Night kayaking allows you to see the natural world from a different perspective, with a far-reaching view of the moon and stars. There's something so enchanting about slowly paddling serene waters during less popular hours. It's fun and breathtaking but can be dangerous without careful preparation. Learn more about the challenges of after-dark paddling and things you should do to stay safe.
5 Night Kayaking Safety Tips
Night kayaking is a wonderfully meditative experience that has its own risks due to limited visibility. Therefore, besides being confident in your paddling abilities, it’s crucial to follow boating laws in your location and know the physical features of the waterway you want to navigate.
In the U.S., kayaking at night is legal, except in some privately owned and operated locations. No matter what season you choose, follow safety precautions and bring all the necessary gear to ensure a safe, exciting trip. More specifically, here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Plan Your Route in Advance
Plan your night kayaking trip based on your capabilities and preferences. First, decide on the route and distance you want to cover and the overall length of the journey. Look into the accessible landing and launching spots. Additionally, pay attention to the landmarks, so you can anticipate approaching twists and turns.
This way, you can prepare for potential dangers and avoid obstacles that lurk in the dark. However, keep in mind that familiar areas may look unrecognizable after sundown. Paddle around slowly. Protruded tree roots, logs, and rocks can cause the kayak to get stuck or tip over.
Once you’re familiar with your route, it’s time to make a float plan. A float plan must include a list of your companions, departure date, and expected return date. It should also have the planned route, including parking locations and campsites you plan to visit. Don’t forget to send a copy to a loved one on dry land before heading out.
2. Dress in Layers
A little-known rule of thumb is to dress for the water temperature, not the weather. Dress in layers so that you have the option to remove the outer layers if you get warm. Also, avoid clothes made from cotton, as they absorb water quickly and stay wet.
Swimwear made from quick-drying synthetic materials works during the warmer months, but they cannot protect your entire body from the sun and other elements. Planning to kayak at night during the winter? Expect chilly evening temperatures. In Las Vegas, nighttime winter temperatures may drop to 40°F.
A wetsuit, made of a synthetic waterproof material called neoprene, is recommended for kayakers during the cold season. The thicker the wetsuit, the better the thermal protection from cool weather. It has good thermal insulating properties, protecting the entire body and maintaining your core temperature.
3. Get Proper Lighting
Every state and region has its own night boating laws and safety regulations. For example, Nevada kayaking laws require powered and unpowered vessels to have lights to make rescue easier should there ever be an emergency. To avoid a collision, kayaks and canoes without motors must have a white light source visible from miles away to see and be seen.
Without these, you can lose your sense of direction, collide with other boats, or hit night swimmers. The white light must be visible in all directions without impairing your vision. Moreover, prepare a portable strobe light, flashlight, or any other secondary handheld light source to serve as a signaling device in emergencies.
Headlights and helmet lights are good options, but some may slip off your head if the kayak capsizes. You may also attach a small light to your lifejacket’s shoulder strap. Choose a model that automatically activates when submerged in the water and offers visibility for miles.
4. Bring All Kayaking Essentials
A personal flotation device is a critical on-the-water safety tool, increasing your chance of survival if you find yourself in the water for an extended period. Make sure that yours is not too tight or loose, or it might restrict strenuous paddling movements.
Next on your checklist is a dry bag, a waterproof bag that protects your belongings from dirt and water damage. These bags come in various styles and sizes. The larger it is, the more items you can carry with you. Bring extra clothes, snacks, a first aid kit, your wallet, a water container, permits, toiletries, extra batteries for your lights, and navigation equipment.
Put electronic devices and other small essentials in plastic organizers. Some important supplies, including portable strobe lights, must be stored in the most accessible spots, so you can quickly grab them even while paddling.
It’s best not to use any new gear when night kayaking. Instead, just use the ones you’re already familiar with, so you can easily utilize them should you encounter an emergency or weather interruption. Speaking of which…
5. Check the Weather
The safety and success of your night kayaking trip depend on several factors, including the weather and tide forecast. People who want to sea kayak must check tide and wind forecasts. Misjudging the waves' size and the winds' strength can be risky, especially at night.
If the forecasts don't favor your plans, cancel your trip and reschedule it for another time. The weather can be unpredictable, and things can easily get distorted in the darkness. If a thunderstorm suddenly comes hours into your adventure, get out of the water immediately.
Cutting your paddling time short is also possible, depending on the weather condition. It’s smart to stay close to the shores. These locations are calmer and safer, and they mean that you’re closer to dry land, in case an emergency arises.
A Peaceful Kayaking Escape
Ready to hit the water? Make the most of your kayaking experience by booking a guided kayaking tour with experienced guides. Although detailed planning can help ensure a safe and comfortable ride, there are still many potential challenges to conquer as you explore the unknown. Our guides at Evolution Expeditions can help you see nature in full display while avoiding potential hazards!