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Equipment: Signal Devices

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FlareSignal devices are used to attract the attention of others when you're in trouble. A signal device can be as simple as the whistle attached to your PFD to attract your kayaking partners. At the other end of the sprectum, an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Becon), is used to signal orbiting satellites with your location.

For the average kayaker that enjoys daytrips or an occasional weekend outing, the basic signaling devices are listed below. For major expeditions to remote areas, the basic items should be carried plus parachute flares, smoke flares, dye markers, a marine radio and EPIRB.


A whistle is used to notify your kayak buddies or other boaters at short distances. Don't count on a whistle being heard at more than 100 yards distance. If you are in an area with large boat traffic, you should consider carrying a non-rechargable air horn. These can be purchased from virtually any boating supply store.


Outside of a whistle, the signal mirror is the least expensive piece of rescue equipment you can own. Signal mirrors are reliable, require no batteries and are effective up to 25 miles during bright sunlight and even a few miles on hazy days. To use a signal mirror, reflect sunlight from the mirror to the water surface, and slowly bring it up to eye level. Sweep the horizon even if you can't see ships or aircraft.


A good waterproof flashlight is important even if you only intend on taking daytrips. Be sure to purchase a flashlight made for scuba diving that uses a minimum of 4 AA batteries.

Aerial Flares

Aerial flares, also called meteor flares, are the best method of signaling your position at night. The pen-sized device can launch a flare up to 400 feet in the air with a burn time of 10-12 seconds. Aerial flares can be used during the day to get the attention of boaters of large craft who have failed to note your presence. Most serious kayakers carry a small pen launcher and three flares in a pocket of their PFD.