Buying a kayak (often called “canoes” in England, confusingly enough) should never be done on a whim, especially if you plans to go out on the sea or in the wilderness. Kayaks look like small, very uncomplicated boats, but they need to be more than just seaworthy for what you plan to do. Just like the expression “horses for courses” there are sport kayaks, whitewater kayaks and wilderness kayaks. It is best to get kayaking lessons first before hitting the wilderness. Kayaks take a little while to get used to. It’s more economical to get a taste of sitting in a puddle in the wilderness, kayaks under you or not, to see whether it annoys you or not.
What Do You Want To Do?
It helps narrow down your choices of kayaks if you know what you specifically want the kayak for. Do you want to hit the whitewater? Do you want to exercise on the calm waters around your home? Do you want to compete in the sport of kayaking? Or do you want to hit the watery wilderness? Kayaks for exploring the great outdoors tend to be longer and heavier than most of the kayaking family, but yet are more stable.
Kayaks are easy to tip over; especially the smaller ones designed more for the sport of kayaking rather than for long expeditions into the wilderness. Kayaks look simple enough to operate, but they are not. You should always wear a helmet and life vest before you step into any kayak. And expect to get wet. Very, very wet. Kayaking is not for everyone.
You don’t just need the kayak and a paddle before heading into the water. For safety’s sake, you really need some other equipment before heading out into the wilderness. The helmet and the life vest (sometimes called “floatational devices”)have already been mentioned. But with travel into isolated waterways, the great lakes or sea coasts, you should also have a bilge pump and a GPS device of some sort. At the very least, carry a compass, providing that you are familiar with them. You also need flotation bags, waterproof clothing and camping gear (if this is a long trip). There are also spray skirts that you put around your waist to help keep most of the water out.
Another important and sometimes overlooked piece of equipment is called tie-downs. These are basically ropes or cord that secures all of your equipment in place to the kayak so it doesn’t float away. Another accessory that should always be tied to your kayak is an air horn or some sort of emergency signal device.