Teaching kayaking is one of the few pursuits where it’s an advantage to be a chronic over-packer. In that way, I’m ready for anything. Too cold? Have a lightweight hoody. Too hot? I have plenty of room to stash your layers. Thirsty? Toss ‘em bottled water. Hungry? Here’s a granola bar. Rest assured, I’ve got you covered. And hopefully all my over-packing means I’ve got myself covered for those days when the alarm gets ignored one too many times. Either way, I resort to my old faithful mesh gear bag—stowed in the trunk of my car, on the roof of my truck, or lovingly tossed in the kayak trailer to sign the start of a good day. Sharing a whitewater adventure with another person means being ready for anything with reliable, multi-functional gear…and a few ‘day-makers’ to boot.
The bag: NRS Purest Mesh Duffel. I’m still using my original bag—going on five years old—and with minimal scarring from a minor dental-floss surgery. It earns bonus points for the ventilation capabilities, which allow gear to air-dry when you secure the duffel on a roof or in a trailer.
Zen Rescue PFD: I live in this vest, day in and day out. Every day on the water, and everyday teaching, this is my go-to piece of equipment. Fit, comfort, storage, and flotation are critical for me to focus on my students and not worry about my safety gear. Bonus: I love showing my students the special uses of a rescue PFD to get their wheels turning about rescue training at some point down the road in their paddling progressions.
18 feet tubular webbing: Quickly becoming one of my favorite pieces of equipment: 18 feet of tubular webbing tied together with a water knot. It currently lives on my PFD as a makeshift tow tether but can also double as an anchor or a short, quick throw.
Throw bags: I pack two; one for quick access, and one for extra length, or even as a spare if my student doesn’t have one. I prefer the NRS Pro Compact bag since it’s light but still packs 70 feet inside.
Dry bag(s): One for me, with my first aid kit, and at least one for my student for lunches, phones, etc. I also keep crib cards inside with emergency info for my local haunts, including GPS coordinates for put-ins and take outs as well as numbers for local search and rescue and the closest hospitals.
Sunglasses & strap: Not all sunnies float, so I keep mine secure with a comfy strap. I suggest bringing your helmet with you to your local outfitter and trying on potential eyewear with your brain bucket and strap to make sure the glasses fit comfortably under your helmet.
‘Bag of Tricks’: NRS Paddle Float (or beach ball, dry bag…just something that floats), trolling buoys, and tablet for video feedback. I can work with everyone from a brand-new paddler on rolling and basic maneuvering to a more advanced boater who needs a tune-up. My bag of tricks helps me keep Class I interesting for even the most advanced of boaters.
Float bags: My joke to my students is that “these aren’t for you, they’re for your friends!” I don’t leave home without plenty of float bags for beginner paddlers and forgetful veterans; it makes boat wrangling much easier! One is good, two are better.
Extra layers & gear: Neoprene in the summer, fleece or down when it gets cold. I always pack a second bag with essentials like skirts or helmets, too…if not for my students, then sometimes for a fellow paddler at the put-in or even me!
Nose plugs: Nose plugs can be the linchpin between comfort and eventual success or frustration and anxiety during a lesson, so I keep a few pairs handy for folks who need them.
Tools & outfitting: Allen key, duct tape, hip shims—and I never leave home without seat pads. This is, bar none, the one piece of outfitting that makes the biggest difference for my students making better contact and gaining better leverage over their kayaks.
Cable lock: To keep honest people honest when I’m running shuttle, more often for my shuttle cycle than my kayak!
Squirt gun: Usually for kids, but I’m sure there are some adult students who would enjoy it, too. I brought a bunch of these along for a kids’ camp once and we had a blast on flatwater sections. Also, I’ve used this kind of squirt gun as a backup bilge pump in a pinch.
Chocolate: Never underestimate the power of sugar and perfect timing when on the river. Something sweet can be the cherry on top of an already great day or turn a challenging moment in to an opportunity to reflect.
Dry socks, shoes, and a reliable flat bill: I love being on the water, but nothing beats being dry and ready to relax after a day on the water. Dry feet and a hat are a good start.