Few activities give the outdoor enthusiast such a varied array of experiences as paddling a kayak. Whether you are seeking the heart-stopping exhilaration of a roller coaster or the serenity and peace of getting lost in the moment, you can find your passion in the sport of kayaking.
Types of kayaks
There are different types of kayaking. Using a whitewater kayak involves navigating swift moving rivers. A flatwater kayak is used in large bodies of calm water and can include anything from a lazy day on a lake to a long day kayaking on the ocean. Fishing kayaks have become extremely popular over the last few years as well. These boats are designed specifically for the kayak fishing angler.
Kayaks can be further classified by their design and the materials from which they are made. Each kayak design has its specific advantages, including performance, maneuverability, stability and paddling style. Kayaks can be made of carbon fiber, fiberglass, wood, plastic, and inflatable fabrics such as PVC or rubber. Each material also has its specific advantage, including strength, durability, portability, flexibility, resistance to ultraviolet and storage requirements. For example, inflatable kayaks, made from lightweight fabric, can be deflated and easily transported and stored, and are considered to be remarkably tough and durable. Inflatable kayaks have become our top selling boats as customers have realized their huge benefits of the heavier plastic models. You can now also purchase top of the line inflatable canoes. These offer a very similar experience to kayaking except you are using a single blade canoe paddle instead of a double blade kayak paddle. And of course there is always the option of an inflatable packraft kayak. These little boats have gained huge popularity for people who want to access remote backcountry rivers and lakes for kayaking. If an inflatable boat just isn't what you're looking for, consider a foldable or modular hardshell kayak.
Who's doing it?
People from all walks of life are becoming addicted to the sport of kayaking. The people who consider themselves kayakers are as diverse as the boats they paddle and the environments they paddle in. Some are die-hard whitewater kayakers and others thrive on a leisurely paddle on a secluded lake. And still others do it simply for the company the sport affords them to keep.
Whatever the circumstances that drives these people to decide to kayak, one thing keeps them coming back. It is the indescribable feeling that one gets by stepping into their boat, pushing away from land, dipping their kayak paddle into the water, and taking that first stroke! As they leave their cares, problems, and stresses back on land, they are floating and they are free.
Five kayak gear essentials
Okay, so you've found the kayak of your dreams. Now it's time to get the necessary kayak gear. Kayak accessories come in a dizzying array of brands, styles, and price ranges. A good rule of thumb when buying kayak accessories is to buy the best quality equipment you can afford, especially when it's your safety of the line. Below are the top five things you will need to get started in paddling.
- Kayak Paddle - Next to your kayak, this is the most important piece of gear you'll need. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a kayak paddle. Blade length and shape, feathered or non-feathered, and material are all important. You'll be holding your kayak paddle all day long, so weight is also a very important consideration. We sell a very wide range of virtually every type of kayak paddle from all the major kayaking companies!
- Kayak Lifejacket (or kayaking PFD) - Your lifejacket is one piece of kayaking equipment you never want to hit the water without. Just make sure your kayak PFD has been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and that it is designed for paddling. A kayak specific lifejacket is designed to give you a wide range of motion when paddling. This will make a big difference in comfort when you're sitting in your kayak all day long. We sell all of the top kayak PFD brands!
- Kayak Spayskirt - This is a highly recommended kayak accessory that fits around the opening of the cockpit and keeps water out of the kayak. Most are custom fitted to your boat. Finding the right size is easy after you know the make and model of your kayak. Note that a kayak sprayskirt is intended for use with a sit-inside boat and will not work with sit-on-top kayaks. Since you are on top of the boat, there is no need to have a kayak skirt blocking the water.
- Kayak Helmet - A helmet is a must for whitewater kayaking. This is your head we're talking about, so buy the best one you can afford. This is no place to cut corners on the budget! Our most popular brand for kayak helmets is Sweet Protection, but we also have great options from WRSI and NRS. If you plan to go sea kayaking in rough water, or if you will be exposed to surf, then it is also a good idea to wear a kayaking helmet.
- Kayak Clothing - Let's face it, you can't go kayaking NAKED! Dressing for kayaking can be tricky. The day may be warm and sunny, but that water beneath your kayak could be only a few degrees above freezing. Safety rule #1 is whenever you go kayaking, make sure you're dressed for immersion. There are many different options for dressing, and all can be broken into two groups, either kayak layering or kayak outerwear. Layering consists of fleece and other undergarments, while outerwear includes kayak wetsuits, drysuits, drytops, and paddling jackets.
Other kayak gear and kayaking accessories
- Kokatat Paddling Gear
- Stohlquist Kayaking PFDs
- NRS Kayak Clothing
- Astral Kayaking Lifejackets
- Advanced Elements Inflatable Kayaks
- AIRE Inflatable Kayaks
- Aquaglide Inflatable Kayaks
- Innova Inflatable Kayaks
- Werner Kayak Paddles
- Aquabound Kayak Paddles
- Bending Branches Kayak Paddles
- Adventure Technology Kayak Paddles
- Seals Kayak Sprayskirts
- Snap Dragon Kayak Sprayskirts
- Sweet Protection Kayak Helmets
- Harmony Kayak Gear
- When I was inquiring about a cockpit cover for my kayak, I chatted with a very helpful person that gave me the information I needed to get the proper size for my boat. I received it today and it's already on the kayak and fits very well. I actually didn't think that I was going to receive it until next week, so it was like Christmas. Thank you Outdoorplay for making my kayak trip complete. -Ed
- Outdoorplay always has the what I'm looking for and most always at the best price for my kayaking gear and other outdoor gear. A + -Waterdog
- Good on price, web experience, shipping, and follow-up. Excellent kayak gear selection is why I choose Outdoorplay for many of the boating needs for me and my son. -Rob
After you have your essentials, you're still going to need other kayak gear and accessories in order to be sure you are safe and comfortable on the water. Kayak safety gear is critical for maintaining a safe environment when you're on the water, so always start there first. At a minimum, always carry a kayak throw rope and a good safety knife. And a waterproof first aid kit should just live inside your kayak at all times. Paddle floatation and kayak floatation are other important safety accessories that should not be overlooked. Another key kayaking accessory would be a waterproof dry bag. Our favorite brand is Watershed, and they offer many dry bag options! For transporting your kayak, you may need a kayak rack for your car, and if you have a hardshell, you'll possibly need a kayak cart for moving your boat to and from the water. When at home you'll need to consider where you plan to store your boat. There are many different kayak storage options including indoor and outdoor models. If you're paddling a sit-on-top kayak, you may want to consider upgrading your kayak seat to something more comfortable, like a top selling model from Surf-To-Summit. And, of course, as a boat owner you'll need to consider what kayak outfitting options you want as well as possible replacement parts. This list of kayak gear will help you enjoy the sport to the max.
Top kayak gear brands
There are a lot of brands out there that offer paddling gear, but we consider these brands to be the cream of the crop.