You wouldn’t consider taking a hike in the forest without carrying a daypack.

Not if you’re smart anyway.

A pack allows you to carry the essentials that you will definitely need, as well as those items you might if things go wrong for some reason. Better prepared than not, after all.

It's the same for when you get on the water.

Throwing your canoe or kayak on a river, creek or lake, even if only for a planned few hours, requires taking along some essential equipment.

Here’s a checklist of some gear to consider taking along in your boat.

  • A personal flotation device for each person on board
  • Whistle (preferably without a pea that can freeze in cold weather)
  • Throw bag
  • River or paddling knife (attached to the PFD)
  • Dry bag (Check out this Matador Droplet XL Dry Bag)
  • Drinking water
  • Bilge pump or, at a minimum, a sponge or other tool for getting rid of excess water
  • An extra paddle
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Sunglasses
  • Cell phone (kept in a dry box)
  • A hat to shade your face from the sun
  • Money (preferably a small amount of cash)
  • An extra layer of clothing
  • Fire-starting tools (like the Ultimate Survival Technologies Blastmatch Firestarter)

Even with all that, it’s wise to leave a float plan – outlining who’s on the trip, what boats they are in and what the crafts look like, expected destination and time off the water, among other things – with a responsible person at home.

And of course, if you plan to be out longer than just a day trip, there are other items you will want. A water treatment system, multi tool, duct tape, tent or hammock, sleeping bag and the like are necessary for overnighters.

But carry the basics and you’ll be prepared for a fun day on the water.

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See also: Wild and Scenic Rivers Act marks anniversary with water trails