I’m not a water person. I’ve never been a big swimmer + I find the act of getting wet…then getting dry again later…requires too much effort in relation to the joy I get in the water. Yet, when I saw inflatable kayaks online two years ago I impulse purchased two. I’m still not sure why. Maybe because I was hoping that the presence of a water-focused piece of gear would motivate me to get on the water more?

This proved to be a less than fool proof strategy, but I have no buyer’s remorse. We have taken the kayaks out a handful of times and have lent them out to friends even more often. They’re definitely earning their keep in our gear closet. I haven’t fallen in love with water sports…but the kayaks have allowed me to join friends out on the lake without committing to get wet.

Most recently we had a group of friends trying to find a way to get outside for the day. We talked about hiking, but couldn’t decide on a trail. We discussed biking, but not everyone was into mountain biking and the bike path was overrun with weekend’ers. We considered settling for just grilling out, but weren’t ready to commit to a fully lazy weekend. We finally committed to an afternoon on the lake. We pooled our gear for a final tally of four kayaks and two stand-up paddle boards. Perfect!

Our adventure started at about noon when we started packing the hard-shell kayaks into the van alongside inflatable kayaks, SUPs, snacks, drinks and humans. Once we arrived at the lake it was time to get in a solid warmup…by pumping up the two kayaks and SUPs. Phew…in retrospect we should have bribed the hard-shell kayakers to help us out. Pumping up inflatable flotation devices is no joke! It was nearly 2pm by the time we all had our lives together and our tushes planted in/on our float-boat of choice.

Yea…it took nearly two hours to pack, drive, unpack, snack, pump, chat, pump, snack, pump and launch onto the lake. That sounds ridiculous as I tell this story, but we were so busy catching up and making light of the crazy it didn’t feel that long at all.

Once out on the lake we paddled…for about 15 minutes. This got us away from the shore and most of the other people on the lake. We settled in, linked our kayaks/SUPs together with splayed legs and just chilled. We opened our dry bag full of snacks and drinks then dubbed this haphazard tangle of humans our “red neck float club”. The next two hours were spent floating, chatting and occassionally paddling away from bouys. It was kind of perfect.

We weren’t doing anything strenuous, but we were outside and together. This group of friends have all known each other for years, living within a few minutes of each other and working overlapping jobs. However, it had been many months since we were all together. There was so much to catch up on, not to mention future plans to make! It’s so easy to let life get in the way of maintaining friendships. This mellow way of getting outside gave us a chance to remind ourselves why we’re all important to each other and that we do not *need* to summit mountains to have a good time outside together.

All of that said, I’m still not a water person. I’ll never be the first to vote for a day on the lake over an adventure in the mountains. However, this day on the lake showed me time on the water doesn’t require strenuous paddling or fancy boats. It can be simple, relaxing and a great excuse to reconnect.

So…how do you go about getting a similar experience? Without claiming any expert-level knowledge I’ve created a list of the most important parts of this adventure. Get your hands on the following things so you can have a blast earning some sandal tan-lines and re-friending your favorite humans.

Inflatable Kayaks or Stand-up Paddle Boards

If you want to spend time out on the water, without actually being *in* the water, you’ll need something to float around on. I personally recommend the inflatable options because they’re easier to pack into cars for transportation to lakes. Of course, the shorter lake/recreational kayak can be Tetris squeezed into a car if needed. In terms of how much money you’ll spend kayaks are significantly less expensive than SUPs. They’ll both get you on the water, but your experience will be different — paddle boards offer more of a full body workout, if you’re into that.

Dry Bag

I won’t go out onto the water without a dry bag, simply because I don’t trust myself not to drop it or flip my kayak. If you’re more confident on the water or if you’re leaving your phone and keys on shore a basic backpack will get the job done. Technically you could trust your phone to a LifeProof case [if you use iPhone or Samsung]…but that won’t save your phone if you drop it. A dry bag can be rolled down with air in it to keep it afloat if it goes overboard. The Nite Ize Run Off line has some amazing options for smaller dry bags [ie: perfect for phones, snacks, etc].

Drinks, Snacks + Sunscreen

These are the items I tuck into my dry bag — water, random snacks and sunscreen. Whatever you do, don’t forget water! You can add other drinks to that stash if you’d like, but water is easily the most important. The feeling of thirst while you’re floating on water is incredibly frustrating. As for snacks, pack things that won’t melt in the sun [learned that the hard way, sorry Milky Way!]. We had blueberries and chips on our last float-about. Lastly, sunscreen. You can lather up before leaving shore, but most of us had an ‘ooh, forgot that spot’ moment about an hour into our float so having sunscreen to reapply was a must.

Life Jacket/Personal Flotation Device

This is an optional, but highly recommended, piece of equipment when you’re out on the water. Depending upon where you are, a life jacket may be required to be on the water. This can vary by location, age and type of watercraft. Where we were floating PFDs are only required on non-portable boats and for children under 13, so we did not all have life jackets. This was a conscious decision that we did discuss before getting on the water [calm day, competent swimmers, low risk, etc]. We were comfortable with it, but that would change with conditions, locations and skill sets.

Hat, Sunglasses, Sandals

The clothes you wear on the lake don’t need a long list of technical specifications, but there are three things I would strongly recommend. Invest in a wide brim hat…or at least remember to bring your go-to trucker hat. On a sunny day there is no reprieve from the baking sun so protect your face! The same goes for sunglasses. They don’t need to be fancy, but you’ll be glad you have them once you’re out on the water where the sun is reflecting from all directions. I also highly recommend sandals secured to your feet. You can opt to go barefoot or wear regular shoes, but you’ll thank yourself for having sandals. Plus, you can feel extra hardcore when you leave the lake with some fancy sandal tan-lines. One last thing you may want to consider is a jacket, just in case it gets windy or rainy before you get back to shore. Tuck this in your dry bag and forget about it until you actually need it.

With that short list of items you’ll be ready to hit the lake…just remember to invite along a handful of awesome human beings to keep the floating adventure fun! No, seriously, I think awesome people is probably most important part of an adventure like this.

If you’re in the market for an inflatable kayak or stand-up paddle board check out the great Standup Paddle Board options from REI or one of the inflatable [or hard-side] kayaks at REI. I’ve used both [the kayak more than the SUP] and have found both easy to set-up/deflate. They have put up with a fair amount of abuse without any issue, a big perk for us, especially with a dog involved!

…if you already have yourself something to float around on use this as a reminder to get out on the water with it! Should you be interested in taking your kayak or SUP with you on your next adventure but don’t have time or desire to do all the planning, let me help you! I may not seek out watery adventures on the regular, but my friends do. This means I have some solid experience finding good lakes, solid rental companies and creative routes. Let me help!

Heidi Berghammer

Heidi is the founder of Adventure Feet First and the Creator of Experiences. She is the brains and legs behind all of the adventures created here at Adventure Feet First. This means she thinks up the itineraries and when they're even remotely close to home she is the one out there scouting the routes, campsites and local businesses. As a trail running, bikepacker and overall adventure seeker Heidi is definitely the person you want creating your adventures!


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