Before you launch your kayak or paddleboard, you need several key pieces of gear for a safe outing. Think small and think lightweight. Crucial gear that you must have includes a life jacket, a paddle, and some form of electronic communication such as a satellite communicator or handheld VHF radio. To keep hydrated, bring a cooler, and to facilitate fishing, add a few rod holders.
West Marine Coastal Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket
Drab? Perhaps. Critical? Absolutely. Don’t fool yourself, anything can happen on the water. West Marine’s coastal jacket inflates automatically: Even if you’re knocked silly, you’ll float face up. This jacket’s low profile means you’ll barely know it’s there—until you need it. $149.99; westmarine.com.
A fishing kayak without rod holders is an expensive plastic cork. Doll up your ride with a few YakAttack Omega track-mounted holders. They keep your reels out of the water and rotate to point any direction. They adapt to fly, spin, baitcast and even conventional tackle. $30; yakattack.us.
Bending Branches Angler Pro Plus
Your paddle might grow cobwebs on your pedal kayak, but when you must blade home after a freak grounding, you’ll beg for carbon fiber. Heavy kayaks with elevated frame seats require high-power paddles like the 30-ounce Angler Pro Plus. A telescoping ferrule allows multiple feathering angles and paddle lengths. $324.95; bendingbranches.com.
Yeti Hopper Flip 12
The perfect passenger for a SUP or kayak, this chill cube can be bungeed anywhere on deck. Fill it with a 4-pound Yeti ice pack, lunch, and drinks or slime it up with bait. The outer shell is made from the same stuff they use for whitewater rafts. $249.99; yeti.com.
Garmin GPSMap 86sci
Kayaks and SUPs take us way off the main channel, but with a handheld GPS and satellite communicator like the 86sci, you’re never off the grid. With two-way messaging, you can even start the brag chain before you get home. $649.99; garmin.com.