How do you plan a kayak?

William Adams
 min read

How do you plan a kayak trip in a thoughtful and responsible way?

How do you plan a kayakThe primary purpose of leisure kayaking is satisfaction, and for that, you need to prepare for your trip!

Is that kind of planning boring? Not at all.

The proper preparation will ensure a smooth trip and allow you to see and do what you want.

How do you plan a kayak? Introduction

Planning will clarify your journey objectives ahead of time and make it easy to reach them. 

A map will help you plan the places you want to check out in the time frame you want.

Make a list, and you won’t forget any necessary equipment behind.

Here are some points you’ll want to consider:

How much time do you have available?

To plan your journey, you first need to establish how much time you have available.

At the very least, you will need enough time to get to the water, paddle at the pace you prefer, and travel back home.

To make things easier, you should allow an extra day or two in case you find better weather than expected which makes you want to spend some more time on the water. 

Paddling is safer and more gratifying if you can do so at your leisure rather than because of an inflexible schedule. 

Your available time will also determine your location, but the season might not be conducive to certain areas. Only you can make that judgment.

A call to the ranger station, campground, or other centers can offer you information on the weather if you are thinking about an off-season journey.

Seasonal variations are normal, so don’t discard a beautiful mountain lake because it’s late fall.

It might be experiencing excellent weather, and it would be a pity to miss out.

Which kayak will you use? How do you plan a kayak?

Kayaks fall into different categories, depending upon the function they were designed for.

White-water kayaks are low-volume and developed for maneuverability in river currents.

They are highly specialized and are not made to carry equipment or keep the paddler dry.

Play boats are made for more general functions, such as sit-on kayaks, unsuitable for cruising. 

On the other hand, sea kayaks are higher-volume boats designed for cruising and fitted with rudders.

Their cockpits are developed with coamings (that means that they have a raised edge around the hatch) that seals with the paddlers’ spray skirts.

Sea kayaks are the most versatile.

How does the ideal kayak look like?

The ideal kayak will have space for you and your equipment, length to help easy tracking and speed, and a profile built to reduce windage (air resistance on a moving object).

The material used is not really as important as its quality.

Some materials have inherent limitations that rule them out for kayaks.

Fiberglass is popular, especially for larger kayaks, while polyethylene is cheaper and is more resistant to scratching.

The style is more crucial than the material used as long as there is quality and good craftsmanship.

Buying guide

Read our best 500 lb capacity kayak guide and discover various great kayaks with a big load capacity, perfect for plus-size paddlers!

How high is the water level?

Some kayaking journeys can be organized in reservoirs.

A few of these reservoirs have water levels that vary extensively according to season, rainfall, and other aspects unrelated to weather.

When you paddle on reservoirs with noticeable changes in water levels, they will impact your journey to some degree or other.

When a reservoir is at a “full pool,” the water level is as high as it gets, affecting the paddler.

Firstly, the lake level will be up to the undisturbed shoreline, whether wooded or not.

The water extends back into all the inlets and coves, and the availability of outdoor camping areas relies on the setup of the coastline above the high watermark (in any case, our multi day kayak trip packing list can help you to pack for your first overnight kayak trip).

While the visual impact of a bare coastline, exposed when the water level is down 28 feet or two, is probably not your first choice, that doesn’t mean your journey’s over.

Some inlets may be shortened substantially at low water levels, but there is a lot of water left for kayaking. 

And there’s one bonus of lower water levels: campgrounds are practically everywhere.

So many knolls, ridges, and alluvial beaches, which were undersea at full pool, are now exposed free of plant life, and make for a fantastic campsite.

Check about the water level to get an idea of what to anticipate when asking experts about a specific lake or reservoir.

If there are extreme water-level conditions that would make rescheduling your trip a good idea, you should know about them.

How will you get there and back?

How do you plan a kayak? Think about transportation!

You will probably be driving to the departure point and taking your kayak with you.

Most state maps will be detailed enough so that you’ll have no trouble finding the place.

We suggest that you consider looped kayaking routes created to take you back to the starting point.

Read our related article What impacts does kayaking have on the environment? to take a moment to consider possible nuisances from noise or trash and how to minimize your impact on nature before, during and after the kayaking trip.

How do you plan a kayak? Does the season allow for it?

If time is the most essential factor, the season is a close second.

We’re betting that you wouldn’t try to paddle on certain lakes in the dead of winter: They’d be pretty inaccessible. 

And unless you really love the heat, you should avoid certain lakes until the heat of summer has abated.

Examine the general conditions anticipated in a particular location in a specific season.

That will give you enough information to decide when to make your trip.

How experienced are you and your group members?

You do not have to be a skilled kayaker to enjoy it.

One difference between inland water and the sea is that the former is usually more forgiving.

Get your information from kayaking books, websites and sign up for introductory lessons, often offered by experienced kayakers and shops.

Inland, you can paddle, enjoy and experiment, all simultaneously.

If conditions deteriorate, you can generally paddle to shore quickly and safely.

TIP: Check our list of kayak safety gear and first-aid kits and learn what items to bring for a kayaking trip!

Don’t rely solely on battery-powered devices for navigation

Though there are many technological advances in navigational aids, nothing beats a good old map.

It can’t run out of battery, it doesn’t need a signal, and though not recommended, it can survive being dropped in the water by just drying it out.

However, a traditional map does require you to know how to read it, have a sense of direction, and have an idea of where you are at all times.

How do you plan a kayak? Final tip

Prefer to use digital devices? That’s perfectly fine but bring a map anyway.

They provide added peace of mind and won’t leave you stranded when something goes wrong with your mobile device.

If maps such as USGS quadrangles are not available near you, they can be bought online and sent on by mail, a procedure that may need a week or two.

Preparing your journey is significantly boosted when you have the map or chart of your chosen trip in hand.

Your maps will show far more detail, optimal for navigational purposes.

The cheapest way to order USGS maps will be from the federal government, but delivery may be slow.

Alternatively, you can download a digital map (check the USGS website).

If you are in a hurry, private companies can ship most USGS maps to you the same day you order at a higher cost.

About William Adams

I’m an engineer and a happy plus-size individual myself. I love to blog online if I can have a positive impact on the lives of others. I help other plus-size people with in-depth product guides to make shopping for products and services less stressful in their busy lives. Read More