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Kayak Safety Gear

The most crucial factor regarding your safety is choosing the right paddles, lifejackets, and gear. Having the right equipment makes the difference in your paddling experience; it gives you confidence knowing that you are safe and well prepared. The purpose of this article is to identify and explain the items  that are required for your well-being while kayaking.

Legal vs. Illegal

When it comes to safety on the water, nothing is more important. The perfect paddling adventure can take a serious plunge if you’re not properly prepared. Which is why Canada’s Provincial Boating Regulations complied a list of paddling gear that is required By Law. These items must be present on the paddler or inside their kayak at all times when out on the water:

  • Canadian Approved PFD – bright colours are recommended (Red, Yellow, Orange) Whistle & Lanyard attached to your PFD
    • Canadian approved PFD’s must have an Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) Maple Leaf Label on the inside of the jacket
  • Kayak Paddle
  • Spare Kayak Paddle
  • Bilge Pump with Float
  • Throw Bag – must be 15 metres (50′) of floating line
  • Flashlight – waterproof with WORKING batteries (extras are necessary when doing camping trips)

Note: Anybody can get into a dangerous situation on the water, but it takes common sense and the right gear to survive.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Did you know you are 5 ½ times ‘less likely’ to drown if you are wearing your PFD or lifejacket? Eliminating ‘unnecessary risk’ is easier today then in the past. Lifejackets are no longer bulky and cumbersome to wear, in fact, today they fit more like a comfortable sweater that’s adjustable. They are designed specifically to accommodate the active motions associated with paddling. So why not wear one?

Note: And oh, yeah… It’s the law! Provincial boating regulations for Ontario state you must have one approved Canadian ULC approved PFD for each person in a canoe or kayak.

Modern PFD’s feature short waists, larger armholes, and adjustable straps to ensure the safest possible fit as they can be customized based on individual body size. Also included are see-through pockets for keys, sunblock, and whistle, while lash tabs are provided for a knife, flashlight, reflective tape, or small strobing light to increase visibility. Some companies even use a sweat-whicking material on the inside of their PFD’s to help draw moisture away from your body. 

Throw Bags

A small brightly coloured floating bag which contains 15 metres (about 50 feet) of quality floating line. Throw bags are used for to recover from upsets or to aid other paddlers in threatening situations. For use in self-rescue situations, you throw the bag by holding one end of the loop and throwing the bag with your other hand.

Bilge Pumps

A small pump and float designed specifically for kayakers to manually pump water from the cockpit in an efficient manner. Both a bilge pump and a large sponge should be essential safety items for every sea kayaker.

Sounding Devices

Attach a quality whistle to your PFD with a light line. An increasing number of paddlers now carry a sound-signaling canister or mouth horn as well.

Strobe Lights

Unlike flares that may be dangerous and last for only a few minutes, waterproof strobe lights emit a bright flash of light for a minimum of eight hours. Strobe lights run on replaceable batteries and are small enough to attach to most PFD’s or stow anywhere. A safety gear must for night paddling and a consideration for anyone kayaking near dark.

Paddle Floats

A devise the paddler puts over one end of a kayak paddle to form a stabilizing lever, better enabling the paddler to re-enter the kayak after an upset. Two types of paddle floats are commonly available:

  1. Inflatable Paddle Floats made of urethane-coated nylon; they are small, easy to stow almost anywhere and take a few seconds to inflate
  2. Foam Core Paddle Floats are larger and more difficult to stow, but do not puncture and don’t need to be inflated

Tow Ropes

Designed for towing purposes when a paddler has been injured, succumbed to sickness, or is just too tried to go on. There are two types available to choose from:

  1. Waist-Held tow ropes with 50 feet of line can double as a throw bag, eliminating one piece of gear
  2. Combing-Held models takes the stress away from the paddler by attaching themselves onto the kayak

Paddle Leash

A light leash that secures the paddle to the kayak so you never have to worry about losing your paddle if you capsize. This inexpensive accessory should be a mandatory addition for every kayaker. A paddle leash also provides photographers a safe and easy way to click away.

Spare Paddle

What’s that old saying, “Up the creek without a paddle?” Well, if yours breaks or washes away you could be! A secondary take-apart paddle that sets left, right or centre is a wise piece of safety gear.

Compass & GPS Units

Every paddler should carry a compass and know how to use it! In big waters, fog or simply a new destination paddlers can lose their bearings quickly. Compasses should be mounted on the kayak deck as far forward as is visible to see both the compass and the horizon at the same time. GPS units are quickly becoming an important gear item for most avid sea kayakers… but as they take batteries, thus can fail. We recommend carrying a GPS and a map and compass if possible.

Spray Skirts

Spray skirts fit snuggly around the paddler and the kayaks cockpit rim to keep water out of the kayak. A large grab loop is provided offset at the front for quick removal. Spray skirts are available in urethane-coated nylon, neoprene or other combinations depending on water conditions and budgets.

Knives

If you haven’t got a quality clip on knife or multi tool get one. A knife could save your life in an emergency situation and at the very least will be a handy addition to your paddling gear.

Deck Bags

Deck Bags are gear organizers for paddlers. They are designed with functionality and accessibility in mind. They secure easily to your kayaks forward deck and have different sizes of mesh pockets, hooks and Velcro strips to attach a wide range of small paddling accessories, safety supplies and items of convenience.

Dry Bags

As the name implies dry bags keep protect your gear from the elements. They have roll down tops that seal and come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Many are clear or have see through windows so the paddler can readily find what they need. With cameras, cell phones and GPS’s becoming increasingly popular, dry bags have now been designed specifically for these electronic devices.

Clothing

Paddling jackets, neoprene wet suits, gloves, socks, boots and paddle poogies may be items to look at depending where and when you paddle. When it comes to clothing it is important to plan for the worst weather as conditions can change quickly and unexpectedly. 

Note: Please remember Mother Nature can be unpredictable and waters can be cold. YOU can decrease YOUR RISK by using common sense, knowing your paddling conditions and being adequately prepared.

Your Safety – Our Concern

Despite the overwhelming choice offered in the paddle-sports industry, choosing your kayak safety gear can be easy… and fun! Frontenac Outfitters offers you a superior purchasing experience by allowing you to ‘test paddle’ everything in the shop. This makes choosing equipment that best suits you not only easy, but it’s enjoyable too!

Frontenac Outfitters offers the latest, greatest & safest in paddling gear and accessories at great prices. Our knowledgeable staff is on hand to answer questions and help custom fit your individual paddling needs. We take great pride in selecting only the very best in quality gear, and as paddlers ourselves, we know the importance of safety, comfort, durability and performance. We apply the same stringent parameters to choosing our paddling gear as we do to choosing our selection of boats.

We hope you enjoyed this article. Should you have any suggestions or changes to improve it, please call 613.376.6220 or email [email protected]

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