Kent County Recreation: Paddling
This is a list of the gear recommended for all paddling trips.
- kayak floatation - your boat must have bulkheads or floatation bags. Without floatation, a kayak can sink like a rock.
- personal flotation device (PFD) - class III or better, must be worn
- spray skirt - keep your cockpit from flooding
- paddle float - to assist in self rescue
- wet/dry suit - to increase survival time in cold water (required Oct-May only)
- whistle - to signal other members of your group (one blast to get attention/gather up, two for potential danger, three for true emergency)
- fluids - kayaking is physically demanding, and you will need plenty of water
Additional Recommended Safety Gear
- visual signaling devices - flares, signal mirror, signal smoke, signal dye, etc.
- deck lines - it is easy to lose hold of your boat without them
- spare paddle - for when you or another member of your group loses or breaks a paddle
- tow system - to assist a disabled paddler in getting to shore
- navigation aids - map, chart, compass, GPS, etc. - take responsibility for knowing where you are
- communication electronics - cell phone, VHF radio, CB radio, two way radio - to summon help or for intergroup communication
- radar reflector - only if you plan to spend significant time in shipping lanes (especially in the Bay)
- hat, sunblock, sunglasses - we don't want to fry in the sun
- lunch and snacks - most trips have at least one stop to refuel and rest
- sleeping bag - useful for warming hypothermic fellow paddlers
Convenience Items & Toys
- camera - should be water-resistant, waterproof, or kept in a waterproof case. A Zip Lock bag does not work.
- fishing gear - beware of sharp hooks & think about what you'll do if you catch one
- dry clothes at the take out - you might as well be comfortable afterwards
Everyone has their own ideas of what is comfortable. Here are some general guidelines. Dress for the water and not just the air: you may be going for a swim. In colder months, wetsuits or drysuits become essential. DO NOT WEAR COTTON. This cannot be repeated enough. Cotton holds water and leads to rapid cooling. It's great for the tropics though. Wear synthetic fabrics or wool. Some specific items:
- dry suit - these keep water from getting in and are very warm. Don't wear one unless conditions warrant since they are so warm. A Gore-Tex suit should allow perspiration to escape but they are more expensive. A farmer john wetsuit with a dry top is another option.
- wet suit - these allow water in and the thin layer of water keeps you warm. Since the water isn't moving once it's in the suit, it can act as an insulating layer. They come in several styles and weights (thicknesses). A heavy suit will probably be uncomfortably warm. A full suit with sleeves will restrict your paddling motion and wear you out. A farmer john is probably your best bet. You can decide on long or short legs. In cold conditions you'll want long legs.
- paddle jacket - these jackets are not waterproof but are good for shedding splashes and breaking the wind in moderate conditions. If you blow out the gaskets on your dry top, at least it becomes a paddling jacket.
- foot wear - Sandals or a watersport shoe are probably the way to go in the summer. In cold weather, most folks go with a wet suit bootie. Tall rubber boots can work, but you risk filling them in the surf. Whatever you wear should have a good thick sole for walking over sharp rocks and debris. If you are on an extended trip, be sure to take off the booties every day and dry out your feet, otherwise you can develop trench foot and permanent neurological damage to the feet.
- hand wear - hand protection is generally needed only in the cold months. Pogies enclose both your hand and paddle so you directly grip the paddle. If the collar of the pogie is neoprene, or you've waxed your paddle shaft (insert your own humor here), the pogie may not slide well and restrict your ability to do extended paddle strokes or rolls. You can always pull your hand out of the pogie though. The other alternative is gloves. You lose some of the tactile feel of the paddle, but your hands are always warm and movement is not otherwise restricted. Neoprene gloves should have a natural curve to the fingers so you don't have to work to maintain a grip on the paddle.
- Polartec fleece or some other synthetic quick-drying fleece - great stuff in cold weather