Everything for Beginner Kayakers in Washington State in 2022

Kayaking gives you an entirely new way to Explore Washington State. You get a closer look at our waters, a different angle at the landscapes and a new perspective on what this state has to offer. 

Taking up a new hobby like kayaking can cost a lot of money at first to get all of the gear you need. This guide will help you choose what gear is right for you based on your budget, and the features you want. 

Paddling on a Tight Budget

Speaking from experience, there are so many ways you can get kayaking gear on a low budget. You can also get the essentials at first and collect other gear over time when you have some extra cash. First, here are the essentials:

Pelican Trail Blazer 100 NXT Kayak beached on shore of Lake Cle Elum

Kayak:

There are a few tips and tricks to get a quality kayak at a price that won’t make your bank account cry.

Consider planning ahead. Start looking in your free time on Facebook MarketPlace and OfferUp for affordable used kayaks. Summer camps often sell used gear in bulk as they get new gear in for the next season. Families that are moving or cleaning out their garage usually post kayaks for a really good price in hopes of clearing space. 

Many of the posts are kayaks that are barely used and in very good condition. Many times, you can find multiple kayaks for sale at once if you are looking to buy a couple so that friends, partners or family can come along.

Some good brands to keep an eye out for are:

  • Pelican
  • Old Town
  • Lifetime
  • Wilderness Systems 
  • Perception
  • Ocean Kayak

Really on a budget and don’t want to have to pay for a rack? Getting an affordable inflatable kayak is a good choice.

Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak Set

This kayak is cheap, comfortable, and comes with an oar and a pump! Just be more mindful of the lack of durability compared to solid kayaks.

Another good way to plan ahead is to look at kayaks during the winter. Oftentimes stores will take about $100 off the regular price during the off-season. This also gives you months to buy the rest of your gear and avoid spending hundreds of dollars in one day. 

Paddle: 

More often than not, if you were able to buy a kayak second-hand from a place like OfferUp, it most likely came with a paddle as well. This will save you some cash and have you even closer to coasting on the water. 

If you bought your kayak in the off-season and it did not come with a paddle, then you have some options. Always do research to find the right size for your height. The taller you are, the more arm span you’ll have, and the longer the paddle you’ll want. There are a ton of graphs you can find online to determine the right length of paddle for you. 

Next, do your research to find the best deal. Prices are constantly changing, so here is a list of good brands to look out for. But be sure to compare prices, and make sure you’re getting the right length. It can make a huge difference in the effort you have to put into paddling. 

Brands to look out for:

  • Wilderness Systems
  • Aqua-Bound
  • Pelican
  • Perception
  • Lifetime
Onyx life vest with whistle attached

Lifejacket:

Life jackets are essential for kayaking, as falling into the water is always a possibility. However, you are not going to want to use just any life jacket because oftentimes they are thick, and crowd your arm movement. This would be very uncomfortable while paddling and sitting for longer periods of time.

Instead, shoot for a buoyancy aid for more range of motion and more comfort. Here are some brands/models to consider.

This jacket offers ventilation to keep you from feeling sticky and stiff while out on the water. It has pockets for easy access storage and will make you feel secure without restricting your arm movements. 

This jacket has everything you need for a good cost. It compares to many high-end life vests and provides essentials like comfort, functionality, fit, and is USCG-approved. It has details that go above and beyond for practicality and safety like several accessible pockets, and a reflective component to keep you seen in low light kayaking.

This jacket is only suited for skilled swimmers. However, with a good price and lightweight build, this jacket is perfect for strong swimmers looking for extra help in emergencies. This vest is not an automatic floatation device but with a quick pull to employ the inflation, within seconds you’ll have a fully functioning, reliable life vest. 

Racks: 

How are you going to transport your kayak? Do you have a truck and rope? If you answered yes, then you are set. 

If not, here are some other affordable options for other vehicles:

The gear above is the bare minimum essentials to kayak. However, as time goes on you may want to consider getting some other gear if you kayak often and want to be more comfortable and safe.

Dry bags:

As you kayak you may want to take a break for lunch, maybe snap a picture of the view, or peel off a layer of clothes as the sun comes out. Dry bags are waterproof bags that ensure that your technology, clothes, snacks and more is safe whether or not it stays in the kayak. 

These are great so that splashes and droplets of water don’t mean purchasing a new phone or skipping lunch. Here are some of our favorite dry bags for a great price:

Royal blue Yakgrips on kayak paddle

Foam Grips:

While paddling, there can be friction between your hands and the bar of the paddle. This can lead to blisters that can put a damper on your day and shorten your time on the water. 

Adding foam grips to the paddle is a cheap and easy way to avoid this problem. Here are some affordable options:

Signaling Whistle:

Falling in the water is a real concern when it comes to kayaking and at times it can be difficult to get back in. Whether you are injured, restricted, tired, or more you may need to signal for help to people ashore or in nearby boats. 

A signaling whistle is a cheap and easy safety feature that can make all the difference. Attach it to your buoyancy aid to ensure you never forget it and it won’t be lost if the kayak gets flipped. 

Here are some cheap options:

Bilge:

Oftentimes the water can be rough. Sometimes due to weather, maybe nearby boats. A wave can easily make its way into your kayak causing a large sum of water to get inside. One wave may be fine, but several can cause your kayak to sink. 

You can avoid this happening by carrying a bilge with you each time you leave shore. It is a device that sucks up the water in your kayak and releases it back into the water. It is a safety feature that you may never end up using but it can make all the difference if you ever need it. 

For me, knowing I am safe out on the water allows me to feel more freedom in how far I go, how long I stay out and what all I do. 

Here are some cheap bilge options:

Rope:

A small bag of rope is a great thing to have aboard while out on the water. It’s an easy way to tie up multiple kayaks so you stay together while enjoying lunch, tossing it out to a friend that fell in, etc. 

It has so many uses, and takes up little to no room or weight. Here are some cheap options:

Perception Kayak Sponge

Sponge:

This is not your ordinary kitchen sink sponge, a kayaking sponge is designed to soak up any extra water that may get its way into your kayak. It soaks it up and all it takes is an easy squeeze over the water to get rid of any unneeded moisture. Here are some cheap options:

Looking for High-Quality Gear but at an Affordable Price

Have a little bit of extra change on a hobby you’d really like to throw yourself into? No problem. Making sure you have high-quality gear that will last you a long time is essential for people that would like to kayak often. There are a lot of really universal kayaks out there that can be perfect for most bodies of water, creating more options and opportunities for you to get floating!

Kayaker paddling through the serene waters of Banks Lake
Kayaker, Tanya Wicks, paddling through the serene waters of Banks Lake.

Kayak:

If you have the opportunity to buy a kayak in advance, I would start looking in the winter. You will find high quality kayaks for around $100 dollars off the normal asking price due to the time of year. This will help save money but still ensure you’re getting a new, quality kayak. 

Here are some of our favorite quality kayaks:

This sit-in kayak is very comfortable. It is sturdy while also being lightweight and is loaded with dry storage space. It also has fishing rod holders built in for optional kayak fishing. 

This inflatable kayak is easy to pack and eliminates the cost of a rack. It has comfort, is lightweight, and comes with a repair kit and heavy-duty travel bag. It does not come with a pump.

If you’re willing to spend just a little bit more on your kayak, the Old Town Manitou Sport is a high-quality do-it-all kayak. This kayak will perform well on almost any body of water and will offer stability, comfort, and mobility. It handles both slow and speedy rides and responds to sharp turns quite well. It has plenty of storage space and adjustable foot pedals to customize to your height and comfort. 

Field & Stream bright blue paddle with royal blue Yakgrips

Paddle:

First, you’ll need to search for the right paddle length for you based on your height. There are several charts available to you with a quick google search.

All of these paddles were on the best kayak paddles of 2022 list from GearLab. They tested for nearly 100 hours and narrowed down to just 12 highest quality paddles. Here are the most budget friendly out of the bunch:

Lifejacket:

This jacket has an easily accessible front pocket to hold anything you’d like quick access to. Its sizing makes it fit comfortably for everyone regardless of height or weight. Everything can be adjusted to fit your body (shoulder, waist, sides).

This is a really great jacket specially designed for women. It has long been on the market and has stayed on top due to its dependability and quality. It has an extensive size range, is very breathable, has lots of pockets, and a comfortable fit. 

What this jacket may lack in add-ons like pockets, it makes up with being lightweight, durable, and offers free range of motion. If you hate the bulky feeling of a life vest, this is the jacket you need. It is small and easy to store, and has both a manual and automatic option for inflation. It also has reflective piping for late night rides.

Transportation of Kayak/Racks:

How are you going to get your kayak to the water or on roadtrips? If you have a truck and rope, you’re good to go! If not, there are lots of options available to you at an affordable price:

Kayak racks secured to the top of a 2006 Kia Sportage.
Kayak racks secured to the top of a 2006 Kia Sportage.

All of the extra gear for comfort and safety has links above. This gear is not too spendy but can make a huge difference in your experience. All of the links above in the Paddling on a Tight Budget is affordable and quality gear.

When Kayaking, Money is No Object

Spending money on something you love is not a waste. Here are some of the top-notch, highly rated kayaking gear you can find.

happy kayaker fishing on banks lake

Kayaks:

There are some incredible kayaks out there. It really all depends on what features you’re looking for. Do you want to be able to fish? Be able to kayak with a partner? Maybe even see the water beneath you.

There is a kayak out there that fits all of your needs:

This inflatable kayak is easy to pack and eliminates the cost of a rack. It has comfort, is lightweight, and comes with a repair kit and heavy-duty travel bag. It does not come with a pump.

This is one of the best sit-on-top kayaks on the market. It is adaptable for your kayaking needs but beginner-friendly and very stable. Although this design is built more for stable cruising rather than racing, it will perform well in flat water, creeks, rivers, etc. For all the fisherman and women out there: this model is also compatible with fishing pole holders, GPS units, and fish finder screens.

This kayak can comfortably sit two kayakers with adjustable seating, durable build, and a clear body leaving you a beautiful view of the water and wildlife below you. 

Paddle:

These are the best kayak paddles of 2022 according to GearLab. After over 100 hours of testing they found the best based on feel, performance, and durability.

Life Jacket:

A life jacket is a necessity in order to be safe out on the water. Here are the highest rated life vests so that you can feel safe to go beyond the shore:

This is a very high-end lifejacket. It is designed just for kayaking and will allow comfort, range of motion, and a USCG certification – meaning it is reliable. 

What this jacket may lack in add-ons like pockets, it makes up with being lightweight, durable, and offers free range of motion. If you hate the bulky feeling of a life vest, this is the jacket you need. It is small and easy to store, and has both a manual and automatic option for inflation. It also has reflective piping for late night rides.

This vest was designed with kayaking in mind. That means optimal motion, reflective accents, ventilation, accessible pockets, and durable material so it is a long-lasting piece of gear. 

Rack:

How are you going to transport your kayak from lake to lake? If you have a truck and some rope, you should be fine. But here are the top rated options if you are looking for something else:

This carrier lowers down to avoid having to lift the kayak above your head. It then has an easy adjustment feature to lift your kayak to the top of your vehicle. It is great for heavy kayaks.

Ten gallon blue dry bag

Dry Bags:

Dry bags will allow you to bring extra clothes, lunch, electronics, etc. without ever worrying about them being lost, damaged, and most importantly: wet. Here are the highest rated dry bags:

Foam Grips:

Foam grips are a lifesaver when being out on the kayak for more than an hour. It prevents blisters on your hand and makes for ultimate comfort. 

Standard signaling whistle attached to life vest

Signaling Whistle:

Preparing for the worst is essential. If you were to fall in the water and not be able to pull yourself back into the kayak, have trouble turning it back around, or become tired/cold from swimming, you may want to signal for help. Having a whistle attached to your life vest is great for emergencies when having to call for help to nearby boats or people ashore. 

Headlamp:

Thinking about going for a sunset kayak ride? Maybe the day gets away from you and suddenly the sun is going down. Having a quality headlamp ready can ensure you are seen, can see all your supplies and see where you are going. 

Bilge:

A bilge is a lifesaver in a pinch. Sometimes waves can crash into the kayak and you need a quick solution to get the water out. A bilge is the answer! Here are the top rated bilge pumps:

Small bag of bright rescue rope

Rope:

Rope is a great tool to have on you while you’re kayaking. It can be lifesaving rescue rope, or convenient to tie together multiple kayaks while stopping for lunch or to talk. It is versatile and takes up little space and weight. 

Sponge:

A sponge is an easy and quick way to soak up any unwanted water in the kayak. With a quick squeeze it’s gone! It’s a convenient, small, lightweight solution. 

This sponge is unlike others. It comes in the shape of two balls and makes these sponges easier to pack away and possibly a game out on the water. 

Anchor:

An anchor is perfect to keep you from floating while having lunch, or to make sure the kids stay close to the shore. Oftentimes when you stop waves and wind will continue to push you in a direction. Sometimes that can take you much farther away than you intended. Anchors are a great feature to have aboard so stopping for a break is always an option.

Tips and Tricks for New Kayakers

  • Wear quick-drying clothing when kayaking. Avoid cotton clothing, if possible. If an accident were to happen, you would chill easier, and be wearing heavy clothing – making swimming much harder. 
  • Learn how to get in and out of a kayak. It may sound silly but knowing how to properly get in and out of a kayak before setting out on your adventure is a must. There are so many instructional YouTube videos and you can get plenty of practice getting in and out before hitting the water. 
  • Learn proper paddling technique. Looking at a few instructional videos about paddling technique can save you a lot of effort. Paddling wrong can make you work a lot harder for going shorter distances. 
Kayaker fishing Banks Lake while paddling
Kayaker fishing Banks Lake while paddling
  • A basic general rule when kayaking is to always dress for the water, not the weather. You want to be prepared for falling in. If you’re in a tank top and shorts because of the summer day, you may end up going into shock if you hit the water. 
  • Check the weather forecast and water conditions. There is nothing worse and more dangerous than watching a storm blow in while you’re a few miles from shore. A light drizzle will be fine, but as large waves roll in, you will want to be in your vehicle rolling out. 

Best Places to Go in Washington State as a Beginner Kayaker

There are so many great places to explore from the comfort of your kayak. This list will get you started with some of the most beautiful floats Washington State has to offer!

This location has 125 miles of protected shoreline giving you the perfect, safe environment to try out sea kayaking. Kayak among fish, sea lions, and maybe even Orca whales. It is an experience you’ll never forget. 

Want to bring friends and family? There are several places to rent kayaks on the island and even some guided tours to show you all the best spots.

Lake Wenatchee is surrounded by mountains making a beautiful landscape to explore from the water. The glacier water-filled lake reflects the sky and mountains onto the surface making a serene kayaking experience. With smooth lake waters it is great for kayakers of any skill level. Amenities like campsites, bathrooms, trails and boat launch for easy access make this an easy and fun day.

Bird's eye view of kayaker adventuring the islands Banks Lake has to offer

One of the most beautiful state parks in Eastern Washington is the perfect place for adventurous kayakers. You can put your kayak in from many campsites and boat launches to start your journey. Banks Lake has so many islands to explore and kayaking makes it very easy to come ashore.

This glacier fed lake beautifully reflects the surrounding Olympic Mountains. This is a great vacation spot for kayaking, hiking, and exploring the incredible landscapes of Olympic National Park.

Alki Beach is one of the best beaches Seattle has to offer for kayakers. With amazing views of the Olympic Mountains and great amenities for a fun and active beach day. Lots of hiking trails, sunbathing and more. 

Take a short trip away from the hustle and bustle of the west side and enjoy a nice day in nature. You are sure to enjoy some amazing views and have a great time fishing!

Headed out toward the Olympic Peninsula? Quillayute River in La Push is a serene kayaking experience. Put in at the marina and enjoy the calm waters and sights of salmon.

Whether you are tight on money or just won the lottery, kayaking is an incredible outdoor sport that can be available to everyone. The majority of the costs come up front but once the gear is bought, it will have you good to go paddle whenever you please for years. You don’t need to have a big budget to have a great time on the water!

Check articles on kayaking by other authors here.

Lexi Wicks

Lexi Wicks was born and raised in Western Washington amid the hustle and bustle of Tacoma, Washington. Now a college student at CWU, she is experiencing the central part of the state and often visiting family in Eastern Washington. She enjoys spending her weekends hiking new trails, kayaking, and finding new places to explore in state she calls home.

1 Comment

  1. […] Don’t want to have to buy or bring along gear? Check out our list of rentals and tours Washington has to offer. Or if you are looking to purchase some new gear, find our recommendations here.  […]

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