Essential gear for paddling adventures

Posted on: June 15, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Paddling down a river can be tremendous fun, so long as the things in your boat that must stay dry do so.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

Paddling, be it in a kayak or a canoe, is a “get wet” sport. You’re on the water, actually within inches of it, so you’re sure to get splashed or sprayed or something.

That’s OK, sometimes.

Carrying some simple gear can help you deal with when it’s not.

Dry boxes

First, use a dry box to secure things like phones, key fobs, cameras and more. They come in many sizes, from something that will fit in a pocket to others bigger than a lunchbox. Many even float.

Choose one in a bright color so that if it goes overboard and gets carried away by the current, it’s easier to find.

Dry bags

If you’ll be carrying larger gear – for camping or even on a day trip – dry bags work the same way, minus the floatation. Be sure to check the seams before every outing, especially as the bags age, to make sure they’re in good working order.

Life jackets

Get a comfortable PFD, or personal floatation device, to wear.

Paddlers are actually required to wear them in certain situations – such as on all water between Nov. 1 and April 30 – so pick one that’s comfortable.

Some inflate courtesy of a CO2 canister only after you pull on a ripcord. There’s nothing around your back except for some straps, so they’re very unobtrusive.

If you’re worried about the reliability of a canister, or having to remember to pull the cord, there are other options, most of them more comfortable today than in years past.

If you kayak specifically, there are PFD’s where the padding on the back is up high, near the shoulders. That means you don’t have to sit with padding stuffed between your back and a kayak seat in particular.

Look for something with a lot of mesh in it, too. You’ll still have plenty of floatation, but they’re light and less warm to wear in hot weather.


Whatever type of life jacket you choose, attach a whistle to it. Those are required in places, too, like on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes, but they’re good to have anywhere.

It’s far easier to signal for help with a whistle than by yelling, and the sound carries further.

Just be sure to buy a whistle without a pea inside. Those can freeze in cold conditions and fail to work.

Dry clothes

Finally, be sure to have some dry clothes back in your vehicle, too. It’s nice to be able to change into something warm and dry for the ride home after a day of playing on the water.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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