What to take on a white water paddling trip

I thought I'd write out a quick guide on what to bring with you on an RLSCC white water kayaking trip if you're new to the whole thing. If you think I've missed anything let me know, and if you disagree with any parts of it feel free to try to change my mind. Just don't hit me.


An obvious one to start with but still worth a mention. If you're borrowing a club boat it should be one you've used before and are comfortable in. Before you set off from the club remember to check it has a solid footplate with all the screws there, a working backrest, airbags that are still airtight and most importantly a bung screw. We also ask that you check with a committee member or the kit officer that it's ok for you to take one. We're unlikely to say no, but it's a club policy that you ask, and quite frankly it's just good manners.

If you're not one of the drivers doing the shuttle before we get on the water, this is the ideal time to adjust your boat so it is a nice snug fit. In all boats you should be able to adjust at least the footplate and the backrest. Don't be afraid to ask for help when doing this, it's a good way to make friends!


If you're borrowing a paddle from the club make sure it is the right size for you. There is a (rather small) size guide on the wall in the kit room next to the paddle racks, but a rough guide is if you put the middle of the paddle on top of your head and hold the shaft with your elbows at right angles there should be about another 10cm between your hand and the start of the blade. If that made no sense then go look at the guide, it has pictures!



Another essential item, make sure it fits well and if borrowing one from the club I recommend one of the newer ones with the coloured straps.

Buoyancy Aid

Again make sure it fits you well and is at least fairly tight. You don't want it to slip off up over your head if you have an out of boat experience.


Whilst the club fabric decks aren't quite as watertight as a nice new neoprene one, they will still keep a lot of water out. Make sure you check it fits your boat before leave the club though, and don't get grumpy if we ask you to swap with someone else so that everyone has a good match.


The big and important one. Layers are always a good thing, and you can wear more or less depending on the weather. Ideally clothes you wear paddling should be quick drying, so no jeans. This isn't a strict guide, just something to give you an idea and pick the options that work for you. Let's start from the inside and work out.

Thermal underwear. Not as unfashionable as it once was and probably more easily available too. A good base layer for a cold day.

Wetsuits. Good if you end up getting wet, but not so good at keeping the wind off. They generally become less essential as people get more expensive outer layers to rely on. Ones with no sleeves are better suited to paddling as it allows more freedom of movement in your arms.

Fleeces. You can get both trousers and tops, good for keeping you warm, but obviously not watertight and usually not that windproof either. A good intermediate layer.

Waterproof tops/cags. Essential for keeping you dry and the wind out. A normal waterproof top is better than nothing but the club does have a few cags you can borrow if you haven't splashed out on your own yet.

Waterproof trousers. Obviously you can get more expensive versions, but even a cheap basic pair will keep some water and more importantly the wind off your legs.

Socks. Warm ones are good. Fluffy stripy ones are better. You can even get neoprene ones.

Shoes. Wetsuit boots are good, but old trainers will do fine, just tie them up tight and tuck the laces in to stop them getting caught on anything.

Gloves. You can get all sorts, gloves, mits, pogies (ask if you dont know what they are) or even a pair of washing up gloves will do. It's all down to personal preference, how cold your hands get and how much you like to feel the paddle.

Hats. Whilst paddling with a bobble hat and a helmet isn't a match made in heaven there are still options for extra headgear on cold days. Neoprene scull caps are pretty cheap to add to your collection of kit, or even a "buff" (one of those fabric tube things you can wear in all kinds of ways) can add some extra insulation up top.

Spare Clothing

If you've got space to carry a spare jumper or something in your boat it can come in handy if you have to stop. A woolly hat is good for lunchtime too.

Change of Clothing

It's pretty hard to stay perfectly dry after a day out on the river, so a dry set of clothes to change into before the journey home is essential. You can leave these in the car so they are ready when you get out. It also stops you dripping all over the seats of whichever kind person is giving you a lift home. 


Another thing to make sure is waiting for you at the end of the paddle, for obvious reasons. If you don't need it then you haven't been trying hard enough.


Ok, so it isn't exactly the most obvious thing to put on this list but food is still important, at least to me anyway. Think of it as paddling fuel. You'll be burning up plenty of energy so you need to put something back in, so don't skimp. I haven't got the time or space for a full nutrition lesson here, but a mixture of slow and fast release energy items is ideal. And pies, they are always good.



A little something extra in your buoyancy aid or a pocket to keep you going towards the end when you need an energy boost can make all the difference. Just don't tell Tess you have chocolate with you.


All boats have usually got an elastic loop or two to hold a bottle, and it's a good idea to bring one with you, especially on warm days. Fizzy drinks aren't a good idea though, as they are likely to get rather shaken up during the day. All of the mess and no Mentos needed.

Warm Drink

Whilst I don't recommend stopping for a nice cup of tea in the middle of a rapid, if you've got a small flask that will fit in the boat then it's a good idea to bring it. A warm drink is a great way to warm up either at lunch or once you've finished for the day. It can be tea, coffee, hot chocolate, bovril, soup or even a flask full of custard, it all does the trick.

Dry Bag

Something to keep all these bits and pieces dry in your boat is a good idea, and you can get dry bags fairly cheaply from all good outdoors stores these days, and some bad ones. Even Sports Direct. Something 5-10L should be enough for what I've listed here, and a clip or a bit of string to attach it to your boat so it doesn't go floating away on its own comes in very handy.

Thanks for reading all this, I hope you found it useful. Feel free to buy me a drink some time as a thank you. That's the real reason I wrote it all.

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