New to the Paddle? Here’s What to Bring Kayaking

The key to safely enjoying any kind of outdoor activity is to be adequately prepared. Even though nothing ruins a trip faster than forgetting the essentials, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and anticipation and forget a few key items. This is especially true for kayaking!

If you’re in a hurry to hit the water, you may paddle out only to realize that you forgot your water bottle or sunglasses. Whether you’re new to kayaking or go out every weekend, it helps to have a kayaking checklist prepared. 

Here’s what you should make sure to pack anytime you hit the waters.

What to Bring Kayaking on a Day Trip

Going out for a quick day paddle? Here’s what you’ll want to make sure you have.

1.  Your Kayak

You can’t have a kayak trip without the yak! It may be hard to miss a hardshell that’s not strapped to the top of your car, but if you have a foldable kayak or inflatable kayak, accidentally leaving it behind isn’t outside the realm of possibility. 

2. Your Paddle

It’s a little easier to forget your paddle. Be sure to grab it before you go!

3. Water

Staying hydrated while outside is so important. Even if you don’t think you’ll be physically exerting yourself, you need to have water with you. A good rule of thumb for moderate weather is half a liter of water per hour of moderate outdoor activity.

4. The Right Clothes

When kayaking, you always want to be sure that you’re adequately dressed for the weather. Even if it feels like a nice day when you’re on land, temperatures can be significantly lower once you’re on water— not to mention the chill you’ll get from cold water. 

The name of the game when it comes to kayaking attire is layers. Be sure you’ve packed enough for the expected conditions. You can always take off clothes if you get too hot, but warming up is hard if you didn’t bring enough to begin with.

5. Dry Bag

A dry bag allows you to store your personal belongings without the fear of them getting wet or sinking. Your dry bag might include items like:

  • Phone
  • Keys
  • Wallet
  • Headlamp, especially if you plan on being out past dusk

Throw anything you want to stay nice and dry in this bag.

6. Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

Life jackets have saved countless lives in the water. Even if you’re a strong swimmer paddling on calm waters, you should have a PFD on hand for each paddler.

7. First-aid Kit

Many paddlers carry two first aid kits with them while paddling— one small one with essentials that stays close to you and a larger one that is stored away in a hatch, or if you’re in a small kayak, the car. 

Your small kit should contain items like a pair of tweezers, band-aids, antiseptic wipes, insect sting relief wipes, and antibiotic ointment. The larger first-aid kit should have items like gauze, bandages, medical tape, medications, more cleansers, and more medical tools. 

8. Bilge Pump

A bilge pump helps you out should your kayak take on water. Manual pumps are cheap and easy to use. Some people choose to use “bilge balls”, which are simply absorbent balls that you can use to soak up and squeeze out water. 

Even if you have a sit-on-top kayak, a bilge pump can be helpful for bailing water out of hatches.

9. Whistle

This is a small thing that won’t take up much room on your kayak or person, but if you ever need to flag someone down for help, you’ll be glad that you have it with you.

10. Sunscreen

No matter the temperature or cloud cover outside, it’s important to apply sunscreen to any skin that’s exposed to the sun. UV rays are extremely harmful and prolonged exposure increase your risk for skin cancer significantly. The sunscreen should be water-resistant, and don’t forget to reapply every two hours!

11. Chapstick (with Sunscreen)

Wind and sun out on the water can create some really chapped lips! Don’t forget to throw in some chapstick that has some SPF protection.

12. Insect Repellant

You may not end up using the insect repellent, but if you get on the water and find yourself pestered with flies, gnats, mosquitos, or other creepy crawlers, insect repellent will be your best friend. Invest in a small, travel-sized bottle to keep with you on the go. 

13. Sunglasses

Don’t forget to protect your eyes while kayaking. Water is reflective, sending damaging UV rays into your eyes. Polarized sunglasses block UV, protecting your eyes and the skin around it. Plus, they’ll cut back on reflective glare, allowing you to see into the water better. It’s also a good idea to invest in a strap that floats. 

14. A Snack

No kayaking checklist is complete without a snack. If you plan on being out for a few hours or more, pack a granola bar or another healthy snack. You can work up a good appetite in a short amount of time when you’re having fun!

What to Bring on an Extended Kayaking Trip

If you’re going on an extended kayak trip, your packing list will look a little different. In addition to what you’d pack for a short day trip, you’ll need a few extra things to keep you paddling for a few days. In general, consider packing: 

What, exactly, you’ll pack will depend on what kind of waters you’re kayaking in and for how long, so this is by no means an exhaustive list. 

Build Your Own Kayaking Checklist

Use this kayaking checklist as a starting point to build your own. Include these items, and add things that you like to bring along, like your favorite kayak accessories. Each time you go out for a paddle, bring out the list to make sure you have everything you need. 

Happy paddling!

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