Kayaking – the Gear You Need for Your First Trip

If you have been thinking about kayaking – the gear you need for your first trip is probably the first question that you will ask about. Whether you want to learn to do fishing from the kayak, or just want to take a leisurely cruise down the gentle river, there are a few basics that you will need. First, it is important to distinguish that paddling down a gentle river and shooting the rapids not only require different skill levels, it also different types of equipment. The basic equipment and gear that you need will be covered in this article.

First Things First

The first consideration is that you need to attend an outdoor school or kayaking classes before you hit the waters. You need to practice basic skills and learn how to use them before you strike out, even on what you expect to be calm waters. It is important to have the right skills and gear so that capsizing does not become a life-threatening bout of hypothermia. Safety should always be your first concern when kayaking.

The Kayak

Whether you will be purchasing or renting a kayak, achieving a proper fit is most important for comfort and safety. The boat should be able to maintain three points of contact at all times. Your back should be tied against the seat, and the balls of your feet should be able to brace against the foot pedals to control the rudder. Your knee should be with either side of the cockpit so that you can control side to side motion. The boat should be snug, but not so snug that you cannot exit the boat quickly if the need arises. One that is too loose will not give you the control that you need.

Flotation Device

All kayakers should have a personal flotation device (PFD), rescue gear, and a device for communication. There are many different types, and you should be sure that yours meets all applicable state and local regulations. You should also make certain that it fits properly.

Proper Clothing

Proper clothing for kayaking should not just consider the weather, but also the water temperature. You should prepare to get wet and layering is the key to kayaking safety. Getting hypothermia in the water is easier than on land. Coldwater combined with rain and wind make the potential even greater. Of course, you also have to worry about the other end of the spectrum and prepare for protecting yourself from too much sun exposure. This is why layering is so important, with layers that can be added or removed as needed throughout the day.

Wetsuits are essential when it comes to warmth. They don’t keep water out, but they trap it next your body where it can be warmed. Neoprene minimizes the cooling effect from evaporation so that you can remain comfortable when you are out of the water. Wetsuits come in full-length, short sleeve, long sleeve, and some have separate jackets and pants.

Dry suits are often the choice if you will be in coldwater, rapids, or paddling in the surf. These suits are waterproof, breathable and made from Gore-Tex laminate. They have gaskets on the wrist, ankles, and neck, as well is a special zipper or roll up closure to prevent water from rushing in. They provide no insulation, and must be paired with long underwear or fleece liners for warmth.

Rash guards are another popular clothing item that helps protect from chafing. Other accessories that you might need include hats, gloves, and proper footwear. Make sure to take the weather into consideration when choosing these items. Special socks, gloves, and other clothing is made specifically for kayaking. The most important consideration is that you should always plan to get wet.


Of course you will need paddles. Paddles come in a variety of choices from aluminum to wood to fiberglass. They come in different lengths and with different types of handgrips. It is always best to talk to an expert, or try them out yourself before choosing paddles.

Other Essentials

If you will be camping, you will need appropriate items. Even if you are not camping you will still need certain things such as first-aid supplies, a repair kit and tools, nutrition, water, and extra clothing for insulation. Even if you will not plan to camp, it is always good to have certain items on hand, just in case you become stuck outdoors. You should have a navigation map and compass, a headlamp or flashlight, waterproof matches, a lighter, and candles. You should also have an emergency shelter and warm bedding should you need it. A knife and firestarter would also be a good idea.

Kayaking is a fun sport that can be either relaxing, or exciting and adventurous. However, one must also remember that it can also be dangerous. In order to have a safe and enjoyable trip, you need much more gear than simply the boat and paddles. Choosing carefully and taking into consideration your needs is the best way to ensure that your first trip will only be the beginning of many great adventures.