Sea Kayaking Safety Equipment
What you’ll need to keep your ocean kayaking trip safe and enjoyable
When you’re first learning how to kayak, knowing how to stay safe on the open ocean is of the utmost importance. Wind and waves can pose serious risks in sea kayaking and if unprepared, capsizing can spell trouble. Navigational equipment is important to avoid getting lost in the open water and receiving proper training in a kayaking course is your best bet in staying safe.
When you’re planning an offshore trip here’s what you’ll need to bring along:
- Spare paddle. If you lose your paddle, you’ll be stranded in the open water without a spare. Bring along a take-apart, two-piece paddle that can be bungeed to your kayak’s deck for easy access. If you’re kayaking with a group, make sure everyone has a spare.
- Lifejacket. A lifejacket or personal flotation device should be worn at all times. In addition to keeping you above water if you capsize, your lifejacket will help you keep warm when water temperatures are cold.
- Sprayskirt. Made out of neoprene or nylon, the sprayskirt fits tightly around you waist and the rim of the cockpit. A sprayskirt is crucial in keeping you dry, as it provides a watertight seal around you to keep water from splashing into the kayak.
- Float or paddle bladder. If you capsize, you’ll find it very difficult to get back into the kayak without assistance. To make the process much easier, a float can be used. It has a bladder that fits over one side of your paddle, so you can rest the paddle’s other blade on the deck of the kayak to brace as you climb back in. This maneuver can be tricky—the best way to master it is to have an experienced kayaker show you the ropes and practice until you can do it easily.
- First aid kit. On any outdoor adventure, having a first aid kit handy is a must. If you’re going with a large group, make sure your first aid kit is suitable for the size of that group. Also, be sure to keep it in a waterproof container to prevent the contents from getting waterlogged.
- Topographic map or chart. The best way to keep yourself from getting lost is to carry a map of the area you’re visiting. It’s also a good idea to keep your map in a waterproof, transparent chart case to allow for easy access. A chart case with eyeholes is also a smart choice—this will allow you to attach it to the bungees on your kayak’s deck.
- Compass. In combination with your map, a compass is crucial in ocean navigation. A deck-mounted, spherical glass compass is your best bet, as it will attach to the front deck of your kayak and provide you with an easy-to-see bearing at all times. However, if your kayak is not equipped with a deck-mounted compass, a regular hiker’s compass can be used as well. Just be sure to keep your compass separated from any items containing iron, as they can disrupt your reading.
When preparing for a sea kayaking trip, you should also be sure to wear the proper clothing. Anything made out of cotton is usually a bad choice, as cotton dries slowly and doesn’t retain heat—instead, try clothes made with quick-drying synthetic fibers or wool, which will retain heat even when it’s wet for when you navigate colder waters. Before you head out, you should always take note of the weather conditions and dress appropriately. Depending on the weather, a waterproof jacket or windbreaker may also be a prudent choice, while a hat and sunglasses will help you protect yourself from the sun.
Sea kayaking is a fun experience, but it can quickly turn sour without the proper equipment. Be sure to check your kayak and all of your gear before heading out to keep your kayaking adventure as safe as possible.