Packing Your Kayak for the Ultimate Preparedness

Guest post from

Jon and I decided to check out the seminar on “The Art of Packing a Kayak” with J. Browning while at Canoecopia 2011 in Madison last weekend. Wow! Personally speaking, I left the session thinking I have totally missed the mark on preparedness and safety on any of my river and lake outings.

But for those of you who missed the session, here are the notes of being , REALLY, REALLY, prepared, for a day trip or one that is longer.


  1. A clean top deck as in nothing in the tie down straps. If you tip you need to get back in the boat without having  to climb/crawl over things.
  2. As for balance, you must keep the load even. If you pick the kayak up in the middle, it should balance.
  3. A thermos of hot water, to fight off hypothermia if someone in the group gets wet and then chilled.
  4. A first aid kit could come in handy. A small one for day trips and a more involved one for longer paddles. Make sure you have sunscreen and hand sanitizer like Purell.
  5. A GOOD backup paddle. Yours might break, and if there is still lots of time on the water, you will need a decent replacement.
  6. A bilge pump and a sponge are handy to keep from sitting in a pool of water. The water that runs off the paddle into the kayak can become problematic. The bilge pump will get most of it, and the sponge will finish the job.
  7. A strobe light fastened to the top of your PFD (personal flotation device) is a must, especially in big water, like the Great Lakes or ocean for emergency location.
  8. A flare gun or hand held smoke flares, and fluorescent green dye for emergency locating, if you run into trouble and others are trying to find you.
  9. A  marine band VHF handheld radio for emergency communication or simply for communicating with others.(waterproof radio would be the best)
  10. A signal mirror, a regular flashlight (white light) and a whistle are necessary emergency equipment. Some flashlights come with a radio and don’t require batteries, but are energized by winding.
  11. A hydration system built into PFD is nice with tubing that hangs out and easily reached, hydration fights off tiredness.
  12. Extra garbage bags and tie-downs are handy if a hatch is lost and Duct tape and a dry cloth as emergency repair for the hull stored in a little waterproof bag.
  13. A sighting compass which is much quicker and easier to use than a mounted compass on the hull of the kayak for determining direction, binoculars and GPS, would also be good to include for locating landmarks or determining exact location.
  14. A grease pencil is good for marking on laminated maps or a kayak.
  15. A small knife tethered inside the PFD, for quick use.
  16. Nutrients like extra water and energy bars (Fig Newtons are equivalent to energy bars).
  17. Velcro and a  pin are handy, put the Velcro around their wrist and pin a chunk on the PFD and stick them together to immobilize the arm, if a fellow paddler dislocates a  shoulders from paddling,
  18. A Contact tow strap and Carabiners for towing another kayak for whatever reason (like a dislocated shoulder)
  19. A spare change of clothing for you or someone else in your group and of course a bring or wear a hat.
  20. A drop cloth or footprint for a tent should be packed on top of inside of hatch so you can unload onto it and carry your load over your shoulder to your campsite, if you are doing a paddling and camping trip.
  21. A couple tapered waterproof bags work well for hatch areas that also taper.
  22. A repair kit for kayak is  a must. They should include a dry cloth, Epoxy (depends if your boat is polyethylene plastic or fiberglass), duct tape, gloves, a multi-tool, you may have to patch a hole or repair a rudder or a skeg.
  23. A small sewing kit could come in handy as well.
  24. A folding hand spade and toilet tissue would be good to include for basic necessities.
  25. Your kayak may have hatches for storage, or space behind your seat. It is suggested that a shelf could be made cheaply above your legs from a large plastic cutting board tethered to inside. The extra paddle, bilge pump,and sponge could be stored there.
  26. AND LAST OF ALL…..packing  in waterproof compression bags will save space for this long list of “must haves”!  Much of this can be kept in “ready to go bags” kept in the trunk of your vehicle.

Keep your paddle in the water and stay paddle sport safe.

You can also connect with Jane on the WI Paddle community.

3 thoughts on “Packing Your Kayak for the Ultimate Preparedness

  1. Great list! Thank you! I would love to see post about how to carry food when paddling for a few days island to island (Apostles). Not sure if you can fit a stove in the kayak, or if you can bring perishables, and if not, what are some food ideas?

  2. Carrying food by kayak would be very similar to backpacking. It may be easier by kayak as you don’t have to carry the weight, just move it by boat…BIG difference. Dehydrated foods are great, either store bought or made at home. There are various types of camp stoves that will easily fit in a kayak. A large tomato juice can can be modified into a twig-burning stove. Alcohol stoves can be made from soda cans. White gas stoves burn hot and loud and are a good reliable alternative as well. I’m looking forward to a series of posts about kayak/canoe camping.


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