What to Bring For Kayaking – Kayaking Checklist

what to bring for kayaking

Kayaking requires planning. Deep planning, mind you. And aside from picking the right kayak and a paddle for it, you’d also need to know what to bring for kayaking.

If that’s what you want to know, then have a look at our list of kayaking essentials!


Picking the right clothing for kayaking is a very deep topic, and we even dedicated a separate material for it. Check it out for in-depth guidelines on how to dress properly for kayaking.

Personal flotation device

This is simply a must-have. A personal flotation device – PFD, more commonly known as lifejacket – needs to be on you at all times.

Just putting it into your bag isn’t enough: you need to wear it from start to finish. Accidents happen suddenly, and you won’t have any time to grab and put on your lifejacket.

Everyone with you – your friends, kids, and even your dog – need to have their own lifejacket, so make sure to invest in them.

Paddle float

A paddle float is attached to the paddle blade to help it stay afloat. If your paddle falls into the water while you are fishing or taking photos, it won’t sink to the bottom with a paddle float on.

And if your paddle doesn’t have a paddle float, then you may lose it and get stranded far from shore. Sure, you could swim towards the shore, but it is much more convenient and safer to just have a paddle float with you.


Beginners generally wear a helmet, though some experienced kayakers also do it. In fact, you absolutely need to have a helmet on in some kayaking spots.

For example, if you are kayaking close to the shore where there are plenty of rocks, you’d want to have a helmet on. If your kayak capsizes and you hit your head onto a rock, even a lifejacket may be unable to save you.

Rope bag

As its name suggests, a rope bag is a bag with a rope tucked inside. When a fellow kayaker is in danger, you hold one end of the rope and throw the bag to the kayaker.

Even if you are kayaking alone, you should have a rope bag on you just in case so you could rescue someone in trouble. And besides, you should really practice throwing it before the trip.


This may sound weird, but you should carry a knife with you when kayaking. And no, not because you’d need to protect yourself from someone.

A knife could come in handy in a variety of situations from repairing something on your kayak to cutting a rope that is tangled to a rock or a branch in the water. A knife could even save your life in certain situations.

Make sure to get a knife that has a plastic sheath so you don’t accidentally stab yourself or damage your equipment.

Besides, don’t just get a kitchen knife, there are plenty of specialized knives available on the market. They can be typically attached to the PFD so they don’t get lost in an accident.

Dry bag

If you are going to carry any water-sensitive items with you like a camera or food, you’ll need to have a dry bag or a dry box with you. Both are made watertight to protect anything that’s stored in them.

If you’ll have both with you, then put the frequently used items like snacks into the dry bag. A bag is simply easier to manipulate.

Bilge pump or sponge

If you have a sit-in kayak, you absolutely need to have a bilge pump or a sponge with you. You may want to have them with you even if you are in a sit-on-top kayak. The purpose of both is to get water out of the kayak in case of flooding.

Spray skirt (sit-in kayaks)

If it’ll be cold out there during the kayaking trip, make sure to install a spray skirt onto the cockpit of your sit-in kayak. It will protect you from splashes and wind in the cold.

Water and snacks

Even if your trip is going to be short, you may want to get plenty of water and snacks just in case.

Anything could happen during your trip: you could get stranded, or you may find a fascinating activity for the upcoming hours, for example. You’d want to have extra snacks and water for such cases.

Repair kit

It is a really good idea to have a repair kit with you while kayaking. You may not even need it, but again, anything could happen during the trip.

Among the items you’d want to have in your repair kit are:

Emergency gear

Things happen during kayaking, and you won’t always be able to deal with the situation yourself. In such cases, you would need to draw attention to you so people know that you are in trouble.

The gear that you could inform others about your location with includes whistles, signal flares, and signal mirrors. Besides, it would be a really good idea to have a two-way radio with you. Don’t forget to have a list of local emergency channels too!

Absolutely make sure to have a first aid kit with you as well.

Lastly, things like fire starters, matches, or flashlights would allow you to have some visibility in low-light conditions.

Navigation tools

Even if your kayaking trip is short, take navigation tools with you just in case. You may get lost even near your home, so some precaution is always welcome.

First off, take a GPS device with you loaded with the maps of the area you’ll be kayaking in. Sure, a smartphone can also serve as a GPS, but it isn’t an ideal device for kayaking since it may require network coverage to operate. Take a compass with you as well.

Take maps and charts with you in a waterproof case. These won’t depend on things like network or whatnot. They may be inconvenient, but they can be very helpful absolutely anywhere.

Anything else that you’d need for your trip

Some people fish when kayaking, some just admire the environment and take some photos, while the rest go camping.

Depending on the purpose of your trip, you would need to have the appropriate gear with you like fishing rods, fish finders, cameras, tents, and many other things.

The requirements of everyone are different, so it isn’t really possible to just list them here. Thereby, it is up to you to understand what you’ll need for your specific kayaking activity.

The bottom line

You should now have a list of all the essentials that you’d need for your kayaking trip! Feel free to add anything that you deem necessary.

Aside from picking the right kayaking items, there also are other things to consider. For example, you also need to pick a kayaking spot. You could check out our guide if you don’t know how.

And besides, we also have an in-depth guide on choosing a personal flotation device. You could check that out as well if you need it.

Author: Jimmy Hurff

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