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 a river. But, as with any outdoor endeavor, there is some kayak essential equipment that will make your adventure, safer and more enjoyable. Here, our suggestions for what to bring on your kayaking trip.
Essential #1: Dry Bags and Dry Boxes
Dry bags are waterproof bags that roll shut to form a watertight seal, and dry boxes are plastic boxes that have a rubber seal to keep water out. Both of these will be your best friends when traveling on the river. 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. Pro tip: use packing cubes like the Pack-It Reveal Cube to keep things organized inside your larger dry bags and dry boxes. You can even go for double dryness protection with the water-resistant Protect-It Gear Cube!
Essential #2: 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.
Essential #3: 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. You never know when your kayaking trip might turn into an impromptu camping trip. 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 if staking it into the ground isn’t an option.
Essential #4: 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 damp. 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.
Essential #5: 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 give you a way to lazily cool off in the river without having to swim to stay afloat. You can even use it to shade you from the sun! Buy one that fits snugly while still being comfortable.
Essential #5: Water Filter or Iodine Tablets
If you’re kayaking in freshwater, there will be no shortage of drinking water surrounding you, but you’ll still need a way to ensure it’s safe to imbibe. 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.
Essential #6: Sunscreen
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 nostril —the reflection coming off the water can be brutal!
Essential #7: Water-Resistant Duffels
While all your most precious valuables that must stay dry should go in your dry bags and dry boxes, you should also keep some water-resistant duffel bags around for the items that would survive getting a little wet, such as stainless-steel water bottles, sunscreen, and your life jacket. (Plus, you can even keep your smaller dry bags in one place by storing them in a duffel!) Toss those kinds of items in a bag like the Migrate Duffel, a super durable, lightweight bag made from water-resistant material. You can even fill your duffel with some packing cubes to keep your belongings in ship-shape order!
Essential #8: A Laundry Bag
Despite your best efforts, it’s very, very likely that your clothing might get a little wet. You are spending your days on the water, after all! Pack a separate laundry bag to keep all your dirty, smelly clothes away from your clean ones. This laundry sac is a perfect option—the lightweight, water-resistant bag is treated with an antimicrobial agent to protect against odor-causing bacteria.
Now that you have the kayak essentials down, pack up those water-resistant organizers, load up your boat, grab your friends, and hit the river. And don’t forget to have fun!
Migrate Duffel 40L
Pack-It™ Gear Cube
Pack-It™ Gear Pouch
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
Unknown Found: Kayaking Off the Grid in Southern Greenland
What to Pack for Your Vacation: The Ultimate Travel Packing List
The Ultimate Camping Trip Packing List: All of the Essentials You Need to Bring