How to Pack a Boat Bag With Everything You Need

The Ultimate Boat Bag Checklist: Everything You Need to Bring

Before boarding your vessel, you'll need to pack a boat bag. But what exactly do you need to include?

Having a boat bag checklist can make everything easier. Instead of endlessly contemplating whether or not you’ve forgotten something, or worse, actually forgetting something, you can put together all the items you need in record time and feel confident doing so.

Top Boat Bag Priorities

Items in your boat bag should assist you with:

  • Health and wellness. Your highest priority is maintaining your health and remaining comfortable on this journey.
  • Safety. You also need to make sure you and your passengers remain safe and are able to get to safety or call for help if necessary.
  • Personal enjoyment. The remainder of the items in your boat bag will be for your personal enjoyment, maximizing your pleasure on this trip.

Packing a Boat Bag

These are some of the top items you should include in a boat bag:

  • Backup navigation. Your navigation equipment should take care of the job most of the time, but it never hurts to have some method of backup navigation as well. Place charts of the local waters in physical form in your boat bag.
  • Your cell phone (and/or a sat phone). Don't forget to bring your cell phone. Even if you're limiting your exposure to electronics so you can better enjoy the natural scenery, you'll want to have your cell phone in case of emergency. If you're going to a location with sketchy service availability, consider bringing a satellite phone. It's also important to bring charging cables so those phones can remain charged.
  • Backup batteries (charged). What happens if your outlet is no longer working or if you happened to forget your charging cable? Every boat bag should have backup batteries just in case. Make sure these backup batteries are fully charged before heading out on your journey.
  • A solar powered power bank. As an alternative or extra means of backup, consider using a solar powered power bank. As long as the sun is out, you should have a steady supply of electricity this way.
  • A first aid kit. You may have a first aid kit on board already, but it doesn't hurt to take along an extra. A small first aid kit with gauze, bandages, antiseptics, and other important materials could end up saving a life.
  • A toolkit. You may also want to bring along a toolkit. Make sure it includes a sharp knife, a screwdriver, pliers, and other tools you may need to perform basic maintenance or work with materials in an improvised fashion.
  • Binoculars and a compass. If you end up stranded on the water with no functional communications equipment, it may be useful to have binoculars and a compass on hand. This way, you'll be able to determine your relative position and look out for help.
  • Sunscreen. Excessive sun exposure leads to sunburns and, in extreme cases, sun poisoning. This can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening, so make sure to bring along sunscreen of a sufficiently high SPF.
  • Sunglasses. It's also important to bring along sunglasses with UV protection, allowing you to see more comfortably and protecting your eyes simultaneously.
  • Insect repellent. Most people find bugs to be annoying, and some bugs carry infectious diseases, so don't forget to pack the insect repellent.
  • Extra clothes and towels. Bring some extra clothes and towels just in case you need them. This is especially important if you suspect a change of weather in the future; a jacket or poncho could be necessary to stay comfortable and safe.
  • Water. Bring enough water for everyone. Depending on how many people are coming and how long you'll be gone, it may be wise to bring an entire cooler of water and food.
  • Snacks. Speaking of food, bring more snacks than you think you'll need. In case of emergency, you'll be glad you did.
  • Waterproof bags. Pack some waterproof bags for your electronics and, potentially your towels.
  • Speakers. An external speaker will improve the quality of the music you play throughout your journey.
  • Waterproof cards. Waterproof cards are small, light, and useful for a wide variety of games.

Of course, feel free to modify this list as you see fit. You may have different ideas for types of entertainment to bring, or you may need supplementary safety items if they are not constantly on your boat. This list assumes that your vessel is outfitted with ample onboard safety equipment, like a functional radio with a battery backup and properly fitted lifejackets for everyone on board.

Other Important Prep Items

These are some other important prep items you should consider before heading out on the water:

  • Check the weather. Take a look at the weather before you leave. If it looks like there's a storm coming, or if the weather seems tumultuous or unpredictable, reconsider going out. If it's going to rain or if it seems like the temperature is going to fluctuate, make sure to incorporate that into your boat bag packing.
  • Inform someone. It's a good idea to let someone know that you're headed out and where you're going. That way, if they don't hear back from you, they can call for help and coordinate a potential rescue.
  • Check your onboard safety equipment. Always take the time to inspect your onboard safety equipment. Is your radio working as intended? Are your life jackets and life preservers still in place? Do you have a flare gun and other forms of signalling? Is your boat in full working order?

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