Kayaks are the slim and slender cousins of the canoe. They’re narrow and typically used by one or two at the most. They come in many flashing contrasting colors, but what color is best for visibility and safety?
What Is the Safest Kayak Color?
We’ve seen jet skiers and boaters soar up and down the way at terrifying speeds without regard for anyone else. When you’re out enjoying a relaxing day on our kayak, the last thing you want is to be run down.
This is why experts recommend choosing one solid bright color. Besides being seen by fellow boaters, the color determines how well a search and rescue team can pinpoint your location.
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Kayak manufacturers and the US Coast Guard recommend yellow as the number one color choice for visibility and safety. It’s one of the most easily seen colors on the water in almost all conditions. Second on their list are electric, neon, and lime greens because of their ability to reflect light. These are what’s referred to as ‘high visibility colors.’
Reds and oranges can fade into the background, especially in low light. Blues are another shade that just doesn’t seem as dazzling in the water as they were on land.
White, it makes sense to a lot of people. Nevertheless, white makes boats look more like wave crests. So, if your kayak capsizes, it’s more likely that people will think it’s a wave rather than a vessel that’s flipped over.
Here’s a list of the more common solid kayak colors you’ll find on the market. We put them in order from most visible to not-so-visible.
Do Camouflage or Color Combinations Stand Out More?
If you prefer spicing up your kayak with more than one color, there are a couple of ways to do it: camo or color combos.
Camouflage, or ‘camo’ as the natives call it, has always been the go-to pattern for concealment. Their designs and muted tones don’t reflect sunlight as much as flashy colors. Plus, they look way cooler than solid colors.
Nevertheless, they don’t make an ideal choice of color if you want to stay safe and visible on the water. However, if you prefer to remain hidden, like fishing in a small pond or even duck hunting, camo would be a good choice. Otherwise, stick to the brightest, flashiest solid colors you can find!
Color Combination Kayaks
How about color combinations? Are they more visible than solid colors? And if so, which ones will stand out the most?
According to the US Navy medical research team, yellow and red are the highest visible color duo. They also found it easier to spot light-colored objects against dark backgrounds.
Their research shows that visibility increased by 30% when the color of their target was lighter than the background.
Which Kayak Colors Should You Avoid?
As you can see, black and brown are at the bottom of the ‘visible’ list. Therefore, it’s best to avoid buying or painting your kayak in one of these colors.
Another color you should try to avoid is blue in all its shades and hues. Some kayakers prefer this mild color because it blends well with the surroundings. Plus, it’s easier on the eyes.
The problem is with tame colors like these; other boaters will find it difficult to see you. So, if you’re only relying on the color of your kayak to keep you visible and safe, it’s best to steer clear of these dull colors.
Can You Create Customized Kayak Color Combinations?
Kayaks are typically made of either polyethylene or composite. What’s the difference between each, and can you create a custom look? Read on to find out.
Polyethylene is one of the most common and widely used materials worldwide. Since it’s essentially plastic, you can easily create unique color combinations.
If you decide to paint it yourself, choose water-resistant paint specifically made for plastics. You can use a sponge or an old rag to create a camo effect.
Another great idea is to add bright-colored decals. They work to add visibility while adding your own personal touch.
Composite kayaks are made from a blend of heavy-duty materials, making them highly durable and long-lasting. It’s one reason why they cost more than those made from polyethylene.
Still, you can pre-order composite kayaks in any color combination you like. Of course, you can also paint them yourself, but bear in mind that these boats aren’t coated in regular paint. Instead, they’re covered in a unique blend of epoxy known as ‘Gelcoat.’
Should You Paint the Bottom of Your Kayak?
Some anglers prefer to paint the bottom of their kayaks various shades of blue to blend in with the water. They believe if they’re the same color as the water, they won’t stand out and hopefully won’t scare the fish away.
However, based on personal experience, we don’t think it makes a difference to the fish what color the bottom of your boat is. When fish look up, they don’t see the kayak, only its shadow.
In other words, it doesn’t matter what color the bottom of your kayak is. So, if you choose to keep it in the same bright color as the top, no problem!
Other Ways to Stay Visible on the Water
Let’s say you want to stay out of sight while fishing or hunting. Yet, you have this big old kayak in tow. What do you do?
We talked to several seasoned anglers to see how they manage to keep a low profile but stay visible at the same time. Check out a few of their suggestions.
- Wear a high visibility life jacket, also known as a personal floatation device (PFD)
- Buy a pair of high-vis paddles
- Cover the side of your kayak and paddles with waterproof reflective tape
- Wear long-sleeved neon-colored, moisture-wicking reflective shirts with a high UPF
- Put on a reflective headband around your hat or fishing cap
- Attach a bright-colored safety flag to the side of your kayak
So, what’s the safest kayak color for safety and visibility? While there’s a wide array to choose from, experts say yellow is their number one pick. Orange, neon green, and red are a close second.
The color of your kayak determines how well other boaters can see you. It also makes it easier for search and rescue aircraft to see you, even in low light conditions.
There are always different tricks and techniques to further boost your visibility even more. These will come in handy, especially if you’re kayaking at night or in low-light conditions.
Use one of the methods we mentioned above, or use them all. The important thing is to stay safe on the water and enjoy your kayaking adventure every minute!