Quick overview of boat options for padding the Murray River
The other stuff you really need
A list of the gear you really should be taking down the river. Decisions on what sections and what approaches are used on these sections will affect what gear you need to take:
This definitely helps... but seriously aim for a lightweight carbon paddle if you can. It will significantly reduce your fatigue levels over the course of a day.
Consider some surfboard wax for your paddle hand grips to prevent your hands from sliding on the paddle. Tendonitis is a risk on such long trips, particularly on your control hand.
Look for a kayak specific PFD of at least L50.
In NSW, a PFD is required at night or when paddling alone. In SA, a PFD is required at all times.
I would strongly recommend taking a spare split-paddle for all locations of the river.
For those doing large open crossings on Lake Alexandrina or Lake Hume:
For those doing the Murray Gates really will already know what you need, but for completeness some of the main items:
I prefer simple neoprene shoes as these don't get stuck in the mud, but many use croc style shoes. Booties with a rubber sole will extend the life of the footwear.
Avoid sandals and hiking boots as these can cause entrapment risks if you capsize and boots will make swimming difficult or impossible if you do leave the kayak.
If you are planning the portages around the Hume Dam and Yarrawonga Weir, you really need to use a trolley unless you are in a group, have strong arms, carbon boats and hardly no gear. For all others, you will need some assistance carrying a kayak for 2 km over a hill!
I have used a Freak Sports one without issue, strong albeit it is heavy and bulky. It's pulled a heavy load for over 10 km so I definitely can not complain about it! I am planning to make my own in the future that can be easily packed into the kayak.
There are special requirements from the SA government that vary depending if you stay within two nautical miles from the banks (Semi-protected Waters) or if you travel out more than two nautical miles of the banks of Lake Alexandrina, Lake Albert and the Coorong (Unprotected Inland Waters).
All items required by Semi-protected Waters and:
A Paddle Leash and EPIRB (or PLB) are also highly recommended if doing the open water crossings. A GPS unit can help you make judgement calls by accurately showing the distances from the shorelines. Mobile phone coverage seems fairly good in most areas of Lake Alexandrina. Finally a signal mirror is a great backup signalling device.
Note that SA requires an EPIRB for all craft in Unprotected Ocean Waters, a PLB doesn't suffice. Marine Safety Inspectors occasionally conduct safety checks at various locations along the Murray including the lower lakes and lagoons.
As of 2021, NSW treats Lake Hume as Enclosed or Sheltered Waters and has no additional special requirements. However, both lakes can be rough and choppy and Lake Hume has seen more paddler fatalities than Lake Alexandrina.
NSW and SA Boating Handbooks provide the official rules and regulations for the river and should be used to ensure the information provided here is up to date and Paddle Australia Safety Guidelines are another valuable reference.