November 11, 2021

Kayaking Safety Gear Kit

Kayaking is perhaps the safest sport globally, but it’s best to be safe than sorry where water is involved! So, if you’re looking to kayak in the ocean or lake, it would help if you carried a reliable kayaking safety gear kit. 

This kit should have several safety tools that are incredibly vital. Plus, the longer your adventure, the more kayaking safety gear you’ll need. 

All the same, even for short adventures, it is critical to have your kayaking safety equipment kit with you. Here we’ll look at some of the essential safety gear for kayaking and what purpose each tool serves. 

Continue reading to find out more. 

What to Include When Choosing Kayaking Safety Gear Kit

What to Include When Choosing Kayaking Safety Gear Kit

1) Personal flotation devices (PFDs)

Also referred to as a life jacket, a personal flotation device (PFD) is a crucial part of your safety gear kit, probably the most important equipment when choosing what to wear when kayaking. Typically, these devices save your life by giving buoyancy if you fall in the water due to your boat being inverted by a strong wave. 

In this situation, they will help float you and come in handy if you require jumping in to help out someone else. Again, if you’re tired, injured, cold, or shocked and cannot keep yourself afloat, a personal flotation device will be beneficial. 

For more information about the most suitable personal flotation device depending on size, purpose, and buoyancy, visit the US Coast Guard website. 

2) Float bags

While float bags may sound the same as dry bags, they’re very different. However, float bags might not be as handy as dry bags if you’re on a sit-on-top type of kayak. However, if you’re on a whitewater or sea kayak, these will be a splendid addition to your safety gear kit. 

Ideally, these triangular-shaped bags can be deflated or inflated using the tube linked to the side. Once you inflate it, you can place it in the space at the back of your seat. They pack the boat with air, which helps it remain on top of the water if it capsizes. 

The kayak will not be filled with water if the float bags occupy a significant room. So, if you’re stressed about capsizing, float bags will make getting back inside your boat effortless. 

3) Spray skirt

Like a PFD and float bag, you will need a spray skirt as part of your safety gear kit, especially if you’ll be going through rough waters. Even though it’s not technically safety equipment, you’ll have a hard time in the rapids without it. 

Typically, a spray skirt covers the kayak’s cockpit, thus preventing water from filling the boat. If you don’t have it, the kayak might get filled with water, making it difficult to remain afloat. Read our full guide on how to choose spray skirts for kayaks.

Nonetheless, a spray skirt is not required on flat water. But it will come in handy in rough waters, with strong waves and currents. All the same, if you have it with you and reach calm waters, you can always take it off. 

4) First aid kit

The next thing to check before starting your adventure is the first aid kit. Make sure to stock it adequately beforehand. What’s more, you need a kit that is mainly designed for boating-related injuries. 

Also, you might require carrying several first aid kits depending on the time you’ll spend kayaking and the number of people involved. Lastly, these kits need to be carried by professional first aiders. 

5) Helmet

It is always recommended to wear a helmet, even when paddling through calm waters. While it sounds like too much work, helmets could be potential lifesavers, especially in rough waters. And since it is not necessary for flat waters, you can always remove it. 

Ensure the helmet is explicitly designed for paddling since various helmets serve different purposes. Typically, kayaking helmets are somewhat lightweight, as they don’t feature bulky material that can get soaked if you fall in the water. 

6) Sponsons

Sponsons are inflatable devices that connect to the exterior of your kayak or canoe. It would be best if you utilized them in pairs on both sides of your boat. 

What to Include when Choosing Kayaking Rescue Gear

Now that we’ve covered all about safety gear, it’s only fitting that we delve into rescue gear. No matter how prepared you are in kayaking, there is the possibility of encountering rapid waters or bad weather. Learning how to do a kayak rescue is also a must.

This is where your rescue gear will come in handy. Every competent paddler has learned how to use each of the following kayaking rescue gear, which are included in the best kayak accessories list.

What to Include when Choosing Kayaking Rescue Gear

1) Paddle floats

If your boat overturns, you can get inside it again with your friend’s help, and if not, you can rescue yourself. The best way you can do this is by using a paddle float. 

It usually is linked to the kayak paddle’s blade, and it forms a framework that stabilizes the kayak once more for you to re-enter. You begin with placing it over either blade though you have to inflate it first. After this, slide the other blade beneath the heavy cord, also known as deck bungees, at the back of the cockpit. Lastly, lift yourself onto the boat’s deck and reach the cockpit. 

Here are the two paddle float styles you can use:


These paddle floats are typically made using nylon coated with urethane. You simply inflate it by puffing air inside and then connect it to the paddle. Typically, inflatable paddle floats provide improved flotation compared to foam floats. This makes them ideal for heavier paddlers, though they take a long time to set up. 


Foam paddle floats are built using a chunk of foam concealed with nylon. You have to place the paddle blade in the exterior sleeve, then fasten the paddle at the shaft using a nylon strap. Considering these paddles are quick and easy to set up, they’re the go-to option for some paddlers. 

Besides having a paddle float, some paddlers go for a stirrup as well. This is a piece of webbing, twisted and secured on the cockpit. A stirrup is long enough to be used as a step up in the boat. What’s more, they can be made from climbing webbing. 

2) Knife or Multi-purpose gear

While carrying a knife during your kayaking adventure sounds like an overreach, it could come in handy in several situations. For instance, you’ll need a knife to cut the rope, open or cut food, cut a fishing net stuck on the boat, and so on. 

There is a wide selection to choose from, but you should go for a titanium or stainless-steel knife. Besides, you should as well consider a multi-purpose tool for other tasks like removing hooks. 

3) Bilge pump

You will use a bilge pump to get rid of the surplus water in the storage hatch or cockpit after an overturn or wave. You can use a compact manual bilge pump as it is effective and can be stored easily. 

4) Towline

This is suitable for salt and fresh-water waterbodies. It is usually helpful when another canoeist is not strong enough to paddle or is injured and needs a boost to maneuver rapid waters. 

A tow rope is typically 8-10 feet long, though you can find longer ones. That being said, it can be carried on your tow belt or placed inside the kayak. Similar to all things kayaking, it is possible to do a safe tow, after a bit of practice, beforehand. 

5) Paddle leash

Also known as a lanyard, a paddle leash keeps the paddle secured to your kayak in case you’re separated from the kayak. They are available in various shapes and colors, though most fasten using a loop, Velcro straps, or a carabiner. Learning the basic strokes when paddling is also a must.

6) Throw bags

These are usually utilized in moving water or whitewater, though sea kayakers usually carry them. If the boat capsizes, you can launch the bag to help you float and eventually get back to your boat. Anyway, it is better to learn how to launch a kayak the right way.

Extra Kayaking Supplies You May Need

Besides the rescue and safety gear mentioned above, you’ll also require supplies that might not sound like “safety gear” at first. However, they are equally essential to have with you, and they include:

Extra Kayaking Supplies You May Need

1) Sunscreen and sunglasses

Avoid going paddling without long-sleeved kayaking attire and sunscreen, no matter the weather. During your paddling session, the sun can be hazardous, so make sure you’re prepared to remain burn-free and safe. 

3) Drinks and snacks

Keeping your energy levels up is essential, especially if you’re paddling on a sunny day. Carry a lot of water and food; it’s better to carry a lot than too little. Some of the snacks you should bring are nuts and granola bars to boost your energy. 

4) Extra towel and clothes

Extra clothes will come in handy if you get soaked in water while paddling or if it’s cold. Therefore, make sure to include extra towels and clothes in case it gets chilly or wet, and you need to change or cover yourself with something warm. 

Communication and Signaling Gadgets when Kayaking

You and your friends need to communicate one way or the other. So, when selecting your communication device, there are numerous variables to factor in, such as battery life, cell coverage, and your surroundings. 

Plan properly to avoid bringing deficient communication devices. Most communication devices can alert a passerby or the rescue crew or communicate with different paddlers. Here are some practical communication gadgets:

Communication and Signaling Gadgets when Kayaking

1) Whistles

This is the most basic gadget, and it is small, portable, and has several uses. Once you blow into it, it can be heard from a distance, and various blowing patterns could stand for different messages. 

For this reason, ensure you carry a reliable one and attach it to your life jacket. You can also buy one that doesn’t utilize a cock ball, as it is ineffective in wet surroundings. 

2) Cell phones

These are ideal for short adventures, where you’re sure you’re within range. They make it easy for your friends to track you via GPS, and you can also take pictures for memory’s sake. Nevertheless, make sure it’s fully charged, and place it inside a waterproof case or bag. 

Also, you can carry your Power-bank in case your phone’s battery dies. Again, you can place your phone in a flotation gadget so that it does not sink if the boat overturns. 

3) VHF radio

This is for you who’s going to a remote area without a reliable network for a cell phone. It is a two-way communication mechanism from shore to ship or between two ships. It applies conventional frequencies for users to communicate in case of weather alerts or distress. 

4) Personal Locator Beacons

These are satellite-connected gadgets used to send your location as well as an SOS signal to rescuers. They usually have extended battery life and at times send a better signal compared to a satellite messenger. 

Usually, satellite messengers use run-on batteries, and besides sending signals, they also offer two-way communication. However, PLBs and satellite messenger might be impacted by cloud cover. 

5) Visual and Lighting Signaling Gadgets

Adequate lighting will also come in handy when you want to send a help signal. Moreover, similar to all the safety gear mentioned in this review, the kind of lighting gadget you go for will rely on the nature of your adventure. There’s basic lighting for paddling at night and emergency-only lighting like parachutes and pinpoint flares. 

Strip lights, glowsticks, and pole lights may be more suitable for small water bodies and short strips. On the other hand, if you’re on an extensive water body, marine LED, strobe lights, and torches might be better suited if you’re on an extensive water body.

Nonetheless, there are paddling safety regulations in terms of lighting signals at night, therefore check with your local regulations beforehand. 

Other lighting signaling gadgets include dye markers, colorful flags, and mirrors. 

Final Thoughts on How to Choose Kayaking Safety Gear Kit

The safety gadgets in this review might be too much to carry on one adventure and might exceed your kayak’s maximum capacity. As you might not require everything here, you should check beforehand to see what you won’t need to avoid unnecessary weariness. 

Meanwhile, it would be best to be on the side of kayak safety since you never know what will happen. While paddling is a safe sport, accidents do occur. 

For this reason, make sure you’re careful during your adventure and be prepared for any kayak-related dangers. With a reliable kayaking safety gear kit, you will be able to avoid some of these risks. Make sure that you are familiar with the parts of a kayak to stay safe in more extreme situations.

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About the author 


Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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