Kayaking with a group of friends is one of the best ways to get out on the water. Being in a group is much safer and enjoying nature with your friends is an excellent experience. There are many reasons to kayak in pairs or groups, safety being one of them, but sometimes you simply can’t avoid going solo.
Getting out into nature with your partner, your family, or your friends is great but there is nothing more grounding than paddling alone in the wilderness. Solo kayaking is a fantastic experience, and it is something that I try to do as often as possible. It enables you to enjoy the sound of silence and take things at your own pace without worrying about other people.
Whether you are taking to the water alone because your usual group isn’t about, or you fancy solo paddling because you enjoy your own company, you are sure to have fun and makes some great memories.
Kayaking by yourself is not without its risks though. You have to be on the ball every minute you are on the water because there will be no one there if things do go wrong. It is essential that you take the correct safety precautions and know how to recover if you capsize on your own.
Planning becomes even more important than if you were paddling in a group and knowing the water you will be exploring is a must. Packing your kayak doesn’t change too much but you will need to cater for every eventuality. There are a few essential solo items that will keep you safe and make your trip all the more enjoyable.
In this article, we will be looking at what you need to bring on a solo kayaking trip, how to stay safe, and how to make sure your trip is one full of good memories rather than bad.
What Do You Need to Kayak Solo?
When kayaking solo you must make sure you pack everything you need for your trip no matter how long it is. If you’re heading out for a week-long adventure by yourself and forget your mess kit, guess who’s going hungry? You won’t have your friend’s kit to rely on if you mess up and forget an essential item, so writing a list and double checking everything is packed before hitting the water is of paramount importance.
Most of what you will bring with you on a solo kayaking trip will be the same as if you go with a group. If you are heading out for the day, then simple provisions as well as the right clothes for the weather will be needed. If you are heading out on a multi-day trip, then a tent, sleeping bag, and cookware will be needed. If you want to find out more about the things to bring with you on your kayak, then check out our article on “how to pack your kayak”.
Other than the typical gear you would bring with you on a kayaking trip, there are a few items that are an absolute must when kayaking solo. These items will keep you safe on the water and make your life easier and more enjoyable whether out for the day or out for the week.
Below we have a checklist with essential items to bring with you when kayaking by yourself. Of course, you should also bring other obvious necessities to sustain you on your trip, so don’t head out with only the items on the lists below. You may not need all of these on shorter excursions but the first 10 are essential even for day trips.
Solo Kayaking Essentials
- First aid kit
- Life vest
- Emergency whistle and strobe
- Maps, trail guide, and/or GPS (in waterproof cases)
- Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses (if UV levels are high)
- Mobile phone with waterproof cover
- A towel
- A spare set of clothes (more than one if heading on a multi-day trip)
- Insect spray (depending on season)
- Battery-powered phone charger
- Thermos flask filled with hot water
- Paddle leash
- Lightweight rain jacket (you never know when the weather will take a turn)
- Chemical hand warmers (these are a lifesaver when cold-weather camping)
- Simple snacks and hot meals (pot noodles are my mood booster for rainy weather)
- Survival knife
- Paracord or similar (always comes in handy)
What are the Risks of Solo Kayaking?Before jumping in your kayak and venturing into the wilderness alone there are a few things you should know. You have to be aware of the risks and consequences of solo paddling. You mustn’t be naive when kayaking by yourself and before you head out, it is important to know what could go wrong.
If you get in to trouble on the water, you can’t rely on anyone but yourself. It is hard to call for help if you are out in the middle of nowhere with no phone service or any means of assistance for miles in any direction. Preparing yourself may save your life.
The most obvious risk is capsizing. If you get in to trouble on the water and capsize, you need to know how to recover (more on this later). There is also a risk of injury and illness on the water. You need to take precautions to limit injury and be prepared if you hurt yourself or fall ill on a trip.
Typical injuries include sprains, strains, cuts, and in the worst case, breaks. Other injuries may come from the weather conditions: heat stroke, dehydration, sunburn, hyperthermia, or frostbite. Illnesses may be unexpected and unpreventable in some cases but illness from drinking dirty water, eating undercooked food, or toying with inedible plants and fungus can be avoided. Always make sure your food is fully cooked, its better to eat a bit of burnt chicken than wake up with food poisoning.
Safety PreparationsKnowing when it is safe to kayak alone is key. If the conditions are unfavourable and you are not confident that you can stay safe on the water, then don’t go. There will always be a better day to kayak so don’t risk it.
You also need to be realistic about the type of water you will be paddling. Heading into whitewater alone is a big no no! Assess the water you will be paddling on. Is it safe? Are there any potential dangers? Have you explored the water before?
Heading out on a new water is not advised. It is much better to kayak by yourself on a water that you’re familiar with. If you are keen on kayaking a new location, head out with your friends first to get a feel for the environment. If you must kayak solo on an unexplored water, do your research, plan your route well, and get as much advice as possible before heading out. Know the potential hazards, know your lines, and know time frames between camping locations if you’re heading out for a multi-day trip.
Make sure you prepare yourself fully before putting paddle to water. This means checking the weather, packing your essentials, bringing the appropriate safety equipment, and planning your route fully beforehand.
You should notify at least two people before going out on a solo kayaking trip. Tell them when and where you are going out, times you’ll be back, what your kayak looks like, and what you are wearing.
Follow the solo kayaking safety checklist below when planning your trip:
- Be realistic. Don’t head out into uncharted waters that are high risk
- Rough weather or storms possible? Don’t head out!
- Plan, plan, plan. Know the water you will be kayaking
- Make sure you have all the appropriate PPE
- Bring enough food and water to last the duration of your trip
- Check the weather before you head out
- Notify 2 people before heading out solo
- Bring a change of clothes and a towel
- A paddle leash is a wise decision
- Bring a repair kit and pump if you’re using an inflatable
Self-RecoveryKnowing how to recover from a capsize without assistance is an extremely valuable skill. It is of paramount importance that you have this skill if you plan on solo kayaking. In fact, you shouldn’t head out on the water alone unless you know exactly how to flip your kayak back upright.
We can’t exactly give you instructions on how to do this, and you shouldn’t practice self-recovery alone for obvious reasons. Head on to your favourite internet video website and check out some kayaking self-recovery videos to see what’s involved. Once you know what you’re in for, get on the water with some friends and get wet!
Make sure you are 100% confident with self-recovery before heading out on to the water alone. Sure, you’re going to get a bit wet practicing this but it’s far safer and much more fun to learn now than struggle alone in the wilderness.
Final Thoughts: Kayaking by YourselfWhen kayaking by yourself planning is key. You should know the water you are heading out on and have a clear and detailed route planned. You must make sure you take the appropriate safety precautions and pack the right essentials for the duration of your trip. Remember, self-recovery from capsize is an essential skill to have before solo kayaking, so make sure to learn beforehand.
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