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The Survey Says…
Paddling Life’s “Paddling Essentials” Survey Results

Hikers and backpackers know their famous list of “Ten Essentials” by heart (map, compass, knife, first aid, flashlight, matches/lighter, clothing, food & water, sunglasses, etc.). But what about paddlers’ 10 (or more) essentials? Obviously, a comprehensive list of equipment would depend on the type of paddling, but are there certain items that most paddlers regard as essential? Is duct tape essential to life on the water? To find out, Paddling Life’s own Mike McCrea painstakingly solicited responses from paddling message boards for four months (and until he acquired 100 responses) to finally compile the definitive Paddling Gear Survey (a survey list of 70+ items of potentially “essential” paddling gear). Bottom line? You might want to get a bigger boat.

“Top 20” items (and percentage of respondents who carry them):
77% Water
73% Food
65% First Aid
58% Dry bag/Box
57% Sunscreen
53% Throw Bag
53% Hat
52% Spare paddle
47% Carabiners
46% Booties/Tevas/Specialized footwear
44% Whistle
44% Waterproof matches/Lighter
43% Gloves/Pogies
41% River Knife/scissors
41% Sponge
39% Sun glasses
37% Duct tape
37% Spare clothes
35% Maps & Guides
35% Watch/timepiece
From tabulating the responses I feel certain that some folks responded with a list of what they “wish” they routinely carried, not what they honestly do routinely carry. Some of the responses were quite humorous, a few were kinda preachy and some were downright bizarre. I was gratified to find that a few people claim to routinely carry as much crap in their boat as I do.
I haven’t broken down the responses by type of boat (canoe vs kayak) or boater (ww vs trippers), mostly because I’m not enough of a statistician to assemble meaningful data that way. The responses did follow a fairly
predictable pattern; open boaters carry more “essential” gear than
decked boaters (duh), trippers carry more than destination boaters. Sea kayakers, perhaps not unsurprisingly, seem to have a fairly standard list of “essentials”.

A few curiosities:
If 34% of the paddlers who responded routinely carry toilet paper and only 8% carry a “cat hole” spade, I guess the remaining 26% dig a hole with a sharp stick (and 66% of paddlers pray for a spot-a-pot at the take out).

Quote “I never leave my boat so I carry almost nothing”….I’m betting this changes after the first cold, wet exit.

Quote “Nose plugs, man, nose plugs…I’ve got nostrils you could drive a Mack truck up”…obviously, my list wasn’t all inclusive.
Quote “Beer”… Hey, I think I know him!

A few folks had names for their essentials bag. I especially liked the “Oh Sh*t Kit”. One response marked numerous items with “No, but I should carry this”.

Thanks to all who responded; this was a fun “Just for the hell of it” project. For the complete list and number of responses see below:
Paddling Essentials
Besides your boat, paddle & PFD what do you carry as “essential”
paddling gear?

65 First Aid
41 River Knife
44 Whistle
53 Throw Bag
47 Carabiners
11 Prusiks
12 Saw
33 Bailer/Bilge pump
37 Duct tape
21 Hardware (Nuts/Bolts/Wire)
33 Multi-tool (pliers, screwdriver, etc)
44 Waterproof matches/Lighter
15 Candle/Firestarter
19 Space blanket
7 FRP/ABS repair material
8 Needle & thread
11 Flares
7 Paddle float
32 Cash/credit card
52 Spare paddle
25 Spare rope
37 Spare clothes
21 Spare car keys
13 Spare plastic bags
26 Spare clothes in shuttle vehicle

57 Sunscreen
39 Sun glasses
53 Hat
21 Raingear
33 Paddle jacket
43 Gloves/Pogies
24 Insect repellant
3 Bug shirt/pants
21 Helmet
21 Wet suit
46 Booties/Tevas/Specialized footwear

73 Food
77 Water
9 Water filter
8 Thermos
23 Other beverages

26 Compass
35 Maps & Guides

0 Groover” equipment
34 Toilet paper
8 “Cat hole” spade
25 Medications

29 Flashlight
11 Flashlight bulb & batteries
9 Cyalume (glowstick)
3 Navigation light

13 Trip log/pen & paper
34 Camera gear
5 Field guides
11 Binoculars
3 Sketch pad
9 Fishing gear
10 Temperature gauge
41 Sponge
9 Toys
14 Towel
3 Weather radio
35 Watch/timepiece
3 Musical instrument
2 Portage cart
0 Sail rig
0 Windspeed indicator
7 Paddle leash
0 Anchor/Sea anchor

58 Dry bag/Box
12 Waterproof daypack

Staff Post
Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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