Essential Kayak Gear and Equipment

Two paddlers show off their kayak equipment.
Two paddlers show off their kayak equipment. © 2000 by George E. Sayour

Buying your first kayak equipment is a bitter-sweet moment. It is a time filled with the excitement of starting something new mixed with the apprehensions that go along with any large expenditure of money. Getting into any sport can be an expensive affair. That is exactly why many beginners want to know what equipment they must have to get started. There certainly are some must-haves when it comes to being able to paddle. At the same time, there are other items of equipment that are more a matter of preference and are not required at all. Here you will find an explanation of the essential kayak gear that a kayaker must have as well as other non-essential equipment one may want to consider purchasing.

Essential Kayak Equipment

  • Kayak: Whitewater kayaks are completely different from Sea or Touring kayaks. The type of kayak you choose depends completely on what type of paddling you wish to do and what level of paddler you are.
  • Paddle: Each type of kayaking uses a different type of paddle. The store where you buy your equipment can help you figure out which paddle goes with the kayak you decide to buy.
  • PFD: PFD stands for Personal Flotation Device and is essentially a life jacket or life preserver for kayakers.
  • Sprayskirt: Sprayskirts help keep the water out of the kayak. They are necessary for Whitewater and Sea Kayaking. Recreational kayaking can do without them. You must be sure that the skirt fits both you and the kayak.
  • Helmet: Helmets are a requirement for Whitewater Kayaking. They are not a requirement for Sea Kayaking. I always recommend using a helmet while Surf Kayaking.

Non-essential Kayaking Equipment

  • Dry Top, Drysuit, Wetsuit, Paddle Jacket: This is totally a matter of preference and water temperature. Some people always use a dry top. Others paddle without any of these items all summer long.
  • Booties: Make sure they are comfortable and that you fit into the kayak while wearing them.
  • Gloves: This is also a matter of preference as some people hate to paddle with gloves. In addition to keeping your hands warm, gloves also protect your knuckles from scrapes and gashes.
  • Rope Bag: It could help you save the life of a friend. I strongly recommend all paddlers to carry a rescue throw bag.
  • Knife: This is one of those items you will probably never use. In the event you get tangled in a rope or stuck under a raft, you'll be glad that you had one.
  • Float Bags: These bags that fit in the stern of the kayak will keep it from sinking should you get separated from your boat.
  • Dry Bag: This will keep your snacks and camera dry. Just make sure it is attached inside of the boat.