There’s nothing better than rocking up to your chosen put in, gear in tow, knowing you’re about to get gone and embark on a kayak mission of discovery.

Whether it’s a day sojourn around an offshore island, a weekend potter along the river or a quick splash ‘n’ dash along a few miles of coast, anticipation levels rise and all those good feeling endorphins kick in.

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Fellow paddler Hazel Da Breo loving a bit of kayak touring and exploration – pic courtesy Conservation Kayak

As much fun as kayak touring is, a wise move would be taking some must have gear with you – who knows what adventures your session may hold. Being prepared for all situations is recommended so here’s the Sitons guide to kayak touring essentials.

Palm dry bags

First thing’s first; you’ll need to nab yourself a couple of dry bags to keep everything nice and moisture free. Palm Equipment’s Ultralite and Classic versions are both super durable and high end bits of kit that will keep all your belongings bone dry.

You can see we’re using the Ultralite (it’s between my legs) and we have it safely attached to the boat to avoid it floating off if we get ‘washed’ by a rogue swell. The type of boat you own will dictate where you’re able to secure you gear. Most kayaks have some form of storage, either at the rear or up on the nose.

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Palm’s Ultralite dry bag safely secured in the cockpit area

During this trip, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon was heavily laden with lunch paraphernalia, sitting in the aft tank well, so personal gear was riding up front.

Fluids and grub

Probably the most important thing to take with you on any kayak trip is food and drink. Sustenance is important. Avoiding fatigue and maintaining energy levels ensures you’ll reach your destination in fine fettle. Taking on regular fluids will keep dehydration at bay.

Even if you’re paddling in a colder climate, food and water is essential. If your neck of the woods is lucky enough to have soaring temperatures you’ll be losing important salty acids through sweating. A lack of salt in your system can cause cramp – something you want to avoid while in the middle of nowhere.

Pack energy bars and easily stored foods that stow away into small parcels – this will allow you to carry more.

I just called…

Most of us have an old mobile phone kicking about at home. If your SIM card works, it’s worth packing one while off on your watery travels. Your high spec smart phone might not be ideal though, as water and gadgets don’t normally mix.

Even though signal strength may be a problem during off grid sojourns, having some form of communication, in the event of an accident or need for assistance, is a good idea.

Wherever I lay my head…

If you’re venturing right off the beaten track, and planning on taking a few days to finish up your journey, you’ll need somewhere to sleep. A tent is a good idea and a dry one at that! Something that folds down neatly should do the trick. It’s also handy if it’s quick and easy to erect – especially in the dark.

Consider a sleeping bag or something for coverage during the night. And if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in warmer climes, it might also be worth stuffing in a mosquito net.

Spare clothes

The elements and their changeable nature will play a large part in how your kayak trip manifests itself. Sometimes Mother Nature plays ball, and sometimes she doesn’t. Being caught out in a rain squall (or worse) could see your excursion taking a less enjoyable slant.

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Paddling in the open ocean sometimes requires a set of spare clothes – just in case! – pic courtesy Conservation Kayak

And it’s not just the weather that can conspire against you. Big swells washing into your boat or ending up with a dunking will see you wet and possibly shivering – something to be aware of. Having a spare set of warm dry clothes stashed away will see comfort levels return and give you chance to dry out sopping gear.


If you’re paddling during summer, or anywhere hot, then you’ll need sunblock – and a high factor waterproof type at that. All body parts are susceptible to sunburn so lotion needs to be applied liberally.

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Sunburn is a common problem – use sunblock and it’ll be all smiles – pic courtesy Conservation Kayaks

There’s nothing worse than having your cream floating about inside your cockpit, only to be tossed overboard. Most boats, such as the Wilderness Systems Tarpon, have mesh storage pockets built in which are great for hiding sunblock away. If you don’t have this option then stow your cream in your dry bag.

Sunnies and hat

Sunglasses, attached securely to your bonce, and a hat are a must when paddling in bright light. Even on cloudy days the glare from the water will cause you to squint. Protecting against this is a good move.

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Dressed for success – Conservation Kayak guide Amber showing how it’s done

Don’t scrimp on shades either – the best you can afford, the more your eyes will love you.

First aid kit, knife and throw line

Having a well-stocked first aid kit is essential when off grid kayak touring. Nicks and scrapes can quickly become infected if left unchecked – especially in warm water locations. Bandages and slings are also a good idea and could prevent an injury from getting worse.

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Lifesystems Waterproof first aid kit – perfect for paddling missions

It’s also worth having a decent knife with you – possibly secured to your PFD. You just don’t know when one will be needed.

And finally, having a quality throw line on board is a good idea. If paddling in a party this could be used as for towing if anyone gets into difficulty.

Special thanks

Thanks to Palm Equipment Europe for providing the Ultralite and Classic dry bags that we used while off on our paddles. They proved invaluable and are worthy additions to anybody’s kayaking set up.

You can find out more about Palm’s dry bag at Palm Equipment Europe