Gear Checklist

You should carry a dry bag containing the following emergency gear:
- Duct Tape
- Deck Light
- First Aid Kit
- Sun Tan Lotion
- Bottle of Water
- Insect Repellent
- Emergency Blanket
- Waterproof Matches

These additional items should be kept in an easily accessible bag or in your deck rigging:
- Sponge
- Bilge Pump
- Paddle Float

Choosing a Kayak

There are many factors to consider when choosing a kayak. First off, you have to decide if you want a sit-in-side or sit-on-top kayak. If you're looking for a kayak for fishing or diving, you may want to choose a sit-on-top kayak. They are easy to enter and exit in the water and have storage that can be easily accessed while paddling. For most other instances, you would be better off choosing a sit-inside kayak.

The next factor you'll want to consider is the length of the kayak. Recreational kayaks typically measure from 8 to 12 feet in length. These shorter kayaks are usually wider and therefore more stable. They're easier to turn, but they are slower and harder to paddle in a straight line. Day touring kayaks measure from 12 to 16 feet in length. They are narrower and therefore less stable. The extra length makes them hard to turn, but they are faster and are much easier to paddle in a straight line. Touring kayaks measure 16 to 22 feet in length. They're very narrow and unstable. However, they're extremely fast and easy to paddle in a straight line.

There are a couple of other factors you should take into consideration. If you're planning on camping, you will want a kayak with storage compartments. As an added benefit, manufacturers typically put bulkheads in boats with storage compartments. Bulkheads lower the volume of water that you can take on when you capsize, making it easier to recover your kayak. If your kayak doesn't have bulkheads, you can install flotation bags to fill the empty space.

Choosing a Paddle

The first thing to consider when choosing a paddle is the shape of the blade. A wide blade will accelerate the kayak quickly. A narrow blade will require less effort when paddling long distances. A quality paddle will also have a smooth blade on the side facing the paddler.

The next thing to consider is the length of the paddle. Paddles will typically range from 210-240cm. To determine the length you need, stand beside the paddle and reach one hand up over your head. You should be able to barely reach your fingers over the top of the blade. If your boat is over 28 inches wide, you may want to consider going one size longer.

If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you should consider using a bent shaft paddle. A bent shaft helps to relieve the stress associated with rotating a paddle with offset blades. Finally, you will want to consider the material of the shaft and blades. If you're planning on paddling long distances, you will want to consider a lighter material such as carbon.

Storing a Kayak

There are a variety of safe ways to store a kayak. The simplest is to stand it up on end. However, this wouldn't be practical for a longer kayak. The most inexpensive method is to hang the kayak on it's side in webbing on a wall. The other option would be to store it upside down across some type of supports. This could be something as simple as a couple of sawhorses. You should avoid storing your kayak in the sunlight. It's also a good idea to use a cockpit cover to keep insects out of the kayak.

Transporting your Kayak

If you have factory racks, it may be possible for you to strap your kayak directly onto the wraps. However, in most cases your best bet is to purchase a rack specifically designed for a kayak. The preferred method is to transport the kayak upside down. Although some racks are designed to carry kayaks on their side. You should use web straps to secure your kayak to the rack. You will want to pull the straps snug, but not tighten them so much that they begin to distort the shape of the hull. The straps should cross the kayak near the bulkheads, where the kayak is strongest. You can also tie the front and back of the kayak to the bumpers of your vehicle for additional security. After about fifteen minutes of travel, you should stop and check to make sure your straps and ropes are still snug.

Basic Paddling Practices

- Never paddle alone
- Inform others of your plans
- Know where to go in case of emergencies
- Carry an adequate supply of food and water
- Never go boating while under the influence
- Always wear a properly fitted PFD (lifejacket)
- Learn the rescue skills necessary to assist others
- Learn how to self rescue in the event of a capsize
- Avoid weather or water conditions beyond your skill
- Never overload the boat with more weight or persons than it is designed to safely accommodate
- Never float or paddle over a low-head (submerged) dam, fallen tree, or other in-stream obstruction.