Beginner’s Guide to Recreational Kayak Gear [Video]

Are you confused about what kayak gear to begin with? Our friends at Aquabatics Calgary put together this 6-minute video with their best tips for recreational kayak gear…

recreational kayaker

You’ve been out kayaking with rental equipment or a friends’ gear and loved it. You’re ready to start gearing-up yourself. But where do you begin?

Tom Stewart, from Aquabatics Calgary, leads us through the needs, wants and luxuries of recreational kayak gear:

What Do You Need?

First of all, you need a kayak. Recreational kayaks can be anywhere from 9 to 14 feet long. The shorter the boat, the more maneuverable it is and usually the more stable it is, since they also tend to be wider. The longer the boat, the faster it’ll move in the water and the better it’ll track (move in a straight line).
A tip: if you like the idea of half-day or full-day kayak trips, be sure you choose a boat with a comfortable and supportive seat!

The next thing on your list is a paddle. Like boats, paddles come in a dizzying array of materials, styles and weights. Generally, the better the material used, the lighter the paddle and the more expensive it will be. We always recommend you buy the lightest paddle you can afford.

(Watch and read: How to Choose a Recreational Kayak Paddle for more details.)

The next thing you need before venturing out on the water is a personal flotation device, or PFD (a life jacket). Tom covers two types of PFDs in the video—a standard construction PFD and a mesh-back PFD.

Paddling-specific PFDs leave lots of room around your shoulders for free movement. Better ones also have nifty pockets for stowing things like maps, chapstick and car keys.

Unless you’re only going to paddle right near the shoreline around other people (like in front of the family cabin), you’ll want a paddling safety kit. This should include some sort of bilge pump, floating line and a way to get attention, like a whistle.

What You Might Want

Let’s move on to things that aren’t totally necessary, but you may want depending on the type of paddling you’ll do and where you’ll be paddling.

A spray skirt helps keep you warm and dry if you’re in waves, rain or chilly weather. Even paddle drip (water dripping off your paddle with each stroke) can be a problem in some conditions. A neoprene (pricey but warmer) or nylon spray skirt is an add-on to consider.

Weather-proof outerwear and an insulating base layer are both good ideas in cold weather and cold water conditions. Again, neoprene is a good option since it will still keep you warm if it gets wet.

Watersport shoes or paddle wetshoes offer great traction and support in slippery, rocky conditions when you’re out of your boat. They’re made to get wet, and the better ones will offer warmth, too.

There are a variety of gloves, hats and face coverings on the market for both sun protection and warmth. Gloves will help prevent blisters.

Luxuries for Down-the-Road

Once you’re ready for longer excursions and bigger waters, there are some items you’ll definitely want to consider adding to your gear collection.

A paddle float makes it easier for someone who’s capsized to get back inside their kayak. A tow tether makes it easier to stay hands-free in the event you need to tow someone back in. A paddle leash is great for windy days, big water or anytime you don’t want to lose your paddle!

2-way communication radios and a GPS will be important safety devices when you’re out of cell phone range and on big waters.

Lastly, dry bags will keep your gear drier than simply using the hatches in your kayak. A 10-20 liter bag will serve most of your needs well.

We trust this was helpful! Have fun gear shopping, and happy paddling!

Do you have questions for our Wisconsin-based customer service team? Contact them today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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