Kayak radar reflectors

I’m looking for information on radar reflectors for kayaks. Wether they are designed by the home handy person or a marine company. Also I would like to know what system works the best for giving off the best reflection thus not causing too much windage / discomfort for the paddler. Your imformaton would be very appreciative. Thanks

Try searching the message threads; I think this has been covered a couple of times with links to articles on testing of various reflectors. My memory is that it’s not much of a help as kayaks are low on the water and the various types of reflectors aren’t high enough or large enough to really make a difference.


I think
of radar reflectors on sailboats. The top of the cabin on a sailboat is much bigger, and much higher than the top of a kayak, or a paddler’s head, and seems to have no radar signature, so radar reflectors have to be put high up on the mast, usually on the spreaders. I don’t think that anything can really be done to increase a kayak’s radar signature. My advice, avoid shipping lanes, don’t paddle in dense fog, and keep your eyes open. When a larger vessel comes your way, give it plenty of searoom.

Reefmonkey is a sage. I have the
level of sympathy for a kayaker that gets hit by a large ship as I do a car driver that gets hit by a train. Gotta be smart and understand your limitations and know where you should and shouldn’t be.

I’m with Reefmonkey - but here’s some…
… info to keep you busy:


Pictures and all. My favorite has to be the 10" aluminum chili pot! S you look at the tested items - think how effective they’d be in 20 knot plus wind and/or 3-4’ seas, or after a few rolls, etc.

When your head is at best 3’ above water level - even 2-3’ waves will effectively negate just about anything. When you see like a shipboard radar sees - and from that angle - even light chop can mask a a kayaker - foil wrapped or not. Plus, most radars simple aren’t tuned right or sensitive enough for small, low, close contacts.

If you do a lot of flat water paddling in thick fog with larger vessels - think about reflectors. Otherwise - just be aware of your surroundings and don’t loiter in shipping channels.

This issue seems similar to the discussion about which noisemaker to use to avoid collisions - when simply using your paddle to maneuver out of the way is faster and far more likely to be effective.

Did you ever
use your paddle to get away from a personal watercraft headed toward you while looking over his shoulder at the skiier he was towing? :slight_smile:

Not that he would hear the fog horn on the Queen Mary.

save your money
in one of uncle derick hutchinson’s books, he indicated that after much R&D it was determined that the best “kayak radar reflector” was simply a big-assed ball of wadded up aluminum foil.

Nope -just to get closer to enjoy…
… the tiny wake.

Try dealing with big deep v hull fishing boats and high power cigarette boats (and PWCs, sailboats, tugs, container ships, tankers, and cruise ships) opening 'er up as they head out the channel to the sea, and others dropping off plane as they come in, all sandwiched between vertical sea walls that give 100% reflection, usually with some wind wave and swell coming straight in too, +/- a bit of tidal current. Not too bad usually, and closest thing I get to WW fun. Certainly not thinking about messing around with horns or whistles when things are up.

A few of us went to a CG demo
and the concluesion of the CG radar operator was that they were barely visible above the clutter and thus pretty useless. Thge operator could see them when totally focused with his radar at the right tuning. ON the other hand that does not happen in the real world.

This included the watch dog, and metalizd myylar used as a wrapper around the torso.

Come and paddle the hudson

– Last Updated: Oct-08-05 7:13 AM EST –

at night. Might want to read deep trouble about that. (illegal barges running wihtout lights) Paddlers have had close encounters with boats coming around points at high speed outside of the channel etc. We have high speed ferries in new england, and one operator was competant to hit a hurricane wall last summer. Then there is fog. Have you ever had fog roll in as you were in the middle of a sizeable crossing (hey it was clear when we started and we did not have tents with us so staying out overnight would have been very uncomfy).

Here is a story for you I was paddling in a place with heavy wind and current with a group (of tight friends all solid intermediate paddlers with multiple rolls, able to play in currents etc) when a short sharp blow came up and threatened to blow us into the path of an oncoming ferry. Several things went wrong. 1. unforecast steady 20 knot winds (local effect, much stronger than usual), 2, Group dynamics. it was hard for those without local knowledge to understand the path of the ferry (intersection of three chanells) one paddler was too frightend to cross in front of the ferry without huge hesitation, crossing in front of the ferry was safe, having a 1 minute discussion was safe, having a three minute discussion was eating too far into the margin of safety (perhaps a four minute margin at first). 3. one paddler in the group dropped their paddle in a monstrous gust, needed to raft to give a spare. 4 two members of the group refused to paddle into the nearby standing waves which would have almost efforlessly kept them out of the channel. One more bad thing could have made for bad trouble. Yes folks were at the edge of theri envelope but nature will have a lot to say about when that happens. so don't be so quick to judge if a paddler gets whacked by a big fast boat.

I was at the same demo…
…and Peter is right. The radar operator told us that there’s no way he would have been able to positively identify a kayak based on his radar image. This test was done on a rough day in a local harbor, with 20+ knot winds and ~2’ chop, which is what masked the kayaks. Conditions in a real rescue could easily be worse.

One thing that the Coast Guardsmen made very clear was that they can home in on a VHF radio signal easily using their direction finder. It doesn’t tell them how far out you are, but it gives them an exact bearing, so it becomes only a matter of time until they get to you.

The bottom line is that while radar reflectors may be of limited use at best, a VHF radio is a necessity for several reasons.

for passive/rescue aids
An EPIRB makes more sense,a radar reflector is a very poor substitute for not knowing where you are in relation to large craft that can’t change their course.

Kill two birds with one stone.



If the price of EPIRBs…
…ever comes down to the level of VHF radios, they’ll probably sell really well. For now, they’re still rather pricey for most people.