What should I take with me when paddling on the sea?
Walk into any kayak shop as a newbie paddler and you may be overwhelmed by the huge selection of safety gear on offer. Just what is it all? And do you actually need it to go out paddling? There’s a vast variety of kit you can carry depending on the level you’re paddling at.
Here we’ve given you a breakdown of the minimum level of kit we would recommend carrying with you for a day out on the water and the reasons why:
Buoyancy aid: Always wear a buoyancy aid on the water – even if you’re a confident swimmer (the most common reason given by paddlers for not wearing a buoyancy aid according to a recent survey by the RNLI), you should always wear a buoyancy aid. If you want to understand a little bit more about why then check out our blog post – Why you should wear a buoyancy aid whilst kayaking.
Two means of calling for help: This could be a VHF radio, a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), a phone in a waterproof case or a whistle. These should be carried on your person – you could be carrying all the best communications gear in the world but this isn’t much use to you if you get separated from your craft.
Spare paddle: This can just be one paddle between your group. Have a look at paddles that split down into two parts to allow ease of carrying. If a paddle should break or be lost out at sea then it’s a long paddle back using just your hands!
Map and compass: Carry a map of the area (and have a basic understanding of how to read it) and a small pocket compass. It is always good to have an idea of where you are, should you need to call for help. The compass can be useful for paddling on a bearing, but also could be useful if a fog was to descend on you and block your view of the land.
Snacks and water: It might sound like a simple thing, but a chocolate bar, granola bar or similar can be a lifesaver when out at sea! As guides, it’s probably our most used bit of kit, and it can mean the difference between someone having a 5-minute rest and a snack to pick up their energy levels or having to tow someone a long way back who is too tired to paddle any more.
First aid kit: Always a sensible thing to carry. Ensure you’re carrying any personal medication in a suitable dry container.
Boat repair kit: This one can just be a few odds and ends or can be an extensive kit. A few bits you could carry would be duct tape (useful for fixing broken boats, broken people, etc!), cable ties, and a multi-tool. There are other items you can carry to fix a hole in a leaking boat too, but these are too extensive to list here.
Airbag: Following on from the boat repair kit, we carry a spare airbag in our hatch so that in the event of a leak in one of the hatches we can inflate the bag to displace as much water as possible.
Spare warm layers: Depending on the weather and how you’re already dressed, but it’s always a good idea to have some warm dry layers with you just in case. (Bonus points if they’re oversized and could potentially fit another person in your group as well).
Group shelter: In the case of an incident these can be lifesavers whilst waiting for rescue to arrive. But they can be equally useful when it’s just a really cold day and you want to warm up at lunch.
Towline: A towline is a really handy bit of kit that can mean the difference between calling out the lifeboat or just towing a friend (or even a stranger that you’ve come across!) back into shore.
Knife: If you’re carrying a rope, always carry a knife.
Bilge pump: For sea kayaks, a bilge pump is a useful bit of kit for emptying the excess water out after a rescue, especially if there is nowhere to land soon to fully empty the remainder of the water out. If someone is already feeling a bit tippy (likely, if they’ve just fallen in) then the extra water in their boat can really add to how unstable they feel. Emptying out all the water will help with their stability and hopefully make it less likely that they will take a second swim.
This list is not exhaustive. There are plenty more safety items you might choose to carry. And some of these items might not be relevant, if you’re just planning to play within the confines of a calm bay, for instance. Making an informed decision based on the weather and sea conditions, where you’re planning to paddle and who you are paddling with, is all very important.
If you want to learn more about the gear we’ve listed here, why it’s a good idea to carry it and how to use it effectively, then we highly recommended getting some safety training. This will increase your safety and enjoyment out at sea.
At Sea Kayak Academy, we offer Safety Courses for Sit-on-Tops and Safety Courses for Sea Kayaks to teach you all the necessary skills to start planning your own trips and getting out on the water safely.