Kayak Safety Gear

Kayak Safety Gear

Kayaking is a great outdoor activity that allows people to explore waterways and connect with nature. The great thing about kayaking is that you can kayak in nearly all kinds of water, from oceans to whitewater rivers and everything in between. However, like any outdoor activity, kayaking comes with risks. These risks include changing weather conditions and unexpected emergencies on the water. This quick guide will delve into kayak safety gear every paddler should have to ensure safe and enjoyable paddling adventures.

Essential Kayak Safety Gear

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

The first and most crucial piece of kayak safety gear is a personal flotation device (PFD). Also known as a life jacket, a PFD is designed to keep you buoyant and afloat in the water in case of capsizing or immersion. When choosing a PFD, choose one that is designed for paddling. These should feature adjustable straps, a secure fit, and ample buoyancy to keep you safe on the water. Also, ensure that your PFD is designed for the type of water you will be kayaking in. Always, always wear your life jacket while kayaking.


When whitewater kayaking or paddling in rocky rivers, a helmet is critical to protect your head from potential impacts with rocks, debris, or other obstacles in the water. Look for a kayak-specific helmet with a durable shell, comfortable padding, and adjustable straps to ensure a secure and comfortable fit while paddling. Also, a helmet is a good idea for offshore and nearshore kayaking. When paddling through surf and other waves, the possibility of being pushed onto rocks and shoals can be a concern. A helmet can mitigate some of that risk.

Kayak Bilge Pump

bilge pump is a necessary tool for removing water from your kayak. It’s important if you capsize or otherwise become swamped, such as during a heavy rain. Compact and lightweight, a bilge pump allows you to quickly and efficiently pump water out of your kayak to prevent it from becoming waterlogged and sinking. Choose a pump with a comfortable grip and a high-capacity pumping action for effective water removal.

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More Kayak Safety Gear Recommendations

Paddle Float

A paddle float is a safety device that can aid self-rescue techniques if you capsize or find yourself in the water. It attaches to one end of your paddle. A paddle float provides added buoyancy and stability, which will allow you to perform a paddle float re-entry and re-enter your kayak from the water safely. Practice using your paddle float in calm water conditions to build confidence and proficiency in self-rescue techniques. You can also take a kayak safety course where self-rescue techniques are taught and practiced.

Whistle or Signaling Device

A whistle or signaling device is an essential piece of kayak safety gear for attracting attention and signaling for help in case of emergency. Attach a waterproof whistle to your PFD or kayak deck and use it to alert nearby boaters, paddlers, or rescuers if you require assistance on the water. Ensure your whistle is loud, audible, and easily accessible in case of emergency.

Navigation Tools

Navigation tools such as a map, compass, or GPS device are essential for safe and successful paddling adventures, especially in unfamiliar or remote waterways. Carry a waterproof map of your paddling area and familiarize yourself with landmarks, navigational aids, and potential hazards such as rocks, rapids, or submerged obstacles. Use a compass or GPS device to maintain your heading and navigate safely to your destination.

First Aid Kit

A well-stocked first aid kit is critical for addressing minor injuries while paddling. A first aid kit will allow you to treat medical emergencies, and to provide light medical care while paddling. Pack your first aid kit with basic supplies such as adhesive bandages, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and blister treatment. Also, include any personal medications, allergy medication, or emergency medications that you may require while on the water. 

Communication Device

In an emergency, a communication device such as a marine VHF radio, waterproof mobile phone, or personal locator beacon (PLB) can be critical for calling assistance and alerting rescuers to your location. Carry a communication device in a waterproof case or dry bag and ensure it is fully charged and accessible while paddling. While space on a kayak is tight, it’s a good idea to have redundant systems. Many paddlers opt for a PLB along with their mobile phone. When venturing offshore and nearshore, mobile cell phone service can be spotty if available at all. A floating marine VHF radio should be an important consideration.

Emergency Blanket or Shelter

In the event of an emergency or unexpected overnight stay on the water, an emergency blanket or shelter can provide essential protection from the elements and help you retain body heat to prevent hypothermia. Pack a lightweight, compact emergency blanket or shelter (such as a bivvy bag) in your kayak’s storage compartment or dry bag for added safety and peace of mind while paddling.

Kayak Tow Line

A kayak tow line is a valuable safety accessory for assisting other paddlers. Choose a kayak tow line with a strong, durable construction, quick-release mechanism, and reflective details for increased visibility in low-light conditions. Practice using your kayak tow line with a partner to ensure efficient and effective towing techniques in emergencies.


Safety should always be a top priority when embarking on a kayaking adventure, and having the correct safety gear can make all the difference in ensuring a safe and enjoyable paddling experience. Investing in kayak safety gear such as a personal flotation device, helmet, bilge pump, and paddle float, among others, paddlers can minimize potential risks. Our gear suggestions can also enhance your preparedness, enabling you to enjoy paddling adventures with confidence. Remember to always paddle responsibly, stay vigilant, and prioritize safety on the water. Safe paddling!

Reading More

Be sure to check out bivvycreek.com for all of your fly fishing and tenkara fishing needs. Also, be sure to read this article from DIYSurvivalTips.com about survival tools you can make at home. If hiking and backpacking is more your style, be sure to check out bestrailstohike.com and our list of essential backpacking gear.

Image by Chris Vigneau from Pixabay

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