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The Complete Kayaking Gear List for Beginners and Advanced

Kayaking is a sport where the participants use a kayak to move across the water, which can be practiced in pretty much any body of water that’s wide enough. It is an engaging activity for you and your friends that can be combined with fishing and camping. What is great about this sport is that both beginners and experts can enjoy it alike.

Kayaking is not only fun and adventurous, but it also helps you lose weight, strengthen your muscles, and relieve some stress. However, like any other sport, kayaking also has its fair share of risks. Thus, it becomes essential to practice sound safety before indulging in kayaking. In this article, we bring you the essential kayaking gear that can save the life and limb of every kayaker.

Beginner’s Gear Guide

As a beginner, you would need to purchase some new equipment before you hit the water. If you are not sure what exactly to get, we have got you covered.

On the other hand, if you choose to try kayaking through an agency, they will provide you with most of the necessary equipment. However, you should still know what kind of gear is used for this sport. Here is a list of essentials for beginners:

Kayak

As the name of the sport suggests, kayaks are necessary for kayaking. A kayak is a small and narrow watercraft that can be moved manually using a double-bladed paddle.

While getting one for the first time, make sure to find something comfortable that would not make you feel miserable after a couple of hours. There are different types of kayaks, some of which are listed below:

Sit-on-top

You can quickly get in and out of this kayak as they do not have a closed cockpit. However, you are more prone to getting wet from water splashes if you are not extra careful. However, this plays out in your favor during summers. These kayaks are perfect for fishing but they tend to be more expensive than other types.

Recreational Kayaks

What differentiates them from the former is the fact that they have a closed cockpit. However, you do not have to use it in the summer necessarily, seeing how it provides excellent protection in the winter.

The cockpit has a large opening, which makes it easier to get in. These kayaks are usually shorter and smaller; hence why they are cheaper. Their only setback is that they do not track that well.

Touring Kayaks

These kayaks are a bit more expensive than some other types as they are long and narrow, making it difficult to transport them. Their cockpit is smaller, but it has thigh braces in case the kayak rolls over.

They are swift and best suited for long bodies of water. However, they are not the best option for a family event and simple fun.

Pedaling Kayaks

With these kayaks, you do not have to use your arms much. They come in two types: propeller and flippers. Both are great, except that you pedal the first one like a bicycle. They are a bit pricey, but usually, they compensate for that with more comfort.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks do not fetch the best reviews because their touring ability and speed tend to be disappointing. However, they have their advantages as well.

They are robust and lightweight, which makes them super easy to transport. Experienced kayakers would avoid this kayak, but it is an excellent option for beginners as it is easily manageable.

All the above kayaks have their fair share of advantages and downsides. You should choose the one that best fulfills your needs and doesn’t break the bank. Do not go for an expensive one if you plan to indulge in the sport only occasionally. On the other hand, if you intend to be a regular kayaker, it is fine to invest in a durable and comfortable kayak.

Paddles

Kayak paddles are an essential part of kayaking. They are used to push against the water to move the kayak. These paddles have blades on both ends, with an average length between 210cm and 260cm. Taller people will need longer paddles to operate the kayak properly.

As paddling requires you to dip and lift the paddles in the water constantly, you would want to look for the right color as well. If you are kayaking in gloomy weather, you would not be able to see the paddles unless they are of a brighter color like yellow or white. On the other hand, on sunny days and in clear waters, darker colors work well too.

When using the kayak paddles, you must use both arms as you will constantly change from one blade to the other. The boat does not offer any support, and you are the one controlling everything. Since this can be a complicated process, it might cause some blisters. Consider wearing gloves to avoid such minor injuries.

Kayak paddles are made of different materials, such as plastic, aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. There are numerous types of these paddles:

Low-angle Paddles

These paddles are perfect for recreational kayaking as they allow you to put in minimum effort to move the kayak. They are perfect for relaxation.

High-angle Paddles

Contrary to the first one, they are designed to give you more speed and can be challenging to maneuver. They can also prove to be more dangerous in some types of kayaks compared to others. Thus, beginners should skip these unless they know what they’re doing.

Paddles With Plastic Or Nylon Blades

As these materials are relatively cheap, you should be able to get these paddles at a reasonable price. They are popular due to their durability, but their efficiency is not the best. However, they are suitable for beginners.

Paddles With Fiberglass Blades

They are not as cheap as plastic ones but typically prove to be more efficient in translating muscle movement into speed than others. On the other hand, they are more likely to break as the material is not designed for durability.

Straight Shaft Paddles

These are the most common paddles used for kayaking, especially among beginners. They are light and inexpensive. Apart from that, they provide you more flexibility as they do not have to stay in a fixed position the entire time.

Some other kayaking paddles are:

  • Paddles with Carbon Fiber Blades
  • Paddles with Asymmetrical Blades
  • Paddles with Dihedral Blades
  • Paddles with Matches Blades
  • Paddles with Feathered Blades
  • Paddles for Kayak Fishing
  • Bent Shaft Paddles
  • Two-Piece Paddles
  • Four-Piece Paddles
  • Single-Piece Paddles
  • Paddles with a Small-Diameter Shaft

Helmet

Helmets are your first line of defense in case of an accident. Your kayak can easily overturn, and you can end up hitting a rock at the bottom of the river. Helmets do not offer 100% protection, but they will definitely reduce the risk of a head injury.

Kayaking helmets are generally made of hard plastic on the outside, and they are slightly heavier than, for example, climbing helmets. They also have less ventilation.

Their primary purpose is to protect the sides of your head as you are more likely to injure those parts. On the other hand, climbing helmets primarily focus on protecting the top of your head from falling objects.

There are three types of kayaking helmets:

Half-Cut Helmets

Their primary purpose is to protect the skull, as the helmet sits right above your ears.

Full-Cut Helmets

The only difference between this type and the first one is that full-cut helmets extend over the ears, offering you more protection.

Full-Face Helmets

This type offers the most coverage as it covers all of the areas as the previous two and the entire jawline.

When buying a helmet, make sure to get the right size so that it fits perfectly and is comfortable at the same time.

Water Shoes

Kayaking causes a lot of splashing, and water will definitely get to you. Regular sneakers will get wet and soggy in no time. Also, slippers and sandals increase the risk of injuries as they do not provide you with enough support. What you need are water shoes that are grippy and comfortable. These shoes aren’t as expensive as you would imagine. Thus, investing in them is an affordable option.

The shoes must be made of a suitable material that will allow your skin to breathe and, at the same time, be water-resistant to avoid sogging. Heavy shoes full of water are not only uncomfortable but can also cause a lot of skin issues, such as yeast, bacteria, and fungus on your feet.

There are four main types of water shoes:

  • Water sandals
  • Water shoes
  • Wet shoes
  • Boat shoes

Drysuits And Wetsuits

When kayaking, regular clothes will get soaked in no time. If it is a warm, sunny day outside, you might be able to get away with wearing plain clothes. However, if it is even a little cold, you should consider proper protection. Even if the air is at 90 °F, the water might not be and you can still develop hypothermia through prolonged exposure to cold water.

Drysuits are waterproof and breathable. They allow you to wear anything underneath as they are loose-fitting. They keep you warm and prevent your clothes from getting wet.

Wetsuits are more tight-fitting and they allow less movement. They are made of neoprene, which traps a layer of water next to your skin, preventing cold water from chilling you to the bone. However, you must get a skin-tight wetsuit for this to work.

Also, before purchasing a wetsuit, consider the water temperature you would kayak in, as you will need a thicker suit if the water is cold.

Wetsuits come in a couple of different cuts:

  • A full wetsuit covers your entire body, excluding the head, feet, and hands. It is ideal for cold weather conditions.
  • A spring suit covers your arms up to the elbows and your legs up to the knees. This suit is perfect for weather conditions where the air temperature is normal, but the water temperature is slightly lower.
  • With the Short John wetsuit, your arms are completely left out, and the neck is not protected either. This type of suit is often used by surfers as well.
  • Long John wetsuits are essentially the same as a short wetsuit, but it covers your legs up to your feet.

Buoyancy Aid

A buoyancy aid is similar to a life jacket, except that it allows for more movement. It is necessary when kayaking and can be life-saving in dire situations. Kayaking agencies generally provide these jackets, but if you are kayaking on your own, make sure to buy one!

Rope Bags

Just like the name suggests, rope bags are simple bags with a rope tucked inside. There might be a situation when one of your fellow kayakers falls into the water. Having a rope bag comes in handy because you can simply hold one part of the rope and throw the bag to the person in trouble.

Advanced Kayakers

Experienced kayakers are well-versed with the preliminary gear requirements. However, there are a couple of useful things that they might not know about:

Spray Deck

In all honesty, this is not an essential component for your kayaking trip, but it can surely come in handy. It is essentially a skirt that goes around your waist and prevents the water from getting inside and overflowing your boat. It is flexible and waterproof.

Dry Bag

This comes in handy during any water activity, including kayaking. You can keep your phone or a spare set of clothes inside. As soon as you get off your kayak, you can change into your regular clothes and use your phone.

Knife

A knife is considered to be a life-saving tool in extreme situations. Thus, it would be a wise idea to carry one along. Make sure you do not injure yourself while handling one.

Conclusion

Kayaking can be very adventurous and entertaining but safety should come first when indulging in a water sport like kayaking. Ensure you carry all the necessary equipment for your own safety and the safety of those around you. Always take a peer along for the adventure and look out for each other during the experience.

With the proper equipment, you are all set to have a wonderful time while maneuvering your kayak through the waters.