What Essential Safety Gear Do You Need for Kayaking?

Kayaking is a fun way to explore the water and has many physical and mental benefits, including increasing cardiovascular fitness and improving arm and upper body strength.

As easy as we would like it to be, unfortunately, kayaking is not as simple as jumping in the water and paddling away from all the stresses of life; there are some necessary safety precautions you need to consider beforehand.

Here at KAYACAT, we love getting in the water for an adventure, but not without these essential safety items:

The top of an orange kayak with a lake in background

A Form Of Communication

The most important part about any communication device you choose is that it is accessible to you at all times. You need to be able to reach it in an emergency easily, so it needs to be on your person where possible.

Mobile Phone In a Waterproof Pouch

One of the weaker forms of communication compared to other devices it will require you to make the call to the coastguard using 999 or 112. There are useful apps such as RYA and ISA Safe Trx, which you can download to your mobile to log and track your trip.

Personal Locator Beacon

A personal locator beacon should be kept on you while in the kayak. It is a manual emergency signal which will require registration with the coastguard.

It is more beneficial than using a mobile phone because it can be used in land or sea where there is no phone signal. For use, they must be activated out of water.

Waterproof Handheld DSC VHF

Again, this device must remain on your person when kayaking. Ideally, you will want to purchase a DSC equipped radio because it transfers both your location and a recognised emergency signal.

For a handheld DSC VHF, you will need to have the following:

  • A ship’s radio licence (can be acquired online for free in the UK).
  • Maritime Mobile Service Identity number (included in the ship’s radio licence).
  • An operator’s licence.
2 kayakers wearing lifejackets and paddling

A Lifejacket

Life jackets are essential for kayakers. An adequate life jacket should be the following:

Correctly fitted

To ensure your lifejacket is adequately fitted, you should not be able to move the jacket when lifted from the shoulders (after it has been adjusted). Should this happen, you may need a smaller or tighter one.

For kayakers, a lifejacket should be easy to paddle in and designed with room around the arms and the shoulders.

Suitable for Your Weight

Your lifejacket needs to keep you afloat should you fall into the water; therefore, it is essential to read the labelling and ensure it is appropriate for your weight.

Easy to Spot

Bright colours are easier to spot, and this makes them more suitable for lifejackets. You also want the lifejacket to have pockets for your communication device. For extra safety, attach a small strobe light and whistle on a lanyard to the jacket.

Well Maintained

Remember to regularly check your lifejacket for any general wear and tear and keep it clean after each use.

Essential Gear

Investing in a drybag is a great idea to keep the below safety items secure in the kayak:

  • A first aid kit- accidents can happen any time and it is vital that you are always prepared.
  • A whistle– you may also wish to attach this to your lifejacket as previously mentioned.
  • A compass
  • A light
  • A rescue knife
  • Sun cream- you can be caught out by the sun even when the skies are grey, so it is essential to have sun protection whenever you are in the water.
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra clothes and a towel- not only are long-sleeved tops essential to protect your skin on a sunny day but having some way to get dry when the weather is cold is also vital in extreme situations.
  • Drinking water- whatever sport you are doing, whether walking on land or paddling in the sea, you should always have the means to keep hydrated.
  • Snacks- they are essential for a burst of energy, especially during longer excursions on the kayak.

An Extra Paddle

You will be so thankful for packing an additional paddle, should yours go missing! A kayak is near useless without a paddle, and a situation can turn quite rapidly if you are unable to control and steer your kayak.

A rocky seashore


Any explorations in rapid waters or rocky environments will require a helmet. Some may feel it is a bit much, but water can be unpredictable and wearing a helmet during an unexpected capsize could save your life.

Ensure the helmet you select is produced explicitly for paddling.

ID Sticker

An ID sticker is there to save time during a rescue. If your watercraft has been left deserted, others can contact the rescue services to track you down.

Bilge Pump

As the name suggests, this little pump can remove water from inside your kayak if it enters the watercraft while paddling or capsizing.

Float Bag

Only relevant to sea and white-water kayaks (or a similar type of kayak that is not a sit-on-top kayak), a float bag can help you to re-enter the kayak, should you capsize. In a short description, they help to keep the kayak afloat by filling it with air in the circumstance you fall out.

They are triangular, and their inflation is controlled by a tube located on the side.

Tow Bag 

Ideal for group excursions, a tow bag is a simple, but effective, rope which neatly packs into a bag. If someone from the group is struggling, you can throw it to them and tow them back to shore. They have many uses in emergencies, and they make an excellent addition when you are on an adventure.

Remember always to tell a loved one where you are going, and an estimated time you will be home.

If you are a keen adventurer and love kayaking, have you considered either of our KAYACAT Puma or Cougar transportable watercraft? Our ‘boat in a backpack’ can kayak and SUP, and our Cougar edition can sail too!

 Side profile of Kayacat Puma in blue

For more information, why not take a look at these introductions to our KAYACAT range:

How to Get the Most Out of Your KAYACAT

An Intro to the KAYACAT COUGAR