Outdoor Activities

Basic Tips for Kayak Tripping

With this article I’d like to start a conversation about how to get ready to take a kayak trip, what you need to know, plan for and what you should pack.

All this has to fit! Kayaking Checklist…the basics
All this has to fit!
Kayaking Checklist…the basics

First, the good news, whether it’s a one night trip or a 10 day trip the basics of what you’ll need stay the same. What changes is the amount of food, beer, and wine you pack, and for some folks clothes, but that is another story.
The first thing you need to figure out is where are you going to go?  There are many resources available to you to research and come up with a fun destination.  I also recommend you start small.  Start with a 1 -2 night trip so you get the flavor. Plan on something close in.  You don’t want to drive 8 hours, paddle 6 hours and then find out it isn’t your cup of tea. There are many close in destinations in Puget Sound.
Let’s talk about trip resources.  When I started paddling the resource of choice for either day paddles or multi-day paddles was “Kayaking Puget Sound, the San Juans, and Gulf Islands” by Randall Washburne.  This book contains 50 kayak trips in Puget Sound.  The book is available through Amazon.
You can also just search on Kayaking Trips and get a whole list of available books.  The other resource is the internet. There are many kayak oriented web sites, including one that I maintain ( that lists paddle routes and trip information.
Kayaking EssentialsThere are also commercial sites like that provide trip descriptions and ideas.  Rummage around the web.  Remember in previous articles we talked about local kayak clubs as a resource.  All kayak clubs do regular paddles both day and multi-day trips.  This is great way to learn about trip planning.  Use the resource!
I strongly recommend you paddle with a friend or group until you are comfortable paddling alone.  Paddling alone means that you are on your own in an emergency and you need to take some extra precautions depending on where you paddle.
Let’s discuss what you need to plan for when you paddling:

  1. Tides…  tides come and go and in some areas of Puget Sound can change as much as 14’ between high and low (Nisqually River delta)  failure to consider the tides can leave you high and dry and unable to return to your take out.  Get a tide table, or go on-line to get the tides for your paddle destination. Use the web or your smart phone for tide information ( or get a GPS with built in tide tables.  Tides can also generate current flow in some areas so you need to have this information so you don’t paddle against a river!  A great example of this is Deception Pass, tidal currents in deception pass can exceed 7+ mph!!  You cannot paddle against that,  yet hit the Pass at slack and it is calm as a lake!  But remember due to the geography of Deception Pass this doesn’t last very long..  so scoot through and use the flow to your advantage.
  2. Know your currents, currents are in Puget Sound and generally driven by the tides, but they flow on a different time schedule, so you must check the current tables for the area being paddled in.  Remember, whenever water is restricted by geography both above and below the water you are going to see more significant flows.  Again use these currents in your favor, nothing worse that paddling against 1-2 knot current (1 knot = 1.15 MPH).  It will wear you out and make for a long day.
  3. Have all your safety gear.  Never paddle without personal floatation device (PFD), no matter how hot it gets.  Puget Sound is cold…summer and winter.. you won’t have time to put the PFD on when the unexpected happens. You need a paddle float, for use in re-entry after a capsize. You should also carry signaling devices such as a signal mirror, signal flare (pen gun), strobe light, and/or a marine radio, preferably with weather radio capability built in.  These items should be on you or in your kayak every time you go paddling.
  4. Always take a food and water, be it a snack or even a dehydrated meal, just in case the weather changes and you have to wait. Having food adds to your patience level.  Take along drinking water, as with every sport staying hydrated is important to your health.  Drink plenty of fluids.

With these basics in mind you are ready to paddle.  In my next article we’ll delve more into what kayak camping gear considerations should be and start the conversation about how to load your kayak.
See you on the water!
Chuck Hemphill