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Equipment is not as vital as good judgement, awareness, or skills, but it's difficult to be a good or safe paddler without well-built equipment, maintained in good working order.
The standard equipment for kayaking is simple. The Kayak should be a model that is easily handled by the kayaker. There are risks in both kayaks that are too small, and those that are too large for the kayaker. Kayaks should be sturdily built so the seaworthiness of the boat is never in question. Used gear should be free from major damage, or don't consider buying it. Your life is not worth saving a few bucks. Your kayak and Paddle should be inspected yearly to insure that no major repairs are required. After major mishaps, gear should be inspected and repaired.
PFD's should be designed to allow the paddler freedom of movement while remaining securely fastened to the paddler's torso. A PFD that rides up when floating in the water is dangerous since the paddler's arms or head can be immobilized. A woman with a large bust should try on PFDs designed for women. A PFD for a child should be fitted with extra care. PFD's should maintain their buoyancy, and must be stored indoors where they are protected from UV light. PFDs with ripped or torn covers, or damaged foam should be discarded.
While kayak gear may seem expensive at first glance, there are many ways to get started with your first boat and set of gear on a tight budget.
Clothing such as wetsuits and dry suits are important gear for preventing the risks of immersion in cold water - namely hypothermia. They should be mended as needed to maintain their waterproofness.
Marine VHF radios are an important piece of safety gear for paddlers who frequent major maritime areas. They can be used for communicating within a group, summoning help, coordinating locations of shipping traffic, and checking the weather. They should be used in a waterproof bag, and stored in a dry place.
Emergency equipment and Rescue equipment like flares, strobes, emergency lights, smoke signals, whistles, and dye markers should be stored in a dry area, kept safely in an accessible dry bag while paddling, and should be discarded when the expiration date is reached.
Paddlers venturing out on the large bodies of water should carry navigation equipment such as a compass and chart. GPSs are handy devices, but should act as complements to, and not replacements for your chart and compass.
Many kayakers like to use their kayaks to take them to places that can't be reached by other means. Others like to camp near a good whitewater area. In any event, it is good to know what sort of camping gear to have. This section includes cooking gear and food recommendations.
Fisher folk will take almost any vessel to enjoy their sport and kayaks are no different. Some fishing gear is somewhat specialized to kayaking, taking into account the size and features that differentiate kayaks from other craft.
There are always those that have needs that are unique. For those kayakers, special equipment is available.
Solar power for operating digital cameras, GPS receivers, Sat phones, and AA battery chargers is a common need when talking about longer expeditions. Rather than packing along extra batteries, small, thin, flexible, waterproof, lightweight solar panels are available that strap to the deck easily, and allow kayakers to silently & with a green conscience, charge all the electronics they need to carry with them. Today's lightweight thin-film solar panels work in partial shade, low-light, and overcast conditions very well. For example, a small 5 watt flexible panel can collect enough daylight in summer months to charge a camcorder battery, or two digital camera batteries, or a full set of 4 high-capacity NiMh rechargeable 'AA' batteries. The following is a great resource for information on equipment and combinations to meet different needs.
Transportation of kayaks presents a special problem for some. Carrying a kayak or many kayaks on specific vehicles can require special solutions. And as always, there are solutions for the builder.