What kayaking gear do you really need to bring?

Sarah Duke reached out and asked if she could share a blog post about gear people need when they want to go kayaking. What we liked about Sarah’s post was how she acknowledges keeping things simple. We always do that out of necessity — the more we want to bring kayaking, the more space we have to take up in the van. And there isn’t much to spare! So check out Sarah’s post to see how you can keep it simple and focus on the fun.

Keep on trekin’! ~ Ari & Jessi

Two people in a kayak


Kayaking is one of the best ways to spend some time on the water while boosting your physical fitness. Thankfully, you won’t need to bring a lot of gear with you. Let’s look at what you’ll need to pack.

Safety Items

Woman kayaking in marsh

Let’s start with some items that you can use to make sure you are staying safe on the water. First, you will need a flotation vest. This ensures that you won’t drown if you accidentally go overboard. In many states, it will be a legal requirement and you could face a serious fine if you aren’t wearing one. This article has more details on lifejacket laws in the US. Even if it’s optional it’s best to have one if you aren’t a strong swimmer.

Second it’s best to have a bilge pump in the boat. If you develop a leak, this will be enough to get you back to shore safely. Get a slim and light model, so it won’t take up too much space if you don’t need to use it.

Third, it’s a good idea to have a whistle. This will allow you to attract attention if you need help. It’s also a good idea to put a headlamp in your dry bag, even if you aren’t planning on being out after dark.

Make sure that you are protecting yourself from the effects of dehydration and sun on the water. Carry a full water bottle and a bladder to refill from. And make sure to apply waterproof sunscreen before you head out.

Dry Bag

It’s a good idea to take a dry bag with you. Anything you don’t want to get wet will go into the bag. Make sure to put your phone into a waterproof case. If you do this, you’ll be able to take photos while you are kayaking. Plus, you can use a mapping app to help find your way.

What to Wear When Kayaking?

Regardless of what time of the year you are heading out on the water, it’s a good idea to wear a hat and some sunglasses. If you aren’t careful, the glare from the water can reduce your visibility.

In the summer, it’s a good idea to wear a light, breathable material. Also, consider wearing long sleeves to reduce the risk of getting sunburnt. In the winter months, you might consider using a wetsuit.

It’s also a good idea to wear boat or water shoes, so you don’t need to worry about getting your feet wet. And some people like to use paddling gloves to reduce the chance of blisters or sore spots from paddling.

What to Bring on Longer Trips

If you want to go on a longer trip, there are a few additional things you will need to bring along. First, you’ll need to take along food. Put this in your dry bag. If you want to stay out overnight, you can use hike meals. These are tasty and nutritious while being lightweight. Even on a shorter trip, it’s a good idea to bring along a trail mix that you can snack on during the day. This is a good trail mix recipe to try.

If you are staying out overnight, you’ll need camping basics. Things like a tent, camp stove, and mattress. Make sure all your gear is as lightweight as possible. Remember, there isn’t much space in a kayak.  

Kayak Rack

Lastly, it’s important to think about how you are going to get the kayak to the water. The easiest solution is to use a kayak rack. There are plenty to choose from. It’s a good idea to get one that will fit your car. Get something that is made from a strong material, so it will last for a long time. If you are transporting multiple kayaks, check the maximum load the rack can handle. If you want more tips on getting a good kayak rack, read through this excellent kayak transporting guide.

Bonus tip from Trekers: Bring a fun attitude!

Man and woman in dual kayak

When you are kayaking you don’t need to bring a lot of gear with you. You do, however, have to bring a fun attitude and make the best of kayaking situations. Sometimes, it will be windier than expected and the water will be choppy. Sometimes, the clouds will roll in unexpectedly, and it may even rain. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of some of the basic items you need to take when you head out onto the water. Once the basics are covered, it’s easier to pack that fun attitude.

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