15 Boating Essentials Straight From the Pros

15 Boating Essentials Straight From the Pros

When you're out at sea, you need the peace of mind of having everything you need. Don't miss a thing with these 15 boating essentials from the pros themselves!

The day is perfect. The salty air is blowing in just the right direction. You can hear the ring of the channel markers luring you away from land.

boating essentials

You can't help but think:

I need to be out on the water! I need to be out on the boat.

You are not alone!

Over 87 million adults in the US participated in recreational boating in 2016. That number is only a mere fraction of the number of avid boaters across the globe!

We want to boat.

We want to be on the open water.

We want fresh air and great times.

We want the freedom of fleeing the coastline that only boating can offer. 

However, before we embrace our sea legs, there are definitely a few boating essentials that need to be remembered before we cast off.

Top 15 Boating Essentials

In order to ensure a fantastic voyage on the high seas, or relatively calm rivers and lakes, here are the top boating essentials needed for a safe and fun boating excursion:


We've all seen, or at least heard of, Gilligan's Island. The notorious 3-hour tour ended with a bit more drama than the Skipper and Gilligan were planning. 

This is a tale that we need to heed.  

No boater should ever leave the safe confines of shore without an EPIRB!

What is an EPIRB?

Only the best and safest lo jack that you can carry on your vessel. It's your connection to people onshore that can be your first line of rescue, should you sail or motor into uncharted areas or find yourself in an emergency situation far from land. 

EPIRB stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, or in other words - your SOS security blanket. If you have any type of boating emergency or issue while challenging the high seas, or even just boating across a vast lake, an EPIRB can and will save your life, as well as the lives of those that are onboard your watercraft.

Don't leave shore without one!

This may, in fact, be THE MOST IMPORTANT of the boating essentials you should include on your Before Departure Checklist. 

2. Safety Whistle/Horn

Don't laugh. I know this sounds ridiculous, but every vessel motoring or sailing in open water must have one of these sound-producing devices onboard your watercraft. 

Think of it as bringing a concert on your boating adventure - just a concert that ensures you can signal for help if you are more than a half mile offshore and a rogue, wild fog sets in during a potential boating emergency. You'll be glad you have that life-saving Village People whistle or sporting event fog horn on your vessel if things go south on your boat and no one can see your lights or any of your flares.

You'll be glad you have that life-saving Village People whistle or sporting event fog horn on your vessel if things go south on your boat and no one can see your lights or any of your flares.

Plus, just a bit of boating essentials FYI - it's ILLEGAL to NOT have one of these audible options on-deck. 

3. Life Jackets (PFD's)

Sure. You may have Olympic-qualifying swimmers occupying the decks of your watercraft, but even an Olympian that bumps his or her head while tumbling overboard the railings of your boat can't produce record-breaking swims while unconscious.

Before you cast off from the dock, or flee the boat ramp, count that you have enough PFD's (personal floatation devices) for each person riding on your boat. 

There is no need for a running checklist of who can and can't swim - everyone must have their own U.S. Coast Guard-approved floatation device.

4. Float Plan

No. I'm not talking about the plans for deciding which arm floaties, oversized whale rafts, or massive multi-seater island partying floatation devices you will bring on your boat. Those items didn't make this list of boating essentials, but they should make your list of awesome things to cart along on your aquatic voyage. 

Those items didn't make this list of boating essentials, but they should make your list of awesome things to cart along on your aquatic voyage. 

Something that must be included in your boating essentials checklist is a float plan.

Your float plan doesn't have to be elaborate. You can simply email or text your intended course of water travel to a friend or family member. Just make sure someone knows when you're leaving the land, where you're going, and when you plan to return.

For larger vessels, or those of us looking to depart the shore for long periods of time - there are all kinds of websites that allow friends and family to track our latitude and longitude. 

Use them.

Boating trips become party fouls if you go missing. Make sure someone knows your float plan. 

5. Cell Phone and Charger

We're nestled quite nicely in the 21st century. This boating essential should be standard protocol on your watercraft. 

Don't leave shore without a fully charged phone. 

Furthermore, don't forget some kind of charging apparatus. Solar chargers are stellar options if you don't have a plug of some kind that adapts to your standard USB phone charger.

It's not a bad idea to have a slew of other fully charged phones onboard, so tell your friends and family to bring along their WiFi enabled device, and make sure to store them in a waterproof container or bag.

6. Fire Extinguisher

Fires ain't fun, especially aboard a floating vessel far from land. 

Make sure your boat is equipped with a current, functioning fire extinguisher. If you notice that the clip is busted, or that cobwebs are growing around an expiration date that is a few decades past - go ahead and swap out for a new one. 

Pay close attention to the typing and labeling of your chosen red, fire-destroying can - chances are, you're boat will require a Type B extinguisher that is specifically geared for fighting flames of the gas or oil variety.  

Don't leave shore without it!

7. Compass

Heck yeah, you need to include an Eagle Scout-styled compass in your list of boating essentials! 

You may begin navigating your journey with state-of-the-art equipment, but if something fails and you're forced to 'navigate blindly' - having a trusty compass can help provide much-needed direction. 

8. First Aid Kit

Water. Slippery surfaces. Multiple bodies sharing space aboard a single watercraft.

Stuff is going to happen. Accidents are going to occur.

Make sure your boat is stocked with a first aid kid.

You may even want to bring along some hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. There are many stinging creatures that live underwater and seem to only surface when we jump off the boat.

9. Licenses

Whether you're driving the boat, fishing off the bow of the boat, or just being chauffeured around on your boat - don't forget your required docs!

Any boater born after January 1, 1988, wanting to operate a boat with bigger than a 10 HP motor in open waters (meaning any body of water that is NOT a private lake or pond) - make sure you have your Boating Safety Education ID Card. 

Also, if you're planning on catching dinner or trying to hook Jaws a few miles offshore - don't forget to carry your Fishing License, as well. 

10. Anchor

Don't roll your eyes.

Sure, most boats have an anchor, but there are plenty of boats that troll the open waters missing this fundamental piece of their hull.

In 2015, over 950,000 pre-owned boats were sold in the US. 

Most pre-owned or private sellers are sure to include an anchor if one is not already installed at the bow of the boat. However, that does not always happen.

Buyer beware. But more importantly - boat operator beware.

Being caught without an anchor can halt a fun outing on the water pretty quickly.   

11. Oar

Motors fail. Things happen. Have a simple, yet tried and true backup plan.

Enough said.

12. Marine Adhesive

Not always at the top of many boaters' lists, but this item is one of the boating essentials that you should always have aboard your craft.

Marine epoxy and marine tape are small and easy to store quick-fix adhesive options.

Marine tape can patch situations like a leaking fuel line. 

Marine epoxy can patch, pretty much, anything and everything else. 

13. SPF

Too many sun rays = pain for days. 

Reminder - the sun can cause some serious pain via the good ol' sunburn, but more importantly, can cause dehydration, sun stroke, and skin cancer.

Apply sunscreen (ideally something more than a '4' or a 'Sun Accelerator') before you board and continue to apply every few hours while in the sun, especially after you've gone swimming. 

14. H20, Libations, and Snacks

Ah yes, one of the best parts of a day on the boat: the food and beverages.


Let's not forget that boating is a completely outdoor adventure. You're gonna need some serious hydration when partying under the sun. Make sure you HAVE plenty of water.

A good visual idea is to bring a large tumbler that will keep your water or beverage in-hand all day long, as well as ice cold. Having a cup with you, or in your console, will serve as an easy reminder to stay hydrated.


As for the rest of the day and the rest of the passengers on your boat...

Make sure to pack a good amount of sustenance. Don't just pack one or two snacks and beverages per person! Max out your edible and drinkable stash to ensure that it lasts throughout the entire duration of your offshore excursion.

Hosting a bunch of friends and family? Consider this beast for any given trip: YETI Tundra 110.

Adult Libations

If you're drinking anything that has a percent by volume label (yup, I'm talking alcoholic beverages), remember to drink and store responsibly.

If you're in mixed company with ages below the legal drinking range, keep your beverages separated and chilled with ease in a cooler that is specifically designated. No need to label - just use a different colored cooler.

One of YETI's Seafoam coolers could be just the perfect solution.

Basic boating reminder: if you are consuming some quality adult libations, make sure to have that boat docked or anchored. Just because it doesn't have wheels doesn't mean that you can't do some serious damage while BUI'ing (Boating Under the Influence). 

Biggest boat buzzkill - getting an incredibly pricey ticket, or worse - getting carted away by the Water Fuzz because you were too intoxicated to stay within the channel markers. 

No one likes to paddle home in a boat without a captain.

Heed the warning.

15. Quality Cooler

No boating adventure is ever complete without a sturdy, trusty cooler.

Our coolers carry our food, our beverages, and even our deadliest catches. We rely on them for the duration of our offshore outings, so we definitely don't want any wimpy coolers that break mid-voyage! 

No matter what the food, beverage, or catch-of-the-day haul on your hull - there's a YETI that can do the trick! 

Time to Cast Off

A day, week, month, or lifetime at sea or on the water is an incredible way to spend life! 

Feeling the wind in our hair, the spray of water in our face, and feeling the power and beauty of our vessel conquer an aquatic highway is sheer utopia to us boaters.

Remember these boating essentials and appreciate the freedom of the open waters. 

Bon Voyage!

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