design  
ProsAdjustable fit  
Pros Comfortable to wear  


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Dry Bag

Dry Bag

168 ratings


  • Protect Your Gear
  • Zipped front pocket
  • Floating Dry Bags
  • IPX8 Waterproof Phone Case
  • IPX8 Waterproof Phone Case

Want to keep stuff dry? Get a dry bag. Simple as that. Dry bags are great for clothing since they also float. It’s common to set off in the morning when it is cold and remove layers as the temperature warms. An empty drybag offers a simple storage solution for the shedding layers.

If you don’t need access to your keys or phone, a dry bag can also be an excellent place to put them. Dry bags come in many sizes, so size them correctly.

They are relatively cheap to purchase, so having a few sizes can make packing for a trip more flexible. A waterproof dry bag can store personal items such as food, clothing, and electronics. It helps keep these items dry and protected from water damage.


Pros Cons
ProsInexpensive ConsThe front pocket is not fully waterproof
ProsSubmersible and bouyant ConsSlightly less durable than more expensive competitors
ProsEasy roll-top closure  
ProsMesh water bottle pockets on either side  


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Importance of Quality Gear

Investing in high-quality kayaking gear is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it ensures safety on the water. A well-made life jacket, helmet, and spray skirt can make all the difference in case of an accident.

Secondly, quality gear can enhance the kayaking experience. A comfortable and well-fitting life jacket and paddle can make paddling more accessible and enjoyable.

Lastly, quality gear is more durable and can last longer than cheaper alternatives. This means that investing in good gear can save money in the long run by avoiding the need for frequent replacements.
Overall, understanding and investing in the right kayaking gear is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.


Additional Kayaking Gear

Child On Stand Up Paddle Board

Safety Equipment

When it comes to kayaking, safety should always be a top priority. In addition to a life jacket and a whistle, there are a few other safety items that kayakers should consider bringing along on their trips. These include:

  • A bilge pump to remove any water that may accumulate in the kayak
  • A paddle float to assist with re-entry into the kayak in case of a capsize
  • A towline to help tow a disabled kayak or to be towed by another kayak in the event of an emergency

Navigation Tools

Navigating while kayaking can be tricky, especially in an unfamiliar area. Here are a few navigation tools that can help make your trip a bit easier:

  • A compass to help you orient yourself and navigate in a specific direction
  • A map of the area you’ll be kayaking in, preferably laminated to protect it from water damage
  • A GPS device to track your location and help you navigate

Fishing Accessories

Kayaking can be a great way to enjoy some fishing. Here are a few accessories that can help make your fishing trip a success:

  • A fishing rod holder to keep your rod secure while you paddle
  • A fish finder to help locate fish and determine their depth
  • A tackle box to keep all of your fishing gear organized and easily accessible

Remember, while these additional gear items can be helpful, it’s important not to overload your kayak with too much weight. Always consider the weight capacity of your kayak and only bring along what you genuinely need for your trip.


Choosing the Right Gear

Professional Fisherman With Life jacket

When it comes to kayaking, choosing the right gear can make all the difference in your experience on the water. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting the right gear for your kayaking needs.

Consider Your Kayaking Style

Before purchasing any gear, it’s essential to consider the type of kayaking you’ll be doing. Will you be paddling on calm lakes and rivers, or will you be tackling whitewater rapids? Different kayaking styles require different types of gear.

For example, if you’re kayaking in rough waters, you’ll want to invest in a more durable hull with a spray skirt to keep water out of the cockpit. On the other hand, if you are kayaking in calm waters, you may get away with a recreational kayak and a simple paddle.

Factor in the Weather

Another critical factor to consider when choosing kayaking gear is the weather. If you are kayaking in colder temperatures, you’ll want to invest in a wetsuit or dry suit to keep you warm and dry. If you’re kayaking in hot weather, you’ll want to wear lightweight, breathable clothing to stay calm and comfortable.

It’s also important to consider the water temperature. Even if the air temperature is warm, the water may still be cold enough to cause hypothermia. In this case, a wetsuit or dry suit is essential.

Kayaking is not a sport

Think About Durability

Kayaking gear can be expensive, so investing in gear that will last is essential. Look for gear made from high-quality materials and designed to withstand the wear and tear of regular use.

In addition, consider the warranty and customer service offered by the manufacturer. A good warranty and responsive customer service can make all the difference if something goes wrong with your gear.
You can choose the right gear to enhance your kayaking experience by considering your style, weather, and durability.


Maintaining Your Kayaking Gear

Colorful paddle kayaks

Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning is essential to ensure your kayaking gear lasts as long as possible. After each use, rinse your gear with fresh water to remove salt, sand, or debris. Use a mild soap or detergent to thoroughly clean your gear, particularly in areas prone to wear and tear. Rinse your gear with fresh water and allow it to air dry completely before storing it.

Proper Storage

Proper storage is also crucial for maintaining your kayaking gear. Store your gear in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Avoid storing your gear in a damp or humid environment, leading to mold and mildew growth. Hang your gear or store it flat to prevent any creases or folds from forming.

Timely Replacement

Even with proper maintenance, kayaking gear will eventually wear out and must be replaced. It’s essential to keep an eye on the condition of your gear and replace any items that show signs of wear and tear. This could include frayed straps, holes in your drysuit, or cracks in your helmet. You can stay safe and comfortable on the water by replacing your gear promptly.

Regular cleaning, proper storage, and timely replacement are all important aspects of maintaining your kayaking gear. Caring for your gear can extend its lifespan and ensure it performs as intended when you need it most.


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