"Ten Essentials" of Paddling

These are the “Ten Essentials of Paddling” I realized I take even before I’ll take sun screen or a hat. Is that a mistake?

  1. wetsuit or drysuit
  2. PFD
  3. paddle
  4. paddle float
  5. spray skirt
  6. bilge pump
  7. flares
  8. VHF
  9. water & snack
  10. car keys in something water proof

Looks good
I would definitely add sunscreen and a hat.

tow belt

– Last Updated: Apr-04-10 8:12 AM EST –

Without it you're almost helpless to aid an injured or worn out paddler.

Spare paddle too. I'd hate to hand paddle a mile back to shore after my primary paddle drifted during a snack. :)

would look silly
without something to paddle in - be it a canoe or a kayak :wink:

you know, that occured to me
but I decided to take it for granted. That and the boat trolly/cart. If I leave those behind, there’s definitely something wrong with my memory. Each of the others I have probably forgotten on this occasion or that.

I had a tow belt
It cost me a pretty penny. Then I left it out to dry one day at the local paddle shop. Never saw it again. Most of the paddling I do is in close to the rocks, on the water alone, so there’s not really much call for a tow belt. On a trip or on the open coast I take a spare paddle for sure.

wetsuit/drysuit not needed

– Last Updated: Apr-04-10 8:34 AM EST –

depending or your local conditions.

In some places, "appropriate immersion clothing" would be a bathing suit!

From Mr. Bowler w/ input by p.net
readers. Still good today…


thats alot
The only ones I take are 2,3, and 9. I stay on rivers though.

I would definately recomend
getting some self rescue gear. At least the essentials like a bilge pump and paddle float. Even if you just paddle in quiet rivers, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. You should capsize yourself on purpose sometime when you are close to shore and have help near by, then try to get back in the boat without any assistance…even if you manage to get back in the boat, what are you gonna do with all that water in there? Also, try to swim to shore with your swamped kayak in tow, even a short distance will wear you out.

So now imagine being in the middle of your river and getting caught off guard and capsizing, what will you do without any help to get back in? If you do manage to get back in, chances are whatever conditions managed to flip you to begin with will easily flip your swamped boat again. Now what, swim? Will you have to abandon your kayak? Check out this video, it shows that even with proper equipment, it takes practice and technique to get back into a kayak from the water even in calm conditions…so whatever you do, you should still practice and try to be prepared:


Yes indeed

Minimalism seems to have different meanings in different aspects of paddle sports. I’m getting old enough that I’d have to add a waterproof notebook to the list so I could remember all that other stuff. Then I’d probably forget the notebook.

I don’t mean to make light anyone though - I’m sure those really are essentials for sea kayaking, but it sure seems like a lot to a river rat.

Even the boat… A few years ago a friend and I were eating a shore lunch on our local river in mid-summer. It was about 10 miles between landings on that stretch. Along comes this guy going downstream. Just a guy. Alone. No boat. He had on a PFD and was towing a largish dry bag (looked like maybe a NRS Bill’s bag) presumably with 9, 10, a compass, hiking shoes, maybe a camera in it. He hiked the islands, waded the shallows, swam the channels and repeated as necessary. He Doan nee no steeenkin boat… A true minimalist.

I may try that this summer. Looked like fun.

water filter
a jug of water, and a roll of toilet paper. Everything else is just frivolous

There are probably as many essential
lists as there are types of paddling.

I wont carry a VHF. I will carry a sat phone and a PLB. (no one will hear me on the radio).

I will carry a bailer and a throw bag with 50 feet of rope and a PFD. Its required.

Plus a headlamp.

I will carry gear for overnight.

Different paddling areas, different requirements.

I think this is more…
appropriately the essentials of kayaking, not “paddling”. Since paddling includes canoeing, some of these items such as spray skirt, paddle float, and bilge pump may not be on a canoeists ten essentials list. Just saying…

Keep the Open Side Up,


13 responses and no one has mentioned…
A First Aid kit? Always goes with me and most of the time it is just extra ballast. But when you need it - you sure do need it.

Most of the time when I pull the kit out it is for some other paddler who has a problem and doesn’t have any first aid supplies. Benedryl and an epi-pen are always good additions to the kit.

I keep First Aid in a separate dry bag and it is stored with all the other gear that goes on every trip.

I once drove 20 miles from home before
realizing I didn’t have the MOST essential thing…

My boat.

around rocks
Interestingly, I think of paddling around the rocks in swell to be the place I need a towbelt the most. (though I don’t do much of that when solo). Many assisted rescues when rock gardening might start with towing the victim and boat a few yards away from the hazards that probably tipped them, before getting them back in the boat. And paddlers are more likely to get injured near the rocks too.

1. “the bride”

2 the boats

3. the paddles

4. PFD’s to satisfy the coast guard and wild life officers

All the rest is good, and I usually have a lot more, but I can paddle with those four essentials.



In Florida,if they ever check, you need
a signaling device.

I have a simple digital signaling device
for DNR rangers making such requests.