Be sure to try everything so you know how to use it all. Some of these items are simple to use, others are a little more complicated:
- PFD: Your personal flotation device should fit snugly and always be on—and there’s never a kayak outing where you can forgo the PFD.
- Whistle: Attach it to your PFD. One blast is for attention; three blasts is “help.” If you forget how many, just keep blasting away until a rescuer arrives.
- Communication Device: If you’ll ever be out of whistle range of someone on shore, you need another way to call for help. If cell coverage is stellar everywhere, you can bring a cellphone in a waterproof case. Otherwise you need a VHF radio.
- Bilge Pump: Handy when your bottomside is in a puddle; vital if you capsize and have a boatful of H20 to purge.
- Spare Paddle: One per paddler is best, though a group can also share one or two spares.
- Paddle Float: This self-rescue gear requires training to use. (If the group’s rescuer can’t help you, you’ll have to rescue yourself.)
- Towline: in case someone can’t get to shore on their own.
- Headlamp: in case you’re out longer than you anticipated.
The list above includes the minimum safety gear we recommended by REI. For a more comprehensive list, plus other essentials, see the REI kayaking checklist.