Whitewater kayaking gear

Top 17 Whitewater Kayaking Gear List for 2022 [Buying Guide]

It is simple to choose that whitewater paddling is something you like to try. However, if you consider the gear you’ll need for racing rapids, things might get complicated.

Explore the wide range of kayaking gear that is currently available to order. It can be challenging to decide which gear is really essential for whitewater paddling and which is “non-essential equipment” that you might want to buy later.

So I put together this list of necessary whitewater kayaking gear list for 2022. Everything is covered, including extra attachments as well as protective gear made especially for whitewater activity!

To assist you to get the most out of your whitewater trip, I’ve also included a couple of top tips, tactics, general pieces of advice, basics of whitewater kayaking, plus answers to often-asked questions. Enjoy!

White Water Rafting Gear List for 2022

Whitewater kayaker with yellow kayak in full gear holding black paddle

Whether on whitewater or not, several items of whitewater kayaking gear list is regarded as “basic requirements” – as in, you can’t go kayaking without them. This first section of my guide is all about the essential whitewater kayaking gear – stuff you’ll want to get out on the water – or to get started as a whitewater novice.

1. The Kayak

If you’re planning to run rapids, you’ll have a whitewater boat. The one item of equipment that is essential for whitewater kayaking is this.

But here’s why I’m bringing this up:

Whitewater kayaks come in a variety of designs that are sold on the market. It is therefore evident that you want a specialist kayak to start whitewater kayaking, but it may not be as clear which one you should choose.

There are many different types available in each of the two main categories of kayaks: hard-shell and inflatable.

1.1 Hard-Shell Whitewater Kayaks

Hard-shell whitewater kayaks are available in a variety of designs, including creek boats, river runners, and 6-foot-long playboats. They have a short, broad hull and substantial rocker, which define them all. Check out my overview of the greatest whitewater boats for this year’s top picks.

1.2 Inflatable Kayaks

Because of their small, stubby hulls & improved rocker, inflatable whitewater boats are often referred to as “duckies.” This is because they resemble ducks. For additional information, see my roundup of the greatest ducky kayaks.

Any kayak may be purchased following the same fundamental guidelines: get the best model you can afford, choose a well-known reliable company range of whitewater items, and buy it from a trustworthy retailer with a history of providing excellent service.

2. Paddles for Whitewater

A whitewater paddle is another item you will require, which again seems simple given that you cannot go without one. However, like with kayaks, selecting a whitewater-specific paddle may be difficult.

You should maintain the balance between the performance and also value of the paddles in that way you can paddle in whitewater easily with no hurdles.

You should take into account several factors while looking for your initial whitewater paddles, such as:

2.1 Length of Paddle

Depending on your height, the length of a whitewater kayak paddle is between 191 and slightly over 200 cm, which is shorter than a leisure paddle.

2.2 Shaft Style

Whitewater paddles are typically made of a single piece and they are not foldable like leisure paddles. Straight and curved shafts can be used, which is primarily a personal choice.

2.3 The blade offset

The offset angle between the 2- blades is effectively the feather angle. Although the zero-offset variant is more popular among freestyle & playboat paddlers, the 30-degree offset feather angle is the most typical on regular paddles.

2.4 Blade Construct

The more forceful stroke type required for whitewater kayaking is sometimes referred to as high-angle paddling. The  Paddle blades with a high angle are wider and shorter than those with a low angle, which are longer & narrower and better suited to long-range kayaking.

Many choose fiberglass paddles because they believe they are more durable, but I prefer carbon hybrids since they provide more value for the money. The Werner Desperado offers unmatched reliability and performance at a difficult-to-beat price because of its Carbon-reinforced nylon blades, Carbon-blend shaft, and tried-and-true design.

3. Spray Skirt

You may get off without wearing a spray skirt if you were kayaking for leisure, but what about when you’re on the whitewater?

It’s essential to. If not, you might easily become overwhelmed & lose all control of the kayak with few strokes.

In essence, the spray skirt serves as a water-resistant barrier that separates you from the kayak’s cockpit rim, sealing the cockpit & keeping water out of the kayak. Make sure the spray skirt you use is composed of thick neoprene, ideally reinforced using Kevlar, to provide reliability or implosion resistance. Make sure the spray skirt may withstand the pressure of water that is flowing at a high volume.

Watch care for the sizing as well. although the  Spray skirts are useful if they match the proportions of the cockpit of the kayak & your waist.

Check out the SEALS Pro Rand Sprayskirt—it was made with rough paddling circumstances in consideration!

It is always advised to have a bilge pump on board with you whether or not your boat has a spray skirt. Anyone who paddles in whitewater and surf, as well as anyone who wants to be ready for anything, should carry a kayak bilge pump. It will allow you to drain extra water from the kayak no matter what the condition.

List of Whitewater Kayaking Safety Gear

Let’s now discuss the whitewater kayaking equipment that will keep you safe as you navigate each successive rapid.

The PFD as well as the kayaking helmet, for example, are essentials that are required right away. Others could become more important as you advance or tackle more difficult whitewater waves.

1. Personal Floating Device (PFD)

A PFD (personal floating device) is important when whitewater paddling and it should be kept on all the time. There are both unisex and women’s PFDs available. Buying a whitewater PFD is crucial if you’re wanting to get a PFD for rapids kayaking. These were created especially for the kind of kayaking you will be performing and thus are meant to be utilized in the choppy seas that you’ll be kayaking and potentially swimming in.

I would advise purchasing this equipment brand-new to make sure it is safe to wear and provides the right level of flotation. Due to their gradual use, they can be buoyant over time, worn PFDs do not give as safety as new ones. Your life may rely on it, so don’t scrimp on a quality PFD.

To make sure it fits properly, size this similarly to how you would most apparel. You could use the belts to adjust the first PFD to fit you snugly after you have it.

2. The Kayak Helmet

The second most important item of whitewater kayaking protective gear is the brain bucket, and although it’s not legally required like PFDs are, it ought to be obvious.

Chances are, especially in shallow waters, if you capsize in any kind of whitewater, you’ll run into some concealed stones & logs. It hurts awful to go face-first on a pile of pebbles, and if that occurs, you want to cover your brain because it’s kind of a necessary piece of “thinking equipment.”

You’ll need head protection at times. Another piece of equipment that you should buy brand-new when you first start is this. It’s necessary to wear a helmet that will protect your head even after a few minor bumps. You must examine your head and pick the correct size before making a helmet purchase. With extra padding and movable straps, the majority of helmets available on the market may be changed to provide a secure fit.

3. Floating Bags

The stern of the sit-inside kayak is where float bags are put. Many people think that this item is not useful but I will strongly be recommended keeping this gear this is very essential gear for every kayaker. If you will not keep this important gear then must think, We’re talking about sacks of air, after all. How does that qualify as safety equipment?

The idea is clear and simple:

The cockpit of the kayak would be filled with water in the case of a swim since flotation devices take up lots of space in the stern area. The less water your ‘yak fills, the easier it is to recover and draw up onto the shore.

They also help the kayak’s buoyancy by being filled with air, which makes both aided and self-rescue much simpler.

Again, since these bags are air-filled, there isn’t much to see.

4. Emergency Whistle 

During an emergency, the whistles can be used to produce noise. It draws notice and “calls” for relief. A standard whistle, however, will not suffice because it would be difficult to perceive all of the rushing water near you.

The whitewater kayak safety gear would be significantly best placed by a pealess whistle. A safety whistle is so small & inconspicuous that there is no justification for not carrying one. The contrast between being noticed in an emergency and, well, not being understood in an emergency, is as quick as attaching it to the PFD. provided it is easy to access.

Again, it’s preferable if you have a loud, effective noisemaker that can be noticed from a mile away.

One of those things you probably won’t ever use is a river knife. You’ll use the blade to chop up munchies, twigs, and other odds and ends nine times out of ten, but it’s that one moment when you use it to get out of a jam that matters.

5. Knife

Entrapment, like becoming caught in a rope or fishing line, for instance, may instantly transform your day into a terrifying horror show. A great difference may be made in such conditions by having the river knife connected to the PFD’s lash tab, which is situated close.

6. Throw Bag

Throw bags are just ropes within a bag; they aren’t particularly noteworthy. But it’s still essential whitewater kayaking equipment in terms of safety.

The term itself explains a lot about what toss bags accomplish and how they operate. They are made to be removed by someone else if they capsize & fall into the water or become lodged, enabling you to rescue them. The rope can also be used for other purposes, such as pulling another kayak.

Apparel for Whitewater Kayaking

When choosing what and how to wear kayaking, remember the season, the rivers you’ll be paddling, the weather, and the water temperature. For whitewater kayakers, the following is significantly more crucial:

Because dams, snowfall, and heavy rain frequently feed rivers with portions of whitewater rapids, the water temperature in these rivers is typically low all year. Thus, regardless of the weather, paddlers might still be in danger of hypothermia. When picking out your kayaking attire, keep that in mind.

1. Dry Suit Insulation

It’s important to remember that drysuits for paddling aren’t intended to regulate the core temperature by themselves. They just serve to keep you dry; thermal insulation is handled by the layers underneath them.

This necessitates careful consideration of what you’ll wear beneath, beginning with the base layer & moving up from there, based on how cold it becomes.

Typically, synthetic materials that wick moisture are best for a base layer. Think about form-fitting synthetic underwear and lengthy underwear that isn’t made of cotton. Alternatively, you can decide to use a drysuit lining.

Although it is much more convenient when a kayak drysuit has built-in liners, not all of them do.

You might want to think about purchasing the SEAC Unifleece Thermal insulation Undergarment to use as your base layer if the drysuit fits into the latter group.

2. Dry Suite

At some point, when the water temperature falls below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you should think about doing without the wetsuit because it won’t be sufficient in chilly weather. Your best – and only – choice for remaining warm at that point is a kayaking drysuit.

At some point, when the water temperature falls below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you should think about doing without the wetsuit because it won’t be sufficient in chilly weather. Your best – and only – choice for remaining warm at that point is a kayaking drysuit.

The dry suit is intended to keep you perfectly dry. To stay dry, it is often constructed of waterproof fabrics and equipped with water-tight zippers and gaskets, but as I already mentioned, it only offers a little heat protection on its own.

It is simply an exterior waterproof layer that is loose-fitting enough to allow for one or more inside insulating layers.

3. Dry Top

The dry top is the next best option for keeping you dry, comfortable, & non-hypothermic if you aren’t likely to spend in a drysuit for paddling because they can be rather pricey. Similar to full-body dry suits, dry tops are constructed with water-tight rubber gaskets at the neck and wrists. The key distinction is that the dry shirt can’t keep you dry for very long if you decide to go swimming because it isn’t entirely closed off at the waist.

Despite this, there is one item of crucial whitewater kayaking equipment that will boost your chances of staying dry so long as you remain in your kayak. Yes, the spray skirt is what I’m referring to.

4. Wetsuits

Wetsuits are a wonderful place to start if you’re looking for a dedicated full-body paddling suit – provided you don’t feel like getting wet, that is.

Neoprene wetsuits for paddling capture a layer of water, bring it to body temperature and use it to build a thermal barrier. As a result, it will stop heat loss, but you’ll inevitably get wet.

5. Pants for Paddling

Recreational kayakers are much more flexible when choosing their bottoms; as long as they dry quickly and don’t chafe, they are typically a suitable option.

Because the rivers you’ll paddle in are known to be pretty chilly year-round, you as a whitewater paddler need to be a little more selective than that. Therefore, you must discover the ideal mix between heat protection and moisture-wicking qualities when selecting a set of kayaking trousers.

A lot of kayaking pants on the market are made to be waterproof & spacious enough to enable simple layering. Since you won’t be using the kayaking suit, this is very essential.

6. Dry Socks

The body portion that is most susceptible to becoming wet is your feet. In addition, before you even think to inquire, whitewater kayaking is not appropriate for wearing “normal,” daily socks: In so many ways, it is a terrible idea to wear normal socks—let alone cotton—while you are on the water.

Dry socks function as you’d predict:

They produce a cozy seal that stops water from leaking in—which frequently happens at put-in also take-out locations—and offer another layer of thermal defense against cold water.

7. Kayak Shoes

You should wear comfortable shoes that provide adequate grip on slippery areas, and shield your foot from big rocks, logs, or other debris, including fish hooks.

When portaging a kayak down a rocky riverbank, it is even more important to have a set of well-fitting, quick-drying, &, most essentially, gripping & protective kayak shoes.

8. Paddling Gloves

Your hands can suffer significant damage on the water, even if you aren’t aware of it yet. It can be dangerous outside; you could get frostbite or severe blisters, scratches, and gashes.

A decent pair of paddling gloves can go a long time, in my experience, especially in cooler weather, even if I understand that whitewater kayaking mitts are a choice to make.


1. Is whitewater kayaking difficult?

It sometimes feels like you are going against the rules of nature when whitewater kayaking since you are trying to control such a strong natural power in a small plastic boat. If you enjoy adventure and the challenge to take risks so you will not find whitewater kayaking difficult anymore.

2. Are rapids manageable for a sit-on-top kayak?

If you have some prior expertise and are wearing the proper safety equipment, you can typically traverse class I rapids in a sit-on-top kayak or maybe a canoe.

3. Does kayaking on whitewater count as exercise?

Kayaking is an enjoyable kind of fitness if you’re searching for a new hobby. Paddling for a few hours on the sea will raise your heart rate, tone your muscles, lengthen your endurance, and improve your abs. Paddling not only improves your physical health but also your emotional well-being.

4. Whitewater paddles are shorter, why?

A shorter paddle is more practical for playboating since it allows for the rapid stroke rate utilized in whitewater paddling.

5. What is the skill set for whitewater kayaking?

This session places a focus on scenery, company, and enjoyment, as well as the delights of kayaking and acquiring new abilities. The whole course duration, including hours on the ocean, gear selection, transfers, and lunch, will be around 7 hours.


There are numerous additional pieces of whitewater kayaking gear list for 2022 to pick up as you become more involved in the sport. We concentrate on more sophisticated safety equipment, dry bags, and other accessories in our luxury category because these items may be needed for multi-day and more difficult whitewater outings.

The essential requirements for the exhilarating, stunning, and enjoyable sport of whitewater paddling are outlined in the following paragraphs. You must need a kayak designed for whitewater, a paddle that matches it, a spray skirt, a type III life jacket PFD that is certified by Coast Guard, and a kayaking helmet.

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