Blending exercise, outdoor time, and fun, kayaking is a favorite activity for many campers. Whether done on a calm lake or a roaring river, kayaking is an excellent way to enjoy the great outdoors. To help you love it even more, we’re here with 11 helpful kayaking tips.
These tips are designed to help both beginners and experienced kayakers. If you’re looking for more guidance on kayaking during your trip, check with the activities office at your resort. They can provide recommendations on kayaking outfitters and other activities on the water.
11 Kayaking Tips for Beginners and Experts
1. Know Your Limits
When planning a trip, be realistic and know your limits. Don’t shoot for the moon but instead stick to a trip you know you can handle. If you’re new to kayaking, maybe aim for just a few miles downstream or on a lake. If you’re experienced, try a longer trip. Perhaps you can even do a round trip by going upstream first and floating back to your starting point.
2. Bring Safety Gear
Don’t forget your safety gear! Life jackets, also known as personal flotation devices (PFD), are just the beginning. You may also want to bring a whistle, in case you need to call for help, and a spare rope, in case you or someone else needs a towline to get back to shore.
3. Practice Getting In and Out of the Kayak
This kayaking tip is for beginners. Before you get on the water, practice getting in and out of the kayak. Do this several times, especially trying to get out on both a shoreline and a dock. This maneuver requires some balance, so it’s best to practice first.
4. Learn to Paddle Properly
A lot of people start paddling based on what they’ve seen others do. There is some technique though, and it’s worth learning to paddle properly. We recommend this guide on how to paddle a kayak from REI.
5. Dress for the Water, Not the Weather
One of the best kayaking tips is to dress for the water. Even if you stay in the kayak, you’ll still be wet. Paddles drip water all over the place, including on you!
When dressing, wear something based on the water temperature. Note as well that the wind paired with the water will make you feel much colder. It’s also important to consider sunburn. Wearing a lightweight, quick-drying long-sleeved tee can help protect you from sunburn. Try to wear a hat too, which will protect your eyes and shade your face.
6. Brush Up on Hand Signals
Kayakers often use hand signals to communicate with one another. This is especially helpful when encountering kayakers outside your group. You don’t need to know all the hand signals, but some are helpful. This guide will bring you up to speed on common kayaking hand signals.
7. Know How to Roll A Kayak
Every kayaker has capsized at least once. There’s no shame in it! Rather than fruitlessly trying to never go under, focus instead on how to roll your kayak. Outventurist has a great guide on rolling a kayak, which will show you two ways to do so, including with videos. Be sure to check it out.
8. Check the Weather and Float Path
Ranking high among kayaking tips is to check the weather. You don’t want to be on the water in a storm! Also check your float path. Make note of bridges, dams, and other obstacles. In areas around dams, kayaking may not be allowed because of dangerous currents and changing water levels.
9. Learn to Spot Obstacles
An important part of kayaking is learning to spot obstacles. Practice this in calmer waters, especially rivers if possible. Look for the impacts that rocks, sunken trees, and sand bars have on the water current. Once you can identify the telltale signs, you’ll be much better prepared for rougher waters, where you must quickly spot and steer around obstacles.
10. Go With the Flow
An important part of kayaking (and life) is to go with the flow. Don’t try and fight upstream unless necessary. Additionally, follow smooth flows around sunken obstacles for an easier time.
11. Don’t Kayak Alone
Most important of all these kayaking tips is not to kayak alone! Unless you are experienced, familiar with the route, and equipped with top-notch safety equipment, you shouldn’t kayak alone. Going with a buddy is much safer and ensures that you’ll have help in case of an emergency. Plus, it’s more fun!
Ready to start paddling? Be sure to check out our resorts across North America near kayaking hotspots. And if you found these kayaking tips helpful, show your appreciation by sharing this post.