Are you standing on the brink of your boating journey, whether as a proud new owner or a hopeful enthusiast, pondering over the essentials that promise smooth sailing and safety on the waves? Navigating through the sea of gear options and the maze of state regulations can be daunting, but fear not—you’re not charting these waters alone.
Drawing from my own treasure trove of adventures across tranquil lakes and open seas, I’ve learned that the right gear is not just about compliance—it’s about enhancing your experience, ensuring safety, and creating unforgettable memories.
Embark with me as we set sail into a comprehensive guide that demystifies the essentials of boating gear. Let’s dive in!
Watch Other Boaters At The Launches
If you’re new to boating, I suggest you go to a few boat ramps and launches to watch other people. Having the correct gear is great, but knowing how to use it and watching other people use it is vastly just as important.
When you watch other people launch their boats, you see how they move and what items they get ready. You see the people who know what they’re doing and those who you should not copy.
Don’t be afraid to make friends, people change once they get near water and are more friendly. There’s a reason why random boaters will wave to you when you’re on a boat, everyone is out to have a good time.
Then when you get your boat, or before you put it in the water, you can see the flow of things and know the items you got are helpful or not.
1. Throw Cushions and Life Jackets
Probably the most important accessory to have on anything that floats is life jackets, throw cushions, and flotation safety gear.
Every person on the vessel needs a life jacket. The best way to go about this is to buy the packs of life jackets like these (Amazon Link Ad).
A good throw cushion (Amazon Link Ad) is a must-have too; many states require you to have a throw cushion on board.
2. Get A Boat Towing Membership
If you’re on a lake or saltwater, you can get a local tow boating membership.
Trust me, it’s better to be a member of these companies because if you need a tow, and you’re not a member, it usually costs a good bit of money to use them.
This is one of those things that are smart to have, but may never get used much. When the time comes that you need them, even once, they’re worth every penny!
3. Make Sure to Get A First Aid Kit and Safety Kit
Just in case someone gets hurt, you’ll need to be covered. Make sure you get a first aid kit with a bunch of supplies and one that has a good, solid case. I’m a fan of this first aid kit (Amazon Link Ad) because it has so many features to it.
There are not many safety kits for boats out there, so you will have to make your own. Here is a list of items you should consider placing in a safety kit.
Must Have Safety Kit List
- Air Horn (Amazon Link Ad) and Whistle
- VHF Radio (Amazon Link Ad)
- Trash Bags
- Boating Knife (Amazon Link Ad)
- Duct Tape
- Boating Goggles
- Zip Ties
- Spare T-Shirt and Gym Shorts
- Basic Tool Kit (Amazon Link Ad)
- Sunscreen and Bug Repellent
Place these items in a dry storage box and keep them on the boat. Some of these items have multiple use cases.
The trash bags work great for trash, of course, but also for storing wet clothing. The trash bag can also be used as a shade cover from the sun or rain, things happen, so it’s best to be prepared.
The duct tape and zip ties can be used to make a makeshift changing room with towels.
The knife is for …. well….. you always need a knife when on a boat.
The goggles are for the off chance you’ll need to go underwater to check on something. It’s a rare thing to happen, but you’ll thank me in the future.
For the flashlight, it’s important you don’t buy one that operates on batteries. Let’s be honest with ourselves and just assume we will never check the batteries on it until we really need it. So. buy the hand crank flashlights or ones that use something else to charge them.
Go out and buy the cheapest, or go to Goodwill and get some basic t-shirts and gym shorts. You never know when someone will need spare clothes and you’ll be a hero. Just go with big sizes to make sure everyone can be covered.
The flares and VHF radio are more for people who go in the ocean. If you’re on the lake, a regular tow service is all you really need. If you do get a VHF radio, make sure to keep it close and easy to access. Also, make sure to keep the battery charged or buy the radios that mount to the vessel itself.
4. Fire Extinguisher
If your vessel did not come with a fire extinguisher, then you need to pick one up. Not just any fire extinguisher will do, you’ll need a marine fire extinguisher (Amazon Link Ad).
A fire extinguisher for sure needs to be on everyone’s must-have list.
Also, fire extinguishers expire, check the one on your craft often and replace it when it needs it.
5. A folding Paddle Comes In Handy
You never know when you’ll need a paddle, but when you do, you’ll be glad you have one.
It’s best to get two folding paddles like this one (Amazon Link Ad) so that you’ll be covered, and they don’t take up too much space.
Having a folding paddle is one of the top accessories I recommend to jet ski owners, it’s just good to have around as it can be used for many things.
6. Solar Panel For Charging The Boat’s Battery
Having a solar panel like this one (Amazon Link Ad) is one of the best things you can buy for any vessel.
Batteries go flat or die when they are not used, and a solar panel battery charger will keep the battery alive for longer. A solar battery charger is for sure a must for anyone without dual batteries!
To keep the battery from overcharging, stick with solar chargers that have charge controllers.
A solar panel is no replacement for other battery chargers, especially since marine batteries are so big, but it does keep the battery from dying when you’re not using them.
7. Jump Pack because Boat Batteries Suck
Talking about keeping a battery from going flat, a good jump pack is always a good idea to carry on your boat or truck. Nothing worse than going to the launch, and you back it in, and the battery is dead.
Or if you’re out on the water all day listening to music and when you’re ready to leave but find out that the battery is now dead. If you had a jump pack, you could jump the battery off.
I’ve since switched to a jump pack that uses super capacitors, like this one here (Amazon Link Ad). I prefer this battery jumper because you don’t need to keep it charged, which a lot of us are bad at doing. This jumper only needs a little bit of juice from the dead battery to charge itself just enough to start an engine. Or you can use another boat or truck’s battery to charge this jumper instead of messing with jumper cables, which are hard to do in the water.
I know it sounds too good to be true, but it does work, as the video below shows. It works so well, I bought them for all my vehicles!
8. Dock Line – Anchor – Fenders
Every boat needs dock line, fenders, and an anchor. What you buy depends on what size vessel you have.
- Up to 24 feet, use 3/8″ diameter dock line
- Up to 35 feet, use 1/2″ diameter dock line
9. A Dry Box For Your Items
You’ll need a place to keep your phone and other items you don’t want to get wet; a dry box is the perfect option!
You can even get a dry bag like this one, (Amazon Link Ad) which works very well.
I use a dry bag as shown below, either way the items stay dry!
Many of our phones have GPS built-in and can work fine for boats that ride on the lake. If you ride places where you can’t get a signal on your phone, then a marine GPS will be a great thing to get.
11. You Can Never Have too many Phone Chargers
Our phones have become a big part of our lives, and it’s no surprise that we’ll carry them on the boat. It’s important to have a 12-volt charger onboard your boat that can charge any phone.
I go a step further. I either have the jump starter with the built-in phone charger or I have a solar powered phone charger (Amazon Link Ad). Your phone can be your GPS or a way to call for help, so it’s important that it stay charged. Many phones can even be used as a flashlight too! It’s very important that you have a way to charge your phone for emergencies.
12. Towable Tubes For Boats
There is nothing more fun than riding on a tube behind your new boat. There are so many options to pick when it comes to tubing.
You can’t go wrong, just make sure you have a 12-volt air pump (Amazon Link Ad) to inflate the tubes with. Many tool manufacturers even make blowers or inflators that can be used to inflate tubes! The best option are the 12-volt power ones so you don’t have to worry about charging batteries.
I love going out on the Fourth of July and grilling on my boat.
Then, as the sun sets, I turn on my underwater lights and get ready for the fireworks to go off. I look forward to this every year, and it would not be the same if I did not have a grill.
14. Cooler That Fits Your Boat Storage
Don’t forget the cooler!
You can’t have a cookout and enjoy the boat-life without a cooler. Just make sure to have plenty of water in your cooler, the sun can really zap and dehydrate you if you’re not careful.
15. Floating Water Mat
On the lake, many boat-owners are now carrying a floating water mat (Amazon Link Ad) for the kids to play on or for everyone to relax on.
Think of it as a large floating platform, an extension to your boat!
16. Dog Water Ramp
Don’t forget about your best friend. Boating ladders are not made for dogs, but you can buy a dog ramp that will fit docks (Amazon Link Ad).