5 Essential Pieces of Kayak Gear
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. (learn more about why quality matters).
Those are the 5 most essential pieces of kayak gear:
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 paddle: blade length and shape, feathered or non-feathered, wood or aluminum shaft, etc.
Lean More About Kayak Paddles or Shop For Kayak Paddles
Lifejacket (or PFD - Personal flotation device):
Your lifejacket is one piece of kayaking equipment you never want to hit the water without. Just make sure your PFD has been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and that it is designed for kayaking.
Lean More About Kayak PFDs or Shop For Kayak Lifejackets
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 your kayak.
Lean More About Spray Skirts or Shop For Kayak Spray Skirts
Helmet (Whitewater Kayakers Only):
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! (If you are flatwater kayaking you do not need a helmet)
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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.
Click here to learn how to dress for kayaking
Below is a list of additional gear that will make your kayaking experience safer and more enjoyable.
Kayak Storage Systems: When you're not out on the water you're going to need a good way to store your kayak. There are all kinds of kayak storage options, from ceiling to wall to free standing storage.
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Kayak Roof Racks & Kayak Trailers: You will need some way to transport your kayak to and from the water! There are all types of vehicle roof racks to accomplish this goal. There are also kayak trailers that are very popular.
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Kayak Carts: Once you arrive at the water you'll need a way to transport the kayak from your car to the water. Kayak carts are extremely popular and very handy!
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Kayak Safety Kit. Every flatwater kayak should be equipped with a means of pumping the water out in case of a capsize. You also need a system for re-entering the kayak while in the water. Complete kits are sold to facilitate this valuable safety skill.
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1st Aid Kit: Another subject deserving of an article of its own. Make sure you've got a good waterproof first-aid kit. No explanation needed on this purchase.
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Drybags: If you plan to take anything with you on the water, including your lunch, you had better invest in a good drybag! After all, you are on the water!
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Float Bags: If your kayak is not equipped with watertight bow and stern compartments, you'll need a good set of float bags. The idea is to fill every available interior space with either your gear, or extra flotation in the form of float bags. Then, if you're forced into a wet exit, your boat will stay on top of the water. And you'll spend much less time bailing out a swamped kayak.
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Compass. Getting lost on open water is no fun. A good Marine compass is a must for navigating unfamiliar waters. They come in handheld and deck mounted models.
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Kayak Rudder: Depending on your kayak and your paddling skills, you may or may not need a rudder. If your boat has a tendency to "weathercock," or turn into strong cross-winds, a rudder can be an invaluable accessory. These rudders come in a kit and are easy to install
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Camping gear: Camping is a broad subject and beyond the scope of this article. Some essentials include a good tent, sleeping bag with pad, stove and cooking utensils, pots and pans, a can opener, fire starters, waterproof matches, insect repellent, a headlamp, and about a hundred more things!
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