Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kayaking Equipment

You know you'll need a kayak, but there's a lot of other stuff you'll need. I'll list it all here. (everything is required unless it says it's optional)
  1. Sea Kayak - There are lots of options and considerations. The more expensive you go, the lighter, and the easier it will be to cut through the water. But you don't need to spend a fortune either. Check out Craigslist for used kayaks for sale. You can get a deal. Some considerations though; How much will you kayak? What kind of transport do you have? Inflatables have poor performance, but can stow in a trunk and may suit someone who just wants to try it. For serious, frequent kayakers, folding high performance models are available. Another consideration is rudder vs. skeg. There is a difference of opinion here. Some feel that a rudder (controlled with foot pedals) is inefficient and indicates the the paddler doesn't know how to use the paddle properly. I use a skeg, and steer just with paddling. The skeg (retractable for landings) keeps the tail in line when blown by the wind, and is a must. Without it, my kayak doesn't track straight lines that well. Sea kayaks are designed for straight line travel, not like a white water short kayak. When you try on a kayak, you want to adjust the toe pegs so that your pushing your thighs up inside the rests in your cockpit. You should have lower back support for comfort. You use your hips to rock the kayak for stability, and to assist with turns. You can always try a number of kayaks by trying friends' boats, and trying them out at your local store.
    Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 Kayak with Rudder

  2. Paddle - Almost as obvious as the kayak. The kayaker's paddle is a shaft with a blade on either end. I bought one with three locking positions of the blades relative to each other. You set the position so that when one blade is going into the water, the other is moving forward at a feathered angle; meaning it is cutting through the wind, not flat against it. My paddle also comes apart in the middle which makes it great for stashing in the trunk of my Honda Civic. They make paddles that are carbon fiber, and the weight will make a difference, but it is a question of how much you want to spend. The $100 paddles that I have are reasonably light. Don't even think of a wooden one; just too heavy, though it will look good on the wall.
    Werner Skagit Paddle

  3. Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or Life Vest. I recommend you get one with reflectors on it, and lots of pockets. I spent money here because I wanted to emphasize safety, but it doesn't hurt to wear one that looks flashy too.
    Stohlquist mOTION PFD

  4. Spray Skirt (optional but highly recommended) - This goes on like a pair of coveralls with suspenders. The skirt seals around the hole of the cockpit, and it keeps spray out of the cockpit. I used to paddle without one, but I found that the skirt cuts down on the wind resistance, and make my kayak faster. I opted for a used one. A nice feature to look for in a spray skirt is a front that bows, to prevent water from pooling. Note the loop at the front of the skirt. If you capsize, and need to get out of the kayak, this loop needs to be on the outside of the skirt, so that you can pull it to peel off the skirt. An incorrectly attached spray skirt, with the loop on the inside, will be a lot harder to remove in an emergency.
    Seals Tropical Tour Spray Skirt

  5. Paddle Leash (optional, but highly recommended) - Your paddle will float, but if you are ever in trouble, for instance if you capsize (tip over), you will have to choose between swimming after your paddle or holding onto your kayak. You should choose your kayak, but if the paddle has a leash, you won't have to choose, and you won't find yourself up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Often when a kayaker requires rescue, it is because they have lost their paddle. So, this is $7 or less worth of common sense.

    But if you want to spend more you can on the cool coiling leash, which will keep the leash out of the water when you paddle:
    North Water Coiled Paddle Leash

  6. Booties (optional) - You'll want some kind of close-fitting foot-wear. Feet get wet for beach landings, but not for dock put ins and take outs.
    Warmers 3mm Lo-Pro Pull-On Paddling Booties

  7. Wetsuit (depends on water temperature) - A kayaker adage is, dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Nobody plans to capsize. When you do, you want to have the best protection against the cold that you can have. I use a farmer john sleeveless suit when the water is cold. Remember that a kayaker is all about the arms and a wet suit with sleeves will limit your motion, and perhaps cause discomfort and chaffing. I am an experienced swimmer and have a lot of confidence getting back in my kayak when swamped. Most people underestimate the difficulty of getting back in, so practice it in a safe place with paddling companions to help you if you get exhausted.
    Zoot Fuzion Sleeveless Wetsuit - Men's

  8. Pump and Sponge (optional, but highly recommended) - When you capsize, your kayak cockpit (this is not an issue for sit-on-tops) takes on water. The pump goes on the webbing on deck (not in a hard to get into hold), and pumps water out of the cockpit fast. The sponge is even more optional, and gets out the last gallon or so by soaking and wringing.

  9. Dry Bag (optional) - If you take things with you that you want to keep dry, like a wallet or a change of clothes, a towel, a phone, etc. then you will need a dry bag to keep it dry. You roll up the end that opens and fasten it shut. I keep a camera and phone in my life vest pockets inside sandwich Ziploc bags. If the dry bag is in the cockpit with you, make sure it is attached to the kayak so you don't lose it if you take a spill. Same goes for everything you want to hold onto.
    Seattle Sports Glacier Clear Dry Bag - Medium

  10. Signaling Devices (optional) - Imagine you're out for a paddle and a sail boat just turns about and is heading right for you. You'll want to get out of his path, but it is also nice to have a whistle or a horn to make yourself known. For bigger ships, just stay out of their way, they can't turn fast enough to do you any good. If you lose your paddle or otherwise require rescue there are optical signaling options. There are some pretty good strobes that can be seen for miles, laser beacons, flares are expensive and short lived, but you can fire them when you hear an airplane or boat near. These are all for that one time when something has gone wrong, so good to have.
    Greatland Laser Rescue Laser Flare - Magnum

  11. Bow and Aft Lights (required for night paddles) - Full moon paddles are wonderful stuff. Paddling to a restaurant on or near a dock is also a novelty evening for the adventurous. Sunrise paddles are inspirational miracles. If you're on the water and it is dark, you have to have a white light in front, and a red light in back. I also recommend a hand held light for getting attention if you need to, and the previously mentioned whistle.
    Paddlers Supply Company LED Kayak Deck Light with Suction Cup Base

  12. Other Stuff- Of course, there's a lot of stuff you need that is not specific to kayaking. You need sun protection (sunblock, glasses, etc.), water, food, and all that jazz.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate with various retailers on the internet, so I may make a commission on the purchase of certain items that I recommend.

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