Most visible / safest kayak color?

My soon-to-be-acquired Pungo will be two-toned; it comes in yellow, blue, or red on the top half with white on the bottom half. I chose yellow for my last (first) kayak for greatest visibility. With less color on the Pungo, I think it will be less visible than the old kayak. I think blue is probably the least visible; so between yellow and red, which would be most visible to boaters on a large lake? The shallow part of the lake–where I’ll stay for the most part–is kind of a greenish color tinged with yellow (sandy bottom; clear water). Occasionally I may go deeper, where the lake is black. It’s the jet-ski’s–which run in both parts of the lake–that concern me most. Thanks!

Yellow is more visible. There was a study done that showed that red tends to appear almost gray as you get farther away from it.

generally - yellow

– Last Updated: May-02-09 12:13 PM EST –

But, there are variations.

Yellow won't help you at night. For that you need lights. Or need reflective tapes, which will reflect other's lights.

In different conditions, different colors show up. A teal blue actually shows up well in many cases. Yellow does also.
(Edit - teal blue wasn't quite right - robin's egg blue is the color I was thinking of - thanks Nchill)

White stands out in flat water, but disappears in white caps.

Often, the color of the boat doesn't matter as much as the colors you wear. Get a bright PFD and wear bright colored clothes, if visibility is a concern.

what color is you CAR? I suggest you paint it that Lime green Fire truck color for added safety. L Just messing with ya, but seriously get what ever color you like, but really the drive to the launch point is the most dangerous!!

Red disappears sooner at dusk
At least the usual hard red colors - the more yellow in it, the better it bounces as the sun fades.

A friend of ours was circumnavigating Fishers Island, NY with us one time a few years ago in some decent sized waves (3-4 feet - couldn’t see over the tops of the biggest ones) at one point, and he got about 3/4 of of a mile ahead of the group. We couldn’t see his teal green boat, but we sure saw his bright yellow wide-brimmed hat clear as day.

After the paddle, I mentioned it to him, and he said he was actually thinking about not wearing it because it looked dorky. He reconsidered after I told him it was all of him we could see. I bought two of them online that night - one for myself and one for the better half.

Might look dorky, but you’ll see me.

jet skis
My wife and I have been paddling since 2003. Like you she does not like jet skis

Perhaps it’s just the lakes we paddle (or the urbanized ones we avoid), but we have never had a problem sharing the water with a jet skier.

Wife: “I don’t like jet skiers”

Me: “why?”

Wife: “I think they are going to hit us”

Me: “we paddle about a 1500+ miles a year and we have never had one even come close to us”

Wife: “what about that one doing donuts and figure eights close to shore?”

Me: “he was there first, we paddled into that area. Besides even then he was never close to us”

Wife: “i don’t care. I don’t like jet skiers. I think they are going to hit us”

The boats I watch are the ones pulling something behind them, whether it is a skier or kids on a float. I feel that they are the ones most likely not to be watching ahead of them.

As far as kayak colors for visability…we always see the hats and flashing paddle blades long before we can make out the kayak color off in the distance.

The only safety is constant vigilance. We always assume the other boats don’t see us, won’t see us and we watch them like a hawk. Late evenings we make sure that we are not between the ‘low to the horizon’ sun and the boats heading back to the marina. Since boats in that direction are blinded by the sun and can not see us, we watch for activity and try to determine their course much farther away than we would for other directions.

Robin’s Egg Blue


– Last Updated: May-02-09 10:51 AM EST –

When I'm out on the water I notice contrast. When the sun is at one angle the light shows up. At another angle the dark stands out.

You want a boater to see you? If he's not blind drunk brace this way and that and show alternating dark and light. (in my case a white hull and dark blue deck)

A light colored shirt and a dark hat help also.

High Vis Hat
Click on the “see image” next to the pricing.

I had a similar experience. My girlfriend and I were in the Columbia River off of one of the islands near Cape Disappointment on a gray day. Our paddling partners were coming out to meet us. She had a red boat, me battleship gray. Decently bright colors for clothing. First thing they reported seeing were her yellow paddle blades (not my black with SOLAS reflective tape).

Paddle shop owners don’t necessarily understand when I am not willing to buy the lightest paddle (almost invariably, carbon so black blades) and instead get the bright yellow fiberglass models.

My old perception eclipse had a pretty cool white to blue fade color scheme, which looked really cool on land, but disappeared on larger lakes. Nobody in my paddling circle has any shade of blue or green on their boats.

I have since moved to Red, Orange and sometime in the future I’ll own a yellow decked boat.

Actually, Lime Green…
has been shown by rescue crews to have the greatest visibility in most water conditions…

get a flourescent orange bb/hunting cap

Bright paddle blades
I find boats that are yellow or any of the neon colors to be highly visible.

But if you don’t want those, buy a paddle with bright blades. The movement and higher position (than the boat) make a paddle even more noticeable.

Have fun!

rescue colors
Anyone watch the television show “Dangerous Catch?” An episode or two ago one of the fishing vessels went down and the television crew followed the coast guard helicopters to the where the boat went down. After some searching they found several bright orange cold water survival suits and after considerable searching they found a black rescue raft.

The coast guard pilot’s couldn’t believe any vessel would have a black rubber life raft in the middle of the Bering Sea. I wonder if the boat crew even knew the raft was black? It was almost impossible to see.

Even hovering fairly close to the sea, the view from the helicopter was obscured by waves, spray, white caps, shadows, etc.

Paint or tape
You can always paint or tape your blades. Solas tape is very reflective.

…when light is available
Solas tape only reflects when light is available. Does reflect back sunlight, so putting some on your blades can be very effective. And it is geat at night when someone is shining a light.

But, it does nothing in low light situations.

From air or kayak?
There are those who swear that the color of your boat is insignificant compared to the color of your hat or blade. From the water-level view, this is true.

From the air, the color of your boat is far more important.

My experience is that yellow or robin’s egg blue are the most visible. Water is rarely either of these colors, regardless of conditions. Of course at night, retro-reflective tape is priceless.

If PWCs are your greatest concern, a bright yellow paddle is probably your best defense.

Yellow Freight
Yellow freight commissioned a study years ago to determine the most visible color for their trucks.

The result was orange.