Kayaking Must Haves

Photo of author

Christina Bishop



If you are kayaking near calm, near-shore waters, you won’t need a ton of accessories to weigh you down. However, there are some kayaking must haves we will cover in this blog in order to help you get out on the water safely and comfortably.

Please note that this article only covers what you will need for recreational flatwater kayaking. If you plan to go on a whitewater trip, your gear will be a little different.

If you plan to fish from your kayak, this blog about kayaking must-haves still applies. However, we also put together another checklist that includes fishing gear.

Kayak Gear


Recommended for Short, Recreational Outings

  • Kayak
  • Paddle (Spare Recommended)
  • Spray Skirt (Sit-In-Kayaks Only)
  • Personal Flotation Device (1 per paddler)
  • Bilge Pump
  • Dry Bag
  • Headlamp with extra batteries
  • Signaling Whistle
  • Scupper Plugs (Tennis balls work for some kayaks)
  • Water Shoes

Recommendations for Extended or Overnight Trips

  • Paddle Float
  • Paddling Knife
  • Towline
  • Floating Compass
  • Watch
  • Weather/VHF Marine Radio capable of transmitting and receiving
  • Dry Bags
  • Paddle Leash
  • Large Sponge
  • Float Bags
  • Emergency flares or a strobe light
  • GPS with offline maps


Now we will cover how you should dress for your day on the water. You should always plan to dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. If you were to capsize in cold water, a life-threatening condition called hypothermia can happen suddenly. Whenever possible, avoid cotton materials and use quick-drying clothing instead.

Warm Weather & Water (>60 Degrees Fahrenheit)

  • Swimwear, shorts or convertible pants
  • Moisture-wicking T-shirt or long-sleeve shirt
  • Sun-shielding hat
  • Cap retainer leash (Yes, the wind could blow your hat off your head!)
  • Bandana
  • Fleece Jacket or vest
  • Rain Jacket (you never know!)
  • Water shoes or flip flops

Cool or Cold Weather & Water (<60 Degrees Fahrenheit)

  • Dry Suit, wet suit or top
  • Long Underwear (or drysuit pants)
  • Synthetic wor wool socks
  • Pogies
  • Synthetic wool cap

Recommended Personal Items

  • Floating Sunglasses or regular sunglasses with floating straps
  • Sunblock (SPF 30+) and water resistant)
  • Lip Balm (SPF 15+)
  • Insect Repellent
  • First Aid Kit (Waterproof recommended)
  • Bottled Water or Reservoir
  • Matches/lighter or firestarter in a waterproof container
  • Snacks with a good balance of protein and carbohydrates
  • Cell phone in water sealed protective case (VHF Marine Radio still recommended)
  • Cash (enough to cover parking lot fee and have a little left over)
  • Fishing permits and/or other permits
  • Written trip itinerary left with a friend and/or under the seat of your vehicle before launching
  • Toilet Paper or sanitary wipes
  • Hand Towel
  • Feminine Products (if applicable)

Things That Are Nice To Have

  • Camera with zoom lense
  • Binoculars
  • Guidebook
  • Notebook with pen or pencil
  • Weather-resistant Bluetooth speaker
  • Kayak Anchor

Be Prepared

  • Multi-Tool or at least a pocket knife
  • Bungee Cords (if your existing cords are frayed or broken)
  • Duct Tape
  • Small Rope

In Conclusion

We all go kayaking for different reasons. Some of you are photographers, so you may want to put your professional camera gear in a dry bag to take photos of birds and other wildlife. Some of you, like me, like to bring along a fishing pole to see if the fish are biting that day. And finally, some of you are just wanting to get out on the water for a little fresh air, relaxation and exercise.

There are so many ways to enjoy kayaking! Print out or snap a photo of this list and make sure you review it each time before you get out on the water.

Sometimes I get in a hurry, and I have even forgotten the seat for my sit-on-top kayak! I had to drive all the way back home to get it. One thing you should NEVER forget is your paddle. It does not matter if you have a motor or pedals. You still need to have a paddle in case something goes wrong.

I still recommend a personal flotation device (life jacket) even if you are a good swimmer. You never know if it might save your life, or you may be able to save someone else’s life!

Happy Paddling

Photo of author


Christina Bishop, an ardent hiker and kayaker, distills years of outdoor adventures into expert guidance for fellow nature lovers. Her extensive experience is the foundation of trustworthy and professional advice on navigating the great outdoors. Christina’s dedication to the wilderness shines through her insightful tips, inspiring confidence and a deeper appreciation for nature’s wonders.