Current Musing: Darling River System (On hold)
Cliffs at the border into SA

Paddling Gear

The other stuff you really need

Core Gear

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:

Paddle

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.

Personal Floatation Device (PFD) or Life Jacket

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.

Whistle
Attach this to your PFD, requirement in SA. Useful for signalling lock masters if your phone dies.
Bilge Pump
Recommended for any open sections where you can not access the shore, but it is a requirement in SA.
Waterproof Touch
A touch is required in both states if travelling at night so that you can signal other craft of your location to prevent a collision.
Repair Kit
A repair kit for your specific kayak (duct tape, zip-ties, 2mm Spectra, multitool, specific tool, etc) including a small fibreglass repair kit for composite boats.
First-aid Kit
A minimalistic one will likely suffice, but I always take a complete kit.

I would strongly recommend taking a spare split-paddle for all locations of the river.

Open Water

For those doing large open crossings on Lake Alexandrina or Lake Hume:

Spray Deck
For kayakers. Stops your cockpit filling up with water.
Paddle Leash
Keeps your paddle attached to the kayak.
Spare Paddle
In case you break or lose your paddle after a swim.
Clothing
Paddle jacket and clothing / gloves relevant to the water temperature.
Paddle Float
Useful in case your roll fails and you have to self rescue.
Extra Safety Items
Listed below. The SA requirements are fairly comprehensive.

Whitewater Gear

For those doing the Murray Gates really will already know what you need, but for completeness some of the main items:

Spray Deck
For kayakers.
Paddling Helmet
Something made of non-absorbent material that drains quickly
Cold Water Clothing
It can get very cold, even in spring. 5°C or colder
Throw Bag & Rope
Rescue device.
Knife
Carry a paddling knife or rope cutter when dealing with ropes.
Flotation Bags
One for the stern and bow if needed.

Recommended Gear

Spare Paddle
A spare split paddle. Breakages are rare, but they do happen to nearly everyone at some point in their paddling careers. This is a requirement for the unprotected waters in SA.
Sponge
A sponge is worth its weight in gold. Both to bail out the last of the water in the cockpit but to assist with cleaning your kayak.
Dry Bags
Keeps things dry, even those items in the waterproof hatches that do occasionally leak. Using smaller dry bags makes it easier to pack compared to using large bags.
Compass & Map
I prefer using maps rather than constantly relying on my phone or GPS for finding my location. Custom charts and pilots are available, but custom maps with km indicators are enough for most people. A compass helps on overcast days to track where you are on the map. Or vital to keep track when you are on open water and mist or heavy rain rolls in cutting visibility.
Paddling Shoes

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.

Cockpit Cover (or Flyspray)
Keeps the Mossies from getting into the cockpit (or to get rid of the Mossies in the morning).
Tote Bags
Large IKEA tote bags are a great way to portage gear around, able to carry 71 L up to 25 kg yet weight only 120 g.

Portages

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.

Safety Gear

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).

Protected and Semi-protected Waters

  • one PFD Level 50 or above, with a whistle attached
  • one bailer with a line attached, or a bilge pump
  • one waterproof and buoyant torch or lantern when operating between sunset and sunrise

Unprotected Inland Waters

All items required by Semi-protected Waters and:

  • one litres of fresh water
  • a fitted compass
  • a two-way marine radio
  • V distress sheet
  • two hand-held red flares
  • two hand-held orange smoke signals
  • map or chart of the area of operation
  • one tow line or at least 15 m
  • spare paddle

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.

Book cover

SA Recreational Boating Safety Handbook Gov

Rules and regulations for powered and unpowered vessels.

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Book cover

NSW Boating Handbook Gov

Rules and regulations for powered and unpowered vessels.

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Book cover

Paddle Australia Safety Guidelines Guide

Provides the minimum requirements for the safe conduct of recreational paddling activities.

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