Kayaking is a great sport for beginners, which is what I am and have been for several years. It’s easy to learn, requires minimal instruction, and is a great way to explore and enjoy the outdoors. Here’s what I’ve learned so far, on what to bring kayaking for a safe and enjoyable experience.

My experience comes from a number of kayaking expeditions but also from years of paddle boarding experience. If there’s a mistake to make, I’ve probably made it. I’m sharing with you here, so that you might avoid the struggle.

what to bring kayaking
Anacortes, WA
Wander Healthy

What To Bring Kayaking: Packing List

Bringing the necessities with you when kayaking is crucial for safety, convenience and enjoyment.  Kayaking involves being out in the water for extended periods of time, so it’s important to be prepared. To bring enough nutritious food and water to stay hydrated and energized.

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    ✔️Kayak and paddle

    Obviously, you need a kayak to get around. Choose one that is appropriate for your level of experience and the type of water you’ll be navigating. Don’t forget your paddle! Make sure it’s the right size for you and comfortable to use.

    I prefer a paddle that is easily adjustable and lightweight, so I can change how I row when I get tired or uncomfortable with one position.

    Don’t have a kayak or a paddle? Either do I. Its’ possible to rent kayaks for an hour or two at many places around the country. You can also take a guided tour, to learn the basics with a qualified instructor before heading out.

    ✔️Dry Bags

    It’s important to bring dry bags when kayaking to protect your gear and valuables from getting wet. Even if you are an experienced kayaker and take precautions to prevent capsizing or getting wet, there is always a chance that water could get into your kayak.

    Here are some items that I keep in my dry bags.

    • Electronics such as phones, cameras, and GPS devices that can be damaged by water. By storing them in a dry bag, you can keep them dry and prevent damage.
    • Extra set of dry clothes. Wet clothing can be uncomfortable and can lead to hypothermia in cold water. By storing extra clothing in a dry bag, you can ensure that you have a change of dry clothing if you need it.
    • Food and water. I always bring food and water, as a matter of safety and enjoyment. If you’re bringing food and water on your kayaking trip, you’ll want to keep them dry to prevent spoilage and contamination.
    • Small amount of cash. Cash should be kept in a dry bag to prevent damage or loss.

    If you are camping overnight, you’ll want enough dry bags to store your clothing, sleeping bag and other essentials.

    ✔️Water and snacks

    Stay hydrated and fueled on your kayaking trip by bringing plenty of water and some healthy snacks. It’s a good idea to bring water and food when kayaking to stay hydrated and energized during your trip.

    Kayaking is a physically demanding activity that can cause you to become dehydrated and fatigued if you don’t have enough water and nutrients.

    ✔️Cell phone, driver’s license and small amount of cash/credit card

    It’s a good idea to bring some sort of communication in case of emergencies. as well as your driver’s license for identification and a method for covering unexpected purchases.

    What To Pack For Kayaking: Clothing & Accessories

    Unexpected weather changes can easily happen when kayaking, so it’s important to bring appropriate clothing for all possible weather. Your clothing choices will make a huge difference in your comfort and how much you enjoy the paddle.

    Knowing yourself, and how easily you get cold, is a key component in these choices.

    ✔️Quick drying clothing

    Wear clothing that is appropriate for the weather conditions and temperature of the water.

    Dressing in layers is a good strategy for kayaking because it allows you to adjust your clothing to changing conditions. Start with a wicking layer that will help keep you dry and add layers as needed to stay warm.

    ✔️Baseball hat or bucket hat

    When kayaking, it is important to wear a hat that will protect you from the sun and provide some insulation if the weather is cold. You’ll want to choose one that is water resistant, breathable and fits securely on your head.

    Some popular hat styles for kayaking include wide-brimmed sun hats, baseball caps with neck flaps, and bucket hats. While you don’t have to wear it all the time, you should bring something to cover your head from the sun if you want to.

    ✔️Swimwear w/rash guard

    It’s a good idea to expect to get wet, regardless of your skills and experience.

    A rash guard is a type of athletic shirt designed to protect the skin from rash, sunburn, and other skin irritations. They are typically made from stretchy, quick-drying fabric such as polyester or nylon and are often worn by surfers, swimmers, and kayakers.

    Rash guards provide protection from the sun, dry quickly and are generally very comfortable. They also help regulate your body temperature. They provide an extra layer of insulation, which can help keep you warm in colder water and cooler in warmer water.

    ✔️Neoprene socks or boots

    Your feet are more likely to get cold as they are less exposed to the sun and more exposed to the water. I love these neoprene socks and bring them with regardless of how warm it’s going to be, just in case.

    ✔️Paddling gloves

    You use your hands for most of the time and the abrasion of the paddle can be rough on them. Some protection is advisable to prevent rubbing your skin away, or worse, blisters. I prefer these neoprene gloves, as they also provide warmth when wet.

    Kayak Equipment Guidelines

    What you take kayaking depends on where you’re going and how long you will be gone. Kayaking can be done on a wide variety of water bodies, including calm lakes, rivers, and even in the ocean. This versatility also makes it accessible for people living all over the world.

    Another aspect of kayaking that makes it an awesome sport is that it’s a fantastic workout for your entire body. It requires a lot of upper body strength to paddle, which strengthens your core muscles and leads to improved balance and better posture.

    It’s also a fantastic cardiovascular workout. Make sure to choose the environment based on your current physical skills and build up gradually.

    Even advanced kayakers however, do not go out when the weather is sub-optimal. It’s essential to check weather conditions and tide patterns, and to bring the right equipment to ensure your safety and comfort on the water.

    ⭐️BONUS⭐️ Camping Gear & Supplies For Kayaking

    kayakers sitting at a picnic table

    If you’re planning a kayaking trip that involves camping overnight, my favorite, there are several essential pieces of gear you’ll need to bring with you.

    ✔️Tent or hammock

    Choose reliable, lightweight, waterproof gear that will fit easily into your dry bags and kayak. Look for a tent that is designed for backpacking and has a small pack size.

    ✔️Sleeping bag

    Consider a lightweight and compressible bag that can easily fit in your kayak. Choose a bag that is appropriate for the temperature of your sleeping environment and your level of comfort.

    Do you run cold? Bringing a sleeping bag for slightly lower temperatures will make a huge difference in how well you sleep.

    ✔️Sleeping pad

    In addition to providing padding, a sleeping pad can increase the warmth of your sleep system significantly if desired. Look for a lightweight and compressible pad that will fit more easily into your kayak.

    ✔️Cooking supplies

    Bring a portable stove or fire starter, fuel, pots and pans, utensils and of course food. Cookware and stoves for backpacking make excellent choices.

    ✔️Dry layers

    Do not plan to sleep in the same clothes you used during the day. It’s essential to have dry clothing if you want to stay warm overnight.

    ✔️Toilet paper

    Always bring some, as well as a method for packing it out if necessary. Don’t rely on it being supplied for you, because sometimes it isn’t.

    ✔️Hand sanitizer

    Conveniently attached for ease of use whenever you need it. I use these for all my adventures, paddling or hiking, and often find myself thankful for them at the most random times.

    Safety & Rescue Equipment for Kayaking

    Safety should be your first, second and last consideration when out on the water. Bringing the essentials is crucial for a safe and enjoyable trip and can make all the difference in ensuring a successful and memorable experience on the water.

    ✔️Life jacket (personal flotation device)

    This is a crucial safety item when kayaking. Make sure you have a well-fitting PFD that is coast-guard-approved.

    ✔️Bilge pump

    It’s critical that you have a way to remove excess water from within your craft if you need to. This one is easy to use and takes up very little space.

    ✔️Tow line for long distances

    Tow lines are small and lightweight and you never know when you, or someone else, might need one. I have these and have used them for a variety of purposes, including towing another kayaker.

    ✔️Sun protection & insect repellent

    Bring sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Bring insect repellent as well.

    ✔️Navigation tools

    A map, compass and/or GPS can be helpful for navigation. Don’t rely on others to provide directions for you. Every person in the group should have a map and know how to use it.

    ✔️First aid kit

    It’s always a good idea to have a basic first aid kit on hand for any minor injuries.

    ✔️Water filtration system

    You’ll need a way to purify water while you’re out there unless you’re traveling to a place that supplies it for you. Look for a lightweight and portable filter that can easily fit into your kayak.


    Bring a whistle to signal for help in case of an emergency. It comes in handy when you least expect it, on water or land. I’ve had this one for years and use it for hiking and paddling.


    A headlamp is essential for overnight and an essential just-in-case item even if you’re only going out for the day. I’ve tried a variety of headlamps and this one is my favorite by far.

    ✔️Bungee cords

    Bungee cords come in handy when you least expect it and weigh next to nothing. They can help you organize your gear, make emergency repairs, and improve your overall safety while on the water.

    ✔️Sealant and duct tape

    Some way of repairing leaks is critical to every kayaking journey.

    These are the basic essentials you need to pack when preparing to kayak, or paddle board for that matter. The longer your trip, the more things you will need to bring kayaking.

    Kayaking is a fun and exciting activity that lets you reap the benefits of being outdoors, but it’s extremely important to be aware of potential safety concerns to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Some safety concerns to keep in mind when kayaking include the following.

    • Cold water can quickly drain body heat, leading to hypothermia. Make sure to dress appropriately for the water temperature and bring extra layers in case you get wet.
    • Accidents can happen, and it’s important to wear a properly fitting personal flotation device (PFD) to keep you afloat in case you fall into the water.
    • Strainers are objects such as logs or branches that are submerged in water and can trap kayakers. Avoid paddling near strainers or portage around them if possible.
    • Rapids, waterfalls, and other water hazards can be dangerous and should only be attempted by experienced kayakers with proper training and equipment.
    • Strong winds and thunderstorms can make kayaking dangerous. Be sure to check the weather forecast before kayaking and be prepared for changing conditions.
    • It’s important to be familiar with the waterways you will be kayaking on and to have a map or GPS device to help navigate. Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
    • Be aware of other boats and watercraft in the area and follow boating rules and regulations.
    • Bring plenty of healthy food and sufficient water to last for the duration of your trip, and then some.

    👉 Keep all your safety gear dry! I recommend these dry bags for anything valuable that is not waterproof.

    What NOT To Bring on a Kayaking Trip

    There are few things you will not need to bring with you, as you need to consider the weight of your overall load.

    ❌ Alcohol or mind-altering drugs

    It is not advisable to be under the influence of any kind of drugs while out on the water.

    ❌ Jewelry and valuables

    Kayaking is not about fashion but sport. You do not want to bring something that could easily be lost or fall of without your noticing it.

    ❌ Extra toiletries or makeup

    Weight is of premium importance on the water and extra toiletries easily add up.

    ❌ Regular shower towels

    A quick dry towel is your best option for drying off. Regular shower towels are heavier and take significantly longer to dry.

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      FAQs on What to Bring Kayaking

      Still have questions about gear for paddling ? Here are the most common ones for beginners.

      What should I bring with me on a kayak?

      You need to carry essential safety equipment, sufficient food and water, as well as the basics for your comfort and enjoyment while out on the water.

      Do you wear shoes for kayaking?

      Yes, you do need to wear shoes for kayaking. You can wear water shoes for kayaking or neoprene socks, depending on your comfort needs.

      Do you need a towel for kayaking?

      While not essential, having a towel for kayaking can be helpful. It can help you dry off after getting wet, wipe away sweat, provide cushioning or insulation, and serve as a barrier between you and the kayak seat. Additionally, it can be useful for various other purposes during your kayaking adventure.

      What are the three golden rules to paddling in a kayak?

      The 3 golden rules to help you move and stay safe on the water are:
      1. Use your core, not your arms, to power your strokes.
      2. Choose a location and environment based on your skill level.
      3. Know what you’re going to do if your kayak capsizes.

      What to bring kayaking
      San Juan Islands

      Conclusion: Kayaking Gear for Beginners

      It’s important to bring the right gear for a safe and enjoyable kayak trip. Pack light and only bring the essentials for your trip. It’s also a good idea to test out your gear before your trip to make sure everything is in good working order.

      Kayaking provides a fun and challenging way to stay active and explore the great outdoors, making it a great sport for beginners and experienced kayakers alike.

      Remember to always check weather and water conditions before your trip and let someone know your plans, including your expected return time.

      Stay safe and have fun paddling!