What gear do I need!

I bought a new kayak yesterday my first. I purchased a WS Tsunami 125. So when I go out to paddle what do I need to carry.

The minimum where I live (Ontario) is…

  1. Paddle
  2. PFD (And WEAR it).
  3. Signaling device which in daytime can be a whistle.
  4. Bailer of some kind. I carry a bilge pump, a bailer (small bucket basically) and a sponge.
  5. 50’ (15m) of floating line (rope).

    After that, things that come to mind, depending on what you’re doing, and in no particular order, are…

  6. Paddling partner, in case of problems.
  7. Spare paddle.
  8. First aid kit.
  9. Paddle float.
  10. Dry bags for any other stuff.
  11. Water bottle with plenty of drinkable H2O.
  12. Correct cloathing for the water temperature.
  13. Lessons.
  14. Food.
  15. Flares.
  16. etc, etc, etc.

    Of course you also have to know how to use the stuff you’re carrying AND be able to get at it when you need it.


A good list, but I would reorder it
1. An experienced paddling partner who knows how to do rescues and can give you help with technique. (never paddle alone when you are inexperienced).

2. Essential safety equipment (pfd, pump, paddle float, proper clothing, and signaling device(s).

3. Anything else you want but isn’t essential.

what I carry
It really depends on where and what (rivers, lakes, oceans, swamps) you paddle. But, there are some universal similarities. I have some things that I won’t go on the water without, and some things that are usually mentioned, that I consider almost frivolous. I’ll use Chris’s list as a starting point.


The minimum where I live (North Carolina) is…

  1. Paddle

    Well, yeah, you’re not going far without that.

  2. PFD (And WEAR it).

    I completely agree with the wear it mentality, if you’re in still water over, say, hip deep and are not swimming, or in moving water over about calf deep. And don’t just get the cheapest one you can find. Get one that allows for plenty of movement that won’t ride up. However, depending on where and what you paddle, (ie. mudflats, swamps, etc. you may find a comfort zone where having it off is OK. I’d say basically never have it off on rivers or seas, (until you learn the RARE exceptions.)

  3. Helmet if in rapid water with rocks, or surf with rocks. The importance of this was driven home to me this weekend, and frankly, I’d say if you’re in Class I water or above, you need a helmet more than most other things on this list.

    4)Drinking water, and not just one chinsy bottle of it. You need to think of what you’re going to do when your water bottle washes away in the first tough spot, and you still have 5 hours floating downriver in the baking sun until takeout. I don’t travel rivers with anything less than 3 waterbottles stored in different spots. I prefer waterbottles to hydration bladders as they taste better and aren’t subject to punctures or hose crimps.

  4. Correct clothing - To me this means quick dry synthetics that retain warmth when wet and no cotton anything. And it means having a LIGHTWEIGHT RAIN/WIND JACKET, and a synthetic WARM shirt, like a fleece, or performance top. It also means having worst case clothing available on board in zip lock bags & in dry seal bags. This does not have to be bulky. But, what you want is enough clothing to do a total change out of wet clothes, into dry with the idea that the temps might have changed drastically since you put in. This is where the low volume, high tech clothing really comes into play. With a little planning, you can have dry, warm clothes that will prepare you for a 35* temp drop from 85 to 50, that take up only about as much room as a volleyball. You won’t be comfortable, but if you can dry off, you’ll likely not get hypothermia. That brings me to:

    6)Small Pack towel - These days, with synthetics, it’s easily possible to have a low volume camp towel that packs into a sandwich bag, that can seriously dry you off. Buy one. They’re cheap. Pack it in a ziploc in a dry bag.

    7)Bilge Pump and Sponge - My hand pump paid for itself on it’s maiden voyage. Don’t depend on others to help you manhandle a boat full of water enough to dump it. Get a $26 pump, stick it on one side of your seat, stick a $1 big car washing sponge on the other side, and remember that they are there when you or anybody else needs them.

  5. Dry bag - can be as simple as Ziplocs, though I’d not rely on them as anything other than backups. Buy proper drybags of sizes that actually fit the spaces in your boat without too much cramming. (Though some cramming will keep them in place when you dump.) Proper dry bags start from around $11.95 and will keep all the rest of your stuff useable.

    9)First aid kit - Don’t just go out and buy some dorky “all in one” 1st aid kit. It won’t have what you need in it. There are whole books about what you need in a real kit. We can address that at a later time. Suffice it to say that mine has an Eppie Pen, serious trauma bandages, a sling, rope, a prethreaded needle with dental floss, heavy duty pain killers, antibiotic, butterfly bandages, EMT scissors, (Fiskars makes some good all purpose shears that can be taken apart and double as fish gutters, wire cutters, and scrapers - They’re maybe $8), Gripper tweezers, industrial tape, and personal meds like antihistamines and anti-diaherrals, (and mine is a lightweight duffer kit compared to what some of the rescue pros carry)Also, I’d include SUNSCREEN & BUG REPELLANT in this category, even if you need them more readily accessible to you than in your stowed 1st aid kit.

  6. Food - I happen to like beef jerky, cashews, sunflower kernels, and string cheese as low maintenance sustenance.

  7. Toilet paper in double ziploc bags inside a dry bag and a small plastic trowel - nuff said, but the women will appreciate this touch, even if the guys don’t

    12)Throw line - I’m not really fond of the commercial ones I’ve seen so far. I made one out of a Wallyworld boat bumper float and some line and a nylon bag made for sandbags. I can toss it about 35yds in calm or maybe 25yds or less in wind. It’s much more throwable than the non-weighted bags I’ve seen, but I’m going to get more practice with them this weekend.

    13)More rope (& don’t forget knot skills) - I generally carry no less than 3 ropes/cords, ranging from 3/8 to 1/4 cord. They have different duties. Larger is for rescue or boat retrival, anchoring, etc. Cord is for everything else, like impromptu clotheslines, or tarp pitching.

    14)Knife - If you’re gonna have rope, you need a way to deal with it. Besides a knife can spread your cheese, cut your summer sausage, and if you pick it right, can open your wine/beer and untie your knots. I carry 2-3 knives in various configurations on each trip, ranging from Swiss Army or Leatherman to Kukri or sailing knives with marlingspikes. It’s kind of out of fashion, these days, but I find having a locking folder with a locking marlingspike, or fid, (rope de-knotter), to be one of the most indespensible items for watercraft. I typically carry a Mycherin, or Buck, even though the blade steel is only fair in both. (Look them up)

    15)Flashlights - Yes, plural. Having a dependable headlamp and a dependable strobe or bow light in separate devices, is IMO, a good idea. If you ever get caught in falling darkness in a shipping lane or in descending fog, you’ll figure out why. Recently, I’ve tended towards some of the newer, better battery-less light sources, though you’ve got to be really careful, because there is some real junk out there in this market.

    16)Duct Tape - It’ll patch your boat, make an impromtu sling, hold your stuff down in winds, patch a dry bag, can be doubled back on itself to make a kind of webbing, and I suppose shut up more talkative paddling partners (jK)

    17)Compass - Even if you carry GPS, get a simple compass and learn to use it. Take a reading when you head out, and note any significant course changes.

    18)Gripper gloves - When tired, or when hands are cramping or slippery, there’s nothing like regaining paddle control with some inexpensive gripper gloves. Wallyworld generally has some “angler’s gloves” under $2/pr that feature grippy palms/fingers on a fleximesh substrate. I keep them in the pockets of my PFD

  8. Matches in waterproof case AND LIGHTER - Yes, duplication in fire staring is good for a carry vehicle that will likely wind up full of water. When I can find them, I dip strike anywhere kitchen matches in parafin, and store them in a little orange screwtop match safe. AND, I carry a lighter or two tucked into a dry bag. I lost my last dJeep lighters: a brand I’d recommend. Currently, I’ve got an extended, supposedly windproof, butane lighter like for starting a BBQ grill. I’d suggest carrying a ziploc bag full of dryer lint as fire starter. Weighs nothing, costs nothing, yet works as well as some fire pastes I’ve tried. Keep it dry.

  9. Signaling devices – See how low I put this on the list? Most of the “rescue whistles” I’ve seen can’t be heard 100yds if there’s any ambient noise. The Storm whistle is the one I carry. It’s LOUD, but still not a substitute for an air horn. If you’re in a situation where you need a signalling mirror, you’re pretty much in the @&*#. A CD probably works as well as any of the commercial products. Next time AOL sends you a free trial CD with a bazillion free hours because their service sucks, put it in your dry bag if it makes you feel better. But, then figure that 99% of the people that just might see your signal won’t understand or care about it anyway, and figure on a self rescue.



    PS, You’ll note I’ve got a pretty different idea of what’s important from the original framework. Doesn’t mean I’m right, and he’s wrong, just different life experiences, perhaps. Evaluate where you paddle and come to your own conclusion.

  10. Signaling device which in daytime can be a whistle.
  11. Bailer of some kind. I carry a bilge pump, a bailer (small bucket basically) and a sponge.
  12. 50’ (15m) of floating line (rope).

    After that, things that come to mind, depending on what you’re doing, and in no particular order, are…

  13. Paddling partner, in case of problems.
  14. Spare paddle.
  15. First aid kit.
  16. Paddle float.
  17. Dry bags for any other stuff.
  18. Water bottle with plenty of drinkable H2O.
  19. Correct cloathing for the water temperature.
  20. Lessons.
  21. Food.
  22. Flares.
  23. etc, etc, etc.

    Of course you also have to know how to use the stuff you’re carrying AND be able to get at it when you need it.


Safety police
Ah come on - “never paddle alone when you’re inexperienced?”

Why wouldn’t a normal healthy person be safe to paddle along the shore in calm conditions? Don’t you guys know how to swim?

Much too often the advices given here at P.NET to novices reflects an extreme point of view regarding safety.


About paddling alone…
You said -“Ah come on - “never paddle alone when you’re inexperienced?”

Why wouldn’t a normal healthy person be safe to paddle along the shore in calm conditions? Don’t you guys know how to swim?

Much too often the advices given here at P.NET to novices reflects an extreme point of view regarding safety.”

I would think that the advice given to go with somone experienced was more to help you stay out of trouble. Without knowing the specifics of where you would paddle, there are a lot of bad situations out there that an inexperieced person might not recognize until they were in the midlle of one (strainers, pins, flips/entrapments, weather fronts, changing currents, tidal influences, wasps, hornets, poison ivy, etc). Those things have nothing to do with your ability to swim. Not saying that you do not, but most new paddlers have way too little appreciation/respect/recognition of the potential dangers associated with paddling.

I think most of us will paddle alone on occasion; sometimes by design, other times by circumstance. But I think most of us realize that when we opt go alone, we start the process of stacking the deck against us.

Sorry about the cautious nature of the post, but that is how old paddlers are made.

A List
Go to Americancanoe.org

Downloadable Paddler’s Safety Checklist.

Everyone’s got a personal list built upon experience but this isn’t a bad way to start.

See you on the water & congrats!



The joy of paddling alone
Personally, I think all this “never paddle alone” advice depends entirely on the situation and confidence of the person. Paddling WW alone is dumb. Paddling surf alone is dumb. But, there is lots and lots and lots of water that’s nowhere near as dangerous. Sure, even flat water has it’s own hazards, but choosing to paddle alone is a risk many willingly take.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that some amount of solo paddling will make one a better prepared, and more cautious paddler. That’s not to say that you won’t learn a lot in a group. But, you’ll learn about your own resiliance, fortitude, and in some cases, stupidity and lack of planning by paddling alone.

Yes, there’s wind & rain and hornets and poison ivy out there, but those exist in my yard, as well. If you’re allergic to beestings, bring an Eppie pen. If you’re allergic to poison ivy, bring some Jewelweed and some Dawn.

As for strainers and rip currents, yes, those are very real dangers, ON SOME WATERS. But, they don’t generally exist in swamps, lakes, bayous, poccossins, slow rivers, or even intercoastal waterways. It’s all about risk assessment and awareness.

Over the past 20 years, I’d guesstimate that maybe 75% of my paddling has been in open boats, alone. I like the simple solitude of watching a sunrise, or gliding up silently to flocks of ducks and geese. I like the simplicity of not having to coordinate trips. I like the spontaneity. I like being with my own thoughts. The key is to be prepared for predictable worsening conditions.

Depends On When and Where
I will be paddling. I try and bring what I think could be required on the planned days paddle. If I am camping or going longer distances I have a longer list.

For a typical day paddle I leave the kitchen sink at home. My normal day paddles are in warm water this time of year, I am in protected waters or within swimming distance of shore if I am offshore, and I am typically within a half mile of a shore if I am inshore paddling. I normally will not paddle more than about fifteen miles.

My day trip list includes a pfd, pump, sponge, whistle, paddle float, sun screen, bug spray, a bow line, my paddle, hat, long sleeve baggy shirt, boat shoes, and lots of water.

Happy Paddling,


Paddling alone is a great thing and a
wonderful experience. It can be done in relative safety. I do it often. The advice to take someone experienced alone was offered (IMO) to a new and inexperienced paddler. Obviously once a person has some experience and a better undersatnding and appreciation of the hazards, I would think this piece of advice goes away.

What do I need
Pretty good stuff here. A lot of things I have not thought of. Maybe I should have bought a bigger boat or maybe I can pull a trailer. Just kidding. I guess I violated rule number one first day out. Paddled the PAX River last night by my self. Calm, no tide or wind and stayed 30ft off shore. While I would love to be able to paddle with someone just won’t happen. I live 5 minutes from the water and bought the kayak so I can just get out and enjoy the calm and get some exercise. I will put together a good bag of safty gear for any accidents. I saw the recommendation for a throw line. For what occasions would that come in handy. How about who used one in the past and for what reason. Thanks for all the help I will definitly check out te web site.

Not the safety police
Just common sense. I teach kayaking and encounter people all the time who are a danger to themselves and others because of their ignorance. I fail to see that there is any cogent argument for not being cautious when starting out and taking advantage of learning from someone who has been there. And it is, after all, just advice that anyone who wants to can easily ignore.

Cooler and Beer…
for after the trip of course.


what gear
Any recommendation on brand/model of pump.

Don’t Over Pack
Think what you need before each trip. I carry more first-aid in my truck than in my kayak, usually. That’s because I’m more likely to get injured near my truck than my boat. 25’ of quality bowline is all I need as far as rope goes. Snacks are important. They give a mental as well as a nutritional boost. I carry a small cooler with frozen bottles of water, carrots, green onions,yogurt and a bag of mixed nuts in a side pouch. I don’t eat everything at once. In a dry bag it’s a good idea to carry something to cover sunburns. Always use sunscreen but be prepared for burns. I have a Pelican box loaded with TP, lip balm, LED flashlight and a lighter. A second back up light is carried in a dry bag. In a baggie I carry papper shop towelsthat fits in the pouch on the side of my cooler. They can be used as plates, TP, as well towels. My PFD often rides right behind me when out on lakes. On rivers I wear it. A Crazy Creek chair is a nice touch for hanging around on shore while enjoying lunch. I don’t have much use for a towel. In cooler weather I carry a change of fleeces clothes. I warm AZ weather being wet ain’t all that bad. One good knive is more than enough. Any more is overkill. A pair of pliers often comes in handy for small repairs. That’s why I carry a Leatherman. Repair kits are a plus if your going to be some where remote and have to use your boat to get back. There’s a new product called Gorilla tape. I haven’t tried it yet but I suspect it might be all the repair kit you’ll need most of the time. Where I usually paddle I don’t bother worrying about repairs. The only real hazard, other than weather, is getting run over by a drunken boater. It’d take a lot more than tape to save my kayak if that happens.

I’ve paddled solo in rapids on a 14’ SOT many times. I prefer it to companions. I’m sure I’d feel different if I paddled a play boat though. If I get pinned underwater I’m going to die no matter who is near by. Death traps are just that. I wouldn’t want someone getting killed trying to rescue me. In those kind of circumstances it’s more body retrieval than rescue.

Don’t carry extra gear to try and impress the ladies. A woman is prefectly capable of packing her own boat. Show them the respect they deserve. Share your gear with whoever you feel might be in need with no consideration for gender.

The best advise I can give though is never use the phrase you never know what might happen. That’s defeatist in nature. It’s far better to think through the possibilities and be prepared for them.

where can I get a realy good quality stainless steel leatherman to keep in my pfd for both salt water and fresh?


Some Dissent
There are some on this board who will say never paddle solo. Well, most of my paddling is solo due to circumstances and available time. I enjoy paddling with others and solo.

That said you do need some basic skills before venturing out. Wether you learn the basics from a book, an instructor, a DVD, a friend, or trial and error you will need to be able to use a basic forward stroke, some turning strokes, a wet exit, mount and dismount. Then you can practice in calm protected waters. You won’t be ready for an expedition but to paddle around a duck pond or similar is fine.

Happy Paddling,


Safety police yep
The advice was: “never paddle alone when you’re inexperienced”.

Sure bring someone along if you feel like it but I don’t subscribe to the notion that an inexperienced paddler can’t paddle alone without being “in danger”.

Where does this safety madness stop? The BCU says “Never less than three should be”. Any higher?


the PFD is something that should always be worn. It’s necercery in kayaking.