Boating & Paddling

Beginner’s Guide to Kayak, Canoe and Paddling Gear

Beginner’s Guide to Kayak, Canoe and Paddling Gear

Paddling is one of the best ways to explore rivers, lakes, coastal wetlands and other waterways. Kayaks and canoes put you close to the water and—thanks to their stealthy nature—they can bring you closer to fish and wildlife. Kayak fishing is one of the fastest-growing outdoor sports today. Fishing kayaks open up access to bodies of water and fishing holes that are otherwise unreachable.  

All ages and experience levels can enjoy paddling. Modern recreational kayaks and fishing kayaks are designed to provide stability and comfort. They can be customized with a wide variety of accessories to fit your individual needs.

Ready to give paddling a try? Here are some essential items that will make your experience more enjoyable.

Father and son paddling kayaks through a wetland

Paddling recreational kayaks is fun for all ages and experience levels.

Kayak Paddles

Choosing the right paddle can make the difference between a fun day on the water and a painful experience. Paddles are designed for specific purposes—and specific watercraft. Paddles built for canoes and paddleboards simply don’t work well with kayaks. Instead, pick a two-bladed paddle built for kayaking. Aluminum shafts provide a lightweight and affordable option for new paddlers. Two-piece shafts make transporting easier and allow you to adjust the angle of the blades.

High-angle and low-angle paddling styles vary between individuals. Experienced paddlers typically choose a paddle with a blade shape designed for their preferred style. New paddlers should start with a general-purpose blade or a low-angle blade that is easier on the body and allows you to paddle longer.

Canoe Paddles

If you’ve spent any time on the water, you probably have experience with canoe paddles. Designed for canoeing, they’re also used as emergency backup on motorboats. Wood canoe paddles are popular for their reliability, durability and traditional look and feel. Modern aluminum canoe paddles feature a tough yet lightweight aluminum shaft, comfortable handles and grips. Telescopic paddles can be stowed easily in small spaces and make great backup paddles in a pinch.

Paddle Leash

Retrieving a paddle that you’ve dropped in the water can be a headache, especially when you’re paddling alone. If you’re on moving water such as a river or tidal creek, it can be downright dangerous to lose your paddle. That’s why you should use a paddle leash. Most paddle leashes are easy to install. Simply attach one end to the center of the paddle’s handle and the other end to your kayak or canoe.  

Pro Tip: Paddle leashes can also be used to secure fishing rods.

Paddle Holders

Paddle holder clips and paddle holder bungees secure your paddle to the kayak or canoe. They free up your hands for fishing, eating lunch and rigging baits. Paddle clips and bungees are ideal for kayak camping and come in handy when beaching your canoe or kayak.

Fishing Rod Holder

If you’re planning to wet a hook from a kayak, you’ll need a fishing rod holder or two. They secure your fishing rods while paddling and setting up your fishing rig. You can even use them to troll for lunkers while you’re paddling. Clamp-style rod holders mount onto a fishing kayak’s rails. Flush mount rod holders provide a clean, out-of-the-way option for a variety of kayaks.

Spinning rod and reel secured in a kayak fishing rod holder

Fishing rod holders are must-haves when you’re fishing from a kayak.

Kayak Fishing Tackle Bag

Kayak tackle bags help you store and organize your fishing tackle and tools. Designed for paddling, these bags attach securely to your kayak and offer easy access. Look for models made from waterproof material that will keep your electronics and gear dry. Premium kayak storage bags may include built-in rod holders.

Kayak Seat

Most sit-on-top kayaks are manufactured from high-density polyethylene (HDPE). It’s an incredibly tough material that can withstand scrapes, gouges and punctures. Unfortunately, that hard plastic can be uncomfortable to sit on. Consider upgrading your paddling machine with a kayak seat. Padded kayak seats maximize your comfort and improve back support. Canoe and kayak cushions are another option for soft seating.

Padded kayak seat attached to a sit-on-top kayak

Padded kayak seats provide comfort and back support.

Kayak Anchor Kit

Don’t let that secret fishing hole or shady lunch spot drift away. A kayak anchor kit will keep you right where you want to be. Kayak anchors typically weigh much less than boat anchors, making them easy to use when paddling. Folding anchors take up less space on your kayak. Some premium anchor kits feature a trolley line for quick and easy anchor adjustment.

Wheeled Kayak Carrier

After a fun day on the water, the last thing you’ll want to do is lug a heavy kayak back to your vehicle. A kayak carrier lightens the load and helps you easily transport your kayak to and from the water. Simply strap one end of the kayak onto the carrier and off you go. Large wheels make it easy to pull your kayak across sand and soft ground. Look for durable aluminum construction that is lightweight and will last season after season.

Fisherman on a beach pulling a kayak with a kayak carrier

Foldable kayak carriers easily transport kayaks to and from the water.


More Resources:

Finding the Right Canoe or Kayak

Essential Fishing Tools for Your Tackle Box

Performance Sunglasses: Your Best Defense Against the Sun

How Performance Shirts Protect You from the Sun

How to Choose the Best Sunglasses


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