10 Gear Essentials for Kayaking

Outdoor adventures like kayaking are almost always a good time. However, having the right equipment and gear can turn a good trip into a great one. Kayaking at its core only requires a kayak and a paddle, but is it that simple? Yes and no. Here are 10 essentials that will make you look and feel like a pro.

Quick Rundown
1. Paddling Gloves
2. Polarized Sunglasses
3. Water Shoes
4. Small Cooler
5. Waterproof Case for Keys
6. Bow and Stern Safety Tie-downs
7. Water Resistant Sunscreen
8. Kayak Carrier Shoulder Strap
9. Dry Bag
10. Waterproof Phone Case

1. Paddling Gloves

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One of the most commonly overlooked items for kayaking is gloves. We wear gloves for biking and kayaking is really no different. In some ways, gloves are even more important when kayaking due to the heavy force and resistance of the paddle in the water. We’ve noticed a particular need for gloves on our 2 hour + trips. There are purpose specific paddling gloves but any form of water sports gloves can be effective in protecting your hands from blisters.

2. Polarized Sunglasses

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Sure, you have sunglasses, but are they polarized? Polarized glasses are essential for being on the water in the bright sun. The reflections and glare created on the water can be very intense. A good set of polarized glasses will enable you to take in the sights both above and below the water’s surface. Popular in fishing, polarized glasses have allowed fisherman to spot fish and pick good fishing locations. Having a good set of polarized glasses will make sure you can take in the sights around you with minimal eye strain.

3. Water Shoes

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Foot protection is particularly important when entering or exiting the water. We find that many popular launch and exit locations for kayaking or canoeing often are risky to traverse barefoot. We’ve seen rusty fishing tackle, broken glass, sharp tin cans, in addition to natural risks like clam shells, muscles or coral. Wearing water shoes gives you extra piece of mind entering and exiting your Kayak and also improve grip on slippery surfaces.

4. Small Cooler

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Beer or alcohol isn’t a requirement for every adventure but if you have a need to keep something cool, find a small cooler that fits neatly into an accessible storage area on your kayak. For sit-on-top kayaks, the stern tank well is a great location due to the large area, convenient bungees and proximity to the seat. For sea kayaks, you may want something even smaller since the bow and stern tank wells aren’t easily accessible while on the water. Consider finding a solution that fits neatly into the footwell area.

5. Waterproof Case for Keys

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Worrying about your car keys can lead to a lot of anxiety on the water. While some Kayaks like the Jackson Cruise have waterproof compartments, most do not. We recommend getting a small watertight container that can be clipped to your kayak with a carabiner. This ensures that not only are your keys safe from the water but you won’t lose them entirely in the event of flipping over. Many people have used Ziploc bags only to lose the bag entirely despite the bag keeping their keys and electronics water free.

6. Bow and Stern Safety Tie-downs

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Transporting your kayak is a necessary evil unless you live on the water. There are many kayak rack options for sedans, wagons, SUVs and trucks and they nearly all require a bow and stern tie-down to be safely transported on the road. This is a very frequently missed precaution that can result in your kayak flying off your car. The premise behind this is while you may have taken care to ensure the straps holding your kayak are tight, the strong wind force on the road can still cause them to shift and move. Bow and stern tie-downs make sure your kayak stays in position even if the main straps become slightly loose.

7. Water Resistant Sunscreen

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Proper sunscreen is a given for being outside in the sun. However, make sure your sunscreen has some water resistance. We’ve seen normal sunscreen wear off during entry and exit of the kayak only to leave feet and ankles vulnerable to sunburns. Make sure you always take sunscreen with you on your ride. 9 times out of 10 you’ll experience a burning sensation on an area you missed needing to reapply while you’re on the water.

8. Kayak Carrier Shoulder Strap

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Transporting your kayak can be frustrating at times, especially by yourself. Large sit-in-kayaks can weigh well over 50 pounds and often require two people to carry them. Having a strap that enables you to hold the weight of the kayak in an ergonomic position will improve the overall experience and fun. While some locations have parking close to the launch and exit areas, this isn’t always the case. Having a carrier strap is always a good item to keep in your car for your on water adventures.

9. Dry Bag

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Want to keep stuff dry? Get a dry bag. Simple as that. Dry bags are great for clothing since they also float. It’s common to set off in the morning when it is cold and remove layers as the temperature warms. Having an empty drybag offers a simple storage solution for the layers you are shedding. If you don’t need access to your keys or phone, a dry bag can also be a good place to put them. Dry bags come in many sizes so make sure to size it properly for your needs. They are relatively cheap to purchase so having a few sizes can make packing for a trip more flexible.

10. Waterproof Phone Case

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Thinking of leaving your phone in your car when you get on the water? Don’t. Having the gut reaction to take a picture of something memorable and realizing you can’t isn’t very fun. There are excellent waterproof phone cases that truly seal your phone and ensure it will float if it hits the water. Some cases will even have a special seal to your camera lens so you can take high-quality pictures without removing it from the case. We see this product as a must-have for any water adventure from a full-blown kayak excursion to just taking your pontoon for a ride.