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Sea Kayak Essentials

Forrest Wells // January 22, 2018

Forrest Wells

Forrest is a BCU 4 star paddler, ACA open water advanced instructor, ACA SUP instructor, Alaska Kayak Guide and has his 200 ton Master's ship license. In addition to keeping the KPS ship headed in the right direction and running efficiently, he is an avid outdoorsman and kayak/SUP racer. He also helps coach water polo, plays a mean guitar and can cook up a tasty oyster on the half-shell.


What gear do I need to go kayaking? 

Well to answer that question we will want to find what kind of kayaking you will be doing.

If you are planning on spending a couple of hours exploring near shore in calm conditions then you don't need a ton of gear. For those paddlers looking to "get off the beaten path" and head away from shore or paddle for multiple days in a remote location then, of course, what you need will be a lot different.

Recommended gear for near shore day paddling / Recreational Kayaking:

1.) Recreational KayakThese Boats are typically 10-14ft long and intended to be used within the proximity of the beach and in calm conditions.  A recreational kayak will often only have one water tight compartment in the stern which will make re-entering the kayak (self rescue) very near to impossible should you tip over (capsize).  A recreational kayak is also much less efficient than a day touring or touring boat because of its proportions.  They are shorter and wider than their cousins, which is the opposite of what you may want if you are looking for a boat to cover ground in.  What makes a recreational kayak a viable option for people is their stability and ease of use.  Typically a Rec. boat has an enlarged cockpit which makes it very easy to get in and out of.  On the other side of the coin that enlarged cockpit makes it easy for water to enter the cockpit should it become rough

OR

1.) Day Touring Kayak (*Recommended):  

We recommend the Day Touring Genre as these kayaks are fully compartmentalized and allow the paddler to conduct a self rescue after proper training.

If we were to rate a day touring kayak on a scale of 1-10 in categories such as stability, tracking, efficiency and maneuverability it would be a solid 5 across the board, hence the moniker "jack of all trades", they do everything well but don't really excel in one area.  Day touring Kayaks are typically 13-16ft long.  Now we are talking about a boat that is fully compartmentalized, meaning there are water tight bulkheads (walls) at each end of the kayak that provide buoyancy should the kayak fill with water.  This is a major difference that now makes the boat self rescue-able with proper training.  Again, a self-rescue means that should you fall out of the boat or capsize you can climb back in and be on your way while in open water.  The day touring kayak also has a smaller cockpit that is better suited for paddling in conditions.  The smaller cockpit provides more coverage there by keeping more water out of the boat should it become rough.

Learn more about Selecting a Kayak

2.) Kayak PaddleOut of all the paddles out there it is important to go with something that is the proper fit for you and your kayak. It is also a good idea to get a paddle that is as lightweight and rigid as possible. Your paddle acts as your engine and can make or break your day on the water. So if you have a little wiggle room in your budget, we recommend investing in a nice paddle.

There are two different blade shapes available to sea kayakers:

Low Angle: Long slender blades which are the more efficient lower impact option we would recommend for day use.

High Angle: Shorter wider blades that are more forgiving but require a bit more horespower with each stroke. A high angle blade will also help you keep your kayak going in a straight line by forcing the paddler to take a stroke in closer to the side of the kayak.

Learn more about Selecting a Kayak Paddle.

3.) PFD (Life Jacket): Your life jacket needs to be cut graciously to allow for good range of motion in the shoulder and torso. Try and avoid using water skiing life jackets or others that are not intended for kayaking as they are prone to fitting oddly when seated and can end up rubbing you raw.

A Kayak Life jacket is cut specifically for paddling and intended to minimize chaffing and maximize range of motion. Other considerations when choosing a PFD include: Seat height, paddler staure and type of paddling.

Learn more about Choosing a PFD (Life Jacket)

4.) Safety Gear: This gear will aid you in the event you find yourself in the water unintentionally:

Paddle Float, Bilge Pump and Whistle.

5.) Dry Bags / Cases: Keep your spare gear like an extra jacket, first aid and cell phone dry while out on your favorite body of water.

Other recommended personal gear: 

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Water Bottle
  • First Aid
  • Spare Paddle
  • Snack
  • Extra clothing

How does your gear change when planning for a multi-day paddle?

Recommended gear for Multi Day Paddling: Most of the requisite gear stays the same of course.

Touring Kayak: Your kayak should be in the touring genre. Touring Kayaks are longer, providing the paddler with a more efficient kayak and more room for storage. Other options like drop skeg vs. rudder can be debated, in short you want something you are comfortable and confident in.

Learn more about Selecting a Kayak

Kayak Paddle: As it applies to mulitday paddle you paddle should match the type of paddling you are going to be doing and the environment. If you are paddling in flat water for a siginificant amount of time each day, it is smart to go with a low angle paddle. 

If you are going to be paddling in areas that are exposed, where you may encounter current and or surf launches and landings we would definitely recommend a high angle paddle for more on demand power to enact change quickly.

*The spare paddle becomes mandatory when you are out for a couple of days.

Life Jacket (PFD): Things to think about when choosing a Life Jacket for multi-day kayak trips. You may want to consider a Life Jacket that emphasizes a more utilitarian platform. These life jackets are often times equipped with multiple pockets and are sometimes modular to allow you to carry a lot of gear on your person that is easily accessible. Some of our favorite Touring or Muliday PFD's include:

Learn more about Choosing a Life Jacket

Spray SkirtLike your paddle, your skirt should match the environment your are paddling in. The deck of your skirt should be neoprene. These skirts stay secured to the cockpit rim better and are much less to popping off unintentionally. You have the option too select thicker, less stretchy and more robust neoprene if you are paddling in rougher environments.

The body tube can be a more comfortable water proof breathable material for those paddlers who will in an inland or flat-water environment. Some of our favorites include:

Or the body tube can be neoprene for those paddlers who may be paddling in rougher more dynamic environments. The neoprene body fits more snug around the paddlers midsection to help keep water from going down the body tube and into the kayak. An over-skirt on a dry top, paddling jacket or dry suit will also act to help keep water out of your kayak. Some of your favorites in this family include:

  • Snap Dragon Ocean Trek
  • Snap Dragon Ocean Tour
  • Seals Shocker

Learn more about Choosing a Touring Spray Skirt.

Safety Gear: Bilge Pump, Paddle Float, Signaling devices, Whistle, Helmet (for coastal paddling)

Clothing: One of the sayings that you will hear echoed throughout paddle sports circles is “Dress for the water”. Colder water and higher risk paddles require the need for a high degree of thermal protection. Warmer water and less risk minimize the need for thermal protection.

As a Paddler there are basically two choices for clothing to provide thermal protection:

  • Dry Wear: These pieces will be constructed of waterproof materials and have the ability to limit the flow of water into the garment.  Dry wear does not provide a significant amount of insulation.  A paddler will need to add a layer that will match the environment.
  • Neoprene (Wet Wear): Will keep you warm when the material gets wet.  These pieces are meant to fit snug and will not keep you dry, but will keep you insulated.

*Don't forget to bring comfy warm clothes for around camp, fleece and down are ideal. Remember always stay away from cotton. Quick drying clothing is a must!

 Learn more about Dressing for Paddle-Sports

Personal Gear Recommendations for Multi Day Kayak Trips:

  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Water Bottles
  • Stove
  • Water Purification
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Fire Starters (always bring more than one way to start a fire)
  • Chart & Compass - (know before you go)
  • Guide Book - (know before you go)
  • VHF Radio / Cell Phone (with proper case)
  • Toilet Paper
  • Whistle
  • Towline (great for hanging bear bags)
  • Dry Bags
  • First Aid
  • Repair Supplies
  • Spare Paddle

*PRO TIP: Use many smaller dry bags that you can label or color code to pack your gear. Avoid using large bags as they are difficult to load into your kayak and it is extremely frustrating to have to empty the dry bag to get to the one piece of equipment or clothing you need. 

As you become more and more experienced you may find that your list of what to bring evolves and that is great! Always remember it always better to have and not need than to need and not have.

Happy Paddling!


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Forrest Wells

Author

Forrest is a BCU 4 star paddler, ACA open water advanced instructor, ACA SUP instructor, Alaska Kayak Guide and has his 200 ton Master's ship license. In addition to keeping the KPS ship headed in the right direction and running efficiently, he is an avid outdoorsman and kayak/SUP racer. He also helps coach water polo, plays a mean guitar and can cook up a tasty oyster on the half-shell.



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