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Must-have Kayak Equipment and Accessories

Tanmay Tikekar
Kayaking is a popular recreational activity, but it is inherently risky, and requires some necessary precautions to be taken.

Did You Know?

Including all forms of kayaking, such as recreational, whitewater, touring, and stand-up paddling, more than 10 million Americans participate in some form of paddling sport every year.
Kayaking is an adventurous activity that many love. Some even regularly go out in kayaks to fish. It's an uplifting and refreshing activity, but sufficient care needs to be taken to ensure your safety.
Kayaking can be a risky pursuit, especially if you are plan to paddle in whitewater. It can roll and drop you into fast currents, the kayak can get caught up in strong currents itself, paddles can break, falls down waterfalls can cause injury―there are many things that can go wrong.
To avoid these potential dangers, some items need to be carried along on kayaking trips. Here is a list of items you must carry on your kayak in order to be safe and insured against potential catastrophe.


This is not meant in a slapstick, oh-no-I-forgot-the-paddles-again manner. Obviously, every kayaker must buy paddles. However, where many mess up is buying the right kind of paddles. Everyone needs to get different paddles according to their own preference and comfort, but there are a few common points.
A light paddle with a broad blade always provides more efficient propulsion than heavy ones with a narrow blade. Also, get paddles with slightly cupped blades so that they catch more water with the same movement than plane paddles.
When you are kayaking, the cupped part should face backwards, and not forwards, which happens more often than it should. Some practitioners also prefer paddles with curved, 'crankshaft' handles.
Also, with regard to paddles, always have spares at hand, especially if you are in remote regions. Paddles can be lost if you roll, or can even break with surprising frequency. Avoid getting caught short by buying a second pair, and always keep them beside you. Also, equip your paddles with paddle floats so that you don't lose them in case you roll.

Life Jackets

An obvious, often mandatory, but often overlooked gear is life jackets or personal flotation devices. In several regions, it is mandatory to wear the jackets while kayaking, and even if it is not, it is a good practice to follow.

Emergency Kit

This kit must include a first aid kit, a compass, a flashlight, flares, and a whistle. A first aid kit is an absolute necessity on any adventure trip, including kayaking. If you roll and fall, you may cut yourself quite severely on sharp rocks or even human trash such as discarded fish hooks.
If, god forbid, you get lost or trapped somewhere, knowing where you are and where you need to go is absolutely vital to your chances of survival. And as for the whistle, I only have two words for you: Rose Dawson.

Spray Skirt

This is one of the most important accessories if you are going to be kayaking over rough waters, or waters frequented by other boats. Water kicked up by other boats, or waves, can quickly accumulate in your kayak if you don't have a spray skirt.
With a spray skirt on, you can, with sufficient expertise and practice, even perform a complete roll. If you don't have a spray skirt, at least make sure you have a bilge pump, which will solve the problem the spray skirt would have prevented.

Watertight Bags

For obvious reasons, valuable items such as your cell phone or camera can't be kept out in the open in a kayak. However, they can easily be kept handy with something as simple as Ziploc bags. These bags can also store other important items, such as an extra set of clothes and a towel, food, your emergency kit, etc.

Throw Rope

No kayaker should need to be taught the importance of a throw rope. It is a crucial item in getting your kayak out of potentially sticky situations. You don't need fancy ropes made 'specially for kayaks', but a strong rope that is at least 20-25 ft long, is an absolute must.
However, bear in mind that the rope should never be attached to your craft when not in use, as a free rope can get entangled in ways that can cause severe damage. Keep it coiled and close at hand.


A must-have if you are whitewater kayaking, a helmet is a worthwhile addition to have in any circumstances. Just because you are not whitewater kayaking doesn't mean that you can't fall onto jagged rocks.
Other than these, some optional additions include sunglasses if you need them, and warm fleece clothes if you are kayaking in winter. If you kayak quite frequently or in fairly strong currents, buy a pair of water sandals. These are a better option than normal footwear―which will be destroyed by frequent dunking in water―or going barefoot.
Make sure you have all the necessary equipment and gear, and only then let loose your craft on the current.