Apart from your boat, a paddle is the single most important piece of basic canoeing gear you’ll need.
Kayak paddles, available in both right-handed and left-handed versions, have a blade at either end of a central shaft set at an angle, known as a feather. A canoe paddle has a single blade at one end and a T-grip or scrolled grip at the other.
The length of your paddle will depend on what type of paddling you’ll be doing and your height and size.
A buoyancy aid is an absolute must. As the name suggests a buoyancy aid will help you stay afloat but it will also allow you to swim, unlike a lifejacket (as used by sailors), which will always keep you floating on your back. Your buoyancy aid should fit snugly and always be properly done up and secured.
Where Do I Get Equipment From?
A good starting point to get hold of basic canoeing gear is your local canoe club or centre. As well as offering you advice on what to buy, members may have second-hand kit for sale and will be able to point you in the direction of a reputable retailer.
Most canoe shops will keep a large range of sizes and styles but, more importantly, will be a mine of useful advice and information.
The internet can also be a good source for gathering information and buying basic canoeing gear. There’s always plenty of kit on sites like eBay and in classified sales sections. Be aware that warranties don’t extend on to second-hand kit and we’d advise against buying used safety equipment like buoyancy aids and helmets.
Now you've got an idea of what basic canoeing gear you need, why not check out our guide on Where to Canoe or visit our Canoe Near You Activity Search to find out what's going on near you?
While the essential items will get you on the water, the following items of basic canoeing gear will help you stay warm, dry and safe. Canoeing is fun but being cold and wet can seriously dent your enjoyment of your canoeing experience.
When you’re learning, the chances are you’re going to find yourself taking the occasional dip, so a wetsuit, made from insulating neoprene rubber, is a good piece of basic canoeing gear to invest in.
A paddle-top, or cag as they are often known, is an outer shell designed to keep the elements out. They are worn over the top of your thermal layers and wetsuit and come in as many variations as there are paddling disciplines. A basic cag will usually be made of a waterproof and breathable material and will have neoprene cuffs and neck to keep the spray out.
These days many paddlers don’t bother with a wetsuit, but use a combination of paddle-top and bottoms to keep them warm and dry. Made from the same material as cags, often with reinforcing on the knees and bum to prevent wear, they will usually have a neoprene waist and cuffs on the ankles to keep the wet stuff out.
A good base layer will help keep you toasty, as well as taking moisture away from your skin through its material. These are usually made from manmade fibres or natural materials like wool. A fleece layer over your thermals will seal the deal and keep you comfortable, even on the coldest of days.
Paddlesport-specific dry-suits are a relatively new thing, but they have become understandably popular, as they represent the ultimate in dryness and comfort and eliminate any nasty cold spots around the waist and kidney areas.
If you are paddling on moving water, you should wear a helmet. You’ve only got one brain, so it’s best to protect it from harm. A helmet will keep your head safe from any potential knocks and bumps. To properly protect you, a helmet should fit you snugly, cover your temple area and the nape of the neck and, as obvious as this sounds, should always be securely fastened.
This isn’t essential when you first start, but if you paddle a closed cockpit kayak then as your skills and confidence increase you will want a spray-deck to keep your boat dry. It’s worn around the waist like a skirt and then seals over your kayak’s cockpit rim to create a watertight seal.