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Whenever we head out for a paddle it is of utmost importance that we take the right equipment, not only for our comfort, but also for our safety, and the safety of others. Equally, we don’t want to be weighing ourselves down with extra equipment, rattling around in our boat, and causing us extra work. But, if we do pack our boat full of equipment, where do we put it all? The last thing we want to do is empty our entire boat on the river bank to get out our squashed sandwich!

So, what do we take, and where do we put it?

In this article we will be sharing our personal advice to make carrying equipment a regular thing without the hassle. Like everything in kayaking, it is specific to what we are doing and where we are going. Listed below you’ll find the basic kit we always take and some of the additions we would take on a white water or sea trip.

Personal Equipment

Buoyancy Aid

The most important piece of equipment that I would recommend you to wear is a Buoyancy Aid (BA). No matter how good a swimmer you are, a BA is imperative. Not only is it useful when swimming about in the water, but it helps keep you buoyant for self rescues and peer rescues, as well as keeping you warm. In my mind, wearing a BA is just as important as wearing a seat belt in a car, an accident might not be your fault, but an injury could be!


They come in all shapes and sizes. Spray tops, semi-dry and full dry tops. Specific to the environment, you can get some with hoods and fleece pockets for sea and touring, and short sleeves for summer paddling


A good way to start, keeping you warm and relatively inexpensive. The ‘long-john’ style suit keeps the warmth in, but stops friction and rubbing under the arm or around the neck for a more comfortable trip.

Dry suits

Pricy but worth it if you’re in the water a lot!
A full body submersion suit with latex seals around your wrists and neck. They keep you dry and warm, no matter what the elements throw at you. These are also available as trousers with the same latex system. They work well with a good cag.

Base layers

Rash vests or thermal layers are brilliant for this. Made of a synthetic material they wick away the moisture from your skin to keep you warm, even when wet. Wool is great to but doesn’t dry as fast and is cold when wet.

Spray Deck

Made of Nylon or Neoprene.
A beginner would suit a Nylon deck that doesn’t stretch. This makes exiting the boat a lot easier through pulling off the deck with the grab handle or kicking with the knees. Neoprene fits a lot better, and it is possible to Eskimo roll without any water seeping through, but, if you want to exit you have to pull the grab handle to get the deck off.


Something sturdy you can scramble about on the riverbanks with, as well as, rocks and coastlines, but importantly, not too big and bulky or they get stuck in the boat. Wetsuit boots are a good start. We lose lots of heat to the ground so thicker soles are better in the winter.

Head wear

When there is a chance of injury, a helmet is a must; it also helps keep you warm!
Definitely worn for white water and freestyle kayaking, but for sea and touring it is a personal choice – though you’ll only hit your head once!

Personal Safety Kit

First Aid kit & Safety Gear

Small first aid kit is a great idea. We need to be able to sort people out who have cuts and bashes during a trip. A spare hat and gloves to keep you warm, and an extra fleece in case you get cold over lunch or after a swim. Also a group shelter is a great way to keep warm and is a bright colour to attract attention if you need it.

Food and Water

Even if you’re out for a couple of hours, a bottle of water and a chocolate bar can make the difference to the last bit of energy on the trip home. Hot drinks in flasks in cold weather are a great way to help keep you warm even if you have a swim.

Means of summoning outside assistance

Everybody has a mobile phone. You can get some great waterproof bags to put them in, and most of them work through the bag. Always tell someone when you are going out and when you will be back. Having a phone on you means you can always call to say you will be late because you are having too much fun out on the water. But also means that if you need extra help, you can call someone in an emergency.


Sea Kayaking Day trip

VHF radio – for contacting the Coast Guard in an emergency and getting the latest weather forecast. Though you do need a license to use them.
Flares – summoning assistance in bad weather
Bilge Bump – to help get the rest of the water out of your boat after rescues.
Tow line – towing injured or tired paddlers, keeping hold of equipment when doing rescues
Spare Paddle – if your’s breaks or floats away
Map, Chart & Tide Info – gives you indications of landing points, headlands, and points of interest, i.e. caves and stacks
Compass – helps to locate yourself and navigate
Repair kit – running repairs can be a pain on the water, so a little multi tool, and a roll of flash band can repair most things.
Lighting – Head torch, glow sticks, and boat safety lights– makes it easy for you to see, as well as be seen.

 White Water Day Trip

Guide book – explains what grade the river is, where the access points are and what the rapids are like.
OS map – knowing the area you are about to explore and knowing where access points are on the river in case of emergencies.
Throw Line & Knife – to pull swimmers out of the river (we should always have a knife if we have a rope)
Spare Paddle – you can get splits that go right down into four sections
Pinning Kit – if a boat gets stuck against a rock, some slings and karabiners are a great bit of kit to get it back out.

How to pack

Dry bags are a great way to keep things dry in your boat even if you capsize; as long as you make sure you do them up properly and attach them to your boat. Lots of small bags are better than one big one as you can squeeze them in and around the gear in your boat.

Where to put the weight?  – You want an even spread in your boat, so as not to affect your paddling. In sea kayaks the rule of thumb is to put most of the weight in the front of your boat. This will help with tracking and the control of your boat.

Where do my sandwiches go? – Pack with common sense. Most sea kayaks have a day hatch and this is great for those objects you want to have to hand quickly, like chocolate bars, hats and flares.
In white water boats you are more limited on space, so think about what you will need quickly.

Top tip

Go and have a try! The best way to learn is to try things out. Learn from your experiences, and don’t take chances, unless you know 100% that the outcome will be successful.