What better way to experience the wonders of the natural world than from water level, paddling along in a kayak.
As well as affording you a unique and up close perspective on wildlife and your surroundings, Kayaking also serves as an excellent cardiovascular workout, which can improve core strength and balance.
Okay, so that’s settled. Kayaking it is. But how do you go about planning a kayak trip?
A successful kayak trip is all about preparation. Everything from deciding what equipment to take and establishing a route, to “put in” and “take out” times needs to be planned in advance. Put simply, the better prepared you are the better the paddling will be.
So without further ado, here are the key things you need to consider when planning a kayaking trip.
Location and Types of Water
Finding the perfect paddling locationsfor kayaking is all important. Kayaking spots are incredibly diverse. From sandy beaches, to rivers and lakes. All tastes and abilities are catered for.
If you’re kayaking with others then one of the key considerations for deciding on a location should be the skill level of the group. The weakest paddler needs to be accommodated just as much as the strongest. If one of your number can’t roll or is unable to re-enter their kayak without help, then the possibility of towing them and their gear to the shore has to be factored in.
If you or anyone in your group is a newcomer, then stick close to the shore and choose a location that is less exposed to the elements, sheltered from strong winds and waves—Preferably flatwater.
Obviously if the group is made up of more experienced kayakers, capable of rolling and re-entry, then venturing further out becomes a possibility, as do white water sites.
In any event, it is imperative to know as much about the waters you will be paddling as possible. Consult river and coastal guide books at the pre-planning stage to prevent any unwanted surprises.
As noted above, group skill levels are not to be overlooked. The balance between members should not be too skewed. For example an inexperienced paddler in a group of accomplished kayakers is a potentially dangerous dynamic. Equally a few good paddlers in with a bunch of beginners doesn’t work either.
For the best possible experience, the group dynamic should accommodate these differences as much as possible.
Regardless of how good a paddler you are, it’s vital to have a bailout plan in case anything goes wrong. This is as true for day kayaking as it is for longer excursions.
The elements are unpredictable, weather, like a sudden storm, could jeopardize your original plan to such an extent that it would be reckless to continue. This is where contingency arrangements come into play.
Include a Plan-B in your pre-planning to get you out of the water safely if the need arises.
Another important factor in the planning of any kayaking trip is a Float Plan. A float plan needn’t be particularly detailed, but at the very least it should include a roster of the members of your party, the scheduled route you intend to take, and any planned bailouts along the way.
It is essential that you then leave this “float plan” with somebody who is NOT going on the kayaking trip with you.
In this way even the worst scenario is planned for and a search party will know where to look for you.
The Emergency Kit—Bailout Bag
In the same safety conscious vein, all kayaks must carry an emergency kit. This applies just as much to a day trip as to a longer outing. A dry bag containing warm fleece clothing, rain gear, energy bars, water matches, etc., is an absolute must and a potentially life saving contingency.
Lastly, don’t overlook the organization required to get to your chosen location. You, your kayaks, paddles, PFDs, camping equipment and enough food and water, all have to be transported to the start point of your trip and then at some later point picked up again.
This is where the shuttle comes in.
A non paddler friend, also affectionately known as a “shuttle bunny”, is the ideal solution. In the absence of this most sought after acquaintance, other logistical options will need to be considered to get you to and from sites.
And that, dear paddler, is about it. Whether you are alone or in company, Kayaking can be an awe inspiring way to experience the great outdoors.
By being prepared, you are simply taking all the necessary steps to ensure the trip is as safe as it is enjoyable—and you can be absolutely certain that it will be very, very enjoyable.