Trip Planning and Safety

With our waters being cold year-round (between forty and fifty degrees), safety is paramount. If one happens to flip and go swimming, one can get hypothermia within ten minutes if not wearing protective clothing. If a boat sinks, the situation gets worse. It’s all fun until something happens. 


When you are considering what to bring, consider who, what, where, when, and how long. It’s all up to you and comes into what we might call a judgment call. I find I almost bring everything on the list for a day trip that I bring on an overnight.


Of course you are always dressing for water temperature by wearing synthetic clothing, fuzzy rubber, neoprene or a dry suit! Well-soled (warm) shoes and socks are protecting your feet from sharp objects. You have a hat either for sun protection or warmth. You have left float plan or told someone where you are going and when you will be back.


Day gear can be kept in a mesh duffle bag. Other gear can be pre-packed into multi-colored dry bags. So long as the bag fits where you want it to go, you can even have dry bags or stuff sacks within dry bags. You can decide if you are a minimalist or if you want to bring the kitchen sink – because with a sea kayak, you can!


At the very least bring the following, some required by the coast guard. These would do you well for one to three hours on protected waters with only great weather in the forecast (you did check the weather, didn’t you!). Some goes in to a readily accessible “day bag” which you can keep in your cockpit. Some people keep as much emergency gear on their lifejacket as they can fit for the worst case scenario – you and your kayak end up in separate places.


Short list

Life jacket with whistle attached (wear always)

Spray skirt


Spare paddle


Floatation for your boat (you wouldn’t want it to sink, leaving you swimming in forty degree water)

Paddle float self-rescue device

Three flares (pyrotechnics)

Light (headlamp) and/or a strobe


High protein/carbohydrate snacks

Compass with a mirror (signaling)

(Fits in lifejacket pocket).

Sunscreen/lip stuff


Paper (waterproof) and pencil

Eyeglasses strap



Weather radio/2-way VHF


Cell phone

Deck compass

Air horn

Sling (assisted rescue)

Towing device – belt

Chart/topo map

Tide/currents chart

Waterproof chart case

Pogies/gloves (prefer the former)





First aid – add medications

Hypothermia – warm hat, additional fleece jacket and pants, rain gear, tarp,blanket

Repair – parts, wire, cords, duct tape, epoxy, batteries, etc. (what can break on your kayak? What are you going to be doing? How far from your car are you going? Can you get back if x, y, or z breaks?)

Signaling devices – More flares, dyes, tarps

Thermos with warm drinks


The whole day

Lunch – (my easy lunch – throw some French rolls, log of salami, yummy cheese, hot mustard, piece of fruit and chocolate cookies into a bag and go)

Extra water

Bathroom issues – are you stopping by a bathroom or are you packing it out? Bring zip locks…

Ground tarp

Rain/shade tarp – fun activity is stringing it up!

Stove, pots, utensils and hot beverages – hot chocolate, tea, coffee, soup


Going kayaking is a lifestyle choice – what do you want to do while you are finally at these great destinations? Reflect on beauty, engage in photography, fish, write, read, hike, snorkel, swim, play music…be sure to bring whatever you need to engage in fun pastimes! When I was leading wilderness trips for a private high school, one young man pulled out a guitar and played Stairway to Heaven!


Using common sense and the who-what-where-how long goes a long way in planning what to bring for safety and otherwise. I’m sure you can find more to bring or leave some of this behind. Look online for other lists. The main message – think of the what-ifs and always be prepared!




Are you car camping, using state parks, going to be near civilization or are you going to the west side of Vancouver Island or down to Chile? (Notice we take almost as much for a day as for multi-days!).


Sleeping pad and bag

Tent, bivy-sack, tarp, hammock

More clothes and shoes (shore clothes vs. on water clothes)

Kitchen gear – 1-2 frying pans, pots, spatula, slotted and un-slotted spoons


More water – for drinking, cooking and maybe washing

Water filter

Bug stuff (or long sleeved garments)

Dish washing – bins for pre-rinse, wash, rinse and sterilize

Scrubbing and washing tools

Biodegrable soaps


Food – a whole category unto itself!

There are many philosophies and styles of bringing and packing camping food.


My style is to bring breakfast makings for pancakes, French toast, scrambled – saving the granolas for later. Eggs, half-and-half, onions, garlic can be good for the first week to two weeks. Then the canned or dehydrated goods come in.


Lunches are as above, with canned and dehydrated goodies when that runs out. Tabouli, and other mid-eastern foods rehydrate well. Various breads and cheeses keep longer than others. Canned fish, crackers and olives are choices for later days.


Dinners can be as gourmet as you please – it all depends on your palette, energy and the room in your boat! Begin with fresh fish or meat the first night, frozen for the second with fresh lettuce, veggies and fruit. Choose other vegetables, cabbages, and fruits to ripen as you go.


Pack in bags, by meals or by days – bags for flours, spices, messy things like oils, breakfasts, lunches and dinners.


On wilderness trips I always take extra, including baking in a Dutch oven! A bit of flour, baking soda/powder and egg can go a long way – along with store bought brownies and other cakes and breads. Remove these from the boxes to save space and garbage.


With the Dutch oven, consider charcoal, a fire pan, and the knowledge it is ok to use these things at your campground. Dutch ovens can be used over a carefully modulated stove with a little bit of “fire” on top.


(Still needs a conclusion to part two)




Andrée Hurley has been in outdoor recreation since the seventies and still loves it! She was an American Canoe Association certified instructor trainer for coastal kayaking and whitewater and an EMT.


While an international studies major at the University of Washington during the 80’s the she worked for the Northwest Outdoor Center., followed by three winters guiding 10-day self supported trips in Baja for Paddling South. After four years as ad manager for Sea Kayaker Magazine she opened her own company.


She is currently the Executive Dirrector of Washington Water Trails, a past board member of the Trade Association of Paddlesports, Washington Water Trails and the Washington State Parks Safety Committee. She also was the access chair for the Washington Kayak Club, the NW Divisional Facilitator for the ACA, and was on the ACA’s curriculum development committee for coastal kayaking. She has facilitated outdoor education programs for participants from high school to corporate management and paddled solo, taught or led trips in Chile, Bolivia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Canada and Alaska.


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