The Tactical Kayak: Your Stealthy Escape Route

They say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” And in times of chaos and uncertainty, a tactical kayak might just be your ticket to slipping past urban threats and reaching safety. These low-profile, silent watercraft can carry you and your gear for days, disappearing without a trace. If you haven’t considered the benefits of equipping yourself with a bug-out ‘yak (BOY), then your evacuation plan might already be landlocked. But fear not, fellow traveler, for we are here to shed light on the advantages of this stealthy mode of transport.

Quiet and Versatile: The BOY Advantage

Whether you paddle solo or in tandem, the BOY provides unparalleled mobility across water surfaces when roads are impassable. It acts as a conduit to safety, ensuring you can escape when vehicles come to a halt. These shallow running craft can also be strung together like a caravan of pack mules, allowing you to transport even more gear. Remember, in times of crisis, it’s crucial not to get caught up SHTF creek without a paddle.

Instead of large, cumbersome vessels, the BOY is man-portable, capable of launching over rocks or sea walls. Equipped with portage wheels, you can easily transport your kayak without the need for fossil fuels, engines, or maintenance. There are no batteries, licenses, insurance, or registrations required. And best of all, there are few moving parts to worry about. Your BOY can be pre-staged at your home or camp, or securely fastened to your roof rack using a bicycle cable. With a torpedo-shaped storage pod packed with gear below deck, your kayak can provide a limitless source of drinking water, aid in scouting for potential dangers, and even assist with fishing or food gathering.

Exploring the Different ‘Yak Types

The concept of the BOY has emerged from the explosion of recreational kayaking. These tough, accessible boats range from 12 to 16 feet and are suitable for all ages and abilities. They can be divided into two main styles: “sit-inside” open cockpit and “sit-on-top” seats molded into a closed hull. Both styles offer built-in flotation and storage.

For our purposes, we recommend the sit-on-top kayaks by Confluence Outdoors. These kayaks feature fully enclosed decks, camo colors, and gasket-sealed storage hatches. Equipped with a flip-down rudder system, the foot pedals serve as your steering mechanism, making it easier to navigate against wind and current. The gunwale rail system fittings allow for customization, enabling you to secure additional storage bags, fishing rod holders, anchor lines, and electronics.

The sit-on-top design offers greater seaworthiness during rough waters and storms. Built-in scuppers ensure that rain and water drain away, making these kayaks self-bailing. This is a feature that sit-inside boats lack in open waters. When it comes to carrying capacity, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 160 can handle up to 375 pounds, while the Confluence Ride 13.5 model boasts a capacity of 550 pounds, including the paddler.

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Pack Mules on Water: Enhancing Mobility

To test the suitability of BOYs for wives and kids, we enlisted the help of a petite female friend. Armed with some basic paddling instructions, she balanced 100 pounds of gear on her kayak and covered several miles without any strain. Compared to carrying the same load in a backpack on land, the kayak allowed her to conserve energy and maintain strong legs throughout the day.

Properly loading your kayak is key to efficient paddling. By trimming the weight distribution fore and aft, you can ensure optimal performance. The BOY can be a valuable asset for recreational fitness paddling with your family and team members. We recommend conducting trial runs near your home, gauging your pace, and testing your gear along the way. Familiarize yourself with navigational charts, compasses, and handheld GPS units, gradually increasing the distance of your daily paddles.

An Alternative Escape Route

Flooding remains one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States. In the case of extreme urban flooding, having access to pre-staged kayaks at home or on your vehicle can mean the difference between life and death. But even if flooding isn’t the immediate threat, disasters have a way of causing widespread chaos. With streets and highways gridlocked by panicked masses, having a kayak can provide a vital alternative escape route.

Imagine a scenario where the population is confined to prescribed paths, and waves of people follow their on-grid mentality, leading to chaos and gridlock. This is when the serpentine labyrinth of waterways within our cityscapes becomes the key to freedom. By identifying feeder creeks, bayous, tributaries, and drainage channels, you can map out your BOY’s on- and off-ramps. Think of your kayak as a rogue chess piece, free from the confines of asphalt and concrete. When chaos ensues, disconnecting from the grid might require reconnecting with the water.

The Ninja Mode of Transport

In times of post-disaster hostilities, a tactical kayak proves its worth as a means of escape and evasion. Unlike other means of transport, such as cars or trucks, a kayak leaves no tracks, emits zero emissions, and operates more quietly than larger vehicles. It allows you to pass through urban waterways with ease and provides quick access to any long-gun you might need for repelling attackers.

To maintain stealth on the water, training is essential. Practice hand signals with your family or team, ensuring that excessive talking doesn’t give away your position. If you need to rest, seek out side feeder creeks that offer a detour away from the main water body. Your paddle selection is crucial for effective maneuvering. Opt for advanced composite paddles, like the Adventure Technology Fishstix, which reduce wrist strain and have a feathery buoyant blade for enhanced performance.

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Once you’ve escaped initial flooding or urban chaos, it’s important to find high ground. Use a military-quality solo tent and rain fly, such as the Raider by Catoma, to create a secure shelter. Alternatively, a compact space blanket sleeping bag and a small tent will suffice. When resting during the day or night, pull your kayak out of the water and bring it into your camp, paddle and all. Conceal any drag marks that might give away your location. This simple measure ensures that your kayak is ready to go in the morning and prevents floodwaters or pirates from following you.

A Brief History of Kayak Action

The term “kayak” originates from the Inuit word “qayak,” meaning “hunter’s boat.” These ancient kayaks were made from natural skins stretched over wood and bone frames. Over time, kayaks have served in various military missions, whether it be the World War II “canoe commandoes” of the British Royal Marines or the paddling missions carried out by elite warriors today.

Waterproofing Your Gear

When choosing a bug-out kayak as your means of evacuation, it is crucial to waterproof your gear. Saltwater is highly corrosive and can destroy steel, while even freshwater can be contaminated. The key to waterproof rigging is breaking down your load into groups and individually encasing essential components. Compartmentalize each group using waterproof cases, such as small Pelican hard cases or Watershed Bags by Drybags. These bags provide watertight protection, ensuring your gear stays dry and silent.

You’ve Bugged Out… Now What?

Once you’re on the water, maintaining a steady but quiet stroke is crucial. Avoid strain, injuries, and detection by gliding at a walking pace, covering a few miles per hour. Aim to reach high ground and set up your camp using lightweight, reliable gear. Consider using a military-quality solo tent like the Raider by Catoma or, at the very least, an orange space blanket sleeping bag and a portable tent. Secure your kayak in your camp, anchor and all, to keep it safe from floodwaters and potential thieves. Erase any traces of your presence, removing any kayak drag marks that might give away your location.

When it’s time to return to urban areas, be cautious and prepared. Portage your kayak using the two-wheeled dolly you stashed at your launch point. Return during non-curfew hours, moving smoothly, swiftly, and confidently with identification, a strong flashlight, concealed pistol, and, of course, your trusty paddle. Reclaim your home or kayak back to safety.

Bug-Out ‘Yak Gear Checklist

Having the right gear in times of crisis can be a matter of life and death. When it comes to watercraft, having the proper equipment becomes even more crucial. Here’s a checklist to help you pack your bug-out kayak:

  • Aquatic Gear: Include essentials like a folding sail, V-mast, flare pistol, handheld flares, nautical charts, and a solar calculator. Don’t forget to pack an anchor, lines, a throwable buoy, and a sea anchor. And of course, a double-bladed two-piece paddle is a must.
  • Illumination: Ensure you have a SureFire Maximus headlight, Petzl IR strobe, and chem lights for visibility.
  • Navigation: Pack a reliable GPS, such as the Garmin Foretrex 401, along with spare batteries. Don’t forget a compass as well.
  • Communications: Include a handheld VHF radio, a GPS-enabled radio, an emergency locator beacon, and a Spot phone for emergency communication.
  • Safety Gear: Don’t forget a flotation vest, whistle, and a Benchmade safety hook strap cutter.
  • Eye Protection: Pack polarized sunglasses and full Rx goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Storage: Consider a hydration pack like the CamelBak Linchpin and a YETI Roadie Cooler for storing medicine.
  • Tactical Gear: Include a first aid kit, survival tools, and a chest rig for carrying essential supplies.
  • Clothing and Footwear: Pack appropriate outerwear, boots, and protective gear for all weather conditions.
  • Weapons Gear: If you’re carrying firearms, ensure you have spare magazines, cleaning kits, and ammunition.
  • Electronics: Pack a mobile phone, camera, crank charger, and a solar panel for keeping your devices powered.
  • Fishing and Gathering: Consider including fishing gear, like a pole spear and Hawaiian Sling, as well as tackle and bait.
  • Cooking: Don’t forget essential cooking gear, such as a stove, grill, and skewer, for preparing meals on the go.
  • Toiletries: Remember items like soap, ChapStick, cleaning solution, and eye drops for personal hygiene.
  • Camping Gear: Pack a tent, rain fly, ground cloth, bug spray, and other camping essentials for overnight stays.
  • Tools: Include binoculars, a watch, a knife, a shovel, and various other survival tools you may need.
  • Water Management: Pack a quality water filter, a stainless cup, and a canteen for managing your water supply.
  • Admin: Have some cash on hand, as well as writing materials for documenting important information.
  • Repair: Pack essentials like steel cable and plastic tubing for kayak repairs and spares.
  • Personal Items: Finally, don’t forget personal items like a flask, a Zippo lighter, and cigars for moments of relaxation.
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Remember, this checklist is a starting point. Customize it to suit your specific needs and preferences, ensuring you have everything necessary for your bug-out journey.

So, when disaster strikes, don’t be caught unprepared. Consider the tactical kayak as your stealthy escape route. With its silent and versatile nature, it might just be your key to survival. To learn more about bug-out ‘yaks and find the best gear for your adventure, visit UpStreamPaddle.

About The Author: Bayou-born and hurricane-raised on the Texas Gulf, David H. Martin operates both Yippee Kayak Fishing (conservation-based angling instruction) and Myakka Kayaka (guided paddle tours) in Southwest Florida. He’s also an NRA-certified firearms instructor and chief range safety officer, specializing in advanced defensive pistol, shotgun, and rifle. For more information, go to