Top Ten Essential Items For Your Next Paddling Trip

Top Ten Essential Items For Your Next Paddling Trip

You have the date set, the watercraft reserved, and you are looking forward to your summer trip on the river. But, are you adequately prepared? Being sure you have the right gear along for your trip can make all the difference for your next river experience!


The last thing you want is to head out on a hot, summer day and not have enough water along to keep everyone hydrated. Some people underestimate the amount of time the trip will take. Keep in mind that a 2-hour paddling trip is 2 hours of in-the-boat time, not including stops. By the time you stop a couple of times, looking for Petoskey stones or climbing the sand dune, that 2 hour trip has turned into 3 or even 4 hours. Better to be prepared with lots of water!


Paddling can make you hungry, and no one wants to deal with hangry paddlers while out on the water. Bringing snacks can help prevent fights among friends while on the river!

Shoes that secure to your feet

We are frequently asked what the best shoes are to wear on the river. We recommend not going barefoot on the off chance that you could step on a fish hook or a piece of glass (Jake has been going barefoot his whole life and this has never happened, but the possibility is there). We do not recommend flip-flops, as they can become litter all too easy if you were to tip over. Shoes that are able to secure to your feet such as water shoes, old sneakers, Chacos or Keens are your best option.

Dry Bag

We take a dry bag every time we head out on the river. Not only does it serve to keep your gear dry, but it keeps your gear all together in one place, rather than rolling around the canoe or kayak.


If you’re going out for a day on the water, a cooler is great for keeping your drinks cold and for preventing your snacks from melting in the heat! Just a reminder: Styrofoam coolers are illegal on the river. Soft-sided coolers are the easiest to stuff behind your seat or between your legs in a kayak. We discourage the use of large hard-sided coolers as they add unnecessary weight to the watercraft.


A rope is great for tying your cooler and dry bag into your canoe or kayak. A dry bag is useless if it floats away if you capsize, and the last thing we want is for your cooler and its contents to become litter in the river. Secure it to your watercraft with a rope or bungee.

Sunglass Retainers

The sun reflecting off of the water can be BRIGHT, so you'll definitely want to take sunglasses with you. If your glasses are at all expensive, or if they’re your favorites, we highly recommend bringing a pair of eyeglass retainers (such as Chums) that secure the glasses to your head. A canoe trip can become infinitely more expensive if you lose a pair of prescription sunglasses!


While a good portion of the river is shaded, there is also a lot of sun. Sunscreen now can prevent pain later!

A waterproof camera (or a camera/phone that you keep in your dry bag!)

While we aren’t fans of folks taking their phones on the water with them (because of the possibility of donating your phone to the river), we do love it when people preserve their memories on the water with photos. If you choose to take your phone or a camera that isn’t waterproof, make sure you keep it in the dry bag when it is not in use!


We will sometimes put a towel in our dry bag, or we will leave it in our car at our ending point just in case we decide to go on a swim. You don’t want to get your car seat all wet if you can prevent it!

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