Kayaking is statistically one of the world's safest sports, but any time you throw water into the mix, it’s always better to be safe than sorry! Being prepared with the proper safety equipment is something that every kayaker, new or experienced, is responsible for before they head out. It's not just your own safety to take into account, but also the safety of everyone in your group and the rescue workers who will be dispatched in the event of an emergency. Be sure to factor in the proper safety gear into your budget when you buy a kayak!
Not sure what kayaking safety equipment you need? Here are some of our top suggestions for kayak safety gear to bring on every paddling trip.
(This article is intended for informational purposes only, always consult your local boating authority for official guidelines related to necessary safety equipment in your area!)
Essential Kayaking Safety Equipment:
The Right Kayak
Buy from a trusted manufacturer that adheres to the latest safety standards and will offer support on how to choose the right kayak for your skill level. It can be dangerous out on the water in a kayak meant for an experienced paddler when you're just starting out. There are many different types of kayaks for many different purposes, so ask for advice from an expert at your local kayak retailer if you're not sure which one is right for you!
Choose the right paddle for your size and the activity you're going to be doing. Again, ask for help from an expert if you're unsure what kind of paddle is best for your ability.
Check out our selection of paddles here
This piece of kit is absolutely essential. Your PFD must fit properly, and you must actually wear it! It's no use to you if you've capsized in the water and your PFD is in your boat. Search for kayak-specific PFDs that are designed to give you plenty of movement and not feel too bulky so you can paddle freely.
View our selection of kayaking PFDs here
First Aid Kit
Comes in handy as an initial fix if anyone in your group suffers an injury, from small cuts to more serious situations. Boating-specific first aid kits are available that will include waterproof bandages and come in a water-tight bag or box. If you're not familiar with basic first aid, consider taking a course or make sure that someone in your group is trained in case of an emergency. Keep the first aid kit in an accessible spot in your kayak so it can be reached quickly.
If you're out on the water at night, flashlights are essential to make sure other boats can see you and also to get attention from a rescue crew looking for you in case of emergency.
A small and inexpensive piece of kit that can get the attention of a passing boat or call for help when you need it. It's recommended to attach it to your life jacket in case you need help while you're stranded in the water.
In the unfortunate event of a capsize or a big wave, you don't want to be paddling with water inside your boat! Modern bilge pumps are quick and effective ways to get the water out - fast. They are small and compact and can be easily operated by anyone.
Buoyant Tow Rope
Doubles up as a rope you can toss to a swimmer in the water to pull them in, or a tow rope if you need to pull a fellow kayaker back to shore. A rope has tons of other alternative uses so you won't regret keeping one in your kayak.
Dry Bag w/ Cell Phone, Radio, Map, ID etc.
Fasten your dry bag securely to your kayak and keep all the important items you don't want getting wet or lost securely in here.
Float Bags/Paddle Float/Paddle Leash
A kayak with float bags is infinitely safer and easier for a crew to recover and bring back to shore if it takes on water. Same goes for your paddle!
Optional Extra Kayaking Safety Equipment:
Knives are handy in all types of situations and you can attach one directly to your life jacket for easy access. Useful for cutting ropes or general purpose if you're on a longer kayaking trip.
When deciding whether or not to wear a helmet, it's always better to be safe than sorry, especially if you're just starting out. It's recommended to wear a helmet when paddling in any situation where there is a chance of hitting your head on something hard (so almost always). There are plenty of kayak-specific helmets available which are comfortable and lightweight for everyday paddling.
Sprayskirts are a piece of equipment worn by the kayaker that creates a watertight seal around the cockpit and prevents water from entering the kayak. You should consider purchasing a sprayskirt if you intend to kayak in conditions where the water is rough
Dressing for the water temperature is essential. When paddling in colder weather, wearing a wetsuit or drysuit is the best way to prevent hypothermia in the unpleasant event that you happen to fall in.
We have a wide selection of wetsuits, drysuits and other clothing to keep you comfortable when paddling here
Gloves are necessary for keeping your hands dry and warm when kayaking in the colder months. Lighter gloves in warmer seasons can be useful to prevent blisters from forming and protecting from cuts.
It's incredible how quickly the sun can wreak havoc on your skin and eyes without proper protection, even in cloudy weather! Grab a hat, sunglasses and SPF sunblock appropriate to the sun and you skin type before you go.
Nobody wants to get in an accident, but by being properly prepared you greatly minimize the chances of getting into real trouble. Keep this essential kayaking safety equipment guide with you and you're all set to stay safe on the water!
What are your essential safety gear tips for kayaking? Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments!