Your Kayak Accessory Guide for a Safe and Comfortable Trip!
Kayaking is a fun, inexpensive way to get out on the water. However, choosing the right accessories can make your experience much safer and more comfortable. I will not be discussing how to choose a kayak or paddle.
What I am doing is trying to help you choose the proper type of life jacket, gloves, shoes, and safety accessories, plus suggesting numerous ways to transport and store your kayak. These items would also make good gifts for a friend or family member who already has a kayak.
Kayaking isn’t just a warm weather sport. With a wetsuit, boots, warm hat, and gloves, it can be enjoyed year round up north. Take a camera and/or your cellphone, in a waterproof bag. Try it this winter. You might like it.
If you or a friend has a larger sail or power boat, you could either place your kayak on the deck, or tow it. Then you could explore the area around your next anchorage.
Kayak Accessories For Safety, Comfort, And Convenience
This site is intended to be a guide to help kayakers chose the safe and necessary accessories for themselves and their kayaking family and friends. I have been kayaking for over 15 years, and have owned 6 different kayaks over the years, and still have three of them. And I have been acquiring various accessories each year.
Each time you meet another kayaker, you see or hear about even more available accessories. Many add to your comfort, like gloves, kayak seats, kayaking shoes, wetsuits, and visors. Others add an additional element of safety like life jackets – very important if using inflatable kayaks, floating flashlights, headlamps, and paddle leashes. Still others add a measure of convenience like the dry bags and deck bags.
And every kayaker needs some sort of car roof rack to help transport their kayak(s), and possibly some wheels to hold up the other end of the kayak. And a rack in their garage to store it. And now there are some accessories that can actually help you “sail” your kayak.
Choosing the right kind of life jacket for kayaking
Kayaking requires a different type of life jacket than you would use for water skiing. When you paddle, you are sitting down. Your life jacket tends to ride up under your chin. This is unsafe, and uncomfortable. A good life jacket for kayaking should be short. It should have an adjustable strap around the bottom, to make it fit near your waist.
Big armholes are also important. A day of paddling chaffs on your inner upper arm. To prevent this, chose a lifejacket with big armholes. Try a paddling motion to see if it is big enough. Several small pockets are handy for keys, cellphones, small cameras. Make sure that there is a zipper or snap closure so that your items don’t slip out.
You Always Need To Protect Your Eyes And Skin
A kayaker is exposed to all the elements. When out on the water, there is no shade to duck under. You need to protect your eyes with good polarized sunglasses. You need to protect your skin from harmful sun rays. You need to protect your head from the sun. If you are just out for an hour long fun-in-the-sun paddle, you don’t need heavy duty protection. But if you are out for a long distance paddle, the more protection from the sun, the better. And don’t forget that the water reflects a lot of sunlight, intensifying its harmful effects. And that you can still get a lot of sun exposure on a cloudy overcast day. You need to do all that you can to prevent skin cancer.
How to protect your wallet, cell phone, camera, keys, GPS
It is always a problem for a kayaker to keep small items like your wallet, keys, cell phone, camera, and GPS dry, yet keep them with you.
All these specialized dry bags solve that problem. Some go around your neck. Others go on a belt around your waist.They are especially handy if you are going snorkling off of your kayak. Everything stays dry, and attached to you. These bags are also handy at the pool or the beach. Now you don’t have to worry about trying to hide those small items in your towel and leaving them behind. Now they can all go safely into the water with you.
Kayakers Never Have Enough Dry Bags
Kayakers never seem to have enough dry sacks. These heavy duty vinyl bags have a unique closure that is watertight, and forms a handle. The top rolls down over itself, and then you click the two buckles on either side of the opening. You can roll the top down as far as you want, so as not to have a bundle any bigger than necessary, creating a custom fit for whatever is inside.
And if the contents aren’t too heavy, you can leave an airspace inside at the top on purpose. This air space can help the bag float, if it ever falls overboard, or you tip over. The handle area is convenient for securing the bag to the kayak. If you ever capsize, the dry bags tend to either sink, or float away. And don’t forget to use a waterproof marker to label each bag with your name.
The different colors of dry sacks are useful if you use their colors as a code for what is inside. For example, blue for small personal items such as binoculars, sunscreen, bugspray, gloves, visor, flashlight, camera. Then red for food stuff and drinks. And green for clothing- an extra jacket, rain gear, bathing suit, towel.
I have found that if you try to cram everything into one big dry sack, it becomes almost impossible to find anything inside it. Often there is no dry place to dump out the contents while you look for an item. If you want or need a large dry sack, I highly recommend that you get one that is a clear vinyl. Then you can spot just what you want from the outside, and can then plunge your hand in in the right area to retrieve it.
Outdoor Products 3-Pack Ultimate Dry Sack
These three dry bags are always convenient. Being different sizes and colors, you can designate each to have different types of contents. I once used the smaller red one to protect my video camera.
I once used a small red one to protect my video camera. I was kayaking in Florida. I kept seeing different shore birds, either wading or perching nearby. I was continually paddling, seeing something I wanted to record, putting my paddle down and opening the red bag to retrieve the video camera, and recording these sights from kayak level. The results were stunning.
At one point in the Everglades, I even got the camera out to record the 8″ deep “river of grass” that I was gliding through. I’ve never seen any other recording of that. Because water continually drips off the paddle into the cockpit of the kayak as I am paddling, it is essential that the camera or video recording device is protected. These small dry bags do the job very well. And because my smallest, which held the video camera, happened to be red, it was easy to spot it onshore, and keep it from getting crushed or damaged.
If you keep all your toiletries in another, it is easy to keep them all together, and to take them with you to the campground showerhouse, etc.
Another advantage to using these dry bags when kayaking is that there are no straight lines or rectangular shaped areas in a kayak. No rectangular containers fit well in a kayak.These vinyl bags can pile on top of each other, and conform to whatever shape is necessary. It is easy to utilize all the available space within a kayak without wasting any of it.
More Handy Dry Bags for Kayakers
Here are some more styles of dry bags. Remember, you can chose them by color, and thus color code the contents. Or, if there are several kayakers in your family or group, each one of you can use a different color to use for your own belongings. Then, if you are in a hurry on the shore, you won’t wonder which dry bags are yours. Or chose a clear see-through bag so you can easily find the item you want.
Specialized Gloves Make Kayaking Comfortable
Paddling a kayak can cause blisters, especially if you have soft hands, or you are paddling long distances, or against a strong current. Gloves come in many styles. It depends on whether you are kayaking in a warmer or cooler climate. You can have warm, waterproof gloves to protect your hands, or cooler open mesh gloves that mostly provide palm protection from blisters. Some kayak gloves, like golf and biking gloves, have good palm protection, but only partially cover the fingers. These “shorty” gloves are better for warmer climates, and if you need dexterity to use a phone or camera.
Water Shoes Are A Necessary Accessory
Your feet will get wet whenever you get in or out of your kayak, unless you are entering from a dock. It is nice to have shoes or boots that are made for getting wet. And they need to be able to dry quickly. There is nothing worse than putting your feet in cold, wet boots from the previous day’s trip that haven’t dried out yet. And they need to have some traction on the soles. Many boat ramps are slippery when wet. Make sure that the closure works well. Zippers may need to be oiled occasionally.
It is also important that the shoes/boots will stay on your feet in all situations. You never know when you will get out of your kayak and sink a foot into oozing mud that will try to suck the shoes right off your feet.
How To Carry Your Kayak On Your Car Roof
Once you have your kayak, the next step is figuring out how to carry it on your car or truck. It will depend on the size of your car, your height, the weight of the kayak, and your strength, and whether you have someone to help you. Some racks hold the kayak on its side.
If you are short, you may need to also have a small stool or stepladder to allow you to fasten the kayak correctly to the roof rack. Some rack styles have either rollers or felt pads which greatly help you push the kayak up onto the roof rack. If you have a truck, and a long kayak, you probably would need the specialized rack shown below to make the kayak height even.
The simplest and least expensive rack actually is a combination of four foam blocks to protect your car roof, and tiedown straps attached to your car gunwales.
I now have a 9′ kayak that weighs only 33 pounds. I can either put it in my van, or on the roof with straps. It’s not a graceful sight, but I can get it up on the roof by myself. When I had a 15′ sea kayak that weighed 65 pounds, I needed help, both carrying it, and getting it on the roof.
Wheels To Help You Transport Your Kayak Safely
There are many times when you want to go kayaking, and there is no one to join or help you. If you have a set of these wheels, it is easy to just push or pull your kayak from your car to the water. Various strap configurations attach the wheel frames to your kayak. Most of these have either folding or removable wheels. Then the whole frame/wheels can be easily placed in a hatch, or the other end of the kayak cockpit.
How To Store Your Kayak Indoors
I have seen many ingenious ways to hang up a kayak for indoor storage. Some are just pairs of hooks mounted on a wall. Some can actually hold two or three kayaks along a wall. I have also seen kayaks suspended from the ceiling. I have included a bike hoist which could be converted to a kayak hanger.
How To Do An Eskimo Roll In Your Kayak
This isn’t for everyone. To be able to roll a kayak is often a goal of advanced aggressive kayakers. I don’t recommend advocating it for a new kayaker. He/she needs to be a good kayaker, and have expressed a desire to learn to do a roll. I’ve seen a few others do it easily and gracefully. Of course they never said how long or hard it was for them to learn to do it.
I once took an all day roll clinic with two friends. I was the only one of the three of us to do a successful roll. It was done step-by-step in flat water. But I didn’t see how I would ever be able to do one in rough waters if I ever went over. So I never did one again. And I avoided rough white water after that. But that is just me. There is plenty of other kayaking that I can safely do.
These books and DVDs will show you the correct way to safely roll your kayak. Keep practicing. Don’t give up like I did. In rough waters you might accidently go over. It is essential that you know how to safely come up to the surface again without getting out of your kayak mid-stream or mid-ocean. Perfecting the kayak roll is more than just being able to show off your skill. It could literally save your life someday.