Paddling Gear You Shouldn’t Leave the Shore Without

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Paddling is a peaceful and enjoyable way to experience the Great Outdoors. For a successful journey, paddlers need to be prepared for anything—complications, challenges and unexpected weather conditions can arise at any time. It’s essential to be equipped with the proper safety gear for kayaking and canoeing expeditions.

Transport Canada shares a list of mandatory safety items for paddling with a focus on human-powered crafts: pleasure crafts that are not fitted with a motor, such as canoes or kayaks, sailboats, sailboards, paddle boards, water cycles, rowboats and rowing shells.

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Operators of human-powered crafts don’t require proof of competency but are subject to regulations. Paddlers are required to carry certain safety equipment on-board, as specified in the Small Vessels Regulations and the Transport Canada Safe Boating Guide. We urge explore readers to get up to date on the latest requirements before setting out. Transport Canada even provides the opportunity to request a free pleasure craft courtesy check, where a trained volunteer will visit your vessel and inform you of any safety problems. Failure to comply with having the required safety equipment in good working order on your boat can result in not only a $200 fine, but other severe consequences—or even life-threatening incidents.

We’ve collaborated with the experts at Mustang Survival to create the ultimate packing list for your next paddling trip. In addition to the mandatory requirements, we’ve added a few gear items for extra comfort and safety on your water-based journey.

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PFD or Lifejacket

(Mandated by Transport Canada)

An appropriately sized, Canadian-approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket is required for each person on board.

Consider the following options from Mustang Survival:

The Vibe Foam Vest and Cascade Foam Vest are both great newly released foam PFDs for paddlers.

foam vestMustang Survival

The Women’s Destiny Foam Vest and Women’s Rebel Foam Vest are fantastic fitted options with the unique “Adjust-a-bust” system to prevent riding up for all-day comfort.

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Browse the MIT 100 Inflatable selection (offered in auto and manual) for light and streamlined options that you’ll forget you’re even wearing.

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A Buoyant Heaving Line (15 Metres) and Bailer or Hand Pump

(Mandated by Transport Canada)

A bailer or hand pump must be kept at the ready to remove water from your boat. A buoyant heaving line must be in good condition, able to float and readily accessible so that if a person is in distress in the water, on-board passengers can immediately toss the line for them to grab onto. This line will be used to pull the person to safety. Consider Mustang Survival’s Bailer Throw Bag, a compact and aerodynamic throw bag designed to throw efficiently like a football and equipped with reflective details for high visibility. This 2-in-1 safety gear item doubles as a bailer.

Bailer Throw BagMustang Survival

Manual Propelling Device or Anchor With at Least 15 Metres of Rope, Cable or Chain

(Mandated by Transport Canada)

The manual propelling device can be a set of oars or a paddle, which allows the operator to propel the pleasure craft to safety. Alternately, an anchor can hold your vessel in place in case of an emergency.

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Sound-signalling Device

(Mandated by Transport Canada)

A sound-signalling device must be kept on board to alert other vessels of your presence in situations of meeting, crossing, overtaking, low-visibility conditions or other emergencies. This device can be a horn or a whistle, and vessels less than 12 metres long can use any sound-signalling device that can make a sound lasting 4 to 6 seconds and can be heard within a range of 0.5 nautical miles.

Navigation Lights

(Mandated by Transport Canada)

If the pleasure craft is used between sunset and sunrise or during periods of reduced visibility, such as mist or rain, navigation lights are required. Operators must check these lights are working before leaving the dock and are advised to bring spare bulbs and fuses of the right size and power, unless you have LED navigation lights.

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Appropriate Clothing for the Conditions

Consider the season and all potential conditions (weather, water temperatures, tides, currents, wind, traffic) that may come up during your outing and ensure you dress and pack appropriately.

Mustang Survival has a selection of items to keep you warm and dry:

The Men’s Hudson Latex Gasket Dry Suit creates a watertight seal for year-round in-water activities.

dry suit for water paddling funMustang Survival

The Women’s Helix Latex Gasket Dry Suit provides durability and waterproof protection to keep you adventuring in the water at any temperature.

womens dry suitMustang SurvivalThe versatile Taku Dry Top (unisex sizing) is a dry solution for days when the climate and weather are ever-changing.

Dry top for paddlingMustang Survival

The Men’s Taku Dry Bib and Women’s Taku Dry Bib are robust waterproof solutions. These are great for pairing with a dry top for full coverage.

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Spare Clothing in a Waterproof Bag

The weather can change without notice and splashing or tipping can take you and your belongings by surprise. Be prepared with waterproof bags that will keep your spare items safe and dry. Here are some dry bags we love from Mustang Survival:

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The Bluewater series features a variety of Waterproof Roll Top Dry Bags with capacities of 35L, 20L, 15L, 10L and 5L. The Greenwater series is available in a 65L submersible deck bag and a 35L submersible deck bag.


Dog PFDMustang Survival

Let’s not leave the fur babies out! Many paddlers love to bring their four-legged companion along for the ride. While most dog PFDs on the market have been designed with the foam on top, Mustang Survival offers a version with the foam situated where the dog needs it most—under the neck and chest. Check out The Underdog!

Basic Paddling Safety Tips

Now that we’ve established what to pack and how to prepare, here are some additional tips to keep in mind when planning your paddling adventure:

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  • Before each outing, run through the checklist to ensure you have all required and recommended equipment on board.
  • Examine the condition of your equipment to ensure everything is in order and will be able to perform as needed.
  • Bring drinking water and snacks, tools and spare parts (fuses, spark plugs, etc.)
  • Choose bright colours such as red, yellow or orange and use reflective materials to ensure your vessel is visible in the water.
  • Go with a buddy, especially when you are a beginner.
  • Discuss the paddling plan with everyone before you begin.
  • Identify hazards in the launching area and stay alert for other boats.
  • Know the right of way, hand signals and buoy system where you are paddling.

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  • Paddle at your skill level.
  • Practice getting in and out of your canoe or kayak before pushing off.
  • Consider taking a paddling course.
  • Always carry a first-aid kit.
  • Bring a GPS unit.
  • Remember that these tips are intended for operators of human-powered crafts. If your craft is equipped with a motor, you are also required to have the following:
    • A waterproof flashlight or 3 Canadian-approved flares (type A, B or C flares)
    • A vessel license if your craft is outfitted, even temporarily, with any motor of 10 hp (7.5 kW) or more. Ensure your vessel is properly marked and you carry a copy of the vessel license.

This article was sponsored by Mustang Survival

We have been building inspired technical solutions for water rescue professionals, military elites, and commercial/industrial mariners for over 50 years. These serious marine users demand serious marine products. At the Mustang Waterlife Studio, we continually obsess on 3 pillars to protect and enrich the lives of our users; Float, Dry, and Enhance.