What’s so great about being on the water paddling your kayak at night? Zero crowds. That expansive, enormous feeling of the unknown. The stars shining overhead. If you haven’t busted out the kayak for a late-night paddle yet, do—but follow these tips to make sure it goes smoothly.
Make Yourself Seen
Kayaking is dangerous at night. Place a green light on your right side and red on your left (to indicate which direction you’re moving). That will allow you to be seen by anyone who might be around—and keep you from getting run over.
Make Sure You Can See
Kayaking safely is highly dependent upon being aware of your surroundings, so purchase a quality, waterproof headlamp. Keep in mind that artificial lighting actually hinders your night vision, so keep it off as often as possible when kayaking. The headlamp is best used to check navigation and when stopping. Also, remember that ambient light can make things seem further away.
Learn Your Route
Plot out your route ahead of time and memorize it. Always try to keep track of your bearings because going off-course in the dark is incredibly hard to correct. At night you’ll lose sight of your paddle, the distance will be harder to determine and, if you’re on the ocean, waves might seem to come out of nowhere.
Bring the Essential Safety Gear
Don’t forget your dry bag. It’ll carry your essentials (ID, first aid, radio and dry clothes for starters) in case something goes wrong and you end up in the water. At night you’ll also want to pack an emergency beacon to alert others who might be far away. A whistle is great too.
Beware the Waves
This one is for ocean kayakers. If you’re staring directly at a wave, you’re bound to misjudge the size and position and possibly get rolled. Adjust by looking slightly off to the side, about 20 degrees off center. Your retina responds poorly to low lighting but rod cells that are concentrated in the outer edges adjust better to low levels at night, thus making it easier to see clearer from a slight angle.
Have Fun, But Be Cautious
Assuming you can handle night kayaking the same way you would day is a tad unrealistic, a rookie mistake. It’s a different animal. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Be cautious and aware of your surroundings and don’t goof off and get adventurous too much before you’ve tested the waters.