Transport Canada requires paddlers of human-powered watercraft less than 6 metres to carry certain safety items.  So the next time you are out with your canoe, kayak, row boat or stand-up paddleboard, you will need a handful of gear to be “river legal”

Mandatory Paddling Gear:

  • PFD – “one approved personal flotation device or lifejacket of appropriate size for each person on board.” If your PFD is an inflatable, it must be worn at all times. Foam-filled PFDs need to be readily available. Inflatable PFDs are not allowed for whitewater paddling.
  • Throw Line – “one buoyant heaving line at least 15m long.” Sit-on-top kayaks are exempt if everyone is wearing a PFD
    Throwlines are great for whitewater paddlers for river rescues. They are rarely required for open water. Many open water paddlers carry a combination throwline-towline. A towline is useful for craft-to-craft rescues, towing and securing your boat during lunch breaks.
  • Flashlight – If you’re paddling at night, or if your craft is more than 6m long you’re required to carry a “watertight flashlight.” If you regularly paddle at night, consider a steady burning white light that is visible from all sides.
  • Sound Signalling Device – “one sound-signalling appliance that meets the applicable standards set out in the Collision Regulations, or a sound-signalling device”. A quality pea-less whistle meets the standard.
  • Bailer or Pump – “One bailer or manual bilge pump or bilge-pumping arrangements.” A cut-out liquid detergent bottle works great, but a quality pump works faster. They are not required for watercraft that “cannot hold enough water to make it capsize or a pleasure craft that has watertight compartments that are sealed and not readily accessible.” So paddle-boards, self-bailing inflatable kayaks, and sit-on-top kayaks are exempt.
  • Boarding Device – A boarding device is only required if the vertical height that must be climbed to re-board is more than 0.5m, so most small watercraft are exempt. However, if you are paddling in open water consider a rescue stirrup or paddle float for self-rescue.
  • Paddle – Curious enough a paddle is not required. However, I would never want to be up a creek without a paddle.
  • Water Shoes – Although not a mandatory item,  I wouldn’t paddle without my water shoes. They need to be light, drain fast, don’t hold or retain water and be secured firmly. Quality water shoes protect your feet during water rescue, mishaps, river lining and landings.


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