Top Tips for Kayaking Solo

Many people tell you to avoid kayaking solo, as we have previously done, as it not considered the safest way to enjoy the sport, and you can have a lot of fun in a group. However, that shouldn’t put off experienced kayakers making solo trips on calm waters. Many paddlers prefer being alone on the water, as it’s a soothing activity that gets you closer to nature, helps clears your mind and gives you a challenge.

If you are a more experienced kayaker looking to have a little adventure alone, we have put together some top tips to help prepare for a solo expedition, and some conditions you should be able to confidently meet before getting one of our kayaks for sale out onto the water.

Woman kayaking solo

What You Need to Know

Before you head off paddling solo, there are certain things you should know and be able to do. This includes reliable self-recovery skills and good swimming abilities should you capsize or get stuck in a strong current, solo launching and landing skills, as kayaks can be heavy and hard to carry without an extra pair of hands. You should also make sure you have a spare paddle, signalling kit and repair kit with you if you are heading out alone.

Being able to navigate and be familiar with the route you are taking is essential too; try your first solo trips in places you are familiar with before seeking out new destinations. It is also a good idea to listen to and understand weather forecasts, especially for the sea, before setting off. Being caught unawares by the weather is dangerous, more so for solo paddlers.

Start Short

Solo sessions don’t have to last an entire day; a couple of hours is enough to give you a feel for a solo adventure. As we mentioned above, choosing a familiar route you have travelled on with a group is a good idea too, as you won’t have the worry about navigating unknown waters. Once you have become used to solo paddling on shorter distances, you will be able to start on planning longer trips for yourself.

Have an Emergency Plan

When going off alone on a solo expedition, whether it’s by kayak, bike, SUP or walking, you should always have an emergency plan in place and let someone, be it family or friends, know where you will be going, how long you’ll be gone on average and what you will be doing. Remember to have your phone with you, kept in a dry bag or pouch within easy reach when on the water.

Person kayaking solo watching a sunset

Secure Your Belongings

When kayaking alone, you are the one responsible for everything you will take with you. Get a quality dry bag, and make sure it is securely attached to your kayak when you head out; you don’t want it to sink should your kayak turn over!

Don’t Overestimate Your Strength

Keeping your journey short also means you won’t be overestimating your strength and the distance you can cover. Take it slow and steady – remember to save some energy for the end as paddling back to shore requires a bit of strength, as does carrying your kayak back to your car! Take energy bars with you and eat a slow-burning meal before setting off.

Don’t Panic

Saying don’t panic is all well and good on dry land, but it is important to remember to stay calm if things go wrong, so you won’t make the situation worse. Take deep breaths and find a solution, as there should rarely be instances where your first thought is calling for help. Experienced kayakers should know to be prepared and aware of any situation.

Person using a one man Riber kayak

Know the Area

While starting out in places is a good idea, solo kayakers no doubt will want to try somewhere new. Before taking your kayak in the water, get to know the area on land, taking note of landmarks and distances between them, if you’re paddling on a canal or river. For sea kayaking, have a look at the coastline’s topography so you won’t be surprised by having to navigate a large headland or rocky area. It is also important to be aware of others around you such as other paddlers and boats, though avoiding areas popular for powered vessels is best.

Packing List for Solo Kayakers

–    Communication devices; mobile phone, VHF radio, whistle, torch.

–    Water and light snacks.

–    Waterproof bags and pouches to protect electronic and personal items

–    Skin and eye protection; sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, lip balm.

Paddling alone can be a lot of fun, but make sure you are confident on the water, a capable swimmer and have the right equipment with you to stay safe.

Take a look at some of our other blogs about paddling:

8 reasons to take up a paddling sport

All you need to know about paddling on canals

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  1. Bertie on December 2, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    This is very good advice! One thing i would advise is to make sure the one thing you do leave behind is your pride. I myself have experienced times where I’ve felt encouraged to keep going in dangerous conditions, or to change my plans at launch, as it can feel demeaning to not be ‘able to do a solo paddle’ when you have already organised with family/friends knowledge of your route (hopefully). Even if you feel you could continue in poor conditions solo, the coastguard will always be happy to take you out of a situation that could turn into something worse for the both of you.

  2. Jason G. Davidson on July 11, 2020 at 9:24 am

    I have found your article very informative and interesting. I appreciate your points of view and I agree with so many. You’ve done a great job with making this clear enough for anyone to understand.

  3. Adventure HQ on April 9, 2021 at 6:07 am

    Great kayaking tips for beginners

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