Paddling Essentials

When the summer heats up, one of the best places to cool off is on the water. Spending a hot day paddling a canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard relaxes your body, soothes your mind and gives you a glimpse of just how peaceful nature can be. The cares and worries of the day float away and sink beneath the surface and hours on the water flow quickly by with the current. A human-powered boat is also a great eco-friendly way to access beautiful campsites and countless remote adventures deep in the Adirondacks in New York, the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, or Baxter State Park in Maine. Here at the Outdoor Gear Exchange and, we have the gear and accessories that you need to have a happy day on the water, whether you’re in a canoe, a kayak, or on a SUP. Here are our 7 picks for essential paddling items:

Big River for website

1) Dry Bags

While water is beautiful and fun to be out on, often you want to or need to bring along  gear that can’t get wet! Your phone, camera, map and food —along with your extra clothes and sleeping bag on extended trips— all have to stay protected and dry. A watertight dry bag with  a roll-top is the perfect solution and can keep your gear  from accidentally getting wet.

Larger dry bags that are 35 liters and above, are perfect for holding clothing, food and other items that you don’t need to access readily while paddling. A bag like this can be stowed away in a kayak hatch or in in a canoe during multi-day trips. Dry sacks smaller than 20 liters are great for cameras, maps, phones and snacks that you want to access more easily, or if you’re only going out for the day. A small dry sack can be stored in an accessible hatch on a kayak, at your so3feet in a canoe, or in a fanny pack or day pack while paddling a SUP. The Sea to Summit Big River series of dry bags are available in sizes from 3 liters to 65 liters, so you can find the perfect combination of bags for your trip.

Additionally, a dry bag with straps, like the Outdoor Research Drycomp Summit Sack or the Sea to Summit Carve pack are perfect for SUP paddling, day trips with multiple portages, or a paddle accessible hike. A large dry bag, like the Granite Gear Superior One Portage Pack is perfect for multi-day canoe trips with long portages, since it can hold clothing, sleeping gear, cooking supplies and  your shelter all in one pack, and it is cut to accommodate carrying a canoe while wearing the pack.

Check out all of the different shapes and sizes of dry bags that we carry here at



2) Sunscreen

On those hot days on the water, its easy to get caught up in how much fun you’re having and forget to apply sunscreen. Unfortunately, the lobster look is neither comfortable, nor attractive, so be sure to protect your skin with some sunscreen! Suncreen with an SPF rating of at least 15 is ideal, but to be safe something around 30 SPF is ideal. Pick up a tube of sunscreen and make sure to reapply periodically throughout the day. Also, don’t forget about the sunlight that is reflected back at you from the water and rub some sunscreen under your nose and chin!



25034_01_back_111813_1000x10003) Paddling Gloves

Even experienced paddlers get sore hands and sometimes blisters on extended trips. The friction from a paddle can pull the skin on your hands and create painful blisters or hot spots. A pair of paddling gloves are a great way to cushion your hands and give you a barrier between your skin and the rigid composite or wood shaft and handle of your paddle. Gloves also protect your hands from the sun! Even if you’re Mr. ToughHands and you think gloves are not for you, full-finger neoprene gloves are an essential piece of gear when you’re paddling in cold temperatures.

TheNRS Axiom glove for men and for women is a comfortable paddling glove for long days on the water. Featuring breathable and quick drying  H2Core fabric with 4-way stretch and UPF 45+ sun protection on the back of the hand, the Axom is great for warm sunny days. A vented synthetic leather palm adds durability, while sticky polyurethane pads provide grip on a paddle, even when it’s wet.

Check out our selection of paddling gloves!

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 1full_24) Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Paddling is fun and relaxing, but as with any outdoor activity, unexpected circumstances can arise and you may end up capsized and swimming. In order to stay safe when paddling, bring a Coast Guard approved PFD for each person in your boat. Depending on local laws, you may or may not have to wear them, but you have to at least bring a life-vest with you. Of course, ideally you have the knowledge and experience to avoid unsafe situations and have discussed how potential dangers and issues with inexperienced paddlers in your party, but it’s best to be prepared. Modern PFDs are not the clunky orange foam-filled vests of the past. Many PFDs have a low profile, comfortable design that facilitates an unencumbered paddle stroke, have a kayak seat compatible cut, and feature pockets and lash points.

The Astral Designs V-Eight PFD is a great all-around PFD for any kind of paddling. Featuring a lightweight design, vented cutouts for breathability, pockets and a knife tab, as well as a mesh back that won’t get in the way of a seat-back, the V-Eight is a comfortable, functional option for any type of paddling.

Check out our full selection of PFDs!]


 1759_091010_1000x10005) Bilge Pump/Sponge

If you are out on the water on a rough, windy day; you get caught in a surprise rainstorm; or you happen to capsize; your boat will fill with water. A boat that has a significant amount of water in the bottom won’t sink, but it can be very difficult to control and is uncomfortable. The easy solution to this problem is a bilge pump or a sponge to remove water from the bottom of your boat!

The NRS bilge pump sucks water from the bottom of your boat and sprays it over the side. It’s an easy to use device that you’ll be glad to have on a rough day. This pump also comes with a float, so if you capsize, it wont float away! If you want to take a more simplistic approach, a boat sponge will help you get the water out!



6) Paddling Map 

On longer trips, it’s important to know where to find a campsite or shelter, which direction to head at a fork in a river, or how much farther the carry is. A paddling map is crucial for paddling adventures so that you don’t get lost and so that you can plan out the legs of a trip. There are maps for most paddling areas including the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the Adirondack park and Saco River. These maps provide topographic information, locations of campsites, shelters, carries, and access points. A paddling map also contains information on sections or rough or shallow water, so you won’t accidentally end up in a section of rapids on your mellow paddle.



7) Water Footwear

When paddling, it’s a good idea to have water compatible footwear to protect your feet from rocks and underwater debris, while draining and drying quickly. Additionally, on trips when you have to portage long distances or if you are camping at the end of a section of river, reliable footwear is essential.

Designed by raft guides, Chaco Sandals are an comfortable, versatile and high-performance sandal for paddling. The Chaco Z1 Yampa sandal for men or women has an easy-to-adjust design and an all-purpose, high friction Vibram sole for traction on sand, mud and wet surfaces. If you want a little more security, or you’re worried about losing your sandals in mud or a goopy lake bottom, the Z2 Yampa is the same sandal, but with an added toe loop.

Chacos are amazing watershoes, yet they may not be for everyone. If you prefer a closed-toe water shoe for toe protection and to help keep rocks out, opt for something like the Keen Newport H2.


While these are the essentials that every paddler should have, kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddle boarding are all unique sports with other, specific types of gear necessary like spray skirts, SUP leashes and specific paddles for each sport. Check out our full selection of paddling gear and accessories here at We also have a great selection of canoes, kayaks and SUPs available in store, or call us at 888-547-4327 to order.









Published:July 22, 2014

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