Safety Gear

Hi ya…I’m new to kayaking and after renting for the last year or so I finally bought my own. I’m in the NY area so I’ll be on the coastal Long Island Sound and Hudson River.

My question is: To properly equip my boat what safety accessories are required and what is recommended?

This is what I have so far:

PFD (of course)


Dry bag with a small First Aid Kit and Sunblock

Bilge Pump

Rope 3/8" Braided 75’

What am I missing? Thanks.

Skills plus
Start working on a roll over the winter in pool sessions. The worst you’ll get is better paddle skills and bracing, even if the roll takes longer. And you need to learn how to paddle in wind and handle waves and current - where exactly are you so that people can point you somewhere to get some help?

Also, what boat do you have? Does it have full perimeter rigging and two bulkheads, etc?

As to what you need overall, you need the talent, judgement and gear to handle big water. Here is a site that talks about the skills and some of the equipment to consider.

You have everything that is required
and needed.

You might want to add a knife.

Where you are paddling in the sound, a VHF radio would be good to have also

jack L

Check out local paddling clubs
Check out the local paddling clubs most of them will offer training sessions. For example depending where you live the Long Island Paddlers offers members free training sessions including winter pool sessions. Sebago Canoe Club in the city offers similiar benefits for members

Not only will you be able to receive instruction from clubs like these but you’ll also benefit from the local clubs paddles.

whatcha doin
with that rope? Safety gear has to be accessible, and I recommend you make that rope inaccessible so you don’t accidentally strangle yourself. You definitely don’t want 75 feet or rope hanging around on deck.

Otherwise, what Celia said. And consider adding flares to your list.

a light
You should carry a super bright white light of some kind with you. Never know when you might end up out after dark or in sudden fog and you want to be able to see and to be seen. Don’t bother with the specialized kayak lights – expensive, fussy and tend to malfunction. Get the brightest cheap LED compact flashlight you can find, preferably waterproof. I carry one that has a clip on it so I can rig it under my decklines. I also carry two of the little LED “jewel” lights, small clip-ons (bike shops sell them)about an inch and a quarter square that can attach to my PFD or paddling hat. I carry a white light one and a flashing red one. If I intend to paddle after dark I also bring along a bright LED headlamp to aid in seeing around me.

By the way, I highly recommend a paddling day trip down the Housatonic past Stratford and into the saltgrass marsh maze wildlife area at the delta where it meets the Sound. Paddling back up the river after dark on a full moon night is quite magical.

A few things
1) Floatation

Bulkheads and/or airbags to keep the boat high when you flip. Anything that displaces water makes self rescue easier.

2) Paddle Float and Pump

See (3)

3) Self Rescue Skills

I recommend learning at least 2 methods for reentering your kayak. The Cowboy Reentry and the Paddle Float Rescue are both fairly easy to learn and all you need are a Pump and a Paddle Float – see (2).

4) Nearby Competant Paddlers

Try to find folks that will take you out and help you progress. Even simple things like the Forward Stroke are not always intuitive and the quicker you learn to do them properly, the better off you’ll be. They will also help you in other aspects, jusging weather, wind, tides, learning to navigate, learning particular areas, and where not to go. The list is endless, but tapping into the knowledge and experience of others will save you years of trial and error paddling.

Oops, I forgot the paddle float in my…
post above.

a very important piece of safety equipment, and then practice self rescues in some shallow water

Jack L

Water for hydration

Emergency Dry Bag…
… we call 'em ditch bags around here…that have an absolutely complete change of clothes, all geared for max warmth with minimum bulk - poly underwear and merino or fleece layers are great - all wrapped tight in good ziplock baggies - a windproof outer layer, hat, mittens, and whatever odds and sods you think you’d need to survive a night ashore. Good to have enough heavy poly film or Tyvek for an emergency windbreak or shelter, some thin line for rigging it, a few big orange garbage bags for emergency position markers, a small flashlight, pocket knife, fire sticks and lighter, spare glasses, energy food, a few essential meds, etc., etc., etc.

Mine gets repacked each spring and comes with me whenever I’m on the water, wedged into the toe area of the cockpit between the foot braces. This is a piece of emergency gear, used only in extremis - extra clothing or equipment I may normally carry goes in a separate bag. It’s purpose, if all comes to the worst, is to get me ashore dry, and somewhat protected from the elements. Beats the heck out of a night in wet clothes with zero protection from wind or rain…

Adding to my list…
Thank you all for the suggestions…

Aside from “skills” that will take a while to acquire, this is what I’ve got:

PFD (of course)



Dry bag with a small First Aid Kit and Sunblock

Bilge Pump

Rope 3/8" Braided 75’


Paddle Float



Spare clothing

Fire sticks

Energy bars


depending on where and when you paddle
you may need a way to right your boat. If you’re paddling in warm weather on flat water or close to shore it may not be such an issue. But if you’re out in more dangerous conditions, you need a way to right your boat should you flip over. Learning a roll is one solution. A second is a paddle float ( Learn how to use it before you need it too.

Consider a larger Bailout Bag
You’ve got the basics covered for a few hours on the water.

In addition, depending how populated the shoreline is, you may want to consider a more comprehensive “bailout bag,” on the chance you may be far from help, or have a long hike out.

I carry mine in a small hydration backpack, which solves at least two of the problems mentioned by other posters:

Good luck!


will give you a list.

YOUR list is whatever you feel you need for your paddlign conditions. Sea is differnt from lake which is different from river.

I ALWAYS carry a whistle (three blasts means help!) but if your whistle does not hurt your ears when you blow it, it isn’t loud enough.

I also carry a reflective mirror but 90% ofthe people who carrythese learn how to use them from TV. Take a class.

I never carry a flare because in Arizona, you will burn down the desert.

Cell phones do not work where I paddle (mountains).

BUT I also carry a First Aid kit made by a USAF Combat nurse who is also a paddler.

And i built a kayak repair kit.

Bailer and sponge are good ideas in case you are swamped.

I alweays carry water, extra water, sunglasses and hat.

but the bottom line is to decide what YOUR comfort level is and go there.

Make loops at the ends of the rope and use carabiners instead of tying and untying knots all of the time. Not a safety item but they are a good convenience item if you tow your kid on a flat lake now and then.


Real climbing caribiners have many uses, especially in whitewater rescues and you can use them to clip your gear in. They can also act as pulleys for a z-drag, rope connectors if you need a long line on the water or in camp, and the aluminum ones aren’t too expensive.

In many cases a locking biner is important, especially if it will be used in a critical situation and has any potential to snag on something or someone.

Biners look cool on your PFD, but don’t clip em in high at your shoulder where an impact could cause it to break a bone. An outside pocket is better – or just have them handy inside your cockpit.


– Last Updated: Sep-02-11 6:42 AM EST –

I think these posts have you covered regarding equipment... except for a marine radio... but your mindset will keep you safer than any equipment.

Here's what to keep in mind: "If a wave knocked me over way out in the middle of the sound, what would I do?"

If you practice recovering from that a couple hundred times you'll be way ahead of the game.

Again... a hand held VHF marine radio is way up on my list at the coast.

More editing: Have you ever been seasick? Being "I wish I was dead" seasick is a safety hazard. Learn how to use ginger as prevention and you'll be a safer boater.

You shouldn’t have to ask
If you have to ask what safety gear you need, you don’t have the training or experience to use it. Take lessons, get seat time with experienced paddlers, and develop the judgement to answer your own question. Otherwise you are a danger to yourself and a liability to anyone else on the water in conditions where you need this gear.

This may sound a bit harsh, but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing - to yourself and others.

Also, be aware that practicing in sheltered conditions don’t necessarily prepare you for the full range of conditions you may encounter in a coastal environment. We’ve had pond-like conditions all summer on the Mass & RI coasts, and I think people have gotten over-confident. We went off Sakonnet Point today in 4-5’ swells and it is very, very different. What is easy in 1’ swells may be beyond your capacity in rougher conditions.

Don’t rely on book learning. Go slow, go with people better than you, pay for classes, and be patient.