Keeping warm, being seen, staying afloat, emptying your boat, getting into you kayak or our of a jam, there is safety gear for all sort of situations. Some of this gear is a required by the Coast Guard, and some of it is just a very good idea.
Coast Guard Requirements
There are six things that you are required to have with you on the water.
You are required to have something to paddle home with if you loose your paddle. For a two hour tour, you should be fine with a half paddle. But for a day trip or longer you should consider taking a full spare paddle with you.
You need some way to get water out of your kayak. A sponge works but takes ages to get all the water out of a fully loaded kayak. A milk jug with the top cut off works but is an awkward object to keep close at hand, which is where you need it. The best bailer that we have found is a long slender pump that fits nicely under the bungees on the front deck. It pulls 1.5 liters of water out with every full pump, and is a great warm up after a cold swim!
Audio Signalling Device
You need something louder than your own voice to get attention when you need it. Whistles are great for this, as they are cheep and small. You can easily have one in every pocket possible, because you never know when you will actually need it. When buying a whistle make sure it has no moving parts. If the whistle has a pea, the salt water may crystallize in the whistle sticking the pea to the side, causing the whistle not to work. Scotty whistles and Fox Forties have worked the best for us.
You need something to help keep you afloat when in the water. A Personal Flotation Device is not a Life Jacket. A life jacket is the ring around your neck and front that will hold your head up if you are unconscious in the water. These are very difficult to paddle in. Kayaking PFD’s are designed to allow room for movement of the arms, shoulders and torso, and are short cut to allow room for your sprayskirt.
15m Buoyant Heaving Line
You need 15m of rope that floats that you can throw. This can be used in a rescue, or as a toe.
You need a 360′ visible white light when paddling within a hour of sunset and hour after sunrise. A head lamp is often the closest and most useful light to use for this. There are a couple of deck mounted lights that fit the required description exactly.