Now that summer weather has finally come to New England, you might be thinking about buying new gear or upgrading some of your old or worn out accessories for paddling on the ocean. Accessories for sea kayaking, as is the case in almost all sports, are continually being improved and you might find one or two ideas in this blog-post about what you need to paddle safely. At the end of this post I’ll list the items with my recommendations for my preferred suppliers - and you might consider including one of these either for yourself or for the significant other paddler in your life.
First off, on any sea kayaking trip, you’ll need to take food and water, food being anything from an energy bar for a short trip to packs of fresh/pre-prepared/dried food in zip locked bags for a multi-day trip. Water should always be available to excess (‘come home with water still in your water bottle’). As a rule of thumb, I plan on a gallon of water a day per person in the summer so for an extended trip, as well as a ½-liter- water bottle, you’ll need a collapsible 3-L water container.
For clothing, even in summer, you’ll need rain gear – a good nylon jacket or similar will suffice - and extra clothing such as a fleece or similar synthetic – not cotton) top and bottom in case you get wet. I'm recommending shortie wetsuits be worn at all times, at least here in Maine where the water barely gets above 60 degrees, even by the end of summer. For safety, purchase a set of flares, a waterproof flashlight and a towline for yourself or make sure that at least one paddler in your party has these on hand. Someone in your party should also have on board at least one spare paddle in case one gets broken or lost, this spare need not necessarily be the most expensive paddle. You should have with you a hand-held bilge pump in case you take on water.
Safety essentials also include a basic repair kit (consisting of items such as rope (polypropylene not nylon), duct tape and a knife and a First Aid kit which you can buy in a sealed nylon bag and which is designed specifically for boaters making short haul trips. Indispensible for kayakers in Maine where fog is not just a possibility but a reality, a submersible VHF radio is a must in order to keep track of both weather and boats in the vicinity where you are paddling. You’ll need a personal compass and large-scale nautical chart so you can see details within the region you’ll be paddling. Most good sea kayaks will also have a deck compass which you can use for confirmation of position and direction.
You’ll need a good quality life vest or PFD which will give you unrestricted arm movement and for a paddle - if you can afford one expensive item your paddle should be one which is ultra light and made of carbon-fiber. A light paddle means you should be able to enjoy many hours of fatigue-free kayaking.
I try to buy only top quality kayaking equipment which will not only do the job but which has a long effective lifetime. Though there are other companies which can supply your kayaking needs, I recommend the following suppliers which have been the source for most of my supplies.
Have fun and stay safe!
Dromedary Bags (MSR, https://www.msrgear.com)
Rope (US Rope and Cable, www.us-rope-cable.com)
Towline (North Water, www.northwater.com)
Flares (Orion, www.orionsignals.com)
Paddle (Werner, www.wernerpaddles.com)
First Aid Kit (Adventure Medical Kit, www.first-aid-product.com)
VHF radio (Uniden, www.uniden.com)
Waterproof flashlight (REI, http://www.rei.com)
Energy Bars (REI, http://www.rei.com)
Nylon Jacket and extra clothing (REI, http://www.rei.com)
Life Vest / PFD (Kokatat, www.kokatat.com)
Compass (Silva, www.silvacompass.com)
Nautical Chart (Waterproof Charts, www.waterproofcharts.com)
Bilge Pump (NRS, www.nrs.com)
Wetsuit (NRS, www.nrs.com)