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Kayak Safety and Rescue Equipment

Kayaking offers a lot of different engagement levels to match what you’re looking for: you can set off on a relaxing paddle on the lake, or you can find a river rapids course to speed down. The sport of kayaking is quite adaptable in that respect, but regardless of the trip you’re planning, kayak safety should be something you keep in mind anytime you’re on the water.

Proper preparation and appropriate planning will lead to a safe and fun kayaking trip. Luckily, there is some standard gear and kayak safety equipment that you’ll need regardless of what type of kayaking trip you’re taking. From there, you can customize your safety kit to best meet your needs once you have the essentials covered. 

Kayak Safety Equipment Essentials

To avoid getting stuck and to ensure you’re safe in the event of an emergency on the water, you need to have the right equipment on hand. Here are some advised kayak safety and rescue equipment we recommend:

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

This is the number one piece of kayak safety equipment you should have on during any kind of paddling session. Having a well-fitting PFD already on will be your best friend in the event of tipping over or capsizing, as it allows you to stay afloat without getting tired out. Especially if you’re a new kayaker or not comfortable in the water yet, it will help preserve your energy in case of an emergency. 

First Aid Kit

Another staple to have on board is a well-stocked first aid kit. You’ll want to allocate some waterproof storage space for this so that no materials get ruined during your paddling session. Especially if you’re kayaking with kids, this will be helpful to have on hand in case they get into a scrape.

Bilge pumps

Whether you’re clearing out water from an unexpected splash, or you realize your boat’s hull is leaking, a bilge pump will be your best friend. This bailer is essentially a small hand pump that gets rid of unwanted water inside your kayak more efficiently than an empty jug. You can install electric or foot operated bilge pumps, as well, if you’d like extra power.

Tow lines

Tow lines are especially important when you’re kayaking in a group. As the name implies, these are lines meant to be attached from one kayak to another in an emergency. Some even have floats so they can be thrown to a struggling paddler who’s overboard, as opposed to attached to the kayak itself. Regardless of skill level, having tow lines and a tow belt on hand in case you overexert yourself or if your boat capsizes is a recommended kayak safety measure.


While this may not seem like a necessity for calmer paced paddles, it’s good to have a kayak helmet as you’re learning in case your kayak tips over. Hitting your head can cause disorientation & confusion that prevents you from finishing your course, so taking precautions to protect your noggin are worth it in the long run.

Paddle leash

A paddle leash is an elastic cord that secures your paddle to your boat so you don’t lose it while you’re on the water. As you get the hang of paddling techniques, it’s sometimes helpful to not have to chase your paddle around if you drop it or tip over. Especially if you’re kayaking somewhere with a strong current, a paddle leash can come in handy.

Change of clothes

While not really in the ‘equipment’ category, a change of clothes is an often-forgotten item on your kayak safety list. Regardless if you’re kayaking on a placid lake or paddling against stronger river or ocean currents, water will probably find it’s way on you and in your boat. The last thing you’ll want is to ride home in wet, soggy clothes. Also bring a towel to dry off before changing into your dry clothes!


Kayaking safely shouldn’t be intimidating--just think about what you need in case of an emergency and have it on hand, even if you’re an experienced paddler. The goal is to have fun and enjoy nature while on the water and preparing with the appropriate kayak safety equipment allows you to do so with peace of mind!

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