Gear Tips and Checklist for Flatwater Paddling

Travel safely

Flatwater paddling should not be taken lightly. Yes, flatwater canoeing and kayaking is a low impact sport, but with fast changing weather patterns, cold water, ever shifting water tables, and unforeseen errors, things can go from a fun day in the sun to a very cold swim in deep lake waters.

It's seen too often where paddlers go out with much less than the bare essentials, but what might those essentials be? Well that depends on the paddling destination, time of year, skill level, length of adventure and who is on the trip. Below you will find four lists of flatwater canoeing and kayaking gear that is recommended for most canoeing & kayaking trips in the Adirondacks during warmer months. Cold water paddling has its own list at the bottom of this page.

Keep in mind that these paddling guidelines and suggested gear are just some of the considerations you should think about. This should be used as a reference tool and not as a "be all, end all" compilation of essentials for your flatwater paddling trip. Most of these products are available at any of the outdoor gear shops in Lake Placid.

What to wear kayaking and canoeing

What you wear while canoeing and kayaking is one of the most important elements for enjoying your paddle and keeping your body comfortable on Adirondack lakes and ponds.

  • Rash guard shirt
  • Quick dry shorts or pants
  • Sandals/water shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hat
  • Wind jacket (stored until needed)
  • Life jacket (a PFD should always be worn)
  • Paddling gloves

Personal gear for your paddle

The following is gear you might want to consider having to make your trip a more enjoyable.

  • One or two dry sacks to keep gear dry and organized
  • Deck bag, to keep frequently used gear close at hand and dry
  • GPS and/or map and compass. Be sure to have these in a dry sack or sleeve that is see-through.
  • Water
  • Food/snacks
  • Camera, stored in a dry sack
  • Toiletries

Canoeing and kayaking safety equipment

This list of safety equipment is very important to bring on your flatwater paddling adventure. Bad things happen all of the time, and they're unpredictable. One of the best pieces of safety gear you can have is your brain, which you should always have on hand, so this list is made up of tools. Take a paddling course to learn about wet exits and "what if's" and "what to dos" - it can make a world of difference. Having the right paddling gear but not knowing how to use it does you no good whatsoever.

  • Bilge pump
  • Paddle float
  • Extra paddle for long trips and ones that place you far away from civilization
  • Float plan left with someone on shore
  • Throw rope/tow rope
  • First aid kit, in dry bag
  • Emergency kit with tinder, matches, mirror, headlamp, small metal cup to boil water, and knife
  • Whistle
  • Bow/stern light that's solid white in color and doesn't flash
  • Life vest/PFD that fits correctly and is correctly sized accurately

Overnight paddling in the Adirondacks

Paddling gear for camping in the Adirondacks is a tough list to build because it varies so much between groups. No matter what you bring, the other three lists above should be part of them. You may decide to bring more luxury items out on the water with you, which is fine (with a boat it's much more feasible than on your back). No matter how much you bring on your paddling trip, be sure to pack your boat evenly in the bow and stern to avoid an uneven load and reducing the possibility of capsizing.

  • Stove and fuel
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Bear resistant food storage system
  • Lighting
  • Tarp
  • Cook kit
  • Dinnerware
  • Axe/saw for firewood if camping in areas where fires are permitted
  • Camp chair

Cold water paddling gear

This type of trip can bring on a whole new realm of adventure on the lakes and ponds of the Adirondacks. Typically cold water paddling is from

  • Ice out to the end of May
  • End of September to ice in

Along with the warm weather paddling gear mentioned above you should also highly consider:

  • Cold weather paddling gloves, insulated and waterproof, wet suit-neoprene gloves, dry suit gloves
  • Dry suit or wet suit-neoprene top with hood and bottoms
  • Wet suit-neoprene or dry suit footwear
  • Splash skirt
  • Insulated head wear

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