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Tips for Night Kayaking

While it may not seem extremely different from daytime kayaking, night kayaking is more challenging than you’d anticipate. Even if the waterways are the same and you’ve traveled a familiar route before, it’s still going to require a different set of skills and feel quite different after sunset.

In this respect, it’s important to come prepared for your trip and be prepared to light and conduct yourself accordingly – whether your night kayaking adventure is intentional or if you’re daytime trip went longer than expected! Read on for essential tips to know before kayaking at night.

Know Before You Go: Be Prepared for Night Kayaking

Whether you are going out with the intention of being on the water past dark, or if you feel there’s a chance your trip will run long, here are some things to consider before leaving the house for any kayaking adventure:

  • Plan. Plan. There is nothing more important when navigating in the dark than having done your homework and properly prepared before you even get near the water. Even if you’ve done the same paddle countless times, you must consider that the water and its paths will look different in the dark.
  • Prepare to be out longer than you think. Even if you know you don’t want to be out past sundown, it’s better to be ready for it just in case something comes up that extends your trip.
  • Check your lights before you leave the house. Simply turn them on and off as you’re putting your gear together, and pack them strategically. The last thing you need is struggling to find your lighting gear or finding out that it isn’t working once you actually need it.
  • Do your research. While it might not be very intuitive, it is legal to kayak at night. Unless your state or preferred route has specific postings or regulations in place preventing or discouraging people from paddling past dark, you’re more than likely good to go.

Best Practices on the Water for Night Kayaking

While preparing and planning before starting your night kayaking adventure is important, it’s only half the battle. Here are some things to consider and mentally prep for while you’re actually on the water:

  • Make yourself seen. You probably aren’t the only person out on the water, so you’ll need to be seen by other kayakers and boaters. It can be helpful to have different colored lights on your left/right to flash when moving in that direction, along with 360o light elevated from the deck of the kayak. Flood lights, reflective flags, and kayak lighting kits can also be helpful in increasing visibility.
  • Pay attention to important landmarks. Even if you have a GPS for added and extra security, it’s a good idea to stay alert and also be tracking where you are visually. We definitely recommend keeping a GPS handy as they save you a lot of trouble, especially if you’ve not paddled in that area before.
  • Turn on your lights BEFORE it gets dark. You’ve already made sure that things are charged, but fumbling around on your boat in darkness is a sure-fire way to find yourself falling as opposed to kayaking. Hedge your bets and get stuff out and set-up before you lose all sunlight.
  • Beware of waves. This is specifically for ocean kayakers, but it’s important to understand how water and light interact at night vs in the day, as things can get distorted at night. Watch your angles, as if you misjudge a wave’s size, you run the risk of being rolled.
  • Trust your gut. If at any point in your preparation or paddling that “this doesn’t seem like a good night to go” then it’s not a good night to go. Simple as that.

At the end of the day, night kayaking is really fun and can be rewarding. It’s more than likely less crowded, and the fish bite just as much as on early morning trips. The quiet, calming environment, the nighttime views, and the angle fishing can’t be beat, so give it a try if you’re up for it! Just be careful, prepare properly, and know your limits.

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