Kayaking is a ton of fun and more accessible than most people realize. With reasonably priced rentals, virtually anyone can do it. But before you hit the wild waters, you need to know a few safety basics. Kayaking safety is straightforward and in many ways resembles generally hiking and camping safety. Know where you’re going, make sure someone else knows your plan and take the appropriate supplies to be safe in nature. That said, there are a few tips specific to the sport that can help you avoid trouble.
What to Do if You Flip Your Kayak
Flipping is an inevitable part of kayaking. If it happens to the unprepared, it can be disorienting, panic inducing and potentially deadly. For the properly prepared, it’s just another part of the adventure. It’s always best to practice righting your kayak in safe conditions (such as in a swimming pool with nearby assistance). There are two options for dealing with a flipped kayak. You can try to turn it without bailing by using the paddle to lever the kayak upright. If that doesn’t work or you haven’t practiced it, a water exit is the best option. Simply release the skirt and pull your legs out if you are in a sit-in kayak or hop out if you are in a sit on top kayak. Let the floatation device return you to the surface. From there, you can recover your kayak.
Kayaking Safety Gear
Kayak trips vary in length and intensity, so your safety gear should match your excursion. At the minimum, you should always have a personal floatation device (PFD), helmet, first-aid kit, paddle floats, and a knife. It’s also important to dress correctly. The saying is, “dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.” Waters are usually colder than air temperatures, so consider a wet or dry suit (depending on temperature and comfort). Waterproof shoes and thermal insulators can also help. Avoid cotton clothing at all cost and stick to synthetic or fleece to stay warm.
Other safety gear to consider are spray skirts, floatation bags, tow lines and paddle floats. The latter list is more important in rough or choppy waters.
What to Pack With You
Aside from safety gear, you need supplies for your trip. An afternoon outing requires less gear, but you should typically take drinking water, food (at least snacks if you aren’t planning a meal), maps or charts, and a dry bag with extra clothes and rescue equipment.
For longer trips, make sure you have all of the necessary camping gear. A short checklist would include tent, sleeping bag, food, cookware, cooking fuel and toiletries.
How to Use a Dry Bag
Dry bags are incredibly important when kayaking because no matter what occurs, they will keep everything you need dry and safe. Dry bags are typically made of vinyl, which lets you seal goods in a waterproof storage. Using a dry bag is pretty easy. Put your stuff in it, but never fill it more than half to three-quarters full. Once packed, remove excess air and pinch the vinyl top together. Dog ear the edges and fold the top down a minimum of three times. Synch or snap the buckles, and you’re set.