Kayaking Checklist: What to Bring Kayaking

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Are you planning on a kayaking trip? Or maybe this is your first time trying out kayaking? Nevertheless, it is important to know what to bring for the trip, it’s like preparing the utensils for cooking. But if you’re kayaking around calm waters, then bringing a lot of gear isn’t necessary.

Do note that this kayaking checklist is for flatwater kayaking. For whitewater and wildwater kayaking, you may need to get more gear for the trip.

With all that said, let’s get into the kayaking tips.

Table of Contents

Basic kayaking Checklist



You need a kayak to kayak (obviously), but when it comes to choosing a kayak, it may be hard to choose one, or even choose a suitable kayak for yourself. For starters, the length and width of a kayak is important.

Generally said, longer and narrower kayaks provide better speed, and for shorter and wider kayaks it is slower but provides better control. For beginners we recommend the shorter and wider kayaks.

Another thing to note is weight. Not to criticize anyone, weight also matters when choosing a kayak, the things you bring plus your body weight determines what type of kayak. Make sure you check the weight limit for the kayaks.  And for the material of the kayaks, you can try to get some good quality kayaks like carbon fiber types or fiberglass types. Try not to get plastics unless you just want to go for a really short kayaking session. Overall the expensive ones are better. 

Personal Floatation Device

PFD for short. It acts as a lifejacket and every paddler should have one for themselves for kayak safety.  PFDs have different sizes which you should know. Make sure to find the right size for yourself and those who are kayaking with you.

Bilge Pump

Bilge pumps are pumps that remove any bilge water or water inside the deck. Bilge pumps are usually electronic and waterproof and are placed inside the body of the kayak.

Spray Skirt

Kayaking Checklist

Spray skirts also known as spray decks are used to block water from entering the boat. The shape of it is an oval and covers the hole where paddlers climb into. Paddlers wear the spray skirt at the torso of the body and need some skill to know how to take it off and on while in the kayak and should know how to get out with it.

Dry Bag

A waterproof bag is enough to be considered a dry bag. Dry bags are meant to keep all valuables and equipment dry from water such as your phone, a first aid kit, a compass and more. 
Check out our recommendations for the Best Waterproof Backpack for kayaking if you do not own one yet.

The size of the dry bag depends on what you bring, try to get a slightly large bag for kayaking as you can roll the top to fit everything in it.

View More Kayaking Tips

Headlamp/light with extra batteries

(If you want to kayak at dusk or at dark). Getting a headlamp/light is gonna be your main light source if you want to go for dark kayaking. Do bring extra batteries in-case the ones in the headlamp/lights run out.

Signaling whistles

Signaling whistles are different from the one you see in the toy store or on the street. Those whistlers are not as high pitched compared to signaling whistlers. As part of kayaking safety, the high pitch of a signaling whistler is important to help people know your location in some situations with noise.

Paddles (bring two, one for use and the other as spare)


Time to answer the question, what paddles should you bring? Just like kayaks, paddlers also have interesting types, the difference can be seen in the length, paddle angles and materials. 

Let’s start with length. When choosing the correct length of the paddle, it’s always necessary to also take a look at your kayak. Choosing paddle length is quite straightforward, the wider the boat, the longer the paddle needs to be.

The height of the kayak also affects the length too. The taller the boat, the longer the paddle. Many sites do show graphs of lengths for different boat sizes, so make sure you check it out before buying one.

Paddle angles are another thing you need to look out for. Different angles would be used for different situations. A low angle paddle is great for relaxed, recreational kayaking on flatwaters.

For high angle paddles, it’s great for speed because most of the high angle paddles are short and have a bigger blade. Overall try to get low angle paddles for about almost everything unless you are going for tournaments.

Knowing what kind of material your paddles have is a key to kayaking. It is true that better quality means it’s expensive but we’re not talking about price. Instead, let’s go through the types of materials used.

Plastics are the least durable among the list, they are extremely fragile to heat, and are very flexible which can reduce rowing efficiency.  Fiberglass is better than plastic overall, better durability and less flexible. And lastly carbon fiber types. Carbon fiber paddles are the best and most durable among it all.

Paddle types aren’t really that hard to choose one you know what to find. And just like others, make sure to ask the seller or find some information on the paddlers. Also check out our recommendations for the Best Kayak Paddle if are looking to own one. 

View More Kayak Guides

Additional gear

Now that we’ve covered the basic gears , it’s time to get into the additional gear for longer trips, slightly rough waters and more.

Paddle float

As the name says for itself, it is a float for paddles. It is used to keep paddles from sinking and can be a lifesaver at times. It isn’t really necessary for short trips, but for longer sessions you may need to get a set of these. 

Choosing one isn’t hard, you just need to measure your paddle blade size, width and length and find the correct ones.

Paddling knife

A dagger to some people. Paddling knives or rescue knives are necessary for about all emergencies. It is used to cut ropes, some wood and more, just like the knives you use when camping. Something different from a regular knife and a rescue knife is the teeth on the knife, which is helpful for cutting rougher objects. 


Another term for tow rope, used for pulling other boats, floats, and to keep the kayak at one spot. These ropes are the same type of rope with the ones that keeps boats at bay, they can be slightly smaller.

Weather/VHF radio and two-way radios

Bringing radios for long kayaking sessions are necessary, especially if you want to camp too. Weather radios are helpful when you need to know the weather forecast, and they can be quite compact too.

Another name for VHF radios are two-way radios. You can change the radio frequency as you want and can send messages through it too. One of the kayaking safety tips, is to use this radio as a survival tool if you get lost as you can get help from some services on the radio.

Something to note too, make sure you prepare a list of local emergency services channels.

Emergency flares

Another kayak safety tips is to utilize emergency flares, as a tool to signal rescuers to your aid. There are 3 types of flares, namely handheld flares, parachute/rocket flare and smoke canister.

Handheld flares are quite common today, to use it, just light the top of the flare and hold it and wait. Parachute/rocket flares can be dangerous if you don’t know how to use them. Basically it’s a gun and you shoot the flare to the sky. Lastly the smoke canister, it functions like a handheld flare but you need to put it on the ground and let the smoke rise. 

Do not stare directly at it as it can hurt your eyes.

Float Bags

Just like paddle floats, float bags are meant to keep things above water. Float bags can act as a suitcase – on the water. It is quite different from dry bags, try not to get confused about these two. Dry bags are waterproof bags while float bags are just an inflatable bag for any situation. There is also an option of a kayak cooler, similar to a float bag but it has an extra function of a cooler.
[ Also Read: Our detailed guide for the Best Kayak Cooler For Hot Summers ]

First-Aid Kit

First-aid kits are a must for any kind of sport or activity. Although first-aid kits won’t solve an injury completely, at least it can help to prevent the wound from getting worse and can make paramedics’ job easier.

A miniature first-aid kit is quite enough for the job and you may need bigger kits for longer sessions. The basic items and medicine are as follows: bandages, antiseptic cream, paracetamol (panadol pills),gauze rolls/pads, adhesive tapes, instant cold packs, thermometer, safety pins, safety scissors, tweezers, safety gloves, pocket mask for CPR, biohazard bag to keep waste and some contact list for emergencies. 

Kayak Canopy

Kayaking in intense heat may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But you can now kayak longer hours and yet protect yourself from the unbearable sun, by getting your own kayak canopy. 
[ Also Read: We have a detailed guide on Best Kayak Canopy For Hot Summers ]

What’s Next

Having a checklist is needed for kayaking. The same applies to almost anything you want to do, whether it’s camping, hiking, cooking, hitting the gym and more. You should know that some of these things are quite basic but helpful. Bring more stuff if you need to go for long trips or rougher journeys.

If you already have prior experience with a kayak and are thus, looking for a specialized kayak, check out our other guides on the best fishing kayaks, pedal kayaks and stand up kayaks.   

That’s all for now, see you next time.

Jules And Ken

Jules And Ken

We are outdoor lovers, travellers, and writers all rolled into one. You have seen our posts here reviewing lots of different types of outdoor gear, camping equipment, RV equipment, kayaking, to cycling. Our reviews are guided by our years of experience being outdoors. We are happy to share our knowledge with you to make a better choice when you are outdoors.

We hope you enjoyed this article and if you have questions about the Kayaking Checklist, or want to leave your review, feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

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