Kayaking Gear for Beginners: Essential Picks for Your First Paddle

Kayaking is such a cool water sport that lets you explore rivers, lakes, and even oceans – how awesome is that? It’s not just a fun way to stay active; it also lets you soak up nature while testing your skills on different water terrains.

If you’re new to kayaking, picking the right gear for your first adventure can feel a bit daunting. There are so many options out there! But don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the must-haves to ensure your kayaking trip is both safe and super fun. Let’s dive in!

Essential Kayaking Gear

When you start kayaking, you need the right equipment for a safe and enjoyable experience. Here’s a rundown of the gear that’s non-negotiable.

This article may contain affiliate links, which means that I will earn a small commission from the sale (at no extra cost to you!). I recommend items that I personally love or have thoroughly researched to help you make an informed decision. Thank you!


Your kayak is your vessel on the water, and choosing the right one matters. As a beginner, you’ll benefit from a stable and user-friendly kayak. There are different types like sit-on-top for leisure and recreational kayaks for calm waters. The best fit depends on where you plan to kayak and what kind of paddling you’ll do.


A good paddle can make a huge difference in your kayaking comfort and efficiency. For beginners, a low-angle paddle with a longer blade is recommended. The length of the paddle should correspond to your height and the kayak’s width; generally, if you’re about 5ft10, look for a paddle around 220 to 230 centimeters long.


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Personal Flotation Device

A Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is crucial for safety. Your PFD should fit snugly without restricting movement, and it’s best to go for one that’s specifically designed for paddling. Make sure it’s U.S. Coast Guard-approved and that you wear it at all times on the water.

Clothing for Kayaking

When kayaking, wearing the right clothes will keep you comfortable and safe on the water. Choose layers that suit the water temperature and remember, a dry paddler is a happy paddler.

Wetsuit or Drysuit

  • Wetsuit: Ideal for moderately cool conditions, select a wetsuit that’s snug but doesn’t restrict movement. Thickness varies; a 3mm suit is fine for most conditions, but colder waters may require 5mm or more.
SANTINY Women's Rash Guard

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Your feet will get wet, so invest in neoprene booties or water shoes with a grip. These should be comfortable to wear and provide protection against the cold and sharp objects underwater.

Water Shoes

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Paddling gloves protect your hands from blisters and cold. Look for gloves that offer a good grip, are water-resistant, and still allow for flexibility and sensitivity in the fingers.

Paddling Gloves

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In sunny conditions, wear a hat with a brim to shield your face and neck from the sun. For cold weather, wear a thermal beanie to maintain body heat. A cap that secures under your chin will stay on during windy conditions or if you capsize.

Safety Equipment

Before hitting the water, make sure you’re packed with the right safety gear. It’s not just about staying afloat; it’s about being prepared for the unexpected.


Carry a whistle; it’s a simple tool but a lifeline for signaling help in an emergency. It should be loud and attach to your life jacket.

Whistle for Coaches

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A knife can be crucial. Whether it’s cutting a tangled rope or fishing line, opt for a corrosion-resistant blade that’s easy to access.

Folding Knife

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Headlamp or Flashlight

For visibility during dusk or in the dark, a headlamp or flashlight is key. Ensure it’s waterproof and has a strong beam.

Transporting and Storage

Getting your kayak to the water and storing it properly are critical for keeping your gear in top shape. You’ll need the right setup for your vehicle and a good spot at home.

Roof Rack

If you’re transporting your kayak by car, a roof rack system is essential. Here’s what you need:

  • Roof Rack Bars: These bars attach to the roof of your car, providing a base for your kayak.
  • Kayak Cradle or J-Cradles: These cradles fit onto the bars and securely hold your kayak on its side, saving space.
  • Straps and Tie-downs: You’ll need these to secure the kayak to the rack. Look for straps with a protective layer to avoid damaging your vehicle.

Installation Tip: Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for weight limits and proper installation to ensure safety.

Inflatable Soft Roof Rack Bars

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Cockpit Cover

A cockpit cover is a great way to protect the interior of your kayak from debris and critters during transport and storage.

  • Material: Opt for a durable, UV-protected material.
  • Fit: Make sure it’s snug but not too tight, to avoid water pooling.

Usage Tip: Always dry your cockpit before covering to prevent mold and mildew.

Kayak Cockpit Cover

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Storage Rack

When you’re not out on the water, a good storage solution will protect your kayak from damage.

  • Indoor Racks: If you have the space, indoor racks keep your kayak out of the elements.
  • Outdoor Racks: These should be elevated to prevent moisture and critters from getting in.

Storage Tip: Store your kayak upside down or on its side, on a padded rack, to prevent deforming the hull.

Kayaking Accessories

When you’re hitting the water, there are a few key accessories that can make your kayaking experience smoother and safer. Let’s check out a couple of essentials.

Waterproof Bag

A waterproof bag is your best friend when kayaking because, let’s face it, you’re going to get wet. This essential accessory helps to keep your gear, electronics, and snacks dry even if everything else gets soaked. They come in different sizes, from small pouches for phones to large bags for clothing and equipment.

Waterproof Dry Bag

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Bilge Pump

If you’re paddling on the water and suddenly find yourself taking on water, a bilge pump is invaluable. It’s a quick way for you to manually remove water from the hull of your kayak. Having a bilge pump handy can be the difference between an annoying puddle under your seat and a potential safety hazard.

Manual Bilge Pump

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