Kayaking is a unique and thrilling way to connect with the outdoors. But being out there on the water and exposed to Mother Nature also means that if things go wrong they can take a really perilous turn very quickly. That is why before you go on a paddling trip you should take time to consider everything and properly plan for the adventure. Planning early will give you enough time to prepare your boat, gear and destination and buy anything you may need for a safe and fulfilling trip.
A plan is basically an outline of the critical supplies you need for the trip, including:
- Type of boat and its distinguishing features
- Method of propulsion of vessel
- User data including name, address, telephone number
- Boat’s itinerary
- Safety and survival gear and equipment
- Trip description, departure time, estimated return time and proposed route.
It also includes a checklist of essential information for the trip such as:
- The weather forecast
- Local boating restrictions or hazards
- Maps and charts necessary for the trip
- Basic tools, first aid kit and spare parts
- Safety equipment aboard, including lifejackets, life rafts and flares
- Instructions to follow in case of emergency
So what are the basics you must plan for in order to have a safe and fulfilling trip?
The first item to consider as you plan for a kayaking trip should be the destination or location. You need to pick a paddling destination that suits your skill set and experience. For instance, if you can’t physically re-enter the boat without help, that’s a major limiting factor because if your boat flips you’ll have problems. So you need to limit your location to a place that is protected from waves and wind, and close enough to the shore for you to reach it easily. But if you can confidently roll and re-enter your boat, then you can reasonably travel farther from the shore, though with a conservative and safety-conscious attitude.
The route you take will determine how smoothly and quickly you are able to navigate the water. For example, if a route has heavy motorized boat traffic, thunderstorms or strong winds then you should have a contingency or bailout plan. You also need to have a plan B if your first route becomes unrealistic or dangerous. Likewise, you should have a float plan communicating where you intend to travel, your schedule and your contingency or alternate plans. Plan also for the weather, where and when you’ll be at different areas along the route, and the type of clothing you will wear.
3. Gear and equipment
Packing for a paddling trip is often a lot of fun if you know what to bring. That’s why you should anticipate the whole trip and plan for what you’ll use, when and where. Once you know the equipment and gear you’ll need, make a kayaking trip checklist to use when packing. An important part of the plan should be your emergency kit — the dry bag carrying the gear you need for any changes. Depending on your location and the weather, the emergency kit should include rain gear, fleece jackets, pants, warm hat, heavy wool socks and some rope.
4. Hydration and nutrition
It is also essential to plan for what you will drink and eat on the trip. Most often, paddling trips mean you’ll be in a remote location where communication probably will be difficult. So you need to bring enough food and adequate water during the trip. It is a good idea to bring healthy, high-energy food bars that are easy to store and do not go bad quickly. You also may bring some fruits, though they are more fragile. If you are having a longer trip, you should carry a water filtration system or bring water tablets in case you run out of water.
5. Boat, Paddles and PFDs
You will need to have a kayak that matches your skill and experience level. There are several types of kayaks fully geared for paddling, but you should choose one that suits your paddling location, length of trip and stability needs. The boat should be equipped with ideal paddles and fitting PFDs. Make sure to inspect your PFD ropes, waste holding tank, fresh water supply and first aid kit, as well as your backup provisions (such as emergency food and water).
Once you have developed your plan, send it to anyone who will be expecting your kayak at any stop along the itinerary, together with any responsible friend or family member not traveling. Such a person would be able to use the plan to tell your whereabouts and provide the necessary help should anything come up. For more information on planning for paddling excursions, visit the Captain Mike’s Kayak Academy website.