Getting prepared: what to bring on a canoeing or kayaking trip

Planning a canoeing or kayaking trip and not sure what to bring? Check out these expert tips and make sure you're prepared for a safe trip.

Getting prepared: what to bring on a canoeing or kayaking trip

Essential equipment

  • Never paddle without a personal flotation device (PFD). It not only helps to keep you afloat if you capsize, but prevents­ wind chill and hypothermia. The PFD must be of an approved design and should be roomy around the arms to avoid chafing. The personal flotation device (PFD) is a canoeist's most important­ piece of equipment. It should always be worn when paddling. Approved special lifejackets, worn by sea kayakers, include a whistle­ and flare.
  • Apart from the PFD, the most important safety considerations are proper clothing and footwear, and your overall level of proficiency.
  • Your craft should be checked regularly to see that there are no problems with flotation, holes and fixed buoyancy materials. Test the paddle for strength and keep a spare.
  • A throw bag — a stuffed bag with a tangle-proof cord or rope — is used in canoe and kayak rescue work and should be included in your inventory.
  • Safety lines attached to the boat give you a hand-hold if you go overboard. They are rigged on the deck of sea kayaks and should be fixed to the bow and stern of a canoe; safety loops should be fixed to each end of a kayak.
  • Make sure you have a throw rope and maps for your journeys.
  • A spray deck (an elasticised, waterproof skirt which fits snugly around your waist and the rim of the cockpit) is mandatory for kayaks; canoeists should take one if rough conditions are expected.
  • Be aware of all waterways regulations, never go out alone and always advise a responsible person of your trip details.

Food you should carry

Light, durable plastic is the best material for food and water containers.

  • Make a few drawstring bags for rice, dried-food packs, your kitchen mess kit and cooking utensils.
  • Remember to clean up the campsite after every meal; your motto should be 'pack it in, pack it out'.
  • Reduce your rubbish production by avoiding such items as tinned foods.

Packing the right clothing

Dress for the conditions that you expect to encounter, leaving a generous margin of error.

  • T-shirts, shorts and sandshoes are suitable for sunny weather, but wintertime or salt-water trips call for wetsuits and wetsuit boots.
  • Wear a sun hat with a neck flap for paddling in calm waters; use a protective helmet for trips through the rapids.
  • For warmth at night, take a thick jumper, tracksuit pants and woollen socks.
  • Im­mersion in chilly water can sap your strength and dull reflexes; be prepared to get wet.
  • On all but the shortest trips be sure to take along a complete change of dry clothes.

How to transport a canoe

  • Canoes are best transported upside down on a roof rack, firmly lashed with rope or canoe tie-downs (available from canoe shops).
  • For extra safety, the bow and stern may be tied to the front and back bumper bars.
  • Tie kayaks right way up to roof racks; ideally use a special cradle fixed to the racks and lash the kayak to the cradle.
  • Check ties regularly, as ropes tied when cold or wet will slacken as they dry and road vibrations may cause knots to become loose.

Being prepared is the best way to enjoy your time on the water. Make sure you have a safe boating trip with these simple tips.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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