So, you are thinking about getting into kayaking but you’re not sure where to start? Whether you want to explore the beautiful coastline, great lakes, or stunning rivers you are going to need some gear to get started. When you start out, there are some things that are absolutely essential like a kayak, and some things that are less essential such as a waterproof phone case.
In this article, we will be looking at exactly what you need to begin kayaking as well as a few extras that will make your newfound hobby safer, more enjoyable, and easier. By the end of this read, you will know exactly what you need to start kayaking as soon as possible. Enjoy!
The essentials are the absolute basics you need to get out on the water and start kayaking. There are some other items that will make your life much easier on your kayak, but we will get to those later. You can’t start kayaking without these 3 essential items because for a start, one of them is the kayak itself!
- A Kayak
Your kayak is obviously the most essential item you need if you want to start kayaking. Chances are, if you are looking at kayaking you have probably borrowed a friends’ kayak in the past or rented one out to get a taste for it. If you are serious about getting into the hobby, then you will need to buy yourself one.
Which kayak you choose ultimately depends on what you want to use it for. If you are planning on using your kayak for fishing, then you will need something practical that is designed for just that. If you are planning on sea kayaking, then you’ll need a kayak suited for the ocean. If you are planning on heading out kayak-camping, then you’ll need a kayak with plenty of storage space. This goes without saying really, but make sure you have a clear image in your mind of why you want to start kayaking before making your first purchase.
What is the next most essential item after a kayak? A paddle of course! Without one, you won’t get very far at all. You will find some kayaks come with an included or a free paddle, such as our Skipjak sit-on-top kayaks, but some come without. Make sure you find out whether the kayak you are interested in comes with a paddle or not and get one if it doesn’t.
There are a few different types of kayaking paddle and although we won’t go into great detail in this article, we will give you a quick rundown of the two blade shapes you’ll need to choose from as a beginner. The two main shapes are the high angle paddle and the low angle paddle. The high angle paddle is broad and short which gives you more control and power when you need it, this is ideal for racing and whitewater situations. The low angle paddle has a long narrow blade, this makes paddling less tiresome making it perfect for longer distances and touring.
- Life Jacket (Buoyancy Aid)
After your kayak and paddle, a life jacket, buoyancy aid, floatation vest, or whatever you want to call it is next on the list. You may not think this is essential, but you should never go out on the water without one no matter how good a swimmer you are! Anything can happen when you are out on the water and a life jacket could save your life (it’s in the name).
They are especially important when using a sit-in kayak because without one it will be incredibly difficult to get upright again if you capsize. We can’t stress this enough, if you haven’t got a life jacket, do not go out on the water. It only takes one wrong move to put yourself in serious danger.
These useful additions are not essential, meaning without them you will still be able to get out on the water, but they are important if you are planning on doing more than just paddling around a lake for a few hours. Some improve your safety, some protect your belongings, and some make your kayaking life much easier, so without further ado, let’s get to it.
- Wetsuit or Dry Suit
For longer excursions on colder wetter days it would be recommeneded to wear a wetsuit of drysuit to keep you dry. You will be warm paddling but when you get wet after awhile you may feel the cold. So assess before beginning your day if you will need protection from the cold or not.
- Folding Kayak Trailer
A folding kayak trailer will make transporting your kayak from the car to the water much easier. Instead of carrying your kayak to the bank and making multiple trips to and from the car to get all of your belongings, you can pull your kayak down to the water with ease. A folding kayak trailer lifts the backend off the ground and supports it on two heavy-duty wheels. This allows you to load up your kayak at the car and tow everything down to the bank at once.
Once you are at the waters’ edge, you can simply remove the trailer, fold it up, and stow it on your kayak. Once you are ready to make the trip back to the car after a day’s paddling, you simply unfold it again and tow everything back!
- Dry Bags
Dry bags are essential if you are planning on heading out for multiple days or want to bring some luxuries out with you on a day trip. Dry bags give you a place to store your belongings that is completely watertight. You can fit all kinds of camping essentials in these from your camping stove to your sleeping bag.
Dry bags are a lifesaver and are absolutely essential if you are planning a long touring trip. They are cheap to buy and reliable, thanks to their simple rugged design. If it is extra storage space you’re after, then dry bags are the way. They come in a range of sizes for all situations and they will last for years without failing.
- Paddle Leash
A paddle leash is a safety item that secures your paddle to the boat or your wrist. They are great if you plan on navigating fast water as if you lose grip with the paddle it will not float away downstream. They allow you to move the paddle freely while providing some security just in case something happens, and your paddle ends up in the water.
A paddle leash is an inexpensive buy that could potentially get you out of some serious trouble on the river. They are great for beginners too because mistakes occur more often in the early days of kayaking.
- Outdoor Sports Helmet
A helmet is a good idea if you are new to kayaking and essential for any experience level if you are tackling whitewater. A helmet will protect your head from miscalculated strokes of your paddle and more importantly rocks and tree branches.
It’s easy to get pulled into a current and swept under the bankside vegetation when you first start kayaking rivers, everyone has done it, including me. Although these situations are unlikely to be fatal unless your tackling difficult waters, having a helmet on your head definitely avoids a headache! They can also save your life if you go down while kayaking rocky fast waters. In a whitewater accident, it doesn’t take much to knock yourself unconscious, so wear a helmet in any waters that are grade 2+ or higher.
- Waterproof Phone Case
If you are as clumsy as I am, you are going to want a waterproof phone case. It will protect your phone against splashes and submersion which is great if you are using your phone for navigation. If you don’t plan on using your phone while on the water it will be perfectly fine inside a dry bag, but if you fancy taking a few photos, navigating, or having it around in case of an important phone call, then a waterproof case will serve you well.
I often like to take photos while I am out kayaking or canoeing, so I handle my phone quite a lot. Although a bit bulky and on the pricey side, I use a Catalyst phone case because it allows me to take clear photos without removing my phone from the case. Alternatively, a simple waterproof slip-style phone case with a lanyard works fine if you are just using your phone for navigation and contact. You will have to remove your phone from this style of case if you want to take a half-decent picture though!
It’s worth mentioning that you can also find mounts that you can rig onto your kayak. In conjunction with a waterproof phone case, this can be extremely useful. Having your phone mounted in front of you as you would in your car, allows you to see route maps clearly and stay in touch with family or friends that are also kayaking.
- Polarising Sunglasses
Polarising glasses are a great tool to have when you’re out kayaking. They help reduce the glare from the water’s surface, allowing you to see under the water much more clearly. This is great for identifying potential hazards in the water such as rocks and sunken logs. They can keep you safe and improve your experience on the water.
Polarising sunglasses are also (in my opinion) an essential tool for the kayaking angler. Having a pair of polarising sunglasses when you are out fishing gives you an edge over other anglers. They allow you to see schools of baitfish, underwater features, and even your target species. I never leave home without my pair whether I’m fishing from my kayak or the bank.
- Thermos Flask
This is certainly not an essential item, but I never leave my house without one when I’m going kayaking. When the cold draws in, there is nothing better than a hot cup of coffee while you admire the views from the water. Thermos flasks also keep liquids cold in the summer, I usually load mine up with water and ice in the hot weather.
It is not just liquids that thermos flasks are good for either. One of the most revolutionary things for me was when I found out you could keep hot dogs warm inside them. I boil up some dogs, put them in a flask, and cover them with boiling water. It keeps them hot all day so whenever you want a warm meal simply whip out your flask grab a hot dog and load up a bun with mustard and ketchup. There is nothing better!