The Best Kayaking Checklist: What Paddlers Should Bring?

Kayaking Checklist

Do you have your kayaking checklist already? If you are struggling about it, then you should see this guide.

I am pretty sure that a lot of you are into kayaking. Well, in the United States alone, there are millions of people who are doing it. Given the fact that this recreation or sport is not only popular in the US, I can say that a significant number of the human population is no longer stranger to it.


But of course, not all who knows kayaking are doing it. Some just see this activity because of the things that they see on their favorite TV channels or social media pages. Last week, I saw a viral video where a kayaker paddled through an extraordinarily narrow and downhill canal. That was truly fun and exciting.

See the video here!

Meanwhile, other people are eager to try it already. It is entirely possible that some of you here are reading this because they want to know where to start. Well, twenty years ago, I am the same as you. I don't know how to paddle. I was even afraid to step in the water.

But look at where my passion led me. I have created memorable experiences. I have witnessed the grandeur and beauty of nature in the solitude of my boat. In fact, this blog was made out of my love for kayaking!

In here, I will teach you the fundamentals of kayaking. Explicitly, I will give a run down to the things that you need and the concepts that you have to understand and master. Let's start!

Kayaking Checklist

All of us have different motivations about why we want to kayak. But regardless of our intention, it is crucial that we bring out the essentials with us. Going to any adventure without prior planning leads to catastrophe. Of course, that's not an exaggeration. An excellent example of this is not checking the weather ahead of time. You should already be aware of the countless camping and kayaking trips that have been ruined by intense storms and tempests.

I don't want you to rush to some of the most popular kayaking sites and realize late that you are unprepared. Even if you are going to do it for fun, there are things that you still need to possess first. You can't have fun if your ride is uncomfortable and risky, right?

Based on my experience, these are the items, gears, and amenities that you have to bring every time you are going to kayak.

1. Parts and Accessories

While a lot of people think that these accessories are optional, let me emphasize that they enhance the satisfaction and convenience of your adventure. Even if they are not directly involved in the paddling process, these items are downright essential because they give you a pleasant experience in the water.

For you to be able to enjoy kayaking, you must have all the essential items--from the smallest to the biggest. Missing any of these things can cause trouble along the way.

However, let me clarify to you that bringing many accessories in your kayaking adventure is inadvisable. The idea here is to supply your trip with all the "important" tools, gears, and accessories. If a particular item is not that needed for your specific route or application, you should not bring them already.

Be a wise kayaker!

1.1. Dry Bags

There are various reasons why you need a dry bag. If you are bringing sensitive items with you such as your phone, then a dry bag is a must. If you want storage for your wet clothes, then you should get a dry bag, too. Kayakers tend to bring dry bags because they are light and extremely portable. They don't consume space, and you are going to unfurl them when it is only necessary. Not all kayaks have compartments that have waterproof locks and covers. For those who are going on long excursions, investing in this amenity is quite recommended.

Recommended Dry Bag: Freegrace Waterproof Dry Bags

The Freegrace offers you different sets of dry bags. There is a dry bag, a waterproof pouch, and a waterproof container for your smartphone. I chose this dry bag because of its impressive sealing feature. It will never let the water come in and invade your valuable properties. It comes with zip lock seals to guarantee that your things are safe and dry while you are kayaking. Furthermore, it floats, too!

Discover other great dry bag here: Best Dry Bags For Kayaking

The Freegrace offers you different sets of dry bags. There is a dry bag, a waterproof pouch, and a waterproof container for your smartphone. I chose this dry bag because of its impressive sealing feature. It will never let the water come in and invade your valuable properties. It comes with zip lock seals to guarantee that your things are safe and dry while you are kayaking. Furthermore, it floats, too!

1.2. Kayak Crate

When your adventure takes several days, a kayak crate becomes a necessity. You will need this as extra storage for your food and beverages. Just like I said earlier, your kayak has limited storage compartments. It will never be able to house all the things that you want to bring. Therefore, for your extra goods, you bring a portable storage box. In this way, you can guarantee that you can pack efficiently and sufficiently. However, let me remind you that your kayak must be large enough to hold the crate.

Recommended Kayak Crate: Wilderness Systems Kayak Krate

I know a lot of kayakers out there who have made their DIY crates. Honestly, these guys are cool and amazing. However, not all of us are weekend warriors that have the technical skills to construct our own storages. If you are looking for a pre-made and high-quality crate, you better check out this unit from Wilderness System. Their container is downright ergonomic and features a functional interface. You can store a lot of stuff there from your fishing gears down to your food.

1.3. Roof Rack

We have different means of transporting our kayak. For those who are living near rivers and lakes, this issue is never a problem. But for people like me who are living in distant places, securing our kayak during travel is a must. Undeniably, the roof of our vehicles serves as the easiest platform for carrying our beloved boat. But of course, you cannot just place the kayak there and let it be strapped by ropes. That's unconventional and too risky. You better have a roof rack to optimize the capability of your vehicle in lifting heavy loads such as your kayak.

Recommended Roof Rack: AA Racks - Kayak

This set of roof racks is customized designed for various vehicles. I can say that it is compatible with many truck and SUV models today. It can be installed easily as well. Each of the racks has a steel frame construction. You can guarantee that they are strong and durable. Moreover, the racks have padding so that your kayak will be free from scratches and other physical damages. Specifically, this set has a load capacity of 2,200 pounds. That's enormous already! Ratchet straps are also included on the package.

1.4. Paddle Float

I know a lot of kayakers who are not huge fans of paddle floats. As a matter of fact, I am quite amused that this item is not popular, especially to beginners. For me, a paddle float is an essential accessory and should be listed in your kayaking checklist. A paddle float is an essential amenity on instances where you fall from your kayak. It functions by correcting the boat so that it can float again correctly. The float is placed on the paddle blade so that it becomes an outrigger. Once you have an outrigger, your base widens. It becomes easier for you to get back to your kayak.

Recommended Paddle Float: NRS Sea Kayak Paddle Float

I have been using the NRS Sea Kayak Paddle Float for almost three years already. I can say that this is the best paddle float that I have used so far. The item has been designed so that it can function as an outrigger in a very efficient manner. The main pocket can easily slip on the paddle blade. It has a secure lock, too, so that it won't be dislodged. Let me tell you that this paddle float is tailored from heavy-duty nylon. Therefore, its chances of wearing out are close to zero.

1.5. Kayak Anchor

Kayaking is also used for recreation and fishing. There are a lot of moments where you need to stop to take a good look at the scenery that surrounds you. For many cases, kayakers put their kayaks on halt so that they can fish! But how do you even stop a kayak from drifting? Well, that's where a kayak anchor comes into play. A kayak anchor is the same as the anchor that you see on other boats. It is just much smaller, but it can hold your vessel in place while you are relaxing or fishing.

Recommended Kayak Anchor: BEST Marine and Outdoors Kayak Anchor

This galvanized anchor has been introduced to me by my uncle. That bloke was indeed a fishing addict by heart. He told me that this is a great anchor and I should give it a try in my next fishing trip. Fortunately, this item didn't disappoint me. It is rugged and durable. It is impervious to rust, corrosion, and other damages. Moreover, it has an exceptional horizontal drag as well. It can make your boat immovable! However, the best thing that I like about this anchor is its portable size. I was surprised that it didn't consume too much space!

1.6. Kayak Pump

This particular accessory enhances your safety while you are kayaking. Water is an inevitable element that you will encounter while you are kayaking. It is pretty standard for water to come inside the cockpit of your boat, especially if the current is strong or your paddling too much. In this case, you will really need a pump to keep the water out from your boat. If you let the water settle in, you are at risk of capsizing.

Recommended Kayak Pump: Seattle Sports Paddlers Bilge Pump

The Seattle Sports Paddlers Bilge Pump is a must-have. Whether you are a professional kayaker or an amateur, you will find this accessory useful. This amenity has a portable and compact construction so that you can easily use it. The body has been tailored so that it can be highly visible even during the night. Meanwhile, the rubber handle makes the tool convenient to use. Don't worry if you accidentally dropped it on the water. This item floats!

Discover other great kayak pump here: Best Kayak Bilge Pump

Here are some other kayaking accessories that you should check out:

  • Scupper plugs - They are used to seal the scupper holes in your kayak.
  • Cockpit drape - When you are not using your kayak, a cockpit drape can protect it from critters and unwanted visitors.
  • Kayak cart - If you don't want to do the heavy lifting all the time, a kayak cart can solve your problem.
  • Storage racks - Your kayak deserves a set of storage racks that can keep it from being damaged while it is being idle.

2. Safety Gears

There's nothing more to elaborate here. Kayaking is an activity to make you happy and satisfied. It can also be used to exercise your body as well. But the fun part ends once the SHTF situations strike unexpectedly. What if your boat capsizes? Do you know what to do? Do you have the essential gears that can help you survive any pressing situations at hand?

You see, your survival in the outdoor world is wholly dependent on your skills. But right now, having the fundamental safety gears can enhance your chances of escaping dangers. I do recommend that any paddler will invest in these following amenities to ensure that you are ready to tackle any problems that come in your way.

2.1. Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

The PFD is one of the required kayaking gears. This is an item that helps you buoyant once your fall in the water. They can also make rescue efforts a lot easier because they give your body the upward force that it needs. When kayaking in cold conditions, the PFD can provide you sufficient insulation. In the US right now, every paddler is required by the law to have a PFD.

Recommended Personal Flotation Device: NRS Chinook Fishing PFD

The NRS Chinook Fishing PFD exceeded the standards for PFD. This one provides exceptional buoyancy so that you will never get drowned in the water. This gear is made from a 200 denier urethane-coated nylon for extra durability. I do appreciate this PFD because of its medium profile. It is not too big and not too small. Furthermore, it attaches to the body securely as well.

Discover other great life vest here: Best Life Vest For Kayaking

2.2. Flotation Bags

Another essential safety gear that you should invest in is a flotation bag. A flotation bag works by minimizing the amount of water that is being collected in your kayak or any recreational boat. Virtually, this item ensures that your vessel will not capsize due to the excessive amount of water. Most of the time, flotation bags are used on seas and whitewater.

Recommended Flotation Bag: Oru Float Bags

When I was selecting for my first flotation bag, the Oru Float Bag did captivate my attention. This one has been designed so that it can fit on the bow and stern compartments of kayaks and canoes. The float bag has extra buoyancy as well. I tried it on several occasions, and it did work the way I expected it. It kept me afloat and made sure my boat doesn't quickly capsize. I do suggest that you should check this one out!

2.3. Spray Skirts

If you are using a sit-in kayak, you will need the service of a spray skirt. Specifically, this item acts as a shield against water. It keeps this variable from entering inside the cockpit of your boat. It covers the region starting your waist and the entire cockpit coaming. Even if the condition is calm, having a spray skirt in a sit-in kayak is still essential. After all, water harms your clothing and ruins your sensitive gears. Furthermore, they can cause your boat to capsize too.

Recommended Spray Skirt: SEALS Sneak Sprayskirt

The SEALS Sneak Spray Skirt is a good option for starters. This particular gear provides excellent defense against the water. It is a perfect choice for recreational boaters because of its simple design and user-friendly price. The entire skirt is tailored from the nylon pack cloth and has been embedded with waterproof polyurethane coating. There is also a zipper tunnel with suspenders and waistband for a secure and tight fit. Moreover, there are mesh pockets on this skirt where you can put your small items.

2.4. Helmet

When you are kayaking on a whitewater river, it is essential that your head is protected. It is in these areas where you can encounter a lot of rocks and hard objects. Most of the time, you will inevitably pass through them. If you don't maneuver your boat properly, you will get on a head-on collision with them. To veer away the danger of this predicament, wearing a sturdy and durable helmet is necessary. Your head has to be protected from severe concussions and other injuries.

The Tontron Adult Whitewater Helmet is an entry-level headgear. But despite its meager price, this helmet proves to have a good defense against physical damages. The outer shell of the helmet is made from ABS plastic which can negate the impact. Meanwhile, the interior has an EVA liner for comfort and shock absorption. The straps of this helmet are adjustable for a better fit. Meanwhile, it also comes with earpads to cover your ears from water.

Discover other great kayak helmet here: Best Kayak Helmet

2.5. First Aid Kits

I do urge every paddler to bring a first-aid kit. It doesn't matter if the condition is fine or stormy; a first-aid kit must always be present. If accidents happen, you can immediately treat them. Fortunately, there are first aid kits that are designed for recreational boating. They are usually sealed in waterproof compartments. They are also compact enough to fit in your kayak.

Recommended First Aid Kit: Pac-Kit by First Aid Only 90560

This compact first aid kit has a container that can withstand any weather conditions. It is commonly used for survival and emergency purposes, but paddlers can also use it. Specifically, the Pac-Kit has met the 2015 ANSI Class A requirements for first aid kits. It is also rated as a Type III safety kit.

Here are other safety gears that you should check out:

  • Tow lines - You can use them for assisting paddlers that have been injured while kayaking.
  • Throw bags - Many seawater boats have throw bags for rescuing other people, but you can also use this on your kayak.
  • Paddle leash - A paddle leash stops the paddle from being removed from your boat, especially on instances where you are going to capsize.
  • Knife - A knife is also an essential safety tool for kayakers. Once you get tangled on debris while kayaking, you can use the knife to cut yourself free.
  • Flashlights - During low visibility situations, a flashlight becomes a useful amenity. It can also be used to signal other kayakers where your current location is.
  • Survival whistle - A simple accessory that can help you during emergencies.

3. Clothing and Footwear

What do you usually wear when you are kayaking? Do you wear your casual shirt and shorts? Do you wear rash guards? Or you don't wear anything at all?

Many people view kayaking as a freestyle recreation. Therefore, they don't mind about clothing and focus on how people paddle. However, if you want an adventure that is worth cherishing, you need your body to be comfortable and fully protected.

That's where the proper clothing and footwear come in. Equipping yourself with these amenities will ensure that you can have the best mobility and survivability while on the waters. Below, you can see all the essential clothing items that a paddler should have.

3.1. Wetsuit

The wetsuit is the first option for every kayaker. This one gives off the necessary thermal protection to your body. Therefore, even if you dive deep, this garment can still generate heat. It can also provide the right kind of flexibility so that you can paddle with move with precision. It doesn't affect your mobility too much because the suit adapts well to the shape of your body.

Recommended Wetsuit: O'Neill Men's Reactor II

For an entry-level wetsuit, the O'Neill Men's Reactor II is definitely a superb option. This gear offers extreme versatility as it can be used on various water sports such as kayaking, diving, canoeing, and ordinary recreations. It features a back zip system so that you can easily access and exit the suit. The stretchable premium nylon construction of this suit guarantees that your movement is not hampered when you are wearing it.

Discover other great wetsuit here: Best Wetsuit For Kayaking

3.2. Drysuit

A drysuit, on the other hand, completely seals your body. Therefore, no element--including water--can penetrate your skin. It is designed to protect your body whenever you encounter strong and large currents while kayaking on the sea or whitewater rivers. Compared to wetsuits, drysuits have a loose fit. At some extent, you can say that this clothing is much more ventilated and comfortable than wetsuits. But on humid and warm conditions, a drysuit can make you feel hot!

One of the most exceptional drysuits for kayaking that you should check out is this item from Stohlquist. It struck the perfect balance between waterproofing and ventilation, ensuring that things don't get too hot while you are wearing it. There are four layers of fabric that have been included in the construction of this drysuit so that it will possess the rigidity and waterproof capability that you need. By far, I consider this as one of the most suitable drysuits for kayaking.

3.3. Water Shoes

A pair of water shoes is perhaps the best footwear that you can have for kayaking. It gives your feet an adequate level of protection without compromising the comfort that you can feel. Of course, water shoes are not waterproof. But unlike conventional shoes, they don't get uncomfortable when they are wet. They don't get heavy either. Most of the finest water shoes out there are lightweight and durable. They can quickly dry, too, especially if you take them out from the water.

Recommended Water Shoes: Mishansha Mens Womens Water Shoes

This synthetic water shoe is probably the very footwear that you need when you are kayaking. It features a stretchable fabric that possesses both breathability and comfort. It can quickly drain the water thanks to the presence of drainage holes. The shoe has excellent traction as well due to its highly ergonomic rubber soles. Interestingly, the rubber sole has multiple holes to aid in the water drainage.

Discover other great water shoes here: Best Shoes For Kayaking

3.4. Sandals

Well, sandals aren't really the staple option when it comes to kayaking footwear. However, a lot of people still prefer them because they are comfortable and breathable. Some like water sandals because their ruggedness is comparable to other outdoor sandals that are used for hiking. If the condition is warm, wearing a pair of sandal should not be a problem. However, if it is cold, I advise that you should wear a fully clad footwear.

The Northside Men's Burke II Sport Athletic Sandal is considerably versatile. It can be used on a variety of applications. Whether you are on the land or in the water, this sandal is usable. For kayaking, Burke II can be of great help. It has a secure fit so that it can't be removed from your feet. The upper part of this sandal is made to be water-resistant, so it is pretty handy for any paddler.

3.5. Hat

Your head requires protection. It doesn't matter if the day is shining bright or raining cold. You will need something that can protect your head against the elements. If you are looking for a hat, make sure that it has wide cape or brim. You should also choose those units that have cap leash so that the wind will not blow the hat. In cold conditions, a beanie is an ideal choice. After all, the latter can generate warmth.

This hat from Columbia features a 100% nylon poplin construction. It has unique capabilities that are not shown in other wide-brim hats. For instance, it has a sweat-wicking feature so that your sweat won't drench your head while you are kayaking on a warm day. It also offers UPF 50 sun protection. There's also a mesh included in the construction of the Bora Bora II for enhanced ventilation.

Here are some other clothing items that you should consider for your kayaking adventure:

  • Gloves - A pair of gloves can protect your hands from blisters or cold.
  • Beanies - Just like I said earlier, beanies are the ideal headwear for cold conditions.
  • Helmet - You can use a helmet if you are kayaking on a whitewater where hard objects are sprawling everywhere.
  • Glasses - Protecting your eyes is also pivotal in kayaking!
  • Fleece jacket - For extra protection against the cold, wearing fleece jackets or rain jackets are not a bad idea!
  • Non-cotton socks - Wearing socks can give your feet the optimal level of warmth that it needs.
  • Rash guard - For typical kayaking excursions, a rash guard might come sufficiently already.

4. Personal Items

Packing light is always my mantra whenever I am doing outdoor adventures. However, there are instances where I have to break this rule. Whenever I am touring with my kayak, I make sure that I have all the essential amenities. I don't want to back to the shore because I forgot something.

Take note that your personal items might have nothing to do with kayaking. But certainly, they have uses that can make your adventure convenient, safe, and worth remembering. Here are some of them:

  • Insect repellent - You should bring an insect repellent if your destination is known to be filled with annoying insects such as mosquitoes and flies.
  • Lip balm - Kayaking in hot weather can dry your skin and lips. A lip balm can prevent your lips from drying and cracking thoroughly.
  • Sunscreen - Of course, to ensure that your skin won't get burned while kayaking, sunscreens are necessary.
  • Smartphone - You don't have to be off the grid whenever you are kayaking. Your cellphone will help you contact your friends and family if there are emergencies arise.
  • Permits and licenses - Some areas in the United States, such as national parks, require the paddler to bring their licenses before they can kayak.
  • Credit card - Bringing a credit card is quite necessary if there are things that you need to buy in the kayaking ground. If it is too much, a small amount of cash will do.
  • Camera - How can you cherish each of kayaking adventures? By taking pictures, of course!
  • Water treatment - You need to have this to ensure that you have access to potable water every time.
  • Snacks and energy drinks - For you to be able to paddle throughout the entire kayaking course, you need your body to be fully energized. You can replenish your lost strength by consuming energy foods and drinks.
  • Map - If you are unfamiliar with the terrain, having a map will be truly advantageous.
  • Fishing gears - For anglers out there, fishing gears are true necessities.
  • Hygiene products - For extended trips, you should bring a variety of hygiene products. From toilet paper, handwash, down to urinary items, they should be packed on your kayak!

5. Navigation Tools

Navigation is another aspect of kayaking that you shouldn't ignore. After all, getting lost in the middle of nowhere is the last thing that you want to happen to you. Of course, you can always prevent this predicament by familiarizing your terrain. However, the problem is that not all of us have the luxury of time to do this. Many people just casually visit different kayaking sites without any prior familiarity.

Tools for navigation are the key that can help you stay on track. They will be able to assist you in finding the right directions. Furthermore, they can also help you in finding other paddlers if you are traveling in a group.

5.1. Compass

A compass is an essential tool that ensures that you can find the appropriate directions. For your kayak, I do recommend that you get a deck-mounted option. Make sure that it has a large interface so that you can easily read the dial. Furthermore, make sure that it allows hands-free operation so that you can still focus on paddling.

Recommended Compass for Kayaks: Seattle Sports Sea Rover Deck Compass

Many kayakers suggested me to use the Sea Rover Deck Compass. According to them, this one has a one-size-fits-all design that allows it to fit on various kayak sizes. The size of this compact is said to be large as well. It will not give you problems when it comes to visibility and readability. Furthermore, this item has rugged straps that prevent it from dislodging away from your kayak.

5.2. GPS

Another helpful tool for navigation is GPS. This particular item provides exceptional accuracy, which makes it extremely useful whenever you are kayaking on the sea. In choosing a GPS, you have to mind its accuracy. Furthermore, make sure that it has a waterproof design. After all, the marine environment can easily damage electronic devices.

Recommended GPS for Kayaks: Garmin GPSMAP 64st

I am fond of compact devices because I know that my kayak has limited space. I cannot just mount any device as I wish. Therefore, GPS like the Garmin GPSMAP 64st provides the convenience that I need. Despite its small size, the interface is very readable. Even the external condition is too bright or too dim, the screen of the GPS is still clear and visible to the eyes. Moreover, it has ergonomic controls so that anyone can use it conveniently.

Discover other great kayak gps here: Best Kayak GPS

5.3. Walkie Talkie

Communication is essential, especially if you are paddling in a group. Even if you got separated from the pack, you need to have the proper means to communicate with them. That's where walkie talkie comes into play. Walkie talkies or handheld radios are devices that enable you to talk with someone in a given distance. A set of powerful walkie talkies have an operating range of more than a mile. For kayaking, such an option is quite necessary.

Recommended Walkie Talkie for Kayaks - Uniden MHS126 Handheld Floating Waterproof Radio

The Uniden MHS126 offers a user-friendly design that is suitable for various marine applications. It is fully waterproof. Furthermore, it has a floating design. If you accidentally drop it on the water, it will not fully submerge. You can still grab it without any worries that it has been damaged. Take note that this GPS is extremely accurate. It has long battery life, too!

Discover other great walkie talkies here: Best Walkie Talkie

6. Shelter

Honestly, I don't usually make lengthy kayaking trips. I am already beyond satisfied if I can take my favorite boat on a day trip to any kayaking course. However, when the need arises, staying in the boat for a couple of days might become a possible idea. It is for that reason that you might need to bring some portable shelters with you. Of course, you can't bring your humble abode anywhere you want. You can't sleep in your kayak either unless it allows to.

The best option that you have now are tents. You need to dock on a dry area and erect your tent there. There, you can experience the pleasure of being able to commune with the outdoor world. There are some tents I want to recommend.

The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent is an option that every solo paddler should try to get. I highly suggest this tent because of its ergonomics and functionality. It is rugged and capable of protecting you from various elements. If installed properly, this tent can remain stable even against strong gusts of wind!

Are you going to kayak with a tandem? Then you should consider the ALPS Meramac as your shelter. This is a spacious tent that can accommodate three people. But for the sake of convenience, I do suggest that only two people reside in this tent. This tent features quick-assembly. It has a robust construction that can fend off various elements. Meanwhile, you can spot storage compartments inside this tent.

The Coleman Sundome is an excellent choice for those who are going to kayak in a group of four. It is incredibly spacious so that you can move without being restricted. The tent is made from polyester which is durable enough to resist casual wear-and-tear. Moreover, this tent is fully sealed on the ground. There is also a fly that enhances the defense of the tent against heavy rain.

Discover other great 4 person tents here: Best 4 Person Tent


Now that you have seen this kayaking checklist, I am pretty sure that you realized that kayaking is not a straightforward activity. There are things that you need to prepare to ensure that your adventure will be convenient and safe. Always remember that these items are essential, but you should only bring the ones that you need in your trip.

That's it for now. If you have questions or suggestions, drop them in the comment section below!

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