By February or March, recreational kayakers across the colder regions of the world are staring at their daily calendars, counting the hours until it’s warm enough to safely to put in and shove off on another adventure. Dreams grow more vivid of paddling in the sunshine, making memories with friends and family, and exploring nature.
At the same time, they’re checking their gear and acquiring any items the upcoming kayaking season is going to require.
Naturally, safety is foremost in any kayaker’s mind. Yes, this sport is fun and super relaxing – but certain risks must be avoided. Springtime paddling weather means taking a few extra precautions.
Even if you’re an experienced kayaker, this list of “Top 5 Springtime Essentials” is intended to help you get set up for the exciting season ahead.
This stuff is important…Here’s what you need:
1. A wetsuit (or drysuit, if you prefer) is a great investment for anyone who lives in a less temperate region. The magic number here is 75°F (24°C). Paddling in water any colder than that means you must wear a high quality wet or dry suit.
Sure, nobody wants to accidentally dump their ‘yak. But it happens! In fact, the wise paddler assumes it’s inevitable. Without wetsuit or dry suit protection in springtime water, expect to become dangerously disoriented the instant your head submerges. If you’re lucky, you might have a few moments to regain your mental focus and attempt to climb back into your boat.
Instead, why not play it safe this spring? Wear a full wet suit with neoprene paddling cap, boots, socks and gloves. These items lock in body warmth and dry quickly. A dry suit and hood is an excellent alternative if your budget allows.
Before purchasing any of this gear, be sure to check a wetsuit temperature chart to determine what you’ll need when spring paddling days arrive. Wetsuits come in varying thicknesses and your body weight and type are factors. Do your homework on this one.
And finally, know how to get back into your ‘yak when you do capsize – especially if you’re using a spray skirt. Smart kayakers practice this skill with friends during the warm summer months or in an indoor pool.
2. Paddle floats. They can save your life. You need a pair. Imagine this: The unthinkable just happened – While paddling with a friend, you’ve accidentally dumped your kayak in 100’ of cold, late spring lake water. You’re wearing a 3mm wetsuit (with matching cap, gloves and boots), and, though your head submerged briefly, you’ve managed to maintain your composure.
So far, so good. Now it’s time to get back in. Thankfully, you had prepared for this moment by strapping a pair of bright yellow paddle floats to the topside of your boat. In the blink of any eye, you slide each one onto the blades of your paddle and secure them. Using the resulting “device” you maneuver up and out of the waves and back onto your kayak. Your paddling buddy can lend a hand by manually stabilizing your kayak during all this. Paddle floats (and your buddy!) will be your new best friends forever. Trust us on this one.
3. A decent bilge pump. Why? Simple. When you capsize, you’ll take on water. Maybe lots of it. Use the pump to quickly remove it from your ‘yak so you can get back to making fun springtime memories. Oh, and a sponge comes in (very) handy here and there.
4. A couple thin layers of clothing over your wetsuit will dry much faster than one heavy layer when you get drenched this spring. Neoprene, and fleece are great choices. Avoid cotton like the plague. It’s heavy when wet and draws heat away from your body. For added comfort, zip on a windbreaker to keep the cool spring wind at bay.
5. Spring, summer or fall, another critically important piece of gear is a personal flotation device, or PFD. Invest in a good one to last for years. Wearing a whistle on a lanyard is also an excellent idea whenever you’re in your kayak, just in case.
Most important of all? Never paddle alone and be sure to file a float plan before heading out in your kayak.
Following these easy tips will help keep you happy, safe, and warm on the water until summer comes along. Think Spring!
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