When you go out for a paddle, make sure you have these items with you. It’s the bare-minim you’ll need.
This should be common sense, but apparently not in my creek. This is straight out of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources State Requirements for Recreational Vessels:
Life jackets are required on non-motorized vessels including canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and any other device capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water or ice.
I get it. You don’t want to wear that big, bulky orange thing. Here’s the great thing about boating: they make different kinds of PFDs. You can get a cropped one specifically for kayaking for around $35 at West Marine Or, if you’re willing to shell out three digits, you can go for the inflatable kind (Honestly, the little cropped ones for fishing and kayaking work just fine).
This should also be a no-brainer. You’d be surprised at how much light reflects off the water. That means you’ve got to cover everything, just like you would as if you were at the beach. I especially like Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer sunscreen, because it doesn’t make my skin feel greasy. This is especially nice for when you’re out in the sun and you’re drenched in sweat and creek water. I also like Banana Boat’s Sport Performance Spray for doing my shoulders and back when I go out by myself– again, it doesn’t leave that gross, greasy feeling. As far as chapstick goes, I’m a fan of Sun Bum’s lip sunscreen. It’s flavored, and it keeps your lips protected.
Sticking with the theme of sun protection, a hat and sunglasses are a must. I take an old hat I bought on vacation once, but I really like those hats that are made out of the athletic fabric that lets you breathe, like the ones Nike makes for running.
As far as sunglasses go, it’s all about preference. Some people like to bring their expensive polarized sunglasses out on trips. That’s great, but I hope you have a lanyard to keep them safe. My choice pair is just a cheap pair from American Eagle I got a few years ago. I refer to them as my “water” sunglasses, because I use them for boating and beaching.
Metal Water Bottle
You might be surrounded by water, but trust me; you won’t be able to drink it. Stainless steel water bottles are my favorite, because they usually keep drinks cold longer. I take my Contigo out with me when I paddle, but I also like Hydro Flask— it’s like the much, much cheaper version of Yeti. You can find Contigos at Target, and Hydro Flasks at Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Going out in the water without a whistle is like driving without a spare tire. If you start to sink, or your kayak capsizes, you’re going to want someone to know. Whistles alert other boaters of distress.
Compasses are also useful if you aren’t familiar with the water around you. You can find them at any boating store. Bass Pro has a handy whistle and compass combination.
Waterproof Bag for Electronics
You’re going to get wet. Simply putting your phone in the cockpit with your legs won’t protect it from that wave that’s about to break over your bow. You can get them anywhere, including Walmart and Five Below. I’d recommend one that also floats, like the one I got from Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Float for Keys
The last thing you need to lose in the murky water is your keys. You’re going to need those to get home. The good news is, you don’t even have to go out ant spend any money on one of these if you have a wine cork. Here’s a tutorial on how to DIY your own key float.
If your planning to paddle for some time, it’s good to bring snacks with you to help you refuel. Anything you’d bring hiking or to the beach works great– as long as it isn’t something that melts in the sun. Peanut butter crackers, granola bars, nuts, and trail mix are my personal favorites. Remember to keep all your trash in the boat with you; don’t let it fly out into the water.
Have fun paddling!