What Kayaking Safety Gear Should I Pack?

Kayakers who are well equipped with protective safety gear are less likely to be in harm’s way.

Kayaking Safety

Capsizing is a common occurrence with kayaks and canoes. Those with proper protective gear are less like to be harmed vs. those that go without.

Kayaking Safety

Here are very basic safety gear that kayakers should have on them:

First Aid Kit

Use a first aid kit designed for kayaks or you can build your own. Either way, it’s a no-brainer, have a first aid kit.

A well-prepared first-aid kit should be stored in the correct manner to ensure it is usable when needed. Store the kit in a waterproof box or bag and keep it in an easy to access area. Also, give the first-aid kit a regular inspection to make sure everything is dry and in date.

Flotation Bags

These bags lessen the amount of water that can enter the kayak preventing it from sinking, should you capsize. These bags are more commonly used in sea and whitewater paddling. Kayaking safety rules means certain models have them built into the bulkheads. Attached to the stern and bow or in the center, these air bags keep kayaks and canoes riding higher over rocks, etc. Some bags are split, where two bags fit the length on either side of the bow or stern.


Helmets are mandatory if you are a surf or whitewater kayaker. You could be thrown out in shallow waters or rocky areas. Your helmet should fit securely and comfortably. It should fasten securely under your chin. Some of these helmets also come with a face mask, recommended for whitewater kayaking.

Inflatable Flotation Devices

Inflatable flotation devices known as Sponsons attached to the outside of the kayak or canoe. One on either side of the boat.

Personal Flotation Devices

PFDs are a necessity for remaining safe at all times and is a requirement by the U.S. Coast Guard. They keep your head above water, should you capsize and make it easier to roll and brace. PFDs also give you added insulation when in cold water.

Always put your PFD on before leaving shore. It’s very difficult to put one on if the weather has turned nasty and you are trying to keep control of the kayak or you have capsized.

Spray Skirts

These are waterproof barriers that will keep the rain spray and water out of the kayak. These skirts cover the opening in the kayak between your waist. With the exception of extremely calm, warm waters, you should wear a spray skirt. These skirts either hook on or snap on the edges of the kayak and stretch across the opening. In most cases, these skirts are considered optional unless you are traveling through rough conditions in which they are considered safety equipment.

Transporting Kayaks

In addition to the kayaking safety gear, transporting the human-powered craft in a safe and proper manner is a further key issue. Use either a purpose-made roof rack or a trailer. Alternatively, the inflatable or foldable kayaks can easily fit inside the vehicle.

A high-quality roof rack system must be secured in place using tight clamps while the actual kayak should be held in place using self-locking straps or similar. For multiple kayaks, a special kayak trailer is the most practical option.