Whether you’re new to the sport or are on your way to becoming an expert kayaker, there are some essentials that every avid kayaker has which you should know about. So, without further ado, here’s what’s important, how it works, and why you should care about it.
One life-saving essential that you need, especially if you’re a whitewater kayaker, is a buoyancy aid. When kayaking in unstable waters, there’s always a possibility that your raft might capsize, and that’s when having a buoyancy aid will come in handy. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a personal floatation device and a buoyancy aid. Nevertheless, when it comes to both, you need to pick a size that fits you well. Even if you’re buying one for a teenager, the aid has to fit well. If it’s too loose, it might be counter-intuitive in times of distress.
As a kayaker, there’s no doubt you need a place to keep your personal belongings as you ride the waters. Granted, some kayaks have compartments, but one can’t fully trust that the water won’t do any damage. The risk is usually doubled if what you’re carrying includes a phone, items of sentimental value, or some essential tools for your survival. Dry bags, however, can fully eliminate this risk through their water-resistant materials and their locking mechanism which, spoiler alert, doesn’t include zippers. By rolling the top of the bag multiple times and fastening it with a tight buckle, water is prevented from making its way into the bag.
How you store your kayak can make or break it. See, kayaks happen to be sensitive to pressure to the extent that placing them on one side for more than a day can deform the sides. Even storing a kayak pit side up on bars can dent its bottom. To avoid such a mishap, especially if you have no storage space, a reliable hoist will help you keep your beloved raft safe until your next trip. Through a pulley-system, a hoist hangs the kayak at a specific height while keeping the weight evenly distributed so as not to damage its body.
Taking on the water is normal when kayaking in calm waters, but when you get to the seas and the fast rivers, you have to be prepared. The bilge pump, a simple device designed to empty the water of open rafts, can be operated manually and used to suck water from the raft. The water can then be emptied outside. It’s a simple process that can be done anywhere and at any time, though it will truly come in handy when you’re recovering after capsizing.
This is an essential safety measure for any kayaker, particularly those wading through new or unfamiliar territory. The rule of thumb is, as long as it produces visual or auditory stimuli, it can be considered a signaling device. Among the popular audio devices, whistles, fog horns, and VHF radios. Radio is the most professional, but it can help you make direct contact when boats or the coast guard are around. Whistles, on the other hand, have a limited range. Foghorns are a suitable middle option if you’re unsure about what you need. As for visual devices, you’ve got waterproof flashlights, strobe lights, colored smoke signals, and flares. Optimally, you should be carrying one of each when you go into the waters.
In the toughest of situations, basic knowledge of directions, geography, and physics can be your best friend. Not just that, but with a compass, you can chart your course through any foreign territory, and find your way back. As for the floating aspect of it all, picture yourself in cold waters. Your wet, rigid hand fumbles with the compass, trying to keep it steady. The right wave at the right time can knock the compass right out of your hand and into the water. The next time you go exploring with your kayak, bring a compass with you and see how the trip goes, but be sure to learn how to properly read one first.
Other than the fact that having the necessary equipment can save your life, the right equipment provides a kayaker with the means and the confidence to push their limits. Not to mention, good storage equipment can protect your kayak and save you loads of time and money that would have otherwise been spent on researching and buying a replacement for your damaged kayak. If you have none of these items and you have no idea where to start, consider your priorities and look for your reasons behind each priority. In no time you’ll have your shopping list.