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Canoeing is a reasonably inexpensive watersport, it is possible to buy a good starter kit fro:

Sit on top starter pack from £300
Kayak starter pack from £700
Open boat starter pack from £800                           


There are two main options for purchasing your first boat:

Open Canoe

These are great for families and couples as they can fit two or three people.  They can also carry larger loads which is perfect for those overnight canoe camping trips.  The vast majority of canoes are plastic meaning they are very durable but also light enough to be carried on the roof rack of a medium sized car.


These come in a shapes and sizes.  However for those starting out a general purpose kayak is perfect.  For those wishing to take trips along the canoe trails a touring or sea kayak may be more appropriate as these have small compartments for storing equipment.  Sit on top kayaks have become really popular in the last few years as they are an inexpensive way of getting out onto the water. These provide a really stable platform and their plastic construction makes them very durable. However they are not ideal for covering any great distance.


There are loads of different materials that paddles can be made from, and they'll suit all budgets, ranging from plastic to carbon fibre.

Obviously the type of canoe paddle will depend on the type of boat.  Kayaks use a double ended paddle i.e. a blade at both ends and a canoe a single bladed paddle.

It is important to ensure the paddle is the correct size for you.  

A junior kayak paddle ranges from 170 cm – 190cm depending on the size of the user.

An adult kayak paddle ranges from 185cm – 220cm depending on the discipline, a river / surf paddle is shorter and a touring paddle is longer

An open canoe paddle is measured by kneeling down and holding the paddle upside down just below the blade with the handle on the ground. If your arm is horizontal the paddle is a good length.

However purchasing from specialist stores means they provide you with this advice. 

Buoyancy Aid

You should never go afloat without wearing a buoyancy aid. It will help keep you afloat should you fall into the water. They fit like a vest and the modern designs ensure they do not restrict movement like old traditional lifejackets. Ensure the buoyancy aid fits correctly and has adequate buoyancy for your size – look for the CE certification mark to show that the buoyancy aid has been subjected to rigorous safety tests. 


Clothing will again depend on the boat you’re a paddling.

Those is kayaks will wear a wetsuits and cag (waterproof jacket), whilst open canoeist will wear warm layered clothes under water proofs. Avoid bulky clothes which absorb water such as wooly jumpers. 


Whenever you go paddling, you should make sure you're wearing shoes; they'll protect your feet and stop you getting cuts and bruises. Make sure that you tuck away your shoelaces so they can't get caught on anything. If you really get into canoeing you can buy special neoprene shoes to keep your feet warm.  Do not wear Wellington boats as these can fill with water in the events of capsize.


A 'cag' is the British name for the waterproof jacket that paddlers wear. You can buy all sorts of cags, from £30 to £300, but they all do a similar thing. The cheaper models keep the wind off and, to a varying extent, keep the water out. The more expensive models are breathable, have waterproof latex seals at the collar and cuffs and have a twin seal waist system to stop water draining into your boat.


Wetsuits are great for keeping you warm should you get wet.  They work by trapping a layer of water between the suit and your body which will become warm as your body heats it up.  They are not wind proof so it is best to wear a cag over the top.  Wet suits are no longer an expensive purchase and are even sold in major supermarkets.

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