There’s nothing like experiencing Mother Nature at night, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, your daily responsibilities, and the light pollution that always stops you from enjoying the night sky. But can you kayak at night? Is it safe? How can you make it work for you?
If you want to hit the water after sunset, here’s some expert advice, from us to you.
Can You Kayak at Night? Remember These 6 Tips
When it comes to a watersport like kayaking, one of the best decisions you can make is to do it with a guide. For example, our team knows exactly how to keep our paddlers safe while also making the most of the trip.
That being said, if you’re going solo or with a group of friends, these are the things you need to remember.
1. Prepare for Reduced Visibility with the Proper Equipment
Kayaking at night carries many of the same risks and considerations as kayaking during the day. However, reduced visibility means you might not see them coming.
Sudden weather changes (like running into thick rainclouds) might not be as noticeable. It’s easier to miss other kayakers, powerboats, or sailboats. It’s easier for them to miss you, too. Underwater obstacles, like debris and tree branches, might catch you by surprise.
On a clear night, you will get some natural light from the moon. However, you should bring additional sources of light with you. A white navigational light that can be seen from 360 degrees is actually required by law (although check in the area you plan to kayak to be certain). This is going to ensure that, first and foremost, other people on the water — or nearby on dry land — can easily spot you.
You might also consider carrying a search light, either handheld or one that attaches to your kayak or your helmet. Just make sure it’s waterproof.
The idea is that you need to be able to see and be seen. A handheld flashlight (or some equivalent) might give you more visibility, but it’s not going to make it easier for other people to see you. That’s where something like a navigational light comes into play.
2. Consider the Colder Temperatures
After the sun has gone down, you can expect the air to be much cooler, which means the water is going to cool down, too. And if it was an overcast day to begin with, you can assume it’s going to be even chillier. Getting soaked in frigid waters can have an immediate impact on your body and lead to hypothermia and even shock. Further side effects include trouble breathing and confusion.
In other words, this is nothing to mess around with!
Plan ahead by wearing either a wetsuit or drysuit under your clothes. Avoid anything that’s cotton — especially as the first layer of clothing immediately touching your skin — because it hangs on to water and takes a long time to dry.
3. Bring Some Sort of Noisemaker
This is a good idea in the daytime, but even more so at night. If something goes wrong and you need help, it’s going to be important that people can hear you, even from far away. Something like an air horn will do the trick. The package/label should tell you from approximately how far away the device can be heard.
4. Watch Out for Wildlife
Depending on the area you're paddling in, creatures that stay concealed during the daytime might make an appearance at night (hello, alligators!).
This comes down to proper preparation. In the area you’re planning on exploring, what kind of wildlife lives there? What are their habits? Are they nocturnal? Are they land-dwelling, water-dwelling, or a combination of both?
Don’t let any of these animals — who may or may not be friendly to kayakers — surprise you. Always educate yourself in advance. This is one of the benefits of going on a guided kayak tour with an experienced professional. They will already have thorough knowledge of the area and what you should expect.
5. Continue to Practice Basic Safety Protocols
There are no exceptions to the rules here. Always wear your life jacket/personal flotation device (PFD). This is one of the US Coast Guard’s rules, and it’s never up for debate. Even if you plan on kayaking calm waters, a PFD is a must because accidents and emergencies can and do happen.
Store any electronics in a waterproof bag. Bring a small first aid kit in case you sustain any injuries. One extra set of dry clothes (in a sealed bag) doesn’t hurt. Food and water are a must, too. Dehydration can really sneak up on you, and kayaking is sometimes a more rigorous workout than we expect.
6. Leave Your Itinerary with Family or Friends
You should not be the only person who knows what you’re up to. Write out a detailed description of where you’re planning to kayak and estimated ETAs, and leave it with someone you trust who’s staying on dry land.
Should something go wrong, you’ll have someone who knows where you should be at the time.
None of this is meant to scare you! As we’ve already mentioned a few times, a lot of it comes down to simply being prepared. If you follow these tips, then you’re far likelier to have a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience.