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Kayaking: What to Bring

Updated: May 28, 2022

Whoo-hoo!! It's finally time to get back out on the water!

Our Wisconsin spring temps have been a little rocky lately but that hasn't kept us from heading to the river.

I was commenting this to a friend recently and she mentioned she never knows what to bring.

Over the years I've come up with a pretty decent list of items to bring on your average day of recreational kayaking.

My first suggestion is to use a dry bag. They are affordable and really nice for your need-to-stay-dry stuff. A good place to stash it is on the floor of the boat, in front of your feet.

What to Pack

Sunscreen: This one is pretty self explanatory, just make sure you re-apply often and don't forget to put some on your hair part.

Lightweight long sleeved t-shirt: Good for layering on a chilly morning or afternoon.

Garbage bag: Always be responsible for what you bring on the river. You won't find garbage cans along the way.

Rope: This is a new one for me...I should have been packing this one for a looooong time now. It's great for helping stranded paddlers...ahem...not that I know anything about that.

Phone: We all know this is a risky one, if you bring a phone the best place for it is in your dry bag. I've tried one of those "waterproof" phone bags and it just didn't work well for me.

Snacks: Easy foods to pack are granola bars, apples, cheese sticks (best in a cooler), nuts, etc.

Make sure you pack some kind of's easy to get dehydrated.

First aid: I pack a small baggie with bandaids and wet wipes.

Small multi tool: You never know when you might need to get a soda bottle open, cut some rope or some such task.

What to Wear

Sunglasses: A lot of shades get donated to the river gods. If you're going to wear your fav's, consider using a gator.

Hat: A little extra sun protection can't hurt and it'll help keep you cooler or warmer depending on the day.

Shoes: Choose shoes/sandals/etc. that stay on for those sandbar breaks...picture flip flops stuck in the muck.

Tops and bottoms: Chances are you will get, at least a little bit, wet. Whether you wear long sleeves, short sleeves, pants, or shorts, choose fabrics that dry easily...chaffing from wet, heavy clothes is not fun.


Seat cushion: Kayak seats are not necessarily comfy...just sayin'.

Life jacket: This is required by law so don't forget to have one available for each person in the boat.

Cooler: You have a few options. A smaller lunch type cooler will do for snacks and a few beverages. Most Kayak's have a hatch and/or storage area to put this type of cooler.

Is a floating cooler a necessity? That depends on who you are ;) After years of using some so-so coolers, I finally found one that is awesome!! This floating cooler holds a lot of ice, snacks, beverages, and stays cold the entire day plus. It's called a "CreekKooler", there are 2 different sizes Google will take you right to them.

If you use a "CreekKooler" tie it sort of close to the back of your boat to reduce drag and make it easier to steer. You may need to experiment with the length of your tether. It does take a bit to get used to but is totally worth it.

Well, that is pretty much my list, I hope this is helpful for the beginners out there or those of you that needed a few more ideas.

There's all kinds of products available on the market, once you've been out on the water a few times, you'll know what works for you.

Be safe, be courteous, and have a great day out on the water!

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