Many beginners may start to ask themselves: how far can you kayak in a day? This question is natural once you fall in love with the sport of kayaking and you have full days off to explore new waterways in your area.
- How Far Can You Kayak In A Day?
- Other Factors That Impact How Far You Can Kayak In A Day
- Tips For Long Distance Kayaking
- How Your Kayak Affects How Far You Can Paddle
- Final Thoughts
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But the answer to that question can be challenging to address definitely because there are many variables involved in determining how far any individual can kayak in a day.
That’s not to mention if you’re considering doing most of your paddling in a tandem kayak with a partner.
That being said, we’re going to do our absolute best to provide you with some key information that will help you determine how far you might be able to kayak in a day.
And we’ll also give you some tips that will help you paddle longer distances more comfortably once you gain strength and skills.
How Far Can You Kayak In A Day?
Most beginners only stay out for two or three hours when they’re first learning how to kayak. That’s because practicing things like the low support stroke and the low brace turn can be quite tiring when you’re repeating them over and over again.
The other reason that beginners tend to kayak for shorter lengths of time is that they haven’t yet mastered all of the rescue skills that they might need if they were to tackle expedition-style kayaking or all-day adventures.
But as you master all the kayaking paddle strokes and learn how to rescue yourself (and others) in a variety of ways, then you can start pushing your limits for full days on the water. Still, most kayakers average about two miles per hour if they’re paddling all day.
This can change, however, depending on the type of kayak you’re sitting in. Longer sit inside kayaks can sometimes be much more hydrodynamic and, therefore, they are able to achieve higher speeds (as long as you can maintain them over time).
If you’re planning an all-day kayaking trip, we recommend using an average speed of two miles per hour to plan how far you can kayak in a day.
Even if you’re able to maintain three or four miles per hour for an hour or two here or there, planning for a slower pace will help you account for water breaks or snack stops.
So, this means that the total distance you can kayak in a day really comes down to how much daylight you have and/or how long you’re willing to sit in your kayak and keep paddling before you need to make landfall and find a place to sleep for the night.
Other Factors That Impact How Far You Can Kayak In A Day
In addition to daylight hours, your speed, and the comfort and design of the kayak you’re paddling, there are several other factors that can impact how far you can kayak in a day. So let’s address them briefly before we continue.
A change in weather can turn an otherwise beautiful day on the lake or ocean into a less-than enjoyable experience. Many experienced kayakers know how to plan for all types of weather, but kayaking in nasty weather is only advised if it’s absolutely necessary.
On some longer kayaking expeditions, it’s generally expected that you may have to endure several hours of unfavorable weather every day.
But when it’s raining buckets and you’re struggling to stay warm, it’s definitely going to reduce how far you can paddle in a day.
The second of the three W’s, wind has a major impact on kayaks because they tend to be light enough to be blown across the surface of the water by high winds. In the worst cases, high winds can blow you off course and cause you to have to change your paddling plans.
But even lighter winds can impact how far you can paddle in a day.
If you’re paddling into a headwind, you’ll definitely be able to make less total distance but, on the flip side, paddling with wind pushing you faster than normal can actually help you paddle further that you would if there was no wind at all.
On lakes and coastal waterways, wind can actually create large waves that will render your kayaking situation less than ideal. If you’re paddling on the ocean, waves are a way of life and they’re something you’ll have to get used to.
Still, as wave height increases, your ability to kayak safely decreases. And if waves get so large that you can’t maintain visual contact with the other paddlers in your group, the conditions are probably unsafe for you to continue paddling.
Flow Rate (CFS)
This factor is specific to whitewater kayaking because we don’t really talk about flow rate when paddling on lakes, oceans, or coastal waterways.
But how fast a river is flowing will definitely impact how far someone equipped with one of the best whitewater kayaks can paddle in a day.
A river’s flow rate is usually measures in cubic feet per second (CFS) and higher numbers usually correspond with the river running faster.
But the size of the river also plays a role in how fast the water in it is moving, so be sure to study some more river science before determining how far you can travel in a whitewater kayak in a day.
When things go as planned, you might be able to paddle for eight or even nine hours a day in great conditions. If you average two miles per hour, that could place your daily mileage in excess of 16 or even 18 miles.
But when unexpected circumstances take your attention away from the simple pleasures of paddling, it’s obviously going to compromise how far you can kayak in a day.
Emergency situations are no joke, and life and limb should always be prioritized over trying to make a certain mileage in a day.
Tips For Long Distance Kayaking
If you’re getting more and more comfortable in your kayak, you might be ready to start planning longer kayaking trips. If you’re ready to spend at least a full day in your kayak, you should heed these tips for long-distance kayaking.
Know Multiple Hand Positions
When you’re new to kayaking, you’ll learn the primary hand position for safely and securely holding your paddle.
And while your knuckles should always remain pointing towards the sky and in line with the top edge of the blade on your paddle, there are several minor adjustments you can make to keep your hands comfortable.
As you start to paddle for longer periods of time, your fingers and them might become uncomfortable.
This is why many distance kayakers take frequent breaks, but it’s also why you should know several hand positions so you can change things up without taking a break.
While your thumb should be wrapped under the paddle shaft and over your fingers in the normal grip, you can adjust your thumb if needed.
Some paddlers opt to spend short amounts of time with their thumb wrapped on top of the paddle shaft and slightly over their index finger.
Others may like to put their thumb directly on the shaft to provide a little variety (as shown above). These minor changes to your hand position can help you avoid discomfort or keep you from developing blisters on the insides of your thumbs when paddling long distances.
Don’t Hesitate To Make Seat Adjustments
Staying comfortable in your seat can be one factor that limits how long you can kayak in a day. After all, we think there’s little to no point in continuing to kayak if you can’t enjoy what you’re doing and do so comfortably.
For that reason, it’s important that you don’t hesitate to make adjustments to your seat if your lower back or legs are feeling uncomfortable.
In fact, many long-distance kayakers may adjust the position of their seat several times throughout the day depending on how their body is feeling.
If you’re paddling for a long time, there might be an hour or so where you feel more comfortable reclining and progressing at a slower pace. Other times, you might want to sit more upright and paddle more aggressively.
At the end of the day, how far you can kayak in a day largely depends on how long you can keep yourself comfortable in your kayak.
And knowing that it’s okay to make seat adjustments early and often is a big part of keeping yourself comfortable in your kayak.
A couple of other things that impact how far you can paddle in a day are the amount of water you bring and how well you stock up on snacks.
But bringing clothing layers and overnight gear is also sometimes necessary for longer kayaking expeditions.
As far as we’re concerned, there’s no shame in overpacking for a long kayaking trip. In fact, there are certain essential pieces of kayaking safety equipment that we believe all kayakers should have in their possession whenever they head out on the water.
There’s a saying in the kayaking world that the best kind of rescues are self-rescues.
But self-rescuing in a kayak can be quite difficult if you don’t have the right supplies and equipment to do so easily and efficiently.
Plus, going for an unexpected swim on a cold day might require you to change your plans and make landfall in order to change into dry layers. But you’ll only be able to do so if you’ve packed accordingly and you can make that change.
Otherwise, you’ll probably need to scrap your best-laid plans to kayak all day and head home so that you don’t get hypothermia.
If you’re looking for more kayak packing tips, check out our article on how to pack a sea kayak for camping.
Take Frequent Breaks
Paddling long distances is akin to running marathons. It’s not a sprint and you’re definitely not going to be able to average more than two miles per hour if you go out of the gate too strong and wear yourself out in the first hour.
As a general rule of thumb, you can expect to stop about once every hour to relieve your bladder and stretch your legs.
This is especially true if you’re paddling in one of the best touring kayaks because it’s going to be hard to relieve your bladder without fully getting out of your kayak.
But taking frequent breaks can also help you maintain the stamina to paddle for a full day. It will give you an opportunity to eat a snack and stretch so that your back and shoulders don’t tighten up too much.
In spite of the fact that you’re sitting all day, a full day of kayaking can be extremely hard on your back, shoulders, and core muscles.
And if your back gets too tight (because you’re not taking frequent breaks to stretch), you’ll definitely not want to keep paddling to meet your daily mileage goal.
How Your Kayak Affects How Far You Can Paddle
The design of certain kayaks lends themselves much better to kayaking longer distances than others. So let’s address how the design of your kayak can impact how far you might be able to paddle in a day.
Sit On Top Kayaks
Sit on top kayaks are arguably the most comfortable kayak design for spending full days on the water. They offer open cockpits that are great for larger individuals and also don’t make you feel cramped when you’re sitting inside.
They are also highly stable for new kayakers and they generally offer a decent amount of open storage space.
All of that being said, their wider and shallower designs tends to make them much slower than other types of kayaks, which means you may not be able to kayak as far as you can in another type of kayak.
Sit Inside Kayaks
Sit inside kayaks are generally very good for paddling long distances because of their skinnier and narrower design. This is the type of design used for most touring kayaks and sea kayaks because of their efficiency over longer distances.
These kayaks typically feature a deep V-shaped hull that makes them travel faster through the water. And that design also makes them travel faster with minimal effort needed from you, which makes it easier for you to kayak longer distances without getting tired.
Whitewater kayaks are super inefficient for flatwater because they have super flat hulls and are made to be able to maneuver quickly to help you avoid obstacles when you’re running river rapids.
That said, some of these kayaks can actually travel great distances in a day if you’re on a river that’s running at a reasonable flow rate. But you’d never imagine trying to paddle all day over flat water in a whitewater kayak.
About 10 years ago, you’d never have imagined kayaking for long distances in an inflatable kayak. But, nowadays, the technology used to build inflatable kayaks actually makes some of them very reasonable options for paddling longer distances.
Advanced Elements is one of the leading brands when it comes to making inflatable kayaks that perform well over distance.
They include a more rigid bottom that helps them track straighter and maximizes the efficiency of your paddle strokes when you’re on the water all day.
Some folding kayaks are also a reasonable option for long-distance paddling. They are much easier to transport than many other kayaks and some of the newer models like those from Oru Kayak actually perform quite well over distance.
Because they are super light, however, they are impacted by wind and waves much more than other touring kayaks. So that’s why you won’t see too many experienced kayakers utilizing these kayaks over long distances.
As you gain more confidence in your stamina and you master the skills and techniques of kayaking, you’ll certainly be able to kayak further and further in a day.
And we encourage all kayakers to responsibly push their limits so that they can explore new waterways and fall in love with new kayaking locations.
We hope that you find these tips for figuring out how far you can kayak in a day useful and, as always, we encourage all of our readers to kayak responsibly.
But definitely don’t hesitate to get out there and figure out your personal limits, and then strive to surpass them!