Basic Equipment

Hi all,

I am new to the sport of kayaking. My wife and I just purchased our first boats a few weeks ago – Carolina 13.5 & 14.5, along with paddles, pfds, and spray skirts. For right now, we are planning on using them just recreationally for about one to two hours at a time in the marsh behind our house and occasionally the Long Island sound. I have heard people commonly refer to paddle floats and a pump as part of their standard equipment. Is this equipment critical for the type of paddling we’re planning, or is it only needed for longer type trips?

Is there any other equipment we’re missing that is important?



Training, training, training.
If you have not already done so, please participate in at least some basic kayak safety training. At a bare minimum, if you are going to use a sprayskirt, you definitely need experience in the proper installation and release of the skirt, and wet exits with the skirt. Basic kayak safety training should demonstrate the proper use of PFDs, skirts, pumps, and paddle floats.

It’s not if…
but WHEN you capsize.

The water is over your head. You won’t be able to get back into the boat. If you do somehow manage, you won’t be able to get the water out of it, and you will capsize again due to the instability created by the water in your boat.

Even if lessons are impractical- read, read, read. Between the internet, books, and video, there is a lot to learn.

maybe take em
to a pool or the lake and try getting back in after intentionally dumping.(near shore) Find out what it takes before you have to.

If you are close enough…
to shore at all times so that if you tipped over you could swim your boat to shore than you don’t need a paddle float or pump.

But…on the other hand if you are way out in the water (too far to swim your boat into shore) you shoud have a paddle float and a bilge pump and you should know how to do a self rescue and assisted rescue.

Then you will see why you should have both items.



Suggestion - Dry Bag
Since I truly hate being wet and cold, we always carry a dry bag per kayak. Inside is a full - and I mean full - change of clothes from the skin out to a windproof outer shell, with lots of nice warm fleece and wool to go in between. Since we do day-long runs on salt water, we also pack some survival gear - a Tyvek windbreak/tent, fire making supplies, minimal 1st aid gear, food, flashlight, some light rope, etc. There’s enough in there to keep us alive, if not terribly comfortable, if we’re forced to spend an unplanned night ashore.

Even if you just day-paddle, the dry bag is a clever thing to have - if you get dunked, facing a brisk breeze in wet clothes for even a short period is, at best, no fun at all; at worst, you can be facing life-threatening hypothermia.

Our bags are with us whenever we go out on the water, even if it’s just for a quick spin after supper.

Two Bulkheads?

– Last Updated: Oct-13-05 9:50 AM EST –

The Carolina comes in a regular and expedition model - the latter has sealed bulkheads front and back and a decent amount of deck rigging. Which do you have?

If you don't have a sealed bulkhead front and back, you should have float bags to replace that floatation. There is nothing fun about a single person in the water trying to right a boat fiull of water that is pointing stright down to the bottom. In fact it isn't possible unless maybe you're the Terminator.

You'll always have a use for the pump. Skirts get loose and leak, or if you are in the Sound and things change a wave could come down and collapse a nylon skirt into your lap, etc. And the first time you try to re-enter your boats you'll realize the value of a paddle float or similar.

I am not sure where you plan to go on the Sound, but you should get into the habit of checking the marine forecast before going out there. You can find it under the NOAA web site.

And yeah, take some lessons. It's not just people being difficult - kayaking gets a lot more fun when your confidence and ability to handle problems increases.

I agree with everything that Celia said.

happy paddling,


Hofstra Has Pool Program
With lots of good instructors on board. They will help you to learn how to assist each other in rescues as well as self rescue with a paddle float and lots of other stuff. The classes are fun. I go to them as often as I can scrape up the money.

If you are further east, check out

I believe they have pool classes in the Mastic area.


Thanks for all your responses. This is some great information to know. I have very limited experience with wet-exits with a spray skirt on and assisted recoveries. This was from a one-hour pool session geared more towards whitewater so they didn’t cover anything about pumps or paddle floats. My wife has no experience. It defiantly makes sense after listening to everyone’s advice to look into getting this equipment. I think we will also look into some winter pool lessons coming up.

The Carolina’s that we got are the expedition model, so we do have the sealed compartments and rudders.



One more piece of equipment…
…don’t forget the sponge!

basic equipment
pfd…on you and tightly cinched so it does not ride up on you in the water

whistle and signal mirror easily accessible on the pfd.

paddle float either on deck or behind your seat or anywhere you can get to it without having to open a hatch.

Same for a bilge pump.

A stirrup if your physical abilities do not allow you to easily do a paddle float rescue.

May not be a bad idea to have a paddle leash too if you do not carry a spare or if the conditions get a little dicey for your skill level.

if no bulkheads/hatches, for Gods sake buy a couple of float bags. cheap and will save your life as it will keep a lot of water out of the boat for one and two will keep the cockpit above the water line after you get in and start pumping.

As mentioned previously, know how to get that sprayskirt off with both the pull strap and without if necessary.

Hopefully you have a boat with some deck rigging so you can grab/hold on to it.

Good practice. Not half assed. don’t do a paddle float rescue once and say whew! ok I know how to now. try to get in the boat in half the previous time, and then half that again. Also try to learn how to lift the bow in one continuous jerk, and flip it back upright so that you have a minimum of water in it after you get in. (your arms will thank you as you wil have to do a lot less pumping)

Sit in your boat three feet off shore and lean over. rock that baby back and forth and get your balance points and then push them a little farther. Use your paddle on top of the water to brace with and see how far you can lean over before you have to slap the water with your paddle and hip snap back up. Practice this constantly.

The value of lessons cannot be unerestimated. (this should be in big bold type)

Dress for water temperature not air temperature! (this should also be in big bold type)

Go out with experienced paddlers. I do not know of one person who is an intermediate or experienced paddler who would not be willing to spend time with you to help you practice your skills so that you feel comfortable with it.

Soundsl like a lot of work but just like anything else the better you get at being comfortable in your boat and the more confident you get about being able to save yourself and others, the more fun you will really have.


Much Thanks!

Thanks for the excellent run-down for the beginner!! It’s wonderful to have such a concise explanation all in one place. What you say really makes sense. Fortunately, our boats do have sealed bulkheads and we’re set w/PFDs, so it sounds like we’re off to a good start.

Since it’s quickly getting cold outside, I’m not sure how much paddling we’re going to get in this fall. Hopefully it will clear up this weekend, so we can get even just 10 minutes in before it really gets cold. At least the water is still reasonably warm. It’s a shame to have nice new (to us at least) kayaks sitting in the garage and not know how they feel.

This winter I think we’ll defiantly look into some lessons and/or pool time. If anyone in the New Haven/Fairfield county areas is reading this, are there any recommendations you can offer for beginner winter instruction?



One more important thing
a weather forecast before you go. This is should be a mandatory habit every time. Also let someone know where your going for the day.

Remember that short paddle can be one that could end up as the longest paddle of your life.

This can only add to your paddling pleasure.

Kayak Solitude