Friday, March 28, 2014

10 essentials for sea kayaking

If you are active in the outdoors, you should be aware of the ten essentials list. What started as a list of ten items not to go into the outdoors without, has evolved and become ten 'systems' not to go into the outdoors without. Here is a great page with both the original and the new updated 'systems' version, along with some history.

But as I stated a few weeks ago, Sea kayaking is really the 'bastard step child' of the outdoor community. So I searched for a kayaking specific ten essentials and didn't find anything definitive, so I decided to make my own. I am going with the 'systems' concept. So here it is, Ten essential systems for Sea kayaking. Each item is going to have two sections. (a) You have to have this, and (b) It's good to have this.

#1 SAFETY - (a) This should be at a minimum a PFD with a whistle attached, a bilge pump and a paddle float. In section (b) I would add signaling device. Preferably one that makes light. Flare, Strobe, mirror. Then consider adding a throw rope and a short tow.

#2 NAVIGATION - (a) Map/Chart and compass. I keep a compass in the pocket of my PFD. (b) I am a fan of GPS. on long trips there is one in a waterproof case under my deck bungies. Put that chart in a waterproof case. And use it! Keep track of where you are.

#3 APPROPRIATE DRESS - (a) What ever is appropriate for the situation In the hot days of summer something to keep you cool, and in the cooler seasons wind/rain/insulation layers. (b) Paddle jacket or drysuit will change the way you paddle. I paddle all winter, and you can too!

#4 SELF CARE - (a) Sunscreen/hat/sunglasses (b) Lip balm. Good foot protection and foot care. While we are at it, how about good hand protection and hand care!

#5 EXTRA CLOTHING - (a) a small dry bag with a change of clothes appropriate to the season (b) a slightly larger dry bag with a change of clothes for those that didn't bring extra clothing, and ended up wet

#6 NUTRITION - (a) depending on the length of your trip, power food, gels, drink additives whatever you like. Water and plenty of it, and an easy delivery method! (b) More of the same, when a good day turns bad, a lack of calories can make a bad situation worse. It will impair your judgement. Pack extra food.

#7 FIRE - (a) a minimum of a fire source, a disposable lighter, or better a storm lighter (b) A fire starting kit, I use a small pelican case with a swiss army knife, flint/magnesium and tinder.

#8 COMMUNICATION - (a) As simple as the whistle in your PFD (b) Cell phone in a waterproof case (and turned off when not in use! we kayak to get away from the world!) VHF (I saw a photo of a reader recently on a day paddle wearing a VHF on his PFD. Good for you Mark! Awesome for weather updates, and communication with nearby vessels, or contacting The Coast Guard if need be. More than a day trip? consider a SPOT or a Satellite phone.

#9 FIRST AID KIT (a) a good first aid kit in a dry bag that you can get to from your cockpit (b) consider a Wilderness First Aid course or the longer Wilderness First Responder course.

#9 ILLUMINATION (a) Headlamp. The flashlight has gone the way of the Dodo. Try paddling with a flashlight in your hand. (b) a backup headlamp with extra batteries.

#10 A PLAN - (a) even on day trips, tell someone where your going. (b) Do a float plan and leave it with someone, or on the refrigerator in the kitchen where everyone will see it. I know a place where you can download one for free!

#11 KNOWLEDGE - Get instruction from a qualified instructor or school, Knowledge is the single most important aspect of being safe in any environment.

What did I forget? Let me know!


  1. How about Good Judgement, Common Sense and Situational Awareness before launching and while on the water. I would probably put these at the top of my list.


  2. Your absolutely right Mark. One of the early versions of my list had 'Knowledge' on it. I moved away from it because the versions of the list I was seeing for other sports stuck to 'gear'. But your absolutely right. I will update it this afternoon. thanks


  3. Hi,
    Good tips. And how about having a safe and secure boat to start with -))


  4. Nice piece. Basics, basics, basics. Saves lives.

  5. Well done...however...I don't carry a separate paddle float because it gets in the way of rolling a kayak. A trustworthy standard Greenland roll is the best possible rescue and it is within reach of most sea kayakers. As a precaution, I keep my rear deck clear of anything that could impede rolling the kayak. I start most tours by rolling the boat, just to warm up. I tour with a lap bag which makes an excellent float for rolling or doing a paddle float rescue. I encourage serious kayakers to learn the standard Greenland roll which is much easier, safer and more reliable than the high brace whitewater rolls.

  6. Interesting. I am learning the greenland roll this summer, I find it very similar to the c to c that I use all the time. But a bit smoother and a bit less 'muscly'. I just made that word up. I keep the paddle float on my front deck, so it doesn't get in the way of anything. It is right next to a bilge pump which is actually much bigger. The only thing I would question in what you say - question only, not disagree with - is that the largest growth demographic in kayaking is rec boats. big wide rec boats. Hard to roll, and really hard to greenland roll because the seat back, width, and rear deck height get in the way. I do think that everyone should learn to roll, and most don't. every whitewater kayaker rolls, and it's no big deal. thanks for the comment!

    AND SILBS AND VAL from Kayakcanoeblog. Thanks for the comments, not sure how I missed them!