Opinions on the next few things I'd like to add to my gear list.

After the kayak and the paddle and a proper fitting PFD, what are the next several things someone should be buying to facilitate a more comfortable and safe touring kayak experience?

Based off of needing one already and not having it, I know I want a river knife and probably a paddle float since I can’t roll yet and have only marginal reentry experience so far and a deck bag for more comfortable access to important stuff without having to contort myself and blindly fiddle around with the day hatch behind me. And possibly a leash because of how paranoid I am of losing my paddle. Ive never actually seen a person use one though. Ever. Mainly for “capsized and stuck on rocks while your paddle floats away” moments.

And I’d like to add an electric bilge pump as a comfort feature to streamline the unpleasant parts of being unexpectedly in the water. I have researched how and with what to do them and it doesnt seem that expensive or difficult. Im paddling a 16ft Zephyr for reference.

Anything else Im leaving out would greatly help.

Thanks guys/gals!

If it was me… a Greenland paddle and learning reliable braces and rolls are what comes next. That and a waterproof GPS.

A whistle and signaling device (piece of a DVD will do) if you don’t already have them. Required to be carried by USCG.

Spare paddle is a must for safety. Don’t leave home without one, be it a GP or Euro. I carry mine up front where I can get to it easily. If carried on the stern, it could slip off and I wouldn’t know it.

Underdeck bag = less clutter on the foredeck and keeps contents dryer.

Hand operated bilge pump, to be used until you install the electric pump and then carried as a backup. Helpful to empty a companion’s flooded cockpit.

I wouldn’t bother buying a paddle leash; you can make one in a few minutes using velcro strips, a carabiner, and some cord. I based mine on North Water’s. https://northwater.com/products/bungy-paddle-leash.

Dual chambered paddle float comes in handy for a number of things.

These eight items are all inexpensive and easy to buy. Several require some skills to use well. The emphasis should be on skills, not just equipment, as Rex stated.

  • Large sponge or chamois-like cloth.
  • Depending where you paddle, compass and maps/charts and skills to use them.
  • “Emergency blanket” or other waterproof, windproof, item that can serve as temporary cover.
  • Understanding of local weather.
  • Basic first aid kit in waterproof container.
  • A Swiss Army knife or Leatherman multitool.
  • Lighter and/or waterproof matches.
  • In cold weather, paddling gloves, hat, and extra clothing.

You can go wild and buy all kinds of stuff to carry, but the above plus food and water should be adequate for day trips that a beginner would take.

Where do you paddle? Both geography and water type. What most would recommend on inland waterways in Florida is much different than if you want to paddle on Lake Michigan or off the Maine coast. Assuming you’re not trying to use a 16’ Zephyr for much whitewater :-).

I agree w/ Rookie’s recommendations. I think there are a few minimum safety things needed regardless of where you paddle.

  1. Paddle float. You said yourself you can’t roll, so this is a must.
  2. Hand-operated pump. I own a Zephyr myself. The seat position and large cockpit overhang behind the seat makes it hard to empty fully if you wet exit and try to drain by raising the bow. A pump is really helpful.
  3. Spare paddle if you’re going to be anywhere more than 100 yards from shore or paddle in any months other than July & August. Good excuse to get a cheap 2-piece if you haven’t already. (Also comes in handy on a local lake when a motorboat’s motor dies and they don’t have a paddle on board. Each occupant can use half to row to shore while you smile and laugh. Ask me how I know that.)

Simultaneously, unless you are on the Gulf Coast and paddle only in Summer, you need to acquire a wardrobe to protect from cold water. If money is no object and water is cold where you live a drysuit is worth the money. If for no other reason than you can re-purpose other insulation you already own to wear underneath. No special long underwear or fleece insulation required. A wetsuit and other insulating pieces might also work depending on where you paddle.

Only once you have the ability to re-enter your boat quickly and easily, or at least survive in the water for a while if you don’t, would I worry about deck bags and such. I didn’t buy my first deck bag until after I’d been paddling for 20 years and I still find it only marginally useful.

Next comfort items:

  • Sun protection. Find the right hat: one that protects your head and neck but can be secured so it doesn’t blow off.
  • Spray skirt. Neoprene if you intend to learn to roll. But nylon even if not in case you encounter anything more than a ripple. The Zephyr is a pretty dry boat, but it likes to edge and does generate a lot of spray in waves greater than 6".
  • A cockpit cover if you intend to drive it any significant distance and you carry it upright on a rack. It will rain on you while you’re driving and a boat full of water on the roof is dangerous. I’ve never used a J-rack on my car but I assume it would still be useful.
  • Hydration system. Easier than taking your hands off the paddle and grabbing a water bottle.
  • Good water shoes. These were the first real benefit to my paddling I purchased. In New England, we have a lot of slippery ocean rocks and muddy lakes. Something with good wet grip inspires confidence for those landings that aren’t on a sandy beach.
  • Several sizes of “soft” drybags. Much easier than the vinyl kind and small ones can be easily clipped to deck bungees. I reserve the big vinyl ones for inside the hatches on longer trips. I usually use a couple of these instead of a deck bag.
  • Navigation items: acquire a couple charts and maps. Have some way to keep them dry. Can be as simple as a big Zip-Lock bag or as complicated as a dedicated chart case. A waterproof GPS is nice, but no excuse for not having a map or chart.

I’ve carried a knife for 20 years and only used it for one thing while actually paddling: cutting monofilament. I was riding a tidal flow under a low railroad trestle and got snagged in discarded equipment on one of my first trips and getting unstuck without one was really hard. I’ve carried a knife ever since, but rarely NEED it. I use it a lot, but I really don’t NEED it.

Sorry for the length … this is what I would have done over the last decades if I could do it all over again.

Absolute first - spare paddle

Then dry bag for a spare change of clothes, white light, yellow light for on your PFD, SOLAS tape on your paddles and a spot or two along the side of your boat, emergency 1st aid kit.

Likely more but this is off the op of my head.

Honestly, these are the things in addition to the boat, paddle, and PFD that I always take along: water shoes, or boots, wide brimmed hat, open finger paddle gloves, an imitation shammy and spray skirt. I also always have my water proof bag with assorted goodies–including my phone, sun glasses, sun lotion, knife, a snack and water. In the boat I also always keep a length of rope and a roll of butt wipe (in a zip lock bag). Oh yeah and a little bungy cord for a paddle leash. That is it; and I’ll probably catch a lot of static about no spare paddle (although I’ve got a bunch of them) and no pump, which I also have, but in many years of paddling have never ever used it. I’ve also never had any use for a paddle float. Depending on conditions I might bring along, or wear a wind/rain jacket. Although I have both, I have never found any use for a compass, or gps.

I’ve never needed my car’s air bags. I’m still happy to have them along on each trip. Just sayin’…

GPS, I do still use to confirm my position and mark interesting locations I’d like to return to. However, my primary navigation is now done with map, compass, and piloting by landmarks when possible.

Check out the recent thread on all the wonderful stuff you can shove in your PFD first. There are lots of parallels with your question and that thread:

Next, forget all the fancy stuff until your skills demand it. Ideally this will happen before your environment demands it, because you should have the skills for that environment first.

Really forget anything other than a hand held bilge pump if you’re at the stage where you even have to ask. It’s going to add unnecessary weight to your boat. You’d only need this or an electric one to quickly empty your boat in really dicey moving water conditions, which your skill will undoubtedly not be up to quite yet.

I used a leash for a few years before getting to the point I’m at now, which is the opinion that it gets in the way. My spare on the front deck can be retrieved and reassembled if I ever do lose grip of the paddle.

Get used to accessing stuff in your day hatch. It’s there for a reason - because it’s sealed, out of the way, and can hold a lot of crap where you can still access it. You’ll need to practice twisting your torso and be careful of your shoulder in this position. If you already have a day hatch, deck bags are a hassle. It’s another piece of gear to lug around, dry out, and adds to your boat’s susceptibility to the wind.

If you don’t already have the lightest touring paddle you can afford or a Greenland Paddle, one of those would be near the top of my list. You don’t want to be slogging for miles with a heavy useless paddle.


Work great for years. I have a few some 8 yeas old. I paddle mostly inland bays with no spare paddle. I have a bunch of extra paddles. I take a extra paddle in ocean. I put a Scotty clip on end and clip to bungee. Seals deck bag is great not that big. Also VHF radio is great to have especially when alone,or in winter.

Kayak cart for transport from car to water.
Spare paddle.
Assorted sizes of dry bags.

I’d recommend lessons on how to self-rescue, if you haven’t done yet. This is covered in a day long class offered by many kayak outfitters. The instructor should cover a lot more of use, such as how to paddle safely and efficiently. But they also should cover the gear needed and desired, so would help answer many of your questions.

The question asked above by GrumpySquatch about where you paddle would be good too know. You mention a day hatch, so we can reasonably guess you are in a touring kayak (not a white water kayak), but it still varies a lot on weather and type of water as to what we would recommend.

A paddle partner.

A contact tow line. Use it for towing another boat out of danger, tying up the yak, or suspending a six pack in cool water. (actual uses are varied)

See https://youtube.com/watch?v=1OhowpFVDe8

Suspending a six pack in cool water is best done when not in motion. Ask me how I know…

@tjalmy said:
Suspending a six pack in cool water is best done when not in motion. Ask me how I know…

Use a chum bag if getting too much water movement.