Your Ultimate Kayaking Checklist

Your Ultimate Kayaking Checklist

Before you get out on the water there are a couple things you don’t want to forget. Keeping reading to discover your ultimate kayaking checklist.

Selecting your Kayak

The type of kayak you choose for your kayaking adventure will make or break your experience.It is important to select a kayak that best fits your needs. No matter how experienced a kayaker you are, you will not be very successful with a bulky sit-on-top kayak while maneuvering through the rocks of a rapidly flowing river.  

  Kayaks are made with a specific purpose depending on the activity for which they will be used. When deciding on which kayak you will be using. Here are some questions to ask yourself to find the kayak that best suits you.

Where will you be kayaking? 

 Ocean:  Kayaking in the ocean or along the coast is a different experience than on a river or lake. The wind, waves, currents and tides all need to be accounted for while ocean kayaking. It is very easy to fall out of the kayak and be pushed off course. For ocean kayaking we recommend sit-in kayaks have a rudder or skeg.  Sit-in kayaks are more stable than sit-on-tops, and the rudder/skeg prevent the current from tipping or re-directing your boat. 

River:  Unlike the unpredictable ocean, when you enter a river, you pretty much know what you are going to get.  The flow and speed of the currents in a river are pretty consistent and should be known before you begin kayaking. If you are paddling in a calm and still river than we would recommend a sit-on-top kayak.

This will give you the opportunity to get in and out of the kayak more easily if you wanted to jump out for a swim. However, if you are entering a river with speedy currents than a sit-in kayak is recommended.

Lake:  Kayaking on a lake is most likely going to be the easiest environment for you to handle andthe sit-on-top kayak is definitely the go-to.  The sit-on-top will allow you to more readily swim, fish, or dig into that cooler in front of your feet for an ice-cold beer. 

Selecting a kayak

Sit-In:  The biggest advantage of a sit-in kayak is the protection it provides you from the elements. Being nicely tucked into your kayak, you are guarded from the wind and far less likely to get wet for the paddlers who want to stay dry. The down side, however, is that in the event of an accident and the tipping over of your boat, the recovery process will be much more difficult.

Clearing out all the excess water that will be inside your boat will be nearly impossible while still out on the water. Another advantage of a sit-in kayak is the extra stability it provides. Having a lower center of gravity and more points of contact gives the paddler far more control. We highly recommend sit-in kayaks for beginner and first time kayakers for this reason. 

Sit-on-Top:  The great advantage of a sit-on-top kayak is the amazing versatility it provides. They are very easy to slide in and out of and they are not as confined as the sit-in kayaks, allowing the claustrophobic paddlers to not feel so trapped. They also give you more access to equipment you bring on board such as a cooler, or fishing gear.

Another huge advantage of the sit-on-tops is their self-bailing ability, which simply means they have small drains holes that let water drain through them. This is absolutely pivotal in the case of a tip over and falling out of the kayak.  The downside to them is that they are not as stable as sit-in kayaks which leads to more tip overs. The second disadvantage is the amount of exposure to the elements you will receive. You are almost guaranteed to get whet in them and there is no protection from winds or crashing waves.  

wo brown-white-and-black ores
ultimate kayaking checklist -paddle
Macintosh HD:Users:zackhamm:Desktop:paddle-1419984__340.webp

Choosing a paddle

  This is another item that does not take an Einstein like genius to figure out. We promise that you will not get very far using your hands to paddle, but not going to lie, that would be entertaining to watch. Just like with the kayak, choosing the correct paddle is of extreme importance. You will do thousands of strokes while out on the water and having the wrong paddle could be detrimental. The key factors in finding the right paddle are the paddles, length, the material it is made of, and the blade type.  

        Length:  Determining the proper length and size of you kayak paddle is actually pretty effortless to figure out. The size of your kayak is pretty much the only factor that goes into the decision process. Simply, the longer and wider your kayak is, the longer your paddle needs to be and vice versa.  Another factor that may come into play is the height of the kayaker. However, this will only really matter if an NBA basketball star or someone of similar height was kayaking. They would obviously need a longer paddle. Below we have provided a chart that will give you a rough estimate to what your paddle size should be. 

Kayak WidthUnder 23″24″ to 28″29″-33″34″+
Paddler HeightRecommended Paddle Length
Under 5’5″210 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
5’5″ – 5’11”220 cm230 cm240 cm250 cm
6’+220 cm230 cm250 cm26

Materials:  Anyone who has ever had to run with extremely heavy work boots understands how much the weight affects your performance. Shoe companies like Nike and Adidas work endlessly in attempts to eliminate even just one ounce of weight from their shoes for all of their athletes. The same logic holds true with your kayak paddle.

A lightweight paddle could allow you to go twice as far with just half the effort. The weight of the paddle completely has to do with the material from which it is made. The three main materials that are used to make up the paddle are plastic/nylon, fiberglass and carbon fiber. 

 Plastic/Nylon: Plastic paddles are by far the cheapest and most commonly used by your recreational kayaker. Another advantage of the plastic paddle, besides being fairly cheap, is the durability it provides. They can handle a beating and still be reliable. The down side to this, though, is the added weight and lack of flexibility. The extra weight will cause you to fatigue far quicker and the lack of flexibility of the blade is extremely detrimental to your strokes efficiency. Nonetheless, we do recommend the plastic paddle for any beginner or first time kayakers. 

 Fiberglass: These paddles fall in middle range when it comes to their price and performance.  They are lighter than the plastic paddles, and are as durable as the plastic paddles. If you want a lightweight and efficient paddle that is also very durable than the fiberglass is the perfect choice. 

 Carbon Fiber: The Carbon-Fiber paddles are by far the best choice if high-level performance is what you are after. They are extremely ultra light and simultaneously stiff, giving you the most efficient energy transfer in the water. This high performance does come with a cost, and not just financially. The carbon fiber paddles are not the most durable, and need to be well cared for if they are to last you a long time. 

Always bring a life preserver 

  Safety is always the number one priority. Not even the most experienced kayaker in the world is totally safe while out on the water. The ocean and river environments are ever changing and 99% of all the action is happening beneath the surface, making it impossible for kayakers to predict what will happen. That is why it is always best to take no chances. ALWAYS BRING A LIFE PRESERVER. 


  Since kayaking is so fun it is easy to forget how hard you are working when you are out on the water. However, don’t forget it is a physical excercise so it is important to take breaks and drink some water. Dehydration will sneak up on you unexpectedly. You do not want to be miles out and unable to get back.

Safety whistle

Safety whistles are important important to bring on any kayaking adventure. You can easily tie one to your lifejacket. In addition to carrying a whistle you should also be aware of the distress signals.

First aid/ emergency kit

Bringing along a first aid kit might seem like a hassle but in case of an emergency you will be thankful you brought it. You can never predict what could happen, so it is better to be over-prepared.Your first aid kit should include bandages, Neosporin, scissors, disposable sterile gloves, small, medium and large sterile gauze dressings, tweezers, and safety pins.

Camera for photos (optional)

If you want to snap a few pictures of the exotic wildlife of your kayak exploration bring your phone or camera.

Dry Bag

Dry bags are helpful in keeping personal items and the first aid kit from getting soaked. For instance, if your boat flips you don’t want the water ruin your technological devices. Dry bags will keep them safe and stored in your kayak.

Water Shoes

While you don’t have to wear shoes while kayaking we recommend it. Our favorite brand is Chaco. Chacos are outdoor sandals that will support your feet while hiking or doing a water-sport activity.


Bring a helmet is entirely up to what type of kayaking your are performing. Wearing a helmet is required when whitewater kayaking. However, if you are recreational kayaking bring a helmet isn’t necessary.


At the end of your kayaking expedition you will want to dry off before leaving, so be sure to bring a towel.

Anytime you get out on the water it is better to be prepared for any situation that might occur. Hope you enjoy your day kayaking!

Other articles you might like:

7 Kayaking Tips for Beginners

Leave a Reply