Kayak Touring: Getting the Right Gear [Video]

Kayak expert, Ken Whiting, shares with us the gear you need to get started kayak touring in this instructional video…


Once you decide to get into kayak touring you’ll need to invest in a fair amount of gear. But if you buy wisely upfront, that gear will serve you well for years to come.

Your Touring Kayak

There are three questions you need to ask yourself when choosing a touring kayak:

  • What type of paddling will you be doing?
  • What’s your budget?
  • Is it more important to be fast or stable on the water?

With these in mind, head to your local paddling shop and see what they suggest. If that retailer offers Demo Days you can get on the water to try some out.

Your Paddle

The two most important things to consider when choosing a paddle are paddle length and blade shape. The paddle length depends on your own height and the width of your kayak.

(See our Kayak Paddle Sizing Guide)

The blade shape depends on your style of paddling. Narrower blades, used for low-angle paddling, are designed for long, relaxed days on the water. Wider blades, used for high-angle paddling, are designed for fast, energetic paddling.

(See: Kayak Paddles: High-angle vs. Low-Angle)

Once you’ve decided on size and blade shape, your next consideration is your budget. We always suggest you buy the best paddle you can comfortably afford. The higher the price point, the better and lighter the materials used in constructing the paddle.

(There’s more on materials in How to Choose a Recreational Kayak Paddle)

Your PFD or Life Jacket

Your PFD is your most important piece of safety gear. A paddling-specific life jacket is the best, by far, because they’re designed to give your arms free movement while paddling.

Consider choosing a brightly-colored life jacket so you can be seen easily by other boaters on the water. This is especially important if you’ll be kayaking in waters used by motor boats.

Kayak Spray Skirt

A skirt seals your kayak’s cockpit and keeps your kayak from swamping. Make sure you install it so the grab loop is easily accessible in front of you. If you’ll be paddling in calm water, you probably don’t need a skirt.

Dressing for Kayaking

When kayaking in warm weather, your biggest challenge will be staying cool and protected from the sun.

Cold weather and cold water paddling takes a lot more forethought. You’ll need to have clothing that’ll both keep you warm while paddling and protect you in the event of a capsize.

Layers are important, and many kayakers wear a dry suit when in very cold water conditions.

Other Equipment for Safety

It’s always a good idea to keep these other items along with you when touring in case of emergency situations:

  • Extra paddle, if yours breaks or gets lost
  • Bilge pump, in case you swamp
  • Towline, for towing another kayak (or someone to tow yours!)
  • Paddlefloat, an inflatable bag that helps stabilize you if you need to re-enter a capsized kayak from the water
  • First aid kit
  • Communication device, like your cell phone or a marine VHF radio
  • Signaling device, like a whistle, plus flares or strobe lights

There you have it—your kayak touring shopping list.

Happy paddling!

Do you have questions our Wisconsin-based Customer Service team can help you with? Give us a call at 715-755-3405 or email us at [email protected].

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