The essential kayaking gear checklist for beginners

As you get ready to take the kayaks out for the day, don’t forget these important essentials. Being prepared for your adventures on the water can ensure that you stay safe and have great time, too!

  • Type 3 personal flotation device (PFD)—This one goes without saying. Play it safe and always wear a life jacket. You never know when you might end up in the water, and even though you may be able to swim, having a life jacket on can save you from unexpected currents or exhaustion and ensure you get safely back to shore.
     
  • Safety whistle—Bringing a safety whistle allows you to communicate and alert other boaters in case you’re in need of assistance. Clip one to your PFD so that you always have it with you.
     
  • Sun protection—When you’re outside for extended periods of time, it’s crucial to protect your skin so that you don’t end up with a nasty sunburn. Remember, you can still get burned on overcast days! Make sure to lather up with sunscreen before heading out, and bring the bottle with you to reapply throughout the day, especially if you get wet or plan to be out for an extended period of time. It’s also wise to bring sunglasses to help you see on bright and sunny days, as well as a hat to shield your face from the sun’s rays.
     
  • Water and snacks—A fun day can take a turn for the worse if you get hungry and have nothing to tide you over. Be prepared and keep easy-to-pack snacks and water bottles with you on the kayak. When you’re busy kayaking, especially in the sun, it can be easy to get dehydrated—don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
     
  • Light for low light conditions—Keep a flashlight or other effective light source on the kayak with you to help you find your way if conditions change and you end up in a dark area where it’s difficult to see.
     
  • Communication device—Bring a waterproof radio or your cellphone in a waterproof case. It’s important to be able to communicate with someone outside of your kayak, just in case.
     
  • Proper clothing—Dress for the water, not just for the weather. While it’s important to check the weather ahead of time to make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing, expect to get wet, at least from minor splashing, while you’re kayaking. Dress comfortably, in water wicking clothes or other light materials, and perhaps bring a sweatshirt or jacket in case you get cold. Proper footwear is important as well, as you don’t want to slip or cut yourself on a sharp rock or stick when you’re outside of the boat. Flip-flops and sneakers are not recommended. Instead, wear a pair of shoes that attaches around the ankle so that you don’t lose the shoes if you capsize. Bring a dry bag with you to keep your spare clothing dry.
     
  • Spare paddle—You never know when you might have issues with your primary paddle, so keep a spare with you in the kayak so that you don’t end up stuck or stranded.
     
  • Bilge pump and sponge—Keep these tools with you on the kayak for when water gets into your boat. They will help you soak up and get rid of excess water to help prevent flooding.
     
  • Navigation equipment—Even though you may think you know where you’re going, it’s always smart to bring a compass and a map to help you get back on track if you happen to lose your way.
     
  • Emergency safety equipment—Keep rescue gear and tow ropes with you in case of an emergency situation. These can help you save someone from the water or help free your kayak should it get stuck.

At Elevator Alley Kayak, we want to make sure you have what you need for your next adventure. Stop by our retail shop for quality kayaking equipment, or talk to one of our friendly staff who will gladly assist you in finding the proper gear to keep you safe and having fun on the water!