An Intro Kayaking Gear Essentials

Kayaking Gear Essentials

An Intro Kayaking Gear Essentials

Here at the Keweenaw Adventure Company, we think that even if you’re going out on a leisure paddle it is important to pack well. The fundamentals of packing for your kayaking excursion are pretty similar no matter the type of kayak you board.

Now, what to bring?

The Basic Gear for Lake Superior Kayaking:

  • Paddle
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Drinking Water (Always bring water! The best place is usually right in front of you on deck storage so you don’t forget to drink it.)
  • Correct Shoes and Clothing (e.g. A bathing suit, running shorts, and breathable synthetic clothing, in general, are good choices… the old saying ‘cotton kills’ still applies here because when cotton gets wet, it provides no insulation and it actually can make you colder.)
  • Small items such as snacks, sunscreen (especially due to the reflection off the water’s surface), extra hat and extra sunglasses are also suggested and can be packed into a dry bag.

Before you start packing a backpack, you should become familiar with your boat. Are there storage hatches or deck bungee cords? Where can you store gear that you can access while on the water?

Kayak gear: kayak dry bag

Kayak dry bag

What is a Dry Bag?

A fundamental piece of gear for water sports packing is a dry bag. A dry bag is a special bag made to be waterproof and accessible. They vary in sizes often measures in liters. A 5 or 10 Liter bag would be fine to start with. Even if you’re putting your stuff into a hatch, put it into a drybag first!

best kayak for camping trips: kayak dry bag

Drybag attached to deck bungee cords


When packing a drybag, fill it up to 3/4 full – leave some space on top to roll it up. Tightly roll the top down – make a few rolls, then clip the bag! If your boat has deck lines for storage, you can clip the bag directly to those.


Extra Kayak Gear to Consider:

  • Wetsuit
  • Paddling Gloves
  • Paddling Shoes
  • Extra Paddle
  • Extra Warm Things
  • First Aid Kit
  • Chapstick or Face/Lip Sunscreen

Why a Wetsuit?

Even if you’re out on a warm day it’s good to wear a wetsuit. There are different thicknesses and fits for warm to cold weather. There are various reasons that a wetsuit is always a good idea – the water is colder than your body temp or the water is really cold, the sun is setting and the temp will change, there is wind, or you’re in an area with fast changing weather. Essentially when kayaking, you are at risk of being immersed in water – and possibly for a long time. Hypothermia is a serious risk when out on the water, just as sunburn and heat exhaustion are risks. If you get serious about paddling you’ll want to get a variety of gear for a variety of conditions – there are sleeveless, short wetsuits for warmer conditions.

Do I Need Paddling Gloves and Paddling Shoes?

Paddlers can get blisters! The hands can get rubbed from continuous, repetitive motion so paddling gloves are always good. The heels can also get sore from being on the bottom of the boat. Some shoes might work well, but the best shoes are those intended for the activity. Neoprene paddling booties are a good choice.

kayak 2 pack: extra kayak paddle

Are All the Extras Really Necessary?

Like other objects, it is possible to lose your paddle, so bringing an extra is a good idea. Gauge what clothing you might need based on the current weather conditions, what you plan to do, how long you’ll be out, possible weather changes, or if you’re going for sunset.  An extra hat, an emergency blanket, extra gloves, extra sweater, etc. Put these in a drybag. Because anything can happen when adventuring, a first aid kit is important to bring. Make yourself up a first aid kit in a dry bag. Then you can store these safety drybags in a hatch on your boat.

For longer days on the water protecting the lips and ear tips is a good idea! Even the lips can get sunburned. Eyes, especially light colors, can also get burned – which is why it’s important to wear a billed hat and sunglasses.

Kayaking, like other sports, involves quite a bit of gear and may take some time to build up an inventory. Start with what you need for short, low-risk outings and continue to build depending on how much you want to keep paddling. If you are joining us for one of our overnight Isle Royale kayaking trips, the packing list can be found here.

Happy Paddling!

* Please note that Keweenaw Adventure Company provides out guests with PFDs, kayaks, paddles, dry bags, first aid kits, and wetsuits.


Written by Staffer: Lena Wilson

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