Kayak Gear List

So you have purchased your kayak and are now wondering about other gear that you would be wise to be thinking about. This page has info that should help you put those accessory purchases into perspective. There can be more gear associated with kayaking than with canoe paddling but much depends upon what sort of boat you purchase


It's easy to make a case for the paddle being the most important piece of your kayaking equipment. This is a paddle sport after all. The paddle is an extension of your body and you feel the water with it when controlling your boat. it is your most sensitive link to the water world. It is the tool required to explore the characteristics of a boat. If it is heavy or awkward your experience can be dulled and your perception of a particular boat can be adversely affected. You work with the paddle, expending energy as you lift it and pull on it. The boat by contrast will respond favorably, or not, reacting to your efforts with the paddle. You can adjust for unfavorable hull speed or maneuverability but it is hard to compensate for the paddle. You are immediately aware of it with every stroke. For more on paddles read this.


A Personal Floatation Device (Life Jacket) is required by law for each person in the boat. You can pick up something inexpensive in order to be legal but a well fitting, comfortable PFD can be really important if not essential. A comfortable well designed PFD may even become that essential insulating layer in inclement conditions if worn underneath a rain jacket. The PFD isn't likely to save your life if you aren't wearing it and accidents can happen. We may feel that we have everything under control but how about those other boaters around us? Wind, waves, tricky current, or submerged rocks and logs can all lead to an unexpected capsize. Our word of caution is to be prepared and wear your life jacket. You don't have much room to wiggle in a kayak so it is best to already be wearing your PFD when conditions get rough. Make sure the thing fits and doesn't ride up when you sit down in your boat.

Spray skirt

It isn't always necessary to have a spray skirt but if you are an adventure paddler and plan on being far from shore, the advantage of the kayak with skirt is significant. Didn't you get that boat for the seaworthy nature of a decked boat? If so, you'll want a skirt or some rogue wave might make the point for you. If you are a sea kayaker or whitewater boater the skirt is a no brainer.

Sea Kayak Accessories

Paddle float and bailer

The paddle float is a self rescue aid. It can come in handy if you capsize and need to climb back into your boat out far from shore. Once in, you'll likely need to bail out water with a pump or scoop of some sort. We can talk through options.

Paddle leash and spare paddle

There are a number of options for making sure you don't separate from your paddle and boat. A capsize in windy conditions can leave you in the water and your boat adrift. Practice makes habit so develop good habits. Work out your systems so you stay with the boat and have paddle at the ready when you get back in. Again we can talk you through options.

General comment about specialty gear

The kind of boat you get suggests the nature of the gear you should or might want to have. It's tough to cover it all in a one size fits all essay since there are so many boat styles. If you paddle whitewater you'll want a helmet. Most boats should have bulkheads or air bags so that if you capsize you don't fill the whole boat. Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon and a cockpit alone could be 75 gallons of space. You may want a compass and waterproof map holder. Any gear you bring along is stuffed inside your boat so waterproof bags are handy. Your list of options is vast and the exact nature of the items depends upon you and your boat and what you will be doing together.

Car Top Carrier

You'll want to at least get your boat home. This doesn't require a major investment however. We'll have some inexpensive options including foam block sets that can be reused. Sometime down the road you'll be wise to invest in a safe, less fussy system if you hope to cart your boat to distant places to paddle. There are many carrier systems on the market that have been designed for specific car and truck models and there are some build your own options too.

Optional Items

Common use outdoor items

We don't want to imply that you need a lot of specialty items to get out and enjoy your boat. You don't often need more than the common sense sort of items like sunscreen or maybe bug dope, rain gear, etc. that you might bring along on any extended hike. But one more thing that might seem specialized that every kayaker could appreciate is water worthy footwear. It is often wise to wear something that stays on the feet but can be immersed in water like water sandals or shoes depending on conditions. Just make sure that they are comfortable inside the boat when you have your feet on your foot pedals. There are many warm and cold weather options and paddlers have favorites so ask around. You may not actually need more than an old pair of sneakers.

It can be nice to have an extra set of dry clothes waiting for you back at the take-out or carried along with you in a waterproof container.

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