OTHER KAYAK GEAR THAT WILL MAKE YOUR TRIP MORE ENJOYABLE
(Last update December, 2016)
A wide-brimmed hat will protect your head, face and neck from the sun, deflect rain showers from your face (and glasses), and help retain body heat on cold days. We love our Tula hats, especially the “Lifeguard” model. Another popular hat with our group is the Kavu Chillba. Whatever you decide on, just make sure your wide-brimmed hat has a chin strap or you’ll be chasing it across the water in the first wind that comes up.
Be sure to have plenty of water with you. Even if you are also hauling other beverages, we suggest a minimum of a quart of water for a ½ day paddle. A 6-pack cooler will fit in the cockpit – behind your seat, between your legs, or in front of your feet. A second small cooler with more water inside a hatch is a good idea. You may not need it, but then again you (or one of your paddling buddies) just might.
SUNSCREEN & LIP BALM
When paddling the sun will beat down from above. It also reflects back up from the water. Both sunscreen and lip balm are necessities for sun and wind.
Some people’s eye are more sensitive than others, but with the sun reflecting up from the water as well as beating down on you, sunglasses can save you from a lot of pain later on. Sunburned eyeballs are not a joke.
For sit-inside kayaks a cockpit cover is a great accessory. A cockpit cover not only keeps out the rain but allows you to leave light items (like sponges) inside the cockpit during transport and helps keep insects and other pests out during storage. Of course, you don’t want to leave wet items locked up inside a covered cockpit because they will mildew. We leave cockpits and hatches open for a day or two after a paddle to dry out, then close them up for storage.
Carry your extra clothing, first aid kit, lunch, dry towel, etc. in a dry bag. It can be stowed inside a hatch, behind your seat, in front of your feet in the cockpit or under your deck bungees. If it’s not inside a hatch, make sure it’s secured to the boat so you don’t lose it if the boat goes over. The extra heavy duty vinyl dry bags used so much in canoeing and rafting don’t work as well for kayaking – use lighter weight dry bags. For touring, when space is at a premium, we particularly like the type with a valve so air can be purged from the bag after it’s closed. This type can be compressed down to a very small size to fit into even small hatches. They are particularly good for large and bulky but compressible items like sleeping bags. Even if all you ever do is day paddling, you’ll probably want at least one medium (10- to 15-liter) dry bag for all your little things – lunch, sunscreen, spare gloves, rain jacket, first aid kit, etc.
For small and delicate or indispensable items – cell phone, ID, non-waterproof camera, wallet, spare glasses, etc. – a dry box may work better than a dry bag. They come a variety of sizes and colors. They are simply a plastic box with a water-tight rubber gasket around the opening and solid flip-down clips to close them. Most of us have a small one we keep in our cockpits for cell phone and car keys. Be sure to attach a leash to it so you can clip it into the kayak because it’s probably holding those items you absolutely need to have with you at the end of your trip.
A full skirt is worn around your waist and has flaps which extend in the front and back to cover the cockpit. The skirt is either coated nylon (lighter and cooler but less weather-resistant) or neoprene (waterproof, but very hot). A rand is constructed around the perimeter of the skirt to stretch over the cockpit coaming. The waist area is usually adjusted with velcro and may also include suspenders. You put on a full skirt by pulling it over your head, adjusting the waist then stretching the flaps over the cockpit. At the front of the skirt will be a quick-release loop. Make sure it is sticking out after you attach the skirt and not covered by the rand and lying inside the cockpit where you can’t grab it. To get out of the cockpit, simply pull the loop forward then up and the skirt will pop off the kayak. Full skirts can also provide a lot of warmth on cold and/or windy days as well as protect you (at the least the lower half of you) from rain and sun.
A half-skirt (also called a spray deck, splash deck, or sun deck) covers the forward portion of the cockpit but is open around your body. Made of coated nylon fabric, an adjustable bungee cord is sewn into the perimeter hem. Sitting in your kayak, pull the skirt over your head then reach back and loop the bungee over the coaming behind you. Pulling on the two sides, work your way around to the front. Again, make sure the quick-release loop is on the outside so you can pull it off easily. We love our half-skirts here in Florida. They keep the sun off our legs (no more sunburned knees!), deflect paddle drips and keep light rain from soaking us, yet unlike a full skirt they allow quite a bit of ventilation so we don’t swelter on warm days. Unfortunately, Seals, in spite of what their website says, no longer makes their half-skirts in their listed “custom” colors, so it is very hard to find half-skirts in any color other than black. And black, of course, absorbs the sun which is the last thing you need in a “sun deck”. Yellow and gray are the best of the available colors for the sun.