What's in your dry bag?

Always been a well prepared hiker, now want to transfer new skills to being a well prepared kayaker. I’m insterested in what people put in their dry bags just incase they turn over and can make it to shore where you may be isolated or maybe even stuck for a while if the winds kick up and crossing a body of water is not advisable.

I have a marine radio (waterproof) and am thinking I should put a t-shirt, small cloth to dry off, food, maybe socks? I know I can keep going, but want to keep what’s in the dry bag down to a minimun of what’s really necessary and exclude what’s not.

Maybe I should include where I am kayaking to help w/answers. I would be kayaking to small islands not far off the mainland of WA state, along the Puget Sound coast close to shore along empty beaches, but basically trying to stay in mostly protected waters no matter which place I choose.

Thank you,


More stuff
Repair kit (basically an assortment of tape that’ll stick) so you can drag it to shore and patch it up if needed. Float bags in the boat. Change of clothes, not just a towel. Water is colder than air of the same temperature and robs body heat faster. Emergency bivy or tarp. Medical basics. Visual signal device(s) - mirror, flares etc.

In addition to the last post…

– Last Updated: Sep-05-07 4:05 PM EST –

a loud, pealess whistle, cash, sunglasses, hat, waterproof flashlight, something to start a fire with, water or energy drink. I carry a shammy instead of a towel.

My wallet and car keys, cell phone, sun block.


dry bag




Thanks for the feedback. I’ll keep checking my post if anyone comes up w/anything else, but I think you all have it pretty much covered.

Lou, you’re too much, lol. What about the hidden key under your car if the onea you have on you sinks???:slight_smile:

I live in WA and there are so many bad stories when it gets warm between drowning (mostly no lifeguards, 'cause we have no warm water), hikers falling off mountains, sneaker waves on Pacific Coast, washed away in river currents (while swimming). Then there has to be a few people in the winter that ski off bounds and you know where they end up…face first in a tree or face down in a hole at the bottom of a tree. Then lastly, but not leastly, kayakers drowning. We have big tide issues and people who don’t wear flotation devices, plus very cold water if you’re left adrift too long.

Hmmm, no one mentioned a GPS. We do have one and other camping/hiking things like were mentioned that would come in handy. Everyone in WA either hikes or kayaks or both. I’m blessed to live here.

Thank everyone,



when you’re paddling alone, Wanda is good company.



Thanks for the heads up, but I never paddle alone:)



Interesting note that it didn’t get mentioned. I hadn’t thought of it myself because ours go into a saparate dry bag in the day hatch and (hopefully these days) can theforgotten about until we get home and download the route info. It’d be pretty bulky in something like a ditch bag. But - a thought.

Also didn’t mention the VHF radio because the only one likely to still be on person in a huge issue will be one that clips to a PFD.

Secure your dry bag
You may want to think about securing your dry bag so you can retrieve your safety kit if you flip your kayak. If the safety kit falls out and sinks, it’s not going to be much good to you.

We carry a safety kit, including VHS radio, GPS, flares, strobe light, etc., plus a separate dry bag with cell phone, car keys, necessities for the day, etc.

My Dry Bag Is Latched To My Seat
I guess the keys could sink if the boat sank.

In NYC, I would be more at risk of losing the entire car by hiding the key.


My dry bag essentials…
In my one time experience of watching my paddling partner flip over, and get soaked up to his ears, I got to see just how fast hypothermia can set in. Pretty scary.

The main objective was to move fast in getting his wet clothes off (Not as easy as it sounds!!!)with dry clothes easily obtainable to get back on him. At that point, he wasnt worried about a towel to dry off with… I believe his shivering body pretty much took care of any excess water on him… Just getting dry clothes on was the main concern.

I usually put most of my emergency clothing (most of it being fleece for the incredible warmth) stored in vacumm sealed bags. However, When your standing on shore shivering uncontrollably it is really difficult to get into the packages with any ease and speed. I have since began using ziplocs.

I am also a HUGE believer in carrying a warm hat. Once again, preferrably fleece or wool, something that doesnt mind wetness if you put it on your wet head. (major heatloss area, as we all know).

Heat pacs are another simple addition, that I have used time and again. My fingers just dont work when they get cold, and one or two placed under an armpit or such places, really warms up the core nicely.

I also carry extra food… most the time its a snickers or something that will give me a quick boost if needed.

A small flare, small first aid kit, emergency blanket, emergency poncho, waterproof matches with dry starter tinder.

In my PFD, I carry my knife and a whistle attached to my zipper.

All of this and a few other items already mentioned in this post is put into a dry bag and a coil type cord is attached to the back of my pfd and then to the dry bag stored loosely secured behind me. If I pop out of my kayak, the dry bag goes with me without even thinking about it. Note: keep the cord short enough to keep from tangling in or causing you more problems.

I think that most people want to keep their bag to a minimum, and I tend to agree, however, when you DO have an incident where you get pretty cold and wet, just think how nice it will be to be able to put back on all that nice dry and warm clothing. I think that is one time you will be happy you didnt skimp on preparing! That was my original reason for vacuum sealing most of my clothing, so I could get more in my bag.

Enough to survive on Gilligan’s island
But then, my boat weaghs as muchas my surviuval gear.

Of course, if I get picked up by a twister and dumped into the middle of nowhere, I will have everything i need to survive.

It does crush my kayak karts though withthe weight of the gear.

Seriously. Al lyou really need is a boat, a paddle and a PFD.

EVERYTHING else is just comfort, physical and emotional. And somepeople have a bigger list than others.

As for me, I printed this entire thread to see if there is anything i want to add to my own kit. Some of the guys on this board may me arrogant jerks but most of the subscribers have a lot of good ideas and i always learn something coming here.

xtra key
Reading the part about the car key.

A friend of mine went to Canyon Lake to jet ski. She had her car keys resting in her bathing suit pocket and …

She had to pay for a locksmith to drive 50 miles to the lake and key her lock for her.

I keep my main keys in a dry-box with my wallet then carabinered to the boat. I have D-rings all over the inside for my gear.

I also clip an extra car key to the inside pocket of my PFD next to my mirror and whistle.

I know I should also clip another key to a friends PFD but wonder if I am being too cautious?

Here is my list of gear
I carry some essentials on my person, but most of it goes in the kayak. My logic is that I will do everything I can to stay with my kayak. In my mind, capsizing and then being without a kayak is not an option.

So here is what I carry organized by dry bag:

-first aid kit (with headlamp)

-repair kit (with headlamp and fire kit)

-insulating top and bottom, waterproof top and bottom, extra socks, fleece cap, neck gaiter

-flares and smoke (in a large cannister not a drybag)

-small alcohol stove, wind screen, food for 2 meals


-summer weight sleeping bag and bivy bag

-extra water (not in dry bag)

in/on my pfd - knife, scissors, whistle, hand compass, mirror, flashlight, strobe light, small repair kit, small first aid kit, pencil flares, skull cap, VHF radio, sun screen, lip balm, snacks

It seems like a bit of overkill. But, at one point or another I have used all of the items on paddling trips. The stove, extra food, sleeping bag, and tarp are mainly for impromptu overnighters.