What to Bring for Kayaking

A kayaking trip is a fantastic way to get some exercise, be one with nature, and get some peace and quiet. Knowing what to bring on a kayak trip can enhance your experience and ensure you stay dry! 

When you are new to kayaking, it may be challenging to ascertain what kayak gear you really need to bring when kayaking and what gear is just nice to have. 

The most obvious thing is to have a boat and a paddle, but there’s a few more items you’ll need if you’re going on a camping trip, kayak fishing, on any other major kayaking adventure, or on extended trips.

Firstly, you’ll need to pack the basics, such as a properly fitted personal flotation device (PFD); a whistle, or any other sound signal device; a white light; and a waterproof floating radio. 

You’ll also need dry bags (waterproof throw bags) with things like extra clothing, snacks, drinking water, water shoes, a rain jacket, sun cream, a cap, secure UV sunglasses, a sleeping bag, and a first aid kit, plus more.

Here are some of the other essentials you will need to put on your packing list in order to ensure your kayak trip is both safe and fun.

Make Sure You Have Safety Equipment When Going on a Paddling Trip

A kayaking trip should be a fun experience, but safety is just as important. There are several safety items, required by law, that you should always have when you go paddling or partake in other risky outdoor activities.

A Properly Fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

The first item you need is a properly fitted paddling PFD, or life jacket, preferably one that’s pressure-activated, i.e.,  activated when you need it instead of a water-activated one that could be activated when water splashes on you. 

Even if you are a strong swimmer, this will come in handy if you need to stay afloat. 

Accidents happen, and weather conditions change unexpectedly, so it’s better to be prepared for any unexpected circumstances.

A Whistle or Any Other Sound Signal Device

You must have a whistle or any other sound signal device. The sound will help alert people to your location should you be in danger and in need of any assistance. 

Make sure that your whistle works regardless of if you’re on the water or in the water. Also, make sure that you keep this physically on you and not in a bag or inside your kayak.

A White Light

Always bring a white light with you, preferably one that can be seen 360 degrees around your boat, even if you plan on coming back before dark. Sometimes, you lose track of time, and the light will come in handy. 

The light will also help other boaters see you if you plan to be out past dark. There are many options to consider, but a waterproof light is your best bet, in case you get wet.

A Waterproof Floating Radio

Although you may have your cell phone with you, it’s not always ideal as you could be out of range of service or the battery can die. 

Having a floating radio is crucial as it not only gives you access to weather alerts in your area, but it also means you’re able to call for help and alert the coast guard if needed.

A Waterproof Float Plan

If you are going kayaking alone, it is always wise to have some form of waterproof float plan detailing where you’re going, your name and contact details, as well as a map of your planned route clipped onto your boat. 

Share the float plan with someone that is not going with you so that you can be found should something go wrong.

Pack Waterproof Bags With Things You Might Need While Paddling

Having a water-resistant bag is essential because you might need certain things to remain dry while out kayaking, such as dry clothes after you’ve suddenly found yourself in wet conditions. 

Make sure that the dry bags are easily accessible in your kayak.

Here’s a list of some of the more important gear to bring kayaking

  • Extra clothing. Although the weather forecast may have predicted clear, sunny weather, it can change suddenly. Having extra layers of quick-drying clothing tucked in your dry bag will ensure you are well prepared for any weather changes.
  • A first aid kit. This is critical to have in case you get hurt.
  • Trail mix. Snacks are a must as in most cases you will be spending the whole day out kayaking and burning energy. These will help you keep up your strength, especially if you’re heading for a faraway destination. 

Make sure you pack them in a dry bag.

  • Cold water. It’s imperative that you have a bottle of water. As filled bottles can be heavy, and your kayak may have a certain weight capacity, a water bottle with a filter can make things easier. 

Take double the water that you normally drink as you can get dehydrated quickly, especially in hot weather (and even in mild, warm weather).

  • Sun protection. Water-resistant sunscreen, a cap, and secure UV sunglasses will provide the necessary protection from the sun. 

The reflection of the sun off the water, even on a cloudy day, will burn not only your skin but your eyes too, which can lead to headaches and long-term damage too.

  • A pump. Depending on whether you have a sit-inside kayak or a sit-on-top kayak, you may need a hand pump or bilge pump in case the boat flips, or if there is a hole in your kayak and you need to pump the water out. 

Bilge pumps are used to get water out of sit-insides if they flood. Hand pumps are usually adequate to pump the water out of a small kayak.

  • Duct tape.  Tape that sticks when wet, in case you need to make any emergency repairs, is a helpful item to have when out on a kayak.
  • A blanket. A blanket or sleeping bag is also crucial in cold conditions, especially when camping overnight as temperatures can drop rapidly.
  • A pocket knife. This can come in handy if you get tangled in ropes, anchor lines, and bungees, etc. if you flip over. Keep the knife on your physical body so that you can cut yourself free of any obstructions.
  • Rope. Rope is critical because you can use it to secure items, tow another boat, or tie yourself to something.
  • An anchor. This is one other important item to have in case you need to stop yourself due to wind or a strong current, or if you need to administer first aid.
  • A spray skirt.  If you’re using a sit-in kayak and paddling through less calm waters, it’s a good idea to get one of these skirts that fits around your waist to protect your kayak, gear, and yourself from getting drenched.
  • Money. You never know when you might need some emergency cash, so keep some money in a waterproof fanny pack.

These are things that are nice to have on your next trip, but they’re not essentials:

  • A camera. It’s great to have a camera to capture all those breathtaking moments when out on the water, just ensure it’s in a waterproof case.
  • Water sandals. Sandals or shoes with a non-slip sole and a strap are the best type to have on a kayak trip. 
  • A paddle float. This inflatable cushion is a self-rescue aid that you use to help balance your kayak when getting back on after you’ve flipped.
  • A paddle leash. A leash allows you to attach your paddle to your boat so you can’t lose it.
  • Paddling gloves. Gloves are nice to have in cold weather as they protect your hands from harsh wind and prevent blisters.
  • Fishing gear. This obviously depends on whether you’re going to be going on a fishing adventure or not.


A kayak is a small space, so it can be difficult to decide what to bring with you. 

But here’s a pro tip if you want to pack the maximum you can in a small space – use packing cubes! This will ensure your stuff stays organized and that it fits in the kayak.

Hopefully, the above list of must-haves and good-to-haves while kayaking will prepare you well and keep you safe on your next adventure.