October 19th, 2015

Going on a Kayaking Trip? Here’s What To Pack

Don’t get caught on the water without the essential items for a multi-day trip down the river. 

Paddling on the river is a great way to enjoy the wilderness. Not only is it fun and exciting, but it can also grant you access to areas you might not otherwise be able to reach by foot — especially if you spend more than one day on the river. But, as with any outdoor endeavor, there is some essential equipment that will make your adventure, safer and more enjoyable. Here, our suggestions for key things to pack on your kayaking trip.

Dry Bags and Dry Box

Dry bags are a water tight bags that come in various sizes and roll shut to form a water tight seal, and dry boxes are plastic boxes that have a rubber seal keep water out. Both of these will be your best friends when traveling on the river. I find that small dry boxes work great for things like cameras and cell phones, while the bags are better for clothing and food, since those items (and the bags) are more easily manipulated to fit in your boat.

Bilge Pump or Sponge

Sponges and bilge pumps are designed to get water out of your boat in the event of flooding. Be sure to keep one easily accessible in your kayak — it could mean the difference between a great and terrible trip.

Lightweight Tent

Even if you pride yourself on being one with nature, it’s important to carry a lightweight backpacking tent to get out of the elements at night, especially if the weather turns on you. When choosing a tent, look for something that’s lightweight and compact to minimize the space it takes up in your boat. If possible, go for a freestanding tent that will stay in place even if staking it into the ground isn’t an option.

Synthetic Sleeping Bag

Pack a sleeping bag that won’t be compromised by the damp environment you’ll spend the majority of your time in. Avoid down filled sleeping bags, as down doesn’t provide any warmth if it gets wet. Synthetic-fill materials are much more resilient to wetness and will still keep you warm even if they’re not dry. If, for some reason, you absolutely must bring a down sleeping bag, store it in its own dry bag and take extra care to keep it dry.

Life Jacket

Aside from the fact that it’s legally required in most places, it’s just a good idea to have a life jacket in your kayak with you. Not only can it save your life in a scary situation, but it can also shade you from the sun, and give you a way to lazily cool off in the river without having to swim to stay afloat. Buy one that fits snugly while still being comfortable.

Water Filter or Iodine Tablets

If you’re kayaking in fresh water, there will be no shortage of water surrounding you, but you’ll still need a way to ensure it’s drinkable. Boiling the water works well to purify, but it’s not exactly practical on the fly. To make your water collecting efforts easier, use iodine tablets or a water-filtering device. 


Sunscreen is one of the most important things to take on your trip; after all, you’ll spend most of your days on the river exposed to the sun. Apply frequently to all exposed areas, and be sure to get the underside of your chin and nostrils — the reflection coming off the water can be brutal!

Now that you have the essentials down, load up your boat, grab your friends, and hit the river. Anything we missed? Drop a line in the comments to let us know! 

Patrick Gensel is a world-roaming visual storyteller with a special place in his heart for action sports and the natural world. No matter where Patrick is, you can always find him sharing his stories on Adventuretravelbuzz.comInstagram, and Twitter

by Patrick Gensel

Patrick Gensel is a world-roaming, visual storyteller with a special place in his heart for action sports and the natural world. No matter where Patrick is, you can always find him sharing his stories on Adventuretravelbuzz.com, Instagram, and Twitter

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