What To Bring When Kayaking With Kids

Written By Alla Levin
October 19, 2022

What To Bring When Kayaking With Kids

Kayaking with kids is a great way to spend time outdoors and have fun as a family. You get a chance to teach the young ones valuable life skills and confidence as they get a lifetime experience.

But, despite kayaking being a low-intensity sport that kids can manage, success depends on your level of preparedness. It would help if you packed all essentials for a safe and fulfilling trip. So, if you have an upcoming kayaking excursion with kids, below is the packing list.

Ideal kayak and paddles

Of course, you will need a kayak and paddle during a kayaking trip. Get an ideal kayak and paddles for your kids. A tandem kayak is the best option if your children are below eight. This type offers flexibility as your kids grow and develop their skills.

Once they master kayaking skills and safety techniques, they can switch to single-child-sized kayaks. Kayaking solo helps your children become confident in paddling and improve their skills.

Sit-on-tops are also the best kayak type for kids as they are less restrictive. They are easier to enter and exit, more stable, and difficult to sink; thus safe for your kids. Bring along child-specific paddles as they are shorter and lighter, making them comfortable for children.

Kayak clothingKayaking With Kids

You should pack kayaking clothing for your kids based on the weather. In cold weather, carry layers of quick-drying clothing such as those made of polyester. Merino wool clothing is also a good option as they remain warm when wet.

Avoid linen and cotton clothing as they dry slowly, yet they absorb water and are cold when wet. On warmer days, like kayaking in summer, pack light and breathable clothing. Consider long-sleeved UPF-rated wear during sunny days to protect your kids from harmful UV rays.

Carry wet suit shoes during cooler weather and open sandals when warm. If the kayaking location has sharp rocks, corals, or any other hazardous things at the launch point, pack a pair of waterproof boots for more protection. It will also help to bring a wind-resistant and waterproof jacket and a pair of extra clothes for a change if they get wet.

Personal flotation devices (PFDs)

PFDs or life jackets are must-pack items when kayaking with kids. Always have your kids put the PFDs even when kayaking in shallow waters. Teach them how to wear the life jacket and how to swim and float while wearing it.

Consider taking your kids to a safe place, such as calm waters or swimming pools, to practice floating with a life jacket. It would help if you always put on your PFD so children can emulate you. So, pack yours too!

Most importantly, buy well-fitting kids’ PFD which match your child’s weight. Consider one with an adjustable strap for your child to use longer. You may also consider a PFD with head support, a grab handle, and a leg strap.

Food and water

Hunger can ruin your kayaking trip, as the kids can easily get grumpy. So, take some high-energy snacks to energize the kids quickly and healthy foods to ensure they eat well. Consider snacks that have healthy calories and are easy to pack, such as granola bars, nuts, and fresh fruits. Always pack enough food to last you for the entire duration of the trip.

Hydrating is more important than eating, so always carry more than enough water, especially on a sunny day. This ensures you don’t resort to drinking polluted river or lake water. Use reusable water bottles and avoid glass-made ones, as they can easily break and cause unnecessary hazards in the kayak or ashore.

First Aid kit

As a safety precaution, always carry a first aid kit when going kayaking. Your young ones might suffer bug bites, scrapes, and minor cuts, which you must attend to. Your kit must contain plant and bug stings cream, waterproof band-aids, and antiseptic wipes.

Other things to put in the kit depend on any pre-existing medical conditions of those going for the trip and the length and location of the excursion.

Tow lines

You might not predict with precision how long your child will paddle solo. So, carry tow lines for towing your kid’s kayak when they tire paddling. You can also use it to tie your boat to the shore when you want to take a rest. Consider taking lines with floats to get a person to safety if any of you slips into the waters.


Besides packing UPF-rated clothing and hats for sun protection, bring sunscreen as well. Kids, especially, get sunburns when they stay long under the sun, which can make them dizzy and cranky. As such, you should ensure your child wears sunscreen when kayaking.

Dry bags

Carry dry bags to put all your valuables that shouldn’t get wet such as phones, money, and watches. The kayak has dry storage hatches but can leak water if you capsize. The dry bags also come in handy when packing spare clothing for a change if anyone gets wet.

Waterproof cameraKayaking With Kids

Never forget to capture the memories you create with your kids when kayaking. So, carry a waterproof camera to take photos. The kids will also be excited if you engage them in photo-taking.

Other packing suggestions

The list may be endless, but there are things you may want to consider taking along, such as the ones listed below:

  • Flashlights to help in foggy conditions or when kayaking in low-light hours;
  • Whistles for sending alerts in case of danger;
  • Binoculars to keep the kids engaged;
  • Fishing gear if you intend to fish;
  • Bird spotting or scavenger hunt books or cards;
  • Paddle floats and throws bags to help in case you capsize.

Key Insights & Takeaways

You should always aim to make your kayaking with kids the most memorable and amazing experience. This can only happen if you prepare well and pack all the essentials for the trip. The items we have listed are ones you shouldn’t miss as they ensure you kayak with your kids safe while having fun.

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