What color kayak?

I recently bought 2 kayaks, one in blue and one in orange. I was out on a lake that allows power boats, and I have to say that it was difficult for boaters to see me in the blue kayak. I felt safer in the orange kayak for sure. And from afar, my colorful life jacket wasn’t really big enough to register. So, if you are paddling in a busy lake, you might want to think about a kayak color that is easily visible from afar by other boaters for safety’s sake. Just my two cents.

both are fine
Under normal light and weather. Both of those boats are equally visible. The movement of your paddle is sometimes more important. If the boat is going to see you it is going to see you regardless of the color.

Kinda like the pull over for cop laws. If I saw the cop I wouldnt hit them. Redundant to make it a law.

Ryan L.

According to Nigel Foster
reds oranges and yellows fare relatively poorly for being seen.

Robins egg blue is quite visible according to the article.

That is also what I heard long ago when kayaks first came out for the general public


Your paddle is the first thing to be seen…partly because of its motion. Consider other than black.

Most kayaks no matter what the color cannot be seen more than a few hundred yards away. You might wear a bright PFD at all times as you will be seen before your kayak.

Never assume any powerboat operator sees you.

Electric Chicken color

– Last Updated: Jul-18-11 11:52 PM EST –

The “electric chicken” color combination puts chartreuse on one side, directly against or next to it's exact opposite color - violet. The color chartreuse is the color precisely halfway between green and yellow. The term "electric chicken"
is popular among manufacturers of fishing lures.

The three most visible colors on the water are yellow, orange, and lime; all 3 lay in the red-orange-yellow range of the electromagnetic wave spectrum.

The amount of light that is reflected upward depends strongly on the height of the sun (place on Earth, time of day and season) and the condition of the sea. A rough sea absorbs more light whereas a mirror-like sea reflects more.

Complementary colors are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. They contrast, enhance and intensify each other.
Therefore, complementary colors need to be used with caution. The differences in tone and hue can be eye catching, but an eyesore.
Complementary pairs contrast because they share no common colors.
Hence the most extreme color contrasts possible.

Researchers at England's Heriot-Watt University studied the visibility of various signaling devices and found that folding flags were
by far the most reliable and cost-effective location device tested.
Yellow was the most conspicuous color in all sea states, even with breaking waves and deteriorating light.

A day-glo yellow pennant was consistently spotted at 1.2 miles to 1.8 miles.
Red and orange flags were only visible to a mile away.

From a 1/4 mile away in a helicopter, a Search and Rescue Team (SAR)simply can't
differentiate colored clothing or kayak color, it all looks brown/black.

From a SAR - Search and Rescue standpoint, kayakers need a backup plan
- dye packs, flares, a light on your pfd, a strobe, signal mirror, and obviously a VHF radio.

Well if Nigel says it it must be true.
There is quite a bit of research done by the military for search and rescue purposes that would conflict with this.

what color kayak
very interesting info here.

I was thinking that lime green and orange would be best, also based on the usual safety colored vests that road workers use, and the orange blaze color that hunters wear. I also thought the contrast of orange against blue waters would be most visible from the air. Didn’t realize it would be so hard to spot from the air.

Whicjh is why I paddle an orange bboat with red PFD and put bicyle flags on my boat.

BUT, there are ways to deal.

Bright-colored paddle blades (even if you spray-paint them white)

mount a tent sleeve and paddle with a bicycle flag.

Run strips of reflective tape around the edge of the boat.

One guy I paddled with had a paddle with large yellow and black stripes. The sharp constrast and movement made it very visible from a distance. I saw that paddle long before I saw his boat or any of the other paddlers.

The OP was on a lake with power
boaters. Color really makes less of a difference…

The reason is that a powerboat is on plane bow up and the kayaker low down…

The lack of kayakers height really hurts being seen. I paddle a waterskiing lake regularly and someone allowed me to drive their powerboat. At 30mph there really is no time to react and you have to scan side to side constantly to see paddlers. Its not hard to slip up and make an error in distance. I am not making excuses for powerboaters not to drive safely, but it is what it is.

Now I go out in the morning and late at night paddling.

Anyone else have experience in both types of boats?

I keep a neon orange hat in my day hatch for those high traffic areas.

Screaming yellow for me
I am learning to like this color. Started with biking, and I have to admit that the yellow reflective clothing is much more visible to fast moving cars than any other color I’ve seen on the roads. If your kayak is stationary, it also is quite visible in yellow, since most places you’ll park it in nature aren’t anything like that visible color.

So what if your low height fouls the impact of color visibility? In that case, other than flags, flares or waving a striped paddle, there’s probably not much of anything you can do. But the rest of the time, my money and my life are bet on that high visibility yellow color.

YMMV, of course…

I have various colors of kayaks, but
my paddles are marked in an arrow pattern using yellow electrical tape. White blades can be marked with black electrical tape. The tape has been on for many, many seasons and has not come off.

Should I decide to paddle after dark, not only do I use bow and stern lights but also have one paddle marked, as noted, but used yellow electric and reflective tape in my pattern.

On busy rivers and lakes, I paddle closer to the shoreline.

Reason? Powerboats or any that are motorized are much larger than any kayak and as noted; most don’t or can’t see smaller boats and I intend to be around for a bit more time.

Common sense rules.

Paddle on.

Bright colors
We feel bright colors work best for safety but agree never assume anyone can see you and steer clear of everything with a motor.

We have bright orange kayak and yellow paddles and PDFs. Most blue and greens seem to blend into the background more from what I have seen.

Paddle Reflectors

– Last Updated: Jul-20-11 9:50 AM EST –

I tend to gravitate towards bright colors like red, orange, and yellow for my kayaks as well. Personally not sure if I could own a light/medium blue kayak but that's just me!

I agree that the best chance of being seen is to catch someone's attention with a moving paddle. Most of our paddles are black but I did put both day and night reflectors on all of our paddles blades, front and back - and they make a huge difference. I have seen my wife's paddles out on the lake long before I could make out that she was even in a kayak.

Have had these on for a couple of years now and they are still adhering and intact:

(brght mirror-like day reflectors, These are the most effective under general conditions)

(night reflectors)

I also use these on my bear canisters since one never knows where these may end up after leaving out at night!

I paddle and power boat
I like to sail, power boat, fish and kayak so I have seen it from both sides. Small boats are hard to see sometimes just because you are small. You get a power boater not paying CLOSE attention and your easy to miss. As people have said some some colors show better than others. ‘I think’ the contrast with your surroundings are what stands out.

I was paddling one day crossing a larger area of our lake and I picked out something on the far bank to aim at. I didn’t know what it was but it was easy to see. Once I got closer I was surprised but it was a pair of fisherman in a boat and one of the guys was wearing a yellow shirt. I couldn’t make out any details but I could see the bright spot on our dark water. It was that yellow shirt and he was at least a mile away and probably closer to 2 miles.

“One guy I paddled with had a paddle with large yellow and black stripes. The sharp constrast and movement made it very visible from a distance. I saw that paddle long before I saw his boat or any of the other paddlers.”

As Jim said these paddles were surprisingly visible. Coy has now and they really do stand out. The yellow stripes really work, ugly but they work. And most times I spot the paddle swinging in the air long before I could anything else. Paddles blades color is probably as important and the boat color.

…and I’d agree. You may pick up a kayak from a distance but if you’re not paying attention it could be blocked by the bow of a powerboat once you get close.

FWIW I worry most about waterskiers, tube pullers, and the other small motorboats out to go nowhere in particular and just have fun. They don’t have the best sightlines and they’re not always paying attention to their course. The larger boats with an elevated bridge may see you better and they’re usually headed to of from somewhere. As an aside, we had trouble even picking up stationary waverunners at times.

Best advice I can give is to stay out of their way, pay attention to their movements, and move as deliberately and predictably as possible. If you’re of the right mindset it can be fun.

And then there’s always

– Last Updated: Jul-21-11 11:17 AM EST –

the drunk idiots to worry about.....and PWC's buzzing aimlessly at 60 MPH.....

I've owned several power boats and grew up on a large lake here in TN. Driving a power boat requires constant scanning of the lake in all directions, pulling a skier even ups the requirements to be on top of your game. The problem around here is that just about anybody can purchase and operate a boat.

We were almost ran completely over while in our last ski boat by some idiot letting his young daughter drive their large cruiser boat with little supervision, had I not moved in a nick of time they would have hit us dead center on the side.....this was while we were in a 23' Mastercraft (not a small boat per sey).

The only time we paddle in the lakes around here are in the mornings or evenings and only in coves that I know are too shallow for power boats to be blazing up through.

"I have to say …“
it was difficult for boaters to see me in the blue kayak.”

How do you know it was difficult for them to see you, or more difficult in blue then orange? Did you ask? Since orange is close to red, and red is the first color to go, it doesn’t make sense. I have also been told by CG types that robin’s egg blue is the most visible.