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Essential Equipment & Accessories for Beginner Kayakers


When beginning a new sport or hobby figuring out exactly what equipment and accessories are needed can be difficult. There are tons of different kayaking accessories out there, some are very universal where others are specific to a certain type of kayaking. But as a beginner, it can be difficult to sort through all of them to determine which ones you really need, which ones would be nice to have, and which ones can wait until you have more experience.

Here we’ve put together a list of essential gear every kayaker should have as well as one for non-essential kayaking equipment for beginners.

Essential Kayaking Equipment

Before you hit the water, this is a list of must have kayaking accessories and gear to make sure you stay safe on your trip on the water.

  1. Kayak: Kind of a no-brainer, if you want to start kayaking you will need a kayak. But do your research because there are many different types of kayaks and the type of kayak you choose will depend on what you plan to do with your kayak and at what level. Having the right kayak is important to making sure you get the most out of your new hobby as well as your safety.
  2. Paddle: Each type of kayaking requires a different type of paddle. Once you decide on a kayak, you can figure out what type of paddle to go with it. The nicer the paddle you choose, the more enjoyable your outings will be. Find a light-weight one that will be easier to swing back and forth and make sure it’s the right size. You don’t want one that’s too long for you. Place the paddle vertically and reach up. You should be able to comfortably wrap your fingers around the top of the paddle without stretching.
  3. Kayaking-Specific PFD: Kayaking personal floatation devices or life vests differ from others in a few ways. First, the back is higher so it doesn’t interfere with a kayak seat. They fit snug so not to rub when you paddle and are designed to allow movement. Some also have tow belt attachments, multiple pockets and places to lash on a knife, whistle and light.
  4. Spray Skirt: A spray skirt will help keep water out of the kayak. It is important that the skirt fits both you and your boat as you wear it around your waist and seal the cockpit opening with it. They are a necessity for whitewater and sea kayaking and nice if paddling recreationally in anything but perfect sunny weather.
  5. Helmet: Depending on the type of kayaking you will be doing a helmet might be required.

Non-Essential Kayaking Equipment for Beginners

These items may not be essential to getting out on the water, like having a kayak, a paddle and a lifejacket, but these items will certainly come in handy as you get started with your new hobby and could even save you in the event of an emergency.

  1. Clothing: From dry tops and wetsuits, to kayaking shoes and gloves, there are endless possibilities for clothing accessories. You can technically kayak in anything, so mostly it’s a matter of preference and water temperature. But you will want to wear something that gives you a good range of motion and that you will be able to swim in incase you find yourself in the water.
  2. Rope Bag: This is a rescue rope inside a throwable bag that can be thrown accurately in an emergency. Although not essential to kayaking, it is highly recommended that all paddlers carry a rope bag in case of emergency.
  3. Rescue Sling or Stirrup: A rescue sling can help you get in back into your kayak by giving you something to step on. This is particularly helpful as a beginning when you still learning how to get back into your kayak.
  4. Paddle float: A paddle float is another tool that can help you get back in your boat during a self-rescue. It is an inflatable bag that you inflate around one end of your paddle to use an outrigger to help you get back in.
  5. Knife: If you ever get tangled in a rope or stuck under a raft, a knife can certainly come in handy. It’s always a good idea to have one with you.
  6. Bilge Pump: If you capsize, get splashed by waves or another boat’s wake, you may take on water and will need to get it out. A bilge pump will help you do this.
  7. Float Bags: If your kayak doesn’t have bulkheads, you may want to buy float bags. These are bags that fit in the stern of the kayak that will help keep it from sinking if it takes on water.
  8. Dry Bag: These likely won’t save you during a rescue, but can save you from soggy snacks, a from ruining your camera or phone while kayaking.
  9. Kayak Storage Rack: You’ll want someplace safe to keep your kayak and gear when it’s not in use and a sturdy, kayak rack can do just that. There are lots options when it comes to kayak storage solutions. We offer free standing and wall mounted kayak racks that are beautifully handcrafted out of cedar logs. You can view our kayak storage systems online or contact us at 715-543-2006 if you are interested in learning more about our log kayak racks.

There are lots of other kayak accessories out there that are helpful and can make your kayaking trips easier and more enjoyable, but this is a short list of items that every kayaker really should have with them every time they are out on the water to keep them safe.