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Realistically all you need to start kayaking is a kayak and a paddle, but there are some additional important accessories that can really elevate your time out on the water. From safety equipment and comfort to entertainment and convenience, we’ve curated a list of the 29 best kayak accessories that not only make the perfect gift for a loved one but also yourself!
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The first and most crucial item (minus your kayak, of course) is a kayak paddle. You may not know this, but the quality of your paddle can actually make a huge difference to the duration and distance you can paddle before fatigue sets in.
There are three main materials that kayak paddles are made from, and these include aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Aluminum paddles are usually what comes in a package with your kayak, and although these paddles are inexpensive and get you out on the water, they aren’t always the best quality.
If you’re looking to step up your paddling game, then it may be time for a paddle upgrade. Fiberglass paddles come in at a mid-range price point, but you can really see a difference in their overall weight. Lightweight paddles are far easier to paddle through the water as they require less energy, so you’ll find that you can paddle for longer, faster, and over greater distances just by upgrading your paddle.
The paddle type which takes the top spot, however, is a carbon fiber paddle. Carbon fiber paddles are the lightest of them all, but they more often than not come with a substantial price tag.
Aqua Bound’s Manta Ray Paddle, however, is an excellent carbon fiber paddle option that actually has a fairly reasonable price point. The Manta Ray has a two-piece ovalized paddle shaft, drip rings to catch water droplets, and a Posi-Lok ferrule system so you can adjust the blades to suit your paddling preferences.
If the Manta Ray isn’t up your alley, then we also have a list of 10 of the Best Kayak Paddles to Enhance Your Paddling Trip.
One of the most important kayak safety gear accessories that every paddler should have is a life jacket. In some states, life jackets are required by law, but regardless of whether they are or not, you should always have a PFD on board with you in case an emergency arises.
A kayak life jacket can quite literally save your life and it’s always better to have one and not need it than not have one and need it. One of our favorite PFDs is the Onyx Movement Dynamic because not only is it U.S. Coast Guard Approved, but it is also affordable, comfortable, and made from 200 denier ripstop nylon.
If you enjoy kayak fishing, then PFDs also work wonders as extra storage for your small kayak fishing gear. Some PFDs are even designed specifically with fishing in mind so are kitted out with large fold-down pockets that act as little shelves for your kayak fishing accessories.
Do you need an in-depth review of different PFDs? Then check out Best Kayak Life Jackets and the Best Fishing Life Jackets.
If you don’t have an inflatable kayak that neatly and conveniently folds down into a carry bag, then you’ll need to purchase a kayak roof rack system to transport your hardshell kayak from A to B.
Kayak roof racks attach to the roof of your car and allow you to secure your kayak into place so you can drive it to your chosen waterway. There are roof racks that come in a range of different varieties, from inflatable temporary pads to J-style carriers like the Yakima JayLow.
Yakima’s JayLow carrier can hold two kayaks in a stacked position or one kayak in a vertical position. The carrier comes with all the necessary tie-down straps and hardware so you can easily attach them to your vehicle’s crossbars.
We’ve gone into detail about other roof rack systems over on The 19 Best Kayak Roof Racks.
Kayaks can get heavy, especially if you have a fishing kayak or an extra-large recreational kayak, but don’t worry, your problems will all be solved with a kayak cart. Gone are the days of struggling to lug your kayak from your vehicle to the water, and it’s all thanks to a handy set of wheels that easily attach to the back of your kayak.
The ABN Universal Kayak Carrier is a perfect example of this. ABN designed their Universal Kayak Carrier from high-strength anodized steel and fitted it with 9.5” knobby tires that can transport your kayak over a range of different terrains. And with bumper pads fitted on the top, you won’t have to worry about your kayak getting scratched during transit.
Staying on the topic of transporting your kayak, if you have more than one kayak or if you have a kayak for sea kayaking, for example, then you may need to invest in a kayak trailer. Kayak trailers attach to the back of your vehicle and allow you to pull your kayak behind you instead of transporting it on your roof.
They work especially well for kayaks that are too long to fit on your roof or for families with numerous kayaks, as some variations can hold more than one kayak at a time. The Ironton Steel Folding Utility Trailer can hold a total of 1170 lbs, and when it's not in use, you can fold it in half and stand it upright to save on storage space.
Other kayak trailer options can be found on 7 Kayak Trailers to Make Transporting Your Kayak a Breeze.
Proper kayak storage is one of the ways to keep your kayak in pristine condition because it can still get damaged even when you aren’t paddling. Kayak storage racks like the Best Marine Kayak Storage Rack keep your kayak up off the ground and away from any items that could cause potential dents or dings on the hull.
Best Marines storage racks can be attached to walls indoors or outdoors and they feature padded arms and straps to keep your kayak cushioned and in place. Along with keeping your kayak safe, it also frees up room in your garage or shed that once would have been taken over by your kayak.
For other kayak storage solutions, head on over to the SUP Storage Racks: Best Paddle Board Wall Racks or The Best Outdoor Paddle Board Storage Solutions. And, don’t worry, although it says SUP racks, most of them are universal and can be used for kayaks, SUPs, and even canoes.
Whenever you’re out on the water, there are chances that you and your kayaking gear may get wet, even if you’re the most experienced paddler out there. Drybags like the GILI Waterproof Roll Top Drybag are an affordable and easy way to prevent any of your important belongings from water damage in the event of a downpour or if you capsize.
The GILI Roll Top Drybag can hold up to 15L worth of gear, comes in seven colors, and is made from a heavy-duty vinyl coated fabric with a roll-top closure to make it waterproof and airtight.
There is nothing better than paddling with an ice-cold beverage, and GILI has the answer to all your compact cooler prayers. The GILI Cooler Bag can fit 10 of your favorite canned beverages in its large 3-layered construction compartment. A water-resistant front pocket can keep your small personal items dry, and the bag can be attached to your kayak’s bungee system.
Are you in need of a bigger cooler for family outings? Then check out The Best Coolers for 2022.
There is nothing worse than paddling in cooler temperatures without adequate layers. After all, you don’t want your kayak trip to be cut short, so we highly suggest purchasing a paddling jacket.
Paddling jackets like the Wantdo Thermal Jacket are made from wind-resistant and water-resistant fabrics that can keep you dry and provide you with adequate ventilation. The way you wear your thermal jacket will depend on the temperatures you’re paddling in, as you can wear them under drysuits in particularly cold environments or over swimsuits for days when you just need an extra layer.
If you’ve ever seen a surfer head out to the surf, then they were more than likely wearing a wetsuit. That’s if you don’t live in a tropical country, of course. Wetsuits, however, aren’t just limited to surfing, but they also work wonders for kayaking. The thick neoprene construction of the suit traps a thin layer of water next to your skin.
The heat from your body then warms this water, keeping you warm for your entire paddle. The Hyperflex Access Wetsuit is one of our top picks when it comes to wetsuits as it has 50+ UV protection, four-way stretch, and a long back zip to make getting the suit on and off as easy as possible.
Extra cold paddles may require more than just your standard paddling gear, and that’s where a drysuit comes in. Drysuits are made from waterproof materials with gaskets around the neck, ankles, and wrists to prevent any water from entering the suit. The suit itself won’t keep you warm, but it does allow you to layer up as much as you like underneath.
King-Q Proof Drysuit is made from three layers of fabric that have been taped together to create a waterproof but breathable suit. The suit features latex gaskets, a waterproof chest pocket, and two mesh thigh pockets to store items you need easy access to.
If you’re in need of more information regarding cold water paddling then you can find it over on Clothes for Cold Weather Paddling.
Fishing kayaks especially will find a kayak anchor useful as it acts like any other anchor would and tethers you to a particular spot in your chosen waterway.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, anchors are big, bulky, and heavy. But, you’d be pleased to know that kayak anchors like the GILI Kayak Folding Grapnel Anchor are extremely compact and can fold down into a small bag when they aren’t in use. GILI’s anchor only weighs 3.5 pounds and comes with its own convenient 5L dry bag.
For your average recreational paddle, then this one may not be necessary, but for all the whitewater paddlers out there, then a kayak helmet should be one of the top items on your kayak safety accessories list.
The Vihir Adult Watersports Helmet, for example, is made from a hard ABS shell, has ear protectors, and 11 vents, and can be used for a wide range of outdoor activities.
It’s a common misconception that you only need to wear sunscreen during the summer or on days when the sun is making an appearance. This couldn’t be any farther from the truth. You should be wearing SPF along with UV protective clothing even in the winter months, as the sun can still damage your skin from behind the clouds.
Sun Bum SPF 30 and Neutrogena SPF 70 are two great sunscreen options that you should top up at regular intervals throughout the day.
It’s always handy to have a first aid kit on board, as you never know what could happen during your paddles. Sure, a first aid kit may not save someone's life, but it will patch up any scratches or scrapes until you can get back onto dry land.
The Be Smart Get Prepared First Aid Kit is an affordable, lightweight, and compact first aid kit that comes with a range of medical supplies, from alcohol wipes and antibiotics to bandages and cold compresses. The case can be feet neatly under bungees or behind your kayak seat, and the interior is neatly organized for quick access to all the supplies.
The Be Smart kit is one of the more basic first aid kits on the market, so if you’re after something with more supplies or with a larger variety of supplies, then head over to The 11 Best First Aid Kits.
Sunglasses are another step to sun safety while paddling, and if you want to avoid a headache from squinting, we suggest getting some high-quality polarized sunglasses like the Rheos Coopers Floating Polarized Sunglasses. Rheos designed their sunglasses to be ultralight, buoyant on the water, and 100% UV protective.
If you’ve ever been kayaking, then you’ll know how annoying it is when your paddle falls into the water and floats away out of your reach. And that is why your kayak gear should include a paddle leash. Paddle leashes such as the GILI Paddle Leash are fairly inexpensive but make all the difference when out on the water.
Say goodbye to water pooling up in your kayak thanks to a kayak bilge pump. If your kayak doesn’t have drains to remove the water on its own, then this handy tool can be manually pumped to remove it for you. Seattle Sports Paddlers Bilge Pump has a comfortable, easy-grip handle, is buoyant on the water, and is extremely easy to use.
Staying hydrated is crucial, especially when you’re exercising. And a water bottle is the easiest way to remain hydrated while out on your paddle. The GSI Outdoors Bottle comes in three different sizes and keeps the contents of your water bottle hot for 12 hours and cold for 24 hours.
Spray skirts are only applicable to those with sit inside kayaks, but they make all the difference when paddling in cold waters or in whitewater. The skirt works as a waterproof cover that wraps over the kayak's cockpit. In the center of the skirt is a hole that is just big enough for the paddler to fit in. A spray skirt prevents any water from entering the boat, and it keeps your lower half dry and warm in colder temperatures.
Sadly those with sit-on-top kayaks will have to brave the temperatures and add a few extra clothing layers to their paddling gear. But, for sit-inside kayaks, then the Perception’s Truefit Spray Skirt is a great spray skirt option. The spray skirt is made from durable nylon and features sticky edging grips that attach to the kayak's cockpit.
Kayak rudders help to improve your line of steering, which comes in useful on windy days out on the water. The Borogo Kayak Rudder, for example, attaches to the back of your kayak and has a line that runs down to your foot brace so you can control the rudder with your feet.
If you’re paddling at night, then you may be required by law to have a light attached to your kayak. Lights allow other vessels to see your location to avoid any accidents or collisions in the water. They also help you see your surroundings and the wildlife that inhabits your chosen waterway.
Kayak lights come in a range of varieties, from headlamps and led strips that attach under your kayak to stand LED lights like the Kayalu Kayalite Portable Kayak Light. We particularly like the Kayalu Kayalite Kayak Light as it is waterproof, buoyant, and can easily be attached to your kayak's bungee area.
We go into more detail about other LED lights over on The Top 7 LED Lights That You Need for Your Next Adventure.
If you have an inflatable kayak, then an electric pump will cut your inflation time in half. Most inflatable kayaks come with a standard hand pump which not only takes around 10 minutes to inflate your kayak to your desired PSI, but also requires a decent amount of energy before you even get out on the water.
GILI’s 12V Electric Pump can plug into your car’s cigarette lighter and it can inflate your kayak with little to no effort. The digital gauge lets you know how much air is in your kayak, and its unique design makes the pump easy to carry.
During long days on the water, the last thing you want is a numb bum. Kayak seats aren’t always the comfiest, and luckily there is an easy way to fix that. A padded seat cushion, like the GILI Kayak Seat Cushion, can sit under your kayak seat to give you more padding and leverage when paddling.
Whether you’re paddling alone or with a group of friends, what better way to kick back and relax than with your favorite tunes in a beautiful outdoor setting. You can now safely paddle along with a beat thanks to the creation of waterproof speakers. The GILI Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker is small, equipped with an action mount attachment, and has a battery life of up to 8 hours!
We hope you’ll never need one, but an emergency whistle can help get the attention of people if you get stuck in a sticky situation. This tiny kayak accessory takes up little to no room, but it could save your life in an emergency. GILI’s Emergency Whistle comes in a two-pack, and both whistles can be clipped onto your life jacket, belt loop, or on one of your kayak’s D-rings.
If you like to pack light, but you need somewhere to store your phone, then look no further than a waterproof phone case. Waterproof phone cases are a great kayak accessory as they keep your phone protected and close to you at all times. There are also waterproof phone cases that float on the water for an extra layer of protection.
Attaching a GoPro to your kayak is an amazing way to capture incredible memories doing something you love most. GoPro’s are the most well-known action cameras on the market, and for good reason. The GoPro Hero 10 has a 5.3k video resolution along with many other incredible features, so you can take professional videos and photos in a range of different environments.
If you enjoy jumping out of your kayak from time to time and witnessing the water from a different perspective, then you may want to purchase and pack a snorkel set. The W WSTOO Snorkel Mask is a full-face mask snorkel with three separate air channels. Masks of this type give you 180-degree views of the water around you, and W WSTOO even used flat lenses to prevent distortion from occurring underwater.
Everyone is different, and the accessories you take kayaking will come down to your personal preference, the activities you plan on doing while kayaking, and the weather conditions in your current paddling area. Here are a few things that we find useful when heading out on a kayaking trip:
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