Kayaking for Beginners – The Checklist

Are you a list kind of person?

Lord knows I make lists all the time, and sometimes I even use them!

In this installment of Kayaking for Beginners, we are going to work on a basic checklist to get you started.

What is a Checklist?

Now we all know what a checklist is. We make them all the time.

  • Grocery Lists
  • Chore Lists
  • To Do Lists
  • Honey Do Lists

We have all made them. This checklist is going to be geared to you and your kayak adventure. Now, depending on the adventure, this list is going to grow, shrink become a living creature, who knows.

We are going to break our list into a few categories.

  • Essentials – Items you cannot do without.
  • Safety Gear – items you shouldn’t do without
  • Navigational – items to keep you from getting too lost
  • Clothing/footwear – items to keep you from going naked
  • Personal – items to enhance your adventure

10 Essentials List

A little history here. The original 10 Essentials List was introduced by a group of outdoor adventurers called the Mountaineers back in 1974. It was published in the third edition of “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.” While the origin of the list dates back to the 1930s, the purpose has always been to answer two basic questions.

  1. Can you respond positively to an emergency or accident?
  2. Can you effectively survive 1 or more nights outdoors?

So naturally, over the years this list has evolved with new technology, equipment, and activities. But, the basics remain the same. The Classic List resembled this: Map, Compass, Sunglasses and sunscreen, Extra clothing, Flashlight or Headlamp, First-aid supplies, Firestarter, Matches, Knife, Extra food.

In 2017, the Mountaineers released a new and improved version of their list known as: Freedom 9 Systems.

We are going to tailor our list to kayaking and primarily recreational kayaking.

Our Kayaking Checklist

Our Essentials – You cannot go kayaking without these items. Quite frankly, if you try you are going to get awfully wet and you won’t get far, LOL.

This is going to be your kayak Pre-trip list.

  1. Kayak – you obviously need your kayak.
  2. Paddle – again, we won’t get far without it. So, store with the kayak so you don’t forget it.
  3. Seat – this will only matter if it is not already attached and not stored with the kayak.

Safety Gear – You should not go out with at least some of these items. Depending on your adventure, this list is going to grow.


  1. PFD – In my book the most important safety item.
  2. Whistle – in case you need to signal for help
  3. First-aid kit – just in case.

Check out my post “Kayaking for Beginners – Kayak Safety” for more information about safety gear.

Navigation – depending on where you are going this could be needed or not. I personally take my cell phone.

  1. GPS – Some of these have tracking systems
  2. Map – Handy if you are on an unfamiliar lake or river system.
  3. Compass – I would only worry about this if you know how to use one. I personally use landmarks to navigate, so North/South probably wouldn’t help me much.

Clothing and Footwear – dress appropriately for the climate you are in. Again, this list could become a much larger list depending on the trip you are taking.

  1. Kayaking shoes or water shoes – I recommend some kind of decent water type shoe or sandal with a fairly hard sole. I DO NOT recommend flip flops.
  2. Hat – something to keep the sun off your head. A wide brim is recommended.
  3. Quick drying pants or shorts – again weather dependent. Swimwear is okay if it’s warm enough. Take an extra set.
  4. Dry top/Jacket – even if you don’t wear long sleeves, I recommend having something in case the weather changes or you just want to protect yourself from the sun.

Again, this list will grow if you are going out for a longer period.

The Fun Stuff

The Personal Category can and will get out of control if you let it. Totally dependent on the trip. Are you going on a short day float, or a camping float or a fishing trip. It will make a difference in the personal gear you carry.

For a day trip this is my short list. Now, I consider a day trip a couple of hours close to home.

  1. Dry Bag – to carry your personal items that you want to keep dry.
  2. Sunscreen – don’t think you won’t burn out there. Remember, water is reflective.
  3. Sunglasseskayaking for beginners-sunglasses
  4. Lip Balm
  5. Cell Phone
  6. Water Bottle/snacks – chocolate is essential, but we will put it in this category.

Okay, again, this list can grow exponentially depending on the circumstances. I also like to carry my camera and sometimes I remember my little video camera.

Obviously, if you are going fishing that is going to add a whole new category to your list. We will touch on that in a later post.

Start Checking the Boxes

This is just a starter list for you to start checking the boxes. There are certain things I would hate to forget and then there are something I can live without if I am going out close to shore and not for very long.

I hope this helps to you start your list and gets you more prepared for being out on the water.

Thank you for checking in on the next installation of Kayaking for Beginners. Share with me some of the stuff you cannot live without when you go out on the water.

Until Next Time!

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6 thoughts on “Kayaking for Beginners – The Checklist”

  1. Thanks for the information. Very detailed like always and with information that can be used. I would have never thought about some of the things on the list in your article.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. What an interesting article! I live in a beautiful area in Scotland – the river Tay is about 400 meteres from my back door and I have always thought I would love to try kayaking but am scared of capsizing. My list would have comprised of sandwiches and some beers so thanks for the heads-up! Sun glasses and sun screen would not normally be needed but you never know your luck. Will keep a look our for more posts.

    • Jean,
      Thank you for visiting and taking the time to chime in. I say get you a kayak! That sounds like a lovely place to explore. Check out my other posts to help you be prepared and then come back and tell me about your adventure.


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