Flatwater Paddling Checklists of Gear

Paddle the Adirondack Waters with the Right Gear

Flatwater paddling, sure it’s relaxing, calming, and great exercise, but it should not be taken lightly. The Adirondacks, and especially the big waters in the Lake Champlain Region, have fast-changing weather patterns and sometimes ice cold water. When unforeseen mishaps occur, you can quickly go from a fun day in the sun to a very cold swim in deep waters. Hopefully this will never happen to you, but it's always a good idea to be prepared! 


It’s not all that uncommon to see paddlers with much less than what they should be carrying, but what might those don't-leave-behind bare essentials be? That will all depend on the destination, time of year, skill level, length of adventure and who is on the trip. Below you will find four different lists of gear that is recommended for a large portion of trips in the Adirondacks. Coldwater paddling has its own list.

Keep in mind these lists are not to be considered “written in stone,” they change often and should be tweaked to fit your needs. Use these lists as a reference.

Wearing essentials:


What you wear while on the water can be very important, but again this can change depending on the weather of the day, temperature, and personal comfort.

  • Rash guard shirt
  • Quick dry shorts or pants
  • Sandals, water shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hat
  • Wind jacket – stored until needed
  • Life Jacket (aka, PFD) – should always be worn
  • Paddling gloves

Personal gear:


Dry Sack

This list is not all that dissimilar to day hiking, because essentially you will be in the wild and this is some stuff you should always have.

  • 1-2 dry sacks, to keep gear dry and organized
  • Deck bag, to keep frequently used gear close at hand and dry
  • GPS and/or map and compass, be sure to have in dry sack or sleeve that is see-through
  • Water
  • Food/snacks
  • Camera, keep in dry sack
  • Toiletries

Safety equipment:

Mishaps happen all the time and no one knows when they might occur. One of the best pieces of safety gear you can have is your brain, this list then just becomes tools. Take a paddling course to learn about wet exits and the “what ifs” and “what to dos,” it can make a world of difference. Having the right gear but not knowing how to use it, does you no good, whatsoever.


Throw Bag

  • Bilge pump
  • Paddle float
  • Extra paddle, for long trips and ones that place you far away from civilization
  • Float plan, left with someone on shore
  • Throw rope/tow rope
  • 1st aid kit, in dry bag
  • Emergency kit (tinder, matches, mirror, headlamp, small metal cup to boil water, knife, etc…)
  • Whistle
  • Bow/stern light, solid white in color, not flashing
  • PFD, that fits correctly and is sized accurately

Overnight excursions:

No matter what you decide to bring on an overnight, you still need the above items. Camping by boat is an experience like no other. You can bring large bulky items, comfort foods, camp chairs, etc… Most importantly when you get all your gear planned and laid out, pack your boat evenly from bow to stern.

  • Stove and fuel
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag, in dry bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Bear-resistant food storage system
  • Lighting
  • Tarp
  • Cook kit
  • Dinnerware
  • Axe/saw for firewood, if camping in areas where fires are permitted
  • Camp chair

Cold water paddling gear:

This type of trip can bring on a whole new realm of adventure. Typically cold water paddling seasons are as follows:

  • Ice out to the end of May 
  • End of September to ice-in

Along with the gear mentioned above you should also highly consider:


  • Cold weather paddling gloves, insulated and waterproof wetsuit neoprene gloves, dry suit gloves
  • Drysuit or wetsuit neoprene top with hood and bottoms
  • Splash skirt
  • Insulated head wear
  • Wetsuit neoprene or drysuit footwear

So if you are out and about the Lake Champlain Region and want to test the waters, I highly recommend you try a bit of everything and see what style suits you best. For example if you want to rent a boat near Peru you can hop onto Lake Champlain at the Peru boat launch and paddle across the narrow and explore Valcour Island. Want to explore a calm and relaxing river experience - well then, head on over to Ticonderoga and run the LaChute River. Maybe a relaxing float on a small pond is in order, cast a line and take a nap on Lincoln Pond just outside of Elizabethtown. Need to rent a boat for the day, that's easy, we can hook you up. Need more ideas on where to paddle? The Lake Champlain Region is full of awesome spots, and they are just waiting for you to explore. 

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