Before you start paddling into the depths of the night there are some bits of kit you’ll need. There’s not really any way to train without buying this stuff, unless you have a generous kayaking addict friend willing to lend you their kit.
You will need to train with some of this kit from day one, whereas other items are more important for the race day itself. Depending on how flush you’re feeling, I’d recommend getting all the kit as early as possible. That way you can train with what you’ll be using on race day and be sure it works well for you. You don’t want to discover your gloves are rubbish at midnight when you’re 80 miles in with awful blisters.
The links below are all to kit that we have used throughout training and for the race itself. It’s tried and tested and worked well for us. I can’t guarantee that everything will suit everyone (e.g. for clothing items) but it’s at least a place for you to start.
I should make it clear that these are all links that I get commission from. It comes at no extra cost to you, but helps me justify the time I put in to making this website.
Kayak rack & straps
A pretty key piece of kit to make sure you can train when and where you want to. You’ll need to sort out roof bars for your car first, but this rack is a good economical option for carrying the boat. It screws very easily onto standard Thule roof bars and comes with straps to hold the boat down.
Waterproof phone case
We used a Pelicase to keep a phone safe in the kayak whilst we were training. Having your phone with you is not only useful for safety, but also to track your speed on Strava or another GPS tracking app. It’s a good idea to buy the foam insert for the case so your phone isn’t bouncing around in the case when you portage.
Unless you have a magical method for staying warm when you stop moving, you’ll want to take an extra layer with you in the boat for training. You might also have some important bits and bobs like car keys which won’t enjoy a dip in the river. We found we got cold very quickly the minute we finished paddling so needed an emergency fleece to put on whilst we were packing up the boat. It’s also compulsory to have certain emergency kit (e.g. safety blankets) in the boat for the race so it’s good practice to get used to carrying this in training as it’s extra weight. A drybag is pretty essential as even if you don’t capsize you’ll have a bit of water moving around the bottom of the boat.
Training at night is a good idea so the concept isn’t a complete surprise when you come to doing half the race in the dark. The batteries on these lights last for ages and you can easily use velcro to stick them to the boat. It is compulsory to have one on the front and one on the back for the race and it’s general boating good practice regardless.
These are also compulsory for the race and really worthwhile if you’re training through the winter (which you will be) or going on the tideway (which you will be). We got ours through our club to flash the club colours, but this link is for the type of spray deck you’ll need for a standard K2.
Water bottles & holders
This is one of the most important things to get right. You will be drinking regularly through the whole race, so if it’s an effort or a faff then you’ll waste a huge amount of time and energy overall. We opted for straw water bottles so you can drink whilst paddling. These are only 500ml so we needed them to be replaced every 1-2 hours, but they are fab for drinking on the move. If we were training for longer then we took the 2 litre bladders but they are a bit more effort and you’re carrying unnecessary weight if you use them for the race. The only bit you’ll need the bladders for on race day is from Teddington to Westminster as you’ll have 2-3 hours in the boat without a support team being able to get to you.
You may already own a lot of these items, in which case try them out kayaking and they will probably be wonderfully comfortable. If you find that you do need to get something new, then these are the items which worked for us.
The main thing we found out after training was that cotton doesn’t dry quickly enough. We were usually wet from either sweat, rain or drips from the paddle so you want clothes that dry off quickly instead of staying damp and making you cold. Generally we found that a thin base layer and waterproof was enough for most days training (even in winter) as paddling keeps you warm. If it was below freezing then we needed a thin fleece on too.
It’s worth remembering that you’ll need at least two sets of clothes for race day. If you decide not to buy two of the same item then make sure you try both sets out beforehand.
This depends a lot on your personal preference, but I think my hands would have fallen off if I didn’t have them. Firstly they stop your hands getting quite so cold, especially on windy days. Secondly they are great at portages as you’re pulling yourself out the boat on muddy/nettley/splintery banks. Finally they are better than pogies (mitts attached to your paddles) as you don’t waste time getting your hands in and out them.
My husband was a fan of these cheap work gloves as they are waterproof. He found that dry hands = warm hands:
Personally I used a pair of gloves I already had for waterskiing which had good wrist straps and were made in a hook grip shape. I found the work gloves would come off my hands a bit when we portaged and then bunch up in my palm and give me blisters. If you’re buying gloves specifically for DW then I think these have all the good characteristics of my waterski gloves so would probably be a good choice:
The best bit of clothing in the entire world! It’s useful as a hat/scarf/headband/anything you want it to be. Your temperature fluctuates quite a lot on long training runs so being able to cover and uncover your ears and/or head is a life saver.
Hat & cap
It’s also good to have a plain and simple woolly hat and cap to hand, but there’s a million-and-one options out there. Just find a cheap one you don’t mind losing. A woolly hat is great for when you’ve got the chills and a cap is fabulous for the rain or sun.
There are proper kayaking spray vests out there, but we wanted something that was more of an all-rounder waterproof. Our logic was that having already spent so much money on kayaking kit, we wanted to have something we could use for other sports too.
These jackets are made for cycling but they work wonderfully for kayaking, running, walking etc. They are really lightweight, have pockets in the back (which is useful for stashing Haribo!) and have vents on the side. The reflective designs are great for being spotted by your support team in the dark.
We tried out several different base layers. You want one that is long sleeved, quick drying, synthetic fabric, long length and allows you to move your arms comfortably (so not too tight). Here are a few options to get you started:
As for the base layer, you want this to be lightweight and quick drying. You will need it for the cold winter training and probably through the night on the race. It’s useful to have one that folds up small to fit in your drybag in the boat incase you need it.
We found we needed long leggings whatever the weather. Firstly, your legs aren’t moving much and secondly, if you don’t have your spray deck on then they are getting wet and cold. These Karrimor leggings suited us well, but there are masses of other options if you head to any outdoor or running shop.
Any trainers with good grip will do the job, but if you need a new pair then these trail running shoes are great.
Now you are fully fledged into the ‘all the gear and no idea’ category – it’s time for some proper training!
If you’re wanting a full kit list for the day, have a look at the race page.
© S Hicks 2018