Equipment: Keeping safe on the water

By Doug Williams
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Equipment: Keeping safe on the water

Doug Williams
 
 
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If you are wishing to pursue kayaking or canoeing as a hobby, your foremost priority should be water safety. People often mistakenly believe that just having an overview of the body of water, they have enough knowledge and understanding that they require during canoeing.

However, reality is pretty different from this and the serenity and surface calmness of water must not be taken for granted. All due heed must be paid towards preparing enough to tackle all possible water issues. The importance of water safety becomes even more crucial if you are accompanied by friends and other family members who are relying on you for their safety.

The only way to travel
The only way to travel

Here is the list of the top 10 water and paddling safety items that you must always consider carrying regardless of the time of year, the body of water, weather and your preferred type of paddling.

Personal Flotation Device

Life jacket – never paddle without one
Life jacket – never paddle without one

This is perhaps the most important equipment when it comes to water safety during canoeing and kayaking. The portability and design of PFDs make them absolute essential while in the deep waters. The idea here to prepare for the worst, and you can never predict when and where tragedy may grab and throw you in the water. Only a PFD can save your life and ensure you get back to your boat or the base safely and in one piece.

Helmet or Hat

Helmet for water sports
Helmet for water sports

Regardless of the type of paddling, you must always wear a hat and encourage your fellow canoeists to adhere to this safety measure as well. In some bodies of water, it is only common sense to wear adequate headgear. However, in other places, you may need a hat or helmet against the scorching sunlight or to maintain your body heat if the weather is fluctuating towards cold.

Proper Footwear

Sandals for kayaing and padlding
Sandals for kayaing and padlding

What kind of footwear you must wear in your trip depends entirely on the weather, your paddling technique and the type of canoeing or kayaking you enjoy. If you are paddling in cold weather, your best bet would be to go for booties or neoprene socks. In much warmer conditions, any closed toe sandals, old sneakers, and water shoes should do the job adequately. In any case, you must pay attention to protect your feet, as a lot of people have been reportedly injured over the years by rocks, sea life, shells and even pieces of glass that can enter your boat from the outside.

Paddling Whistle

Fox 40 black whistle – bought in 2010 – Author: Alno – CC BY-SA 1.0
Fox 40 black whistle – bought in 2010 – Author: Alno – CC BY-SA 1.0

Calling someone for help while canoeing and kayaking, even at a shorter distance, is not as easy as it might seem. Especially if you require urgent help and there are people around you. Simply shouting out for help may not do the trick for you, you’ll need a proper paddling whistle which is designed to work efficiently while canoeing and kayaking. Other large horns can also be used, but a paddling whistle is much more efficient for its size, and the fact that it can strap to you PFD makes it all the more handy in the emergency situation.

Water and Snacks

You can never accurately predict the amount of time you may end up spending in the water, so bring food and water. Always carry at least one bottle of fresh water along with some necessary snacks packed in plastic sealed bags. Never judge the temperature and intensity of sun over water while standing on dry land.

The combination of the wind, water, and sunlight cause bizarre fluctuations in temperature over the surface of the water. This can drastically dehydrate you while you are exerting effort to carry on paddling. Once dehydrated, you will lose the motivation to go on, and in extreme situations you can get severely disillusioned and disoriented.

Dry Bag

Dry bag – Author: Rick McCharles – CC BY 2.0
Dry bag – Author: Rick McCharles – CC BY 2.0

Professional paddlers tend to fasten their dry bags securely to the boat, as these bags often contain a variety of things that they might need over the course of their time in the water. You can carry your identification, first aid kit, food, phones, dry shirt, towels and much more essential paraphernalia in your dry bags.

Rope Throw Bag

Eine Rettungswurfleine der DLRG – Author: Alien65 – CC BY-SA 2.5
Eine Rettungswurfleine der DLRG – Author: Alien65 – CC BY-SA 2.5

A rope throw bag is much like a PFD, only it is used to help others in case of an emergency. A paddler would throw these into the water and could pull the person towards safety. Some paddlers use these ropes to tow another damaged canoe or kayak to the shore or other safe location. Besides, you never know what other uses you may find for a rope while you are stranded in the wilderness.

Knife

Survival knife
Survival knife

The functions of a knife are mainly to cut yourself free; some knives are specially designed to cut ropes used while paddling. These paddling knives can clip safely to your PFD and can be accessed and used instantly in an emergency situation. The possibilities of using a knife in nature are potentially endless.

First Aid Kit

You can buy any ordinary first aid kit from a superstore to carry with you on your boat. Chances are you may never need to open your kit. However, there have been numerous reports of minor cuts and bruises and even serious injuries, especially amongst beginner paddlers. You can either buy a waterproof first aid kit, or you can keep your ordinary kit in a dry bag and put it next to your other essentials like snacks and water bottles.

Protection against sunlight

Sunscreen, sunglasses and lip balm are common among the paddlers for protection against the sunlight, and are worn even in the cold days with minimum sunlight exposure. It’s amazing how sunlight and water winds create an unpredictable temperature over water, often in drastic contrast with the temperature on land, so always beware of this fact and prepare adequately.

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