Essential Kayaking Equipment
Personal Flotation Devices and Spray Skirts
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast going into a kayaking shop can be something of a buzz - all that shining new kayak equipment, dinky dry bags, high-tech paddles and PFDs, brightly coloured spray skirts and a plethora of thermal and waterproof wear to choose from. But how much kayak equipment do your really need to get started?
If you’re just thinking about getting started as a kayaker it’s a good idea to join a club and take a few lessons – this will tell you if you really want to continue kayaking and if it’s worth investing in your own gear. You’ll also get to meet plenty of experienced kayakers and you can ask them about the type of kayak equipment they use and get advice on the type of equipment you should be buying.
The essential kayak equipment you’ll need
If you can’t borrow a kayak from the club you’ll have to buy your own. Your first decision will be whether it should be a flat water, touring or whitewater kayak. See our pages on types of kayak to help you with this decision. Next you’ll need a paddle. There are a variety of paddle types and designs available, each with its own advantages and it’s a good idea to try as many paddle types as possible before purchasing your own. Again talking to sales staff and experienced kayakers can be an invaluable source of information.
Whatever type of kayaking you plan to do, whether it’s slow moving fishing trips on flat water or whitewater runs down some serious rapids, you’re going to need a good personal flotation device (PFD). This buoyancy aid is an essential piece of kayak equipment and doesn’t have to cost the earth. However, the more dangerous your activity the more you should invest in your PFD.
If you’re doing any kind of sea, ocean or whitewater kayaking you’ll also need a spray skirt to keep water out of the hull and to keep you warm and dry. Spray skirts are divided into two main categories – whitewater and touring - so get some advice before you buy. Another essential piece of kayak equipment is a kayak helmet. This piece of equipment could save your life and it’s worth buying the best possible helmet you can afford. For more details see our page on kayak helmets.
Other pieces of kayak equipment you might want to consider are special seats, storage solutions, sails, and of course, high-tech kayak apparel to keep you warm and dry. The best bet is to start out slowly and make sure you really enjoy the sport before investing too much in it. Consider buying used kayak equipment initially and invest in new equipment once your experience and skill levels increase and you know exactly what type of paddling you want to do. Let your needs dictate your buying and you’ll end up with a full kit of kayak equipment suited exactly to your paddling plans.