Kayaking Basic Gear: What You Need on Your First Time Kayaking

Photo Credit: Taryn Manning / Unsplash

As much money can be spent on all the gear that is needed to kayak as the kayak itself. Kayakers need pfds, spray skirts, footwear, and helmets for whitewater kayakers. When it’s cold out, kayakers wear paddling jackets, dry tops, dry suits, wet suits, booties, and gloves. And of course, there’s all of that whitewater kayaking safety gear and sea kayaking safety equipment.

All of that gear needs to be sized, put on, or stored while kayaking. This guide will help you sort out the most efficient way to suit up for your next kayaking trip.

Kayaking Activewear

The first step to gearing up to kayak is the clothes you will wear. The weather will dictate this. When the air temperature is warm and the water is warm you can probably get away with wearing a bathing suit. In colder conditions, you may need to wear polypropylene, fleece, and water-wicking fabrics. Whatever you do, don’t wear cotton as it will not keep you warm once wet. Be sure whatever you wear under your outerwear is going to be comfortable under your gear.

Putting on a Dry Top or Dry Suit

The next step once your undergarments are chosen is to put on your layer that will actually make contact with the water. When the air, water, or both are cold, you will need to wear a dry top, dry suit, wet suit, or paddling jacket. Knowing when to wear each type of kayaking outwear is important. It is also in many cases up to personal preference. Putting each on can present its own challenges.

  • Putting on a Dry Suit
  • Putting on a Dry Top

Putting on a Spray Skirt

You can now put on your spray skirt. Spray skirts are magical items that enable kayaks to go through waves, get splashed, and even flip upside down without taking on water. They can also be a bear when trying to put on one’s boat. Putting on a spray skirt and securing it to your kayak can be a chore. It can also be quite funny to watch someone else struggle with this. Don’t be that person.

Putting on a PFD

Many people try to put on their PFD before their spray skirts. Don’t do that, it will only cause frustration and mess up how your spray skirt fits. PFD stands for your personal flotation device. It is your life jacket. It might seem weird to have to know how to put one on. However, these are a bit more involved than the standard orange life jackets you find stored on boats. There are straps, buckles, and buttons that need to be adjusted. Many a beginner can be found going down a river with their PFD all askew from being over-tightened on one side and not enough on another.

Putting on a Whitewater Kayaking Helmet

Whitewater kayakers, canoeists, and rafters all wear helmets. Helmets are the last item of the required gear to put on. If you tried to put it on before your PFD most likely you had to take it off to get the PFD on. Like a PFD, it would seem this should not require instructions. Well, of course it does. There are different types of helmets and it is very important they are adjusted and worn properly.

Other Kayaking Gear

The above items just represent the most common kayaking gear that is worn. Of course, there is so much more equipment that kayakers have either in their boat, on their boat, or wear. Whatever the item, be sure to understand how they operate and wear them the way they are meant to be worn.