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Should you wear a life jacket in a kayak?

Safety is one of the most important things to consider when heading out on your kayak, but is a life jacket an essential piece of equipment? In this article, we’ll be looking at the importance of life jackets, what other buoyancy aids you can try, and what the benefits of wearing protective equipment are when kayaking.

What are the benefits of wearing life jackets?

Wearing a life jacket when kayaking has many benefits. They provide you with extra buoyancy in the water, which can help to keep your head above water if you capsize. Life jackets also have reflective panels that make you more visible in the water, which can be helpful if you need to be rescued.

We would always recommend wearing a life jacket when kayaking. Although they might not be the most comfortable piece of equipment, they could save your life in an emergency. There are different types of life jackets available, so make sure you choose one that is appropriate for the conditions you’ll be kayaking in.

Why do some people not wear life jackets?

For some reason, people seem to have a huge aversion to wearing a life jacket, despite the benefits of wearing one being well documented. Here we’ll outline some of the common excused, and why they don’t really hold up in reality.

“I’m a strong swimmer!”

Being a good swimmer is no excuse for you not wearing a life jacket with cold water shock having the potential to disable your limbs and leave you more at risk of drowning, no matter how good of a swimmer you might be. A life jacket can help keep your head above water even if you can’t move.

“I won’t be far from shore!”

You might think that you won’t be far away from shore but tides and currents can make this a lot more difficult. It’s a common misconception that because you might be able to swim 100m with ease, being 100m away from shore isn’t an issue… but it is. 

Moving water, especially with the tidy pushing you away, can tire you out fast and you’ll soon become exhausted and struggle to stay afloat. Your life jacket will help keep you safe while you slowly make your way to shore, or buy time for emergency services to reach you.

“I’ll put it on if my kayak capsises!”

People seem to think that by having their life jacket on their kayak, it’ll be easy to equip if they have an accident but that’s easier said than done. If you end up in the water because of an accident you’ll likely begin to panic and will struggle to put on your life jacket properly, increasing the risk of things going wrong.

What other buoyancy aids can I use?

What you go for will depend on the kind of activities you decide to do and where you decide to head out on the water. In the sea, a lifejacket will be best but a PFD (personal flotation device) or buoyancy aid may be better in stiller water. If you’re in fast-moving water, a harness device may be better, but you should always talk to an on-site expert.

As well as life jackets, there are other pieces of equipment that can provide you with extra buoyancy in the water. PFDs are similar to life jackets but are less bulky and more comfortable to wear. However, they might not provide as much buoyancy as a life jacket.

Kayak sprayskirts are another option for providing extra buoyancy. Sprayskirts fit over the top of your kayak and help to keep water out of the cockpit. They also have an inflated rim that provides extra floatation if your kayak capsizes. This can be really useful if you’re out on your own.

Why is protective equipment so important?

Wearing a life jacket is not the only piece of protective equipment you should consider when kayaking. A helmet can help to protect your head if you capsize, and a dry suit will keep you warm and dry if you fall into cold water. Learn more about what equipment you should use when kayaking.

Personal safety is so important, even if you’re an experienced kayaker, with weather, conditions, and luck playing a major part and accidents happening to even the most experienced of watersport fans. It’s not taking the risk, so make sure you always head out with the right equipment at your disposal.

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