What Colour Kayak?: Kayak Shopping Part 2

As I mentioned in my recent post, “Kayak Shopping“, I’m in the market for a new kayak. It was my birthday this week and I celebrated the occasion by making the down payment on my new kayak.

There are now two decisions left to make:

1) the Mirage 582 or the smaller Mirage 532. I am right in the middle of the size recommendation for both and have booked into trial them on Sunday; and

2) the colour!

I figured colour would be relatively straightforward. I’m happy to sacrifice preference for safety – paddling on busy Sydney Harbour, visibility is key. However, when I started researching I found a complete jumble of opinions on the issue. Basically I have seen some online article or discussion supporting almost every colour in the rainbow.

Here is what I have concluded:
– there are so many different opinions out there, that it is not possible to conclusively say which colour is the best for visibility (the conversation on this discussion board will give you the idea);
– there are different colours recommended for on water visibility versus visibility for air rescue situations;
– the colours that come up as most consistently positive across the board are orange, bright / fluro green and, surprisingly, robins egg blue;
– for air rescue, bright colours are better but in the case of the Mirage colour choice won’t make a big difference as the bottoms are all white which tends to get lost in the white water when boats are overturned (most likely the case in a search and rescue situation);
– other safety measures like wearing bright colours or using bright coloured paddles are potentially more important than kayak colour choice.

The best article I came across in my research was this one from the Walrus Kayaks Blog which summarises a number of different sources. In particular, this source recommends “Wear Fluorescent Green to be Seen” – maybe I am just looking for evidence to support my favoured colour choice, but it looks like green it is!

Sydney Harbour Kayaks



Postscript: I stumbled across this fabulous shot from National Geographic when looking for information on colour choices – my new iPad wallpaper.

25 responses to “What Colour Kayak?: Kayak Shopping Part 2

  1. I was able to observe first hand in rough conditions colors that I could see. A group of teenagers (13) led by 2 20 somethings scared the crap out of me. I ended up on the vhf for local assistance to bring them back in. 2-4 foot swells, wind 14 knots, waves 3 feet every 8 seconds, light gray stratus clouds with in-coming rain. Outside of the little bay was way worse! I watched them with binoculars, while directing a local lobsterman via the vhf.
    This is the list of colors in order of “able to see” when I could see any of them popping up between swells in gray frothy water. The group ended up strung out with stragglers and the two farthest behind had dark blue kayaks. I kept losing them for too long, scared for the worse.
    Here’s my list of colors in order of visibility under said conditions. Yellow, Bright Green, Orange, Bright Red, White, Dark Red, and last was a dark blue. There wasn’t a Robin’s Egg Blue so I can’t comment on that. These kayaks were solid colors which present a disadvantage as well. A white hull may change the order in this situation because even under rescue situations the contrasting colors help a lot, unless the yak is completely submerged making any color pointless.
    Please do not consider this as an opinion or as fact set in stone. This is just what I saw under one type of ocean condition.
    I do hope this info is helpful.

    • Brilliant comment, thanks so much for sharing. Agree re yellow – my current boat is yellow and was chosen for that reason. There are some interesting views about it not being visible in certain conditions, but generally I’m with you – bright seems best

  2. I am all for bright green. I am not a sea kayaker but I will say, my husband has never had a problem finding me or my whitewater kayak when I overturn…..although, the scream I let out when this happens could why instead of the color of my kayak:)

    Either way, Happy Birthday and Happy Paddling!

  3. Being a kayaker myself on the west coast of Canada I have to agree with the comment that the colour of the boat does not matter – never mind I really like your choice! The boat is too low to the water to be seen effectively. I think the gear you are wearing is more important. In our mostly grey winters bright orange life jackets go a LONG way of being seen. In most rescue situation you are likely to be seperated from your boat. I think a bright paddle would also be an important consideration while addling. A constantly moving object is usually easier to spot from the distance. Just some food for thought. Oh, one more thing – we were told many years ago when we bought our first double seas kayak to stay away from yellow as it attracts mosquitoes -at least the once up north in Canada 🙂 Happy boat shopping!

    • Thanks for the great comment! Would love to paddle in Canada – as long as there aren’t too many mosquitos!

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  5. I would agree that for watercraft to kayaker visibility, kayak colour is less important than other factors. I do believe that paddle blade colour is hugely important. With the sun on them, white paddle blades are highly visible (particularly when movement is taken into account). On the other extreme, black carbon blades are almost invisible, only being visible against a bright background. With the sun behind, the translucent Werner blades are probably the most visible. We paddle with white blades to be visible to other watercraft (which probably represents the greatest threat to our safety).

    In terms of kayak colour, an upturned white hulled kayak is difficult to spot from the air amongst white-tops. Our hard-shells have white hulls but hopefully we’ll never get ourselves into that situation!

    I would choose a colour I like!!!


  6. I’ve learned quite a bit from this post and the comments. We’re looking at buying a kayak in the near future and this gave us some interesting points to think about. There’s a lot of helpful information here. Green is an awesome choice by the way, but I’m biased because it’s my favourite colour as well. 🙂

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  8. I had the same problem as a cyclist. But apparently red is the first colour to become lost as it gets dark, so lean more towards yellow. Generally yellow stands out more, hence is used in signage at airports et. Hope this helps.

  9. Bright lime green just looks ace and, certainly over here, there are very few boats that colour, a good enough reason in it’s own right 🙂 Amongst my peer group we’re not convinced safety is sufficient priority over having a colour you like when choosing – we have a number of black boats for ex… If the shit hits the fan and you’re not able to sort it within your group and have to seek external assistance then you should be carrying flares anyway both in the boat and a mini one in your BA… And certainly with regard to comment above concerning visibility from the shore.. in the event of groups of novice kayakers in trouble the visible location of the boat does not necessarily correlate with the location of the paddler.. For that reason I’d always advocate a bright cag.

  10. Ps re my comment above re novices, it occurred to me after it might be taken as a personal observation, it most certainly wasn’t, it was just an extension of my thought process.. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for the thoughtful comments. My green boat arrived home yesterday. I’m yet to try it as I’m down ill, but can’t wait!!

  11. Long time kayaker… My wife and I have two Perception Kevlar kayaks, in a color combination that was wonderful. Hers is firecracker red with a blend to yellow in the center; mine is a nice purple with a fade to yellow center. Hulls are white, as usual.

    This was the best combination of style and visibility, but sadly, I haven’t seen any since. I think most are going for solid color decks.

    That said, do go with the high viz colors. You’ll be far more interested in what’s going on around you than regarding whether the bright color looks good on you, and you’ll stand out in heavy traffic.

  12. Many years ago I did Fiberglassing at Tech. The only colour gelcoat on a small craft (canoe,kayak, runabout) was : orange,green, yellow, red & white.
    I always thought white for a small craft a bit useless if in white water or choppy conditions

  13. Thanks for following my blog. I have not done climbing yet, but may have to put it on my bucket list after seeing some of your photos. I’ll be coming to Australia in a few months, so will check back on your adventures and maybe incorporate some into my trip. I really like the style of your blog, the pictures are great and it is easy to read.

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