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What Piece Of Safety Equipment Is Required On Every Kayak And Canoe?

When it comes to kayaking and canoeing, safety comes first. 

A bunch of things can go wrong while you are out on the water so it is vital that not only do you know what to do in certain situations to keep you and others safe,

What Piece Of Safety Equipment Is Required On Every Kayak And Canoe?

but that you also have the equipment needed to help you stay safe and increase your chances of survival.

Although some people may brush safety equipment off as red tape and unnecessary, it is vitally important that you have everything you need in case of an emergency.

So – what safety equipment do you actually need?

We are going to go through all the safety equipment that is required on every kayak and canoe in the United States. All of these will help you stay safe and alive if anything were to go wrong while you are out on the water. 

Before you set off, make sure that you have all the following so you can keep yourself safe no matter what. 

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Flotation devices are important pieces of equipment for kayakers and canoeists. They are used as a safety measure to avoid drowning, so they are useful when capsizing and you end up in the water. They are very easy to use, so there is no excuse if you leave yours behind.

You must always carry a PDF while paddling.

Traditional life jackets are a type of PDF, but there are others that are more comfortable for kayakers and canoers. This is because traditional life jackets can be bulky and not suitable to wear for long periods of time.

They also can hinder your movement while you are out on the water, so what is a better option than a life jacket?

PDFs are much better for kayaking and canoeing as they can  be worn all the time. There are different types that are better equipped for different areas and waters. 

For example, Type 1 is best for rough seas and powerful currents as they help the person stay face up in the water and reduces the risk of them drowning, while Type 2 PFDs are better in shallow waters as they are less buoyant.

The one often worn by kayakers and canoers are Type 3 – they are less bulky and more practical. However, while they do help you float, they don’t help you keep your face up so you will have to tilt your head back yourself. So, if you prefer going to choppier waters, this is not the PFD for you.

The final type of PFD is more commonly associated with flotation rings. They are just tools you grab to help you back into the canoe. These are best used as back-up options in case of an emergency where someone was struggling in the water due to an injury or sudden illness. 

If you go out on the water in groups and you are a confident swimmer, then perhaps this type of PFD is the better option for you.

Whichever type you choose, make sure that you always have at least one type of PFD with you at all times when you are out on the water. You never know when a cramp or injury might prevent you from keeping your head above water. 

A Whistle

Emergency whistles are useful tools for people who are in tough situations. If you are stuck or in trouble, you can quickly grab a hold of a whistle and help will be on its way. 

There are different kinds of whistles that work better in windy or noisy conditions.

What Piece Of Safety Equipment Is Required On Every Kayak And Canoe?

Regular whistles may not be best adapted to areas like waterfalls or rapids because of all the noise they cause, and the wind can also drown out a regular whistle’s cry.

Thankfully, there are types of emergency whistles that are louder and more shrill so they are easier to hear from further away.

These whistles can also clip onto your life vest or jacket so if you fall in the water and can’t get back into your kayak or canoe, you just have to reach to your torso to grab your whistle. 

A Form Of Light

Heading out on a paddling trip in the dark is seriously dangerous but sometimes while you are out on the water, it could potentially get dark really quickly.

Sometimes a fog might set in or it can get so cloudy that it feels like night, and this can make maneuvering your kayak or canoe very difficult. 

To help fight against poor visibility, it’s best that you take some form of light with you – like a flashlight. You can get very durable flashlights that are waterproof very easily so it’s always worth bringing one with you to be safe. 

Another form of light like flares can also come in handy in an emergency situation. If you are really stuck, a flare can be used to signal that you are in trouble and need help. 

 A First Aid Kit

It is very handy to keep a first aid kit everywhere these days. 

Accidents can happen at any time and at any place, and the same goes for when you are out on the water.

Accidents and injuries while kayaking or canoeing are not uncommon so it’s definitely a good idea to keep some emergency medical supplies close at hand. 

A basic first aid kit can be kept in a tight, waterproof container in your canoe or kayak, and it can contain a punch of useful things that will definitely come in handy. 

Tweezers can be used to pull out splinters, band-aids can be used to help seal wounds, disinfectant wipes are great for preventing any wounds from becoming infected and worse.

So, keep yourself safe by keeping a small first aid kit with you at all times. 

Tow Bags

Towlines are handy if someone needs rescuing or gets tired in the middle of paddling.

They can be thrown from boat to boat and used to help someone who is ill or tired get back to shore without strain, or can quickly help drag someone back into safer waters if they drift too far towards danger.

They can also help someone who has capsized get towards safety. 

So, it’s always worth keeping a tow bag with a towline in your kayak or canoe. 


And those are the emergency equipment you definitely need to have every time you set out onto the water. 

All of these things can be used to not only keep yourself safe, but others too. They may just be the difference between life and death so do not brush them off or forget to take them with you. 

Every time that you get into your canoe or kayak, check that you have all of the above items with you so you can head out onto the water in full confidence.

Hi! My name is Adele Stevens, and I have a big passion for water sports. I love nothing more than traveling to my favorite kayaking spots on my days off and spending hours out on the water.

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