The Essential Safety Gear Requirements for Kayak Fishing

Most water bodies tend to be unpredictable, and you may often find yourself in dangerous situations, but with the right safety gear, you can always come through and escape the situation. Such gear also comes in handy when you are stuck on your kayak for an unusually long time and need to remain patient.

A kayak or a canoe, as it is normally called, is a small unit used to roam in water. It is made of a light frame which gives it great buoyancy. It also comes with a tight covering and a small opening on top that allows the user to sit in. There are two main types of kayaks, one that allows only one paddler and one that requires two to three people.

The Must-Have Personal Safety Equipments for Kayak Fishing

#1 Personal Floatation Device

There is a reason why this safety equipment is mentioned at the top of this list. It can be the line between life and death for you, so you must have one on all your kayak trips. Floatation devices are essentially paddling items that provide greater buoyancy to keep your head above the water. They can also make the rescue operation quite easier if you fall in deep waters.

Moreover, these can also be worn in cold weather to keep you warm. They will provide an extra level of insulation, thus keeping you comfortable. Many people mistake them for lifejackets, but they are much more than that. For kayak fishing, bulky life jackets are not recommended as they cause hindrance to the rescue process.

While you are shopping for PFDs, make sure you buy one that fits your body and is the correct size. It should also be a bit tight to ensure water doesn’t enter the suit. Some models will also come with a foam attached to them, which will make you forget that you are even wearing an extra layer of clothing.

#2 Safety Knife and Rope cutter

People often overlook these items, but they are really important on every kayak trip. They are also very cheap and affordable and are readily available in any home. To make the most use of these items, ensure that you have a large knife instead of a kitchen knife.

This safety knife comes in handy when you have to cut long cords, leashes, or cutting lines. Moreover, you can use this unit to get out of difficult situations like an entanglement. With so many ropes and fishing equipment, it is quite common for users to get trapped in their chaos. And that is where a safety knife comes in.

Similarly, a rope cutter is also essential if you need to instantly cut your anchor line and make it more suitable. But with both these items, you need to be careful about how you carry them. You should always keep them in a safe box, so you don’t injure yourself accidentally. However, they shouldn’t be so far away that you can’t access them in need of an emergency.

A very good way to ensure safety and better access is to buy a knife with a durable sheath holder or buy one separately. Make sure you get a simpler holder, so you don’t need to use both hands to pull your knife or cutter out. Moreover, you can get small cutters that offer greater sharpness. These often come with a good cutting edge that ensures accuracy and better time utility.

#3 Paddle-leash

A paddle leash is something that you use to propel your kayak forward into the water. This is true for all kayaks except for the one with automatic pedaling ability. So if you are using a model without this feature, then you need to have a leash with you at all times. Your paddle can unknowingly get knocked out of the holder and be lost. Or you may also have to let go of your paddle during an emergency. A leash is a good way to keep your paddle close.

The leash will allow you to keep your paddle with your kayak at all times. Without this, you are more likely to lose the paddle and then get yourself in a lot of trouble. In such a situation, you may also want to get the help of fellow kayakers in your vicinity. But this sounds easier than it is.


Your rescuer might not be able to make headway and paddle your kayak for you in an unfavorable condition. This, in the worst-case scenario, will prevent you from escaping the deep waters. So we recommend this safety leash to accompany you at all times.

When looking for leash designs, always look for a coiled one that comes in a compact shape. You can also get one with an elasticated design for added lightness. Ideally, it should also come with a decent clip that allows you to easily attach your paddle to the kayak. It should also provide adjustability so you can make changes whenever you feel uncomfortable.

#4 Food & Water

We don’t have to tell you the importance of keeping ample food with yourself on your kayaking trips. This is not only because the trips can take up a lot of time, but you can also get stuck in emergencies that require you to spend a day or two in the water. In situations like these, you will want to remain hydrated and properly fed.

But even if that is not the case, you will still want water. Kayaking requires strenuous body movements, which are likely to make you sweat a lot. This will make you crave water or any liquid drink. You can either take freshwater or if you like to ensure a more nutritious drink, you can also get fruit juice. This will ensure that all the vitamins and minerals that you lost in the sweat are properly recovered.

The weather is also an important factor to consider here. If you are kayaking on a hot day, then any cold drink would do. But if you are out in the open on a cold day, then you will have to buy a good thermal water bottle that can retain the hotness of your drink. Taking food with you will also keep your energy up. You should take small, finger-sized food instead of perishable items so they can remain fresh for a longer time.

Foods rich in carbohydrates like bananas or baked bread are great options for this.

#5 First Aid Kit

Whether you are traveling alone or with a group of friends or family, you always need to keep a good first aid kit with yourself. This is also essential because you are traveling with sharp objects like knives and rope cutters, and it is very likely that you will get into an accident at some point or the other. It is hence important to remain cautious all the time and pre-plan these things.

Many kits are designed especially for this purpose. They cater to the special emergencies that might arrive on the sea. But if you find these kits too expensive, you can also make one at home in no time. The first step is to get a small box that provides good water and shock resistance. It should also have ample space to carry all the essentials.


If you don’t find such a box, you can get a waterproof bag and put the first aid kit inside that. This should be placed in an accessible position, so you don’t have to find the box when you need it.

You should keep things like cotton buds and plasters in a variety of different shapes and sizes. It should also contain small, medium, and large-sized gauze with sterile dressings. There should also be some medicines in case of headaches, stomach aches, or general nausea on the sea.

#6 Communication Device + Whistle

When you are out in the open, you can get lonely, and sometimes you require connecting with other kayakers to get help or some assistance. That is where communication devices like whistles come in handy. Such devices are also used to reach out to people who are far away and cannot be called by shouting.

If there are people who can see you, you only need to use your voice or hand signals, but for distant kayakers, you may have to use slightly more complex and intricate communication devices. Here are some of the most common ones you should know off.


These are useful when you can see fellow paddlers, and they can see you too, but you are unable to call out to them. These small devices are very effective in communication, and they are also very cheap. Their small size also means that you can carry them in your pocket easily. Moreover, they can be used both day and night.


These are also very effective, but they come with a huge limitation. Such a device can only be used at night because, in the daytime, it won’t be able to do its job. This device is also cheap and can be put in your pockets.

Signal mirrors

Many people have never used them, but they often come in handy when you cannot see any paddlers in your vicinity. They are used to reaching out for help from distant travelers. They are also small but can only be used in the daytime.

#7 Navigational Device + Compass

When clear water surrounds you from all your sides, it is very easy to lose track and be lost in the sea. That is where some navigation devices come in handy. These are great at helping you find your location or the location of nearby travelers.

Compasses are one of the most popular devices used, and they give an advantage to most users. A compass usually helps travelers see the longitude and latitude of their position. They also work when the weather is unfavorable, and you are not able to see the direction of the sun or the wind. Hence, a compass will use a magnetic needle to turn towards the north pole of the Earth’s magnetic field.

But with time, communication devices have also evolved. Earlier, compasses used to be simple and gave you only information to a certain extent. Now, modern tools can also give you directions and help you navigate through your journey easily.

Since these units are so important, it is recommended to have at least two navigation tools with you. If one falters or gets lost, you can always make use of the other one.

#8 Paddle Float

In extreme weather or high tides, you can experience a capsize. This is when you are overturned in the water and lose contact with your kayak. You will have to reach your canoe by either swimming towards it or getting help from a fellow paddler. When both these options are not suitable, you can always use a paddle float.

It is usually attached to the paddle’s blade and is not very noticeable until you need it. It also stabilizes the kayak by providing an outrigger for reentry of the rider. The swimmer will have to put the paddle over one of the blades and then slide the other blade underneath the bungies. These are electrical cords that are placed behind the cockpit.


Then the float paddle blade is used for a supporter to ensure the swimmer can hoist him or herself onto the deck and slowly slide into the cockpit. There are two main options available in the market for you to choose from. A foam paddle is made of nylon and can be inserted into an outer sleeve. The other option is an inflatable paddle.

The latter requires more time to inflate; hence it is not very suitable for deep waters. The best advantage of the inflatable option, however, is that it provides better floatation.

#9 Floatation Bags

These bags are very commonly used in whitewater kayaks and sea kayaks that require paddlers to go in deep waters. Many accidents can happen there, so you should always keep your safety gear like a flotation bag near you.

This helps minimize the amount of water that can enter the kayak or canoe and cause them to sink. They also prevent them from capsizing and getting damaged. Many kayaks also come with built-in bulkheads that will trap all the water and prevent its sinking. However, these don’t work sometimes, so you should still have a floating bag with you.

These bags also offer diverse functions. They are usually placed at the center of your vehicle and will ensure a smoother ride. They are filled with air and will keep your boat afloat at all times. So even when you are moving over high rocks or swamping dumps, these bags will ensure that the kayak doesn’t flip or sink low.

The best bag is the one that is split in between. These cover either side of your kayak to ensure consistent protection from both sides.

#10 Dry or Wetsuit

These feel more useful when you are going into cold waters. A dry or wet suit will help you keep warm when you swim around. You can also float around and not get too tired. Different people prefer different styles, but there are a couple of features of both these styles you need to keep in mind before buying them.

Drysuits and wetsuits are very much alike. The only difference is that the dry one is used to keep you warm, and hence it doesn’t allow any water to sweep through or enter the suit. On the other hand, the wetsuit will trap a thin layer of water between your suit and your body. This may help you adapt to the weather outside better, but it may also make you slightly uncomfortable.

#11 Sunscreen and Sun Protection Clothing

For people who go out in the sun too much, carrying sunscreen is essential. Kayaking may require you to spend many hours in the open, which can prove detrimental to some people’s skin. So it is often recommended that you keep a small bottle of sunscreen or apply it before going out on your trip.

It will also ensure that the sun’s harmful rays do not penetrate deep into your skin and burn your skills. Moreover, constant exposure to the sun may also result in tanned skin. In many instances, this is permanent and doesn’t go away with time. Moreover, the harmful rays may also increase your chances of skin cancer. Though that only happens in the worst-case scenario, you can never be too cautious.

But for more serious anglers, who spend days in the sun, it is recommended that they wear sun-protective clothing as well. You will find many designs in the market that incorporate attractive colors to keep you interested. These clothes also ensure that no part of your skin is exposed to the sun. For your hands and your face that are not covered by cloth, make sure you apply a good coat of sunscreen.

#12 Towline

Injuries are pretty common on the sea, and a towline assists any person who is tired or hurt. It has one of its ends attached to the cockpit or the waist of the paddler. The other side is clipped to the board that you are towing. Some of these models come with small bags attached to them. This allows you to throw the units to any paddlers capsized in the water.

A very common product that is used as an alternative is a waist-mounted towline. These come with a quick and reliable waist belt that offers greater stability. These units are also small and very portable. You can also find good designs at a relatively lower price.

#13 Strobe Light

If you are looking for an inexpensive item to ensure safety, you should invest in strobe lights. These are navigation lights that offer a strobe setting and comfort and convenience in times of need. These also tend to be very bright and are hence easily detectable by onlookers or fellow kayakers on the sea.

They are also very visible from a distance and can be used to assist a fellow paddler in times of emergency. They also operate in low light settings so you can adjust the brightness according to the distance between you and the next kayak. Moreover, strobe lights tend to be readily available and in a range of different sizes and colors. All of these are inexpensive and can be placed in your pockets.


The most popular ones are made of Xenon or Halogen bulbs and shine very brightly. They also use up more battery and hence require more frequent replacements. But this doesn’t lessen the effectiveness of this particular type. The other option is an LED light that uses less energy and often doesn’t require replacements. You will also be pleased to know that all these light options are fully waterproof hence perfect for the sea.

#14 Extra Set of Paddles

If you have a good pair of paddlers, you may ignore this point. But since you can never be too sure of what happens at sea, we recommend that you always keep a set of extra paddles with you. If your paddle breaks in the middle of your journey, you will still have to take your kayak back to the shore. This could be a challenge without this essential piece of safety gear.

Just like with most products, these are also available in many different sizes. You can buy a 2-piece or a 4-piece model according to your canoe. You will have to make sure that your paddle is both lightweight and compact to ensure it doesn’t add too much to the weight of everything else. It is also advised to get a split and stored design that you can access any time a tricky situation arrives.

#15 Flags & Flares

Have you ever seen a movie in which riders are in distress but are unable to alert people in the vicinity or ask for help? This is often because they don’t have any safety gear with them that can also act as a communication tool. Flags and flares are cheap and make for a great tool. They not only alert people of your situation but may also help them to track your exact location and come for your aid.

There are usually two main types commonly used. This includes handheld flares and parachute flares. Both of these have a short burn time, which means that someone should be looking in your direction the time you shoot the flare.

But there is a disadvantage to using these. Since they require fuel to burn, they can cause serious damages to a plastic kayak if they fall on the wood. You can either carry them in a safe box or package that is waterproof.

Although you shouldn’t rely on these flags and flares too much and shouldn’t have them as your sole communicating device, you can still use them as reliable alternatives.

#16 Anchoring Kit

These are more of a fishing aid tool than one that protects you in case of an emergency. An anchor system essentially works by allowing you to hold onto your position and find stable ground. It also ensures that you don’t drift away too much in case of windy weather.


An anchor may also be dropped to indicate that you are looking for a rescue team. This not only allows rescuers to identify your location but also ensures that you don’t drift away while they are coming to your aid. You can use an anchoring system in conjunction with a trolley. This will allow you to enhance your anchoring position of the bow and only stem in the direction you want.

The best model in the market is the one that offers full anchoring in relatively less time.

#17 Bilge Pump

Most people haven’t even heard of bilge pumps, but you should carry them on your next kayak trip. These come in handy after a paddler has reentered the boat and sees water accumulation inside. It is a great tool to remove any water that has entered your kayak. You won’t have to do it with a bucket as it requires more effort and energy.

The most popular pump is a hand pump that requires you to pull water up and throw it outside. This model will come with a short tube and a pump handle. It also comes with a foam collar that prevents it from sinking or tripping if dropped overboard. But the only drawback is that it requires some effort and a lot of energy.

You can also invest a little more money and get yourself an electric or foot-operated pump. This is installed in your kayak and requires very little effort to draw water out. There is also the bailer with a simple sponge that is easy to use and is readily available at a low price.