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Plan a Long-Distance Kayak Trip


When planning a long-distance kayak trip, we get overexcited and often miss something during the preparation. So, it is always wise for kayakers of any level to have a practical guide to refer to when planning a long-distance kayak trip.

Kayaking is an adventurous activity and extremely fun to do when you have a big circle of friends. Although kayaking is nothing but fun to do by yourself, you will have the quest of a lifetime if you plan a trip around kayaking with your family or friends.

In this post, I will take you through how to prepare for a kayak trip so you can have nothing but smooth sailing from beginning to end.

Women kayaking. Two smiling young women kayaking down a river stock image

How to Prepare for a Kayak Trip?

When planning a kayaking trip, you are preparing to expose yourself to Mother Nature. It means when things go bad, they can go very wrong and very quickly. So, here is how to prepare for a kayak trip.


·         Get in Shape

Runners don’t start running marathons straightaway. First, they build up their stamina by running short distances. So owning a kayak or having access to a kayak allows you to practice for months in advance paddling for extensive periods.

Alternatively, you can spend more time on the rowing machine at the gym to prepare your arms and upper body. At least three hours of continuous paddling a day is excellent. Moreover, if possible, paddling beforehand can also improve your paddling skills.


·         Check the Weather

It is critical to consider weather conditions when preparing for a kayaking trip. The weather conditions are one of the major factors when planning a kayaking trip. Certain inland regions and coastal destinations are famous for their volatile and violent weather conditions. All it takes is a couple of hours of heavy rain, making that gentle river become a dangerous torrent.

Make sure that you know the weather forecast for the weeks you are planning the trip. Getting the weather report ahead and keeping yourself informed will help you put in the driver’s seat of your safety.


·         Kayak Maintenance

There’s a famous saying that “better safe than sorry.” It is always safe to check your kayak for damage and carry out necessary maintenance after every trip you make. This is essential because of the circumstances we face while paddling. Even if you have an incredibly durable inflatable, strong drifts, bumping into rocks, etc., all take a lot of tolls.

Devoting time to service your kayak will keep your mind at ease and allow you to enjoy your adventure, knowing that your kayak is ready.


·         Plan your Location

Now, when your body is ready for a kayaking trip, the second thing you need to decide about is an appropriate paddling location. When choosing the site, keep your group’s skill level in mind. It means accepting the fact that your team is only as strong as the weakest paddler in your group.

So, what makes a suitable paddling location?

Well, if your team has a member who cannot physically re-enter their kayak with help, this is a limiting factor. It is because if they flip and swim for any reason, you will be the one to drag them and their gear to shore.

In such circumstances, you will have to stay in the water close to shore that should be protected from waves and wind. If anyone in the team can roll and re-enter the kayak, then it’s ok to start your journey further from shore.

Moreover, since there are numerous fantastic kayaking destinations all over the world, it might take time to narrow down your list. When choosing the location, consider the type of water you’d like to kayak on. Here are some water bodies that you should consider when planning a kayaking trip:


    • Flat Water

Gentle rivers and lakes comprise flat water. For inexperienced kayakers, flat water is excellent as it offers lower risk and difficulty. There will be no current in the case of lakes, and the lake should be significant to merit a trip of more than a day.

Also, be very cautious when paddling enormous lakes because the open space can become turbulent and risky during windy or stormy days. Even if you are a skilled paddler, sticking to the shore is wise.


    • White Water

If you are an inexperienced paddler, make sure to stay away from rivers with adequate flow rates and difficulty. It is hazardous to navigate them with a basic kayak loaded with camping equipment. Kayaking on whitewater is inherently dangerous. You will need to take a few sessions to gain confidence and skills before attempting any rapids.


    • Open Water

Open water locations mean large bodies of water, such as oceans, lakes, or paddling in the center of moderate rivers. Due to the hazardous water conditions and long distances from the shore, open water paddling can be risky. You should avoid such paddling until you undergo an advanced level of training.


·         Choose the Right Group

When preparing for a kayaking trip, choose the people wisely you go with. If you are a skilled paddler with a group of beginner paddlers, you are likely to get bored because of the slow pace. You will also have to focus on your group learning rather than enjoying the trip. Similarly, if you are inexperienced, avoid going with experienced paddlers. So, make sure to go with a group that works well or go alone.


long-distance kayak trip



·         Choose Your Gear for Long-Distance Kayak Trip

You will need different gear for the above paddling trips:

  1. Size and Style for Long-Distance Kayak Trip

You will need a different style and size of kayak for the above destination types. The length of your kayaking trip may also determine your decision on which type of kayak you want to bring along. Commonly, longer kayaks are known for:

  • They are less maneuverable.
  • Tracking better and following a straight path.
  • They have sufficient room to store gear on long-distance kayak trips.

Without mentioning, the inverse is true for shorter kayaks. So, make sure to choose the length of your kayak, considering your needs. Some kayaks that you may like to consider for your tip include:

Recreational Kayaks: Recreational kayaks are the best kayaks for long trips. These kayaks are sit-in and have plenty of storage space, making them suitable for long-distance kayak trips. However, make sure to stick to flat waters.

These kayaks are also excellent when it comes to stability, economy, and general suitability for inexperienced paddlers.

Touring Kayaks: These kayaks are excellent for open water and long-distance kayak trips. In addition to their ample storage space, touring kayaks perform well in waves.

Whitewater Kayaks: Because they are agile and shorter, whitewater kayaks are suitable only if you plan a day trip. Moreover, they also have zero storage space.

  1. Paddle

Choosing a good paddle is a matter of budget and preference. Lightweight paddles are better. Best kayak paddles for long-distance trips are made from lighter, near-future materials. When buying a paddle, look closely at the type of paddle you choose. Factors that you should pay attention to include length, blade shape, and feathering angle.

  1. Camping Gear

For long-distance kayak trips, you will have to bring camping gear along. In general, try to apply innovative hiking concepts to reduce gear weight and bulk. Some critical camping gear you should carry with you include:

  • Ample water.
  • Stove
  • Sleeping bag and quilt.
  • Shelter (tent).
  • Dry bags.
  • High-energy food.
  • Matches/ lighter.

Keep in mind that the above list is only a general guide. So make sure to consider your personal needs as there may be many other items that you want to pack.

  1. Safety Equipment

Regardless of whether you’re planning a day trip or a long-distance kayak trip, make sure to pack enough safety equipment. Your list of essential kayak safety equipment should include:

  • Dry Bags to Save from Heartache: It is an apparent item, but unluckily many kayakers think it is unnecessary to bring a waterproof nylon bag. They get into trouble when rough waters or rain destroy their belongings. While they don’t occupy any additional space, dry bags enable you to keep your valuables safe and dry.
  • Cell Phone: During an emergency, a person’s first point of call is their cell phone. Before you set off, make sure your phone’s battery is full. There are some tricks to preserve your phone’s battery for long-distance kayak trips. It includes turning it off when not in use, turning the power saver on, reducing screen brightness, switching off WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth, preventing the use of energy-snapping apps, etc.
  • Two Way Radio: A kayaking trip deep into the backcountry means you may experience cell phone coverage. So, bringing two-way radios along is wise to stay in touch with other team members and a mountain base station.
  • Bilge Pump: Even the most skilled kayakers can get capsize. Rough waters, heavy winds, waves, white water, etc., can cause your kayak to dip. In such circumstances, trying to empty your kayak with a cup is a pointless exercise. So make sure to bring a bilge pump along. Modern bilge pumps are manually operated and can easily fit into the bottom of the cockpit, allowing you to get the unwanted water out in a breeze.
  • GPS Unit: When preparing for a kayak trip, do not forget to pack a GPS unit for pinpoint accuracy. You may be confident in your built-in homing device, but it is wise to pack a GPS unit along. You could be injured, and a member of your team may have to paddle back for help.
  • Long-Distance Signal Devices: It is good to have two different types of long-distance communication devices for long-distance Kayak trips. These devices include rescue air horns, torches, dye markers, signal mirrors, flares, whistles, etc.
  • PFD (And you should wear it): A list of kayak safety equipment couldn’t be complete if it doesn’t include PFDs. PFDs (Personal Floating Devices) keep your head above water until you reach safety. Regardless of how good you can swim, all it takes is a strong wave of water to tip you out of the kayak. So, make sure to pack your PDF when preparing for a kayak trip.
  • First Aid Kit: When preparing for a kayak trip, do not forget to review your first aid kit to make sure it is full. You can also consider investing in a first aid kit mainly designed for boating-related injuries.
  • A Map and a Compass: On some occasions, old ways work best. Technology and water don’t often mix. It is sensible not to depend on your GPS device or cell phone and try to navigate without them. Having a map and compass can work long after your cell phone’s battery has drained.


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·        Kayak Travel Insurance for Long-Distance Kayak Trip

One of the most important and must-have things is your kayak travel insurance to protect your whole trip when preparing for a kayak trip. Most kayak trips are weather-dependent, so delays are on the cards even with a bit of alternation in the forecast. After all, nobody is willing to take a chance with their lives.

That is why all guided adventures recommend availing an insurance policy to get financially covered in case of a change in your schedule. The last thing you want is to have spent your time planning and preparing with zeal and thrill just to have your adventure ruined and not have the means to plan it again, as these trips can cost a lot.

So, make sure to find a suitable kayaking trip insurance company at a competitive price. Some insurance companies also include medical coverage.


·         Plan Your Daily Mileage

Kayaking trips for beginners can make it hard to guess how far is sensible to paddle a day. Here are some rough guidelines for paddling distances for novice paddlers in a single day:

  • Flatwater with no current: 20 to 15 miles.
  • Flatwater (River): 15 miles.
  • Open water: 20 to 15 miles.
  • Whitewater: Consult with an outfitter.

These are approximate numbers, and an inexperienced paddler can paddle up to 30 miles in a single day. However, it is essential to keep sensible expectations, so take a few trips with these distances in mind until you feel confident to readjust as you gain more experience and skills.


·         Review and Abide LNT Guidelines

Leave No Trace (LNT) seeks to provide an outline of recommendations by which backcountry travelers can plan, prepare, and execute a trip in a way that minimizes environmental impact. LNT principles include:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Camp and travel on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of the waste properly.
  4. Minimize campfire impacts.
  5. Leave what you find.
  6. Be thoughtful of other travelers.
  7. Respect wildlife.



Wrapping It Up

That is all about how to prepare for a kayak trip. For long-distance kayak trips, make sure to follow the necessary guidelines to keep yourself safe and healthy. Also, keep the LNT guidelines in mind to prevent negative impacts on the river so future paddlers can also enjoy it. Moreover, if you are going to pack everything on the above list, it would occupy every nook and cranny of your kayak, resulting in exceeding its maximum weight limit. So, use a little common sense to figure out what you should be packing as you may not need everything I have mentioned. Furthermore, consider carrying enough kayak safety equipment to mitigate the risk. Paddle on, and have fun.


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Couple Kayaking on a lake together. Young Couple kayaking on a lake together. Lots of copy space royalty free stock photo

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