10 Essential Items to Put in Your Boat

There are a few easily forgotten items that will take your emergency preparedness to the next level.

No one wants to think of all the possible things that could go wrong during a day of fishing, however, planning ahead is the best way to ensure that you’re prepared should things go askew. While boat safety basics such as a bailing bucket, extra rope, life jackets, and a spare oar are all front of mind while packing your boat, there are a few other key often easily forgotten items that will take your emergency preparedness to the next level.

Toilet Paper in a Waterproof Bag


The most basic of items, toilet paper is probably one of the most useful things to bring along in your boat (outside of safety gear and fishing equipment of course). While it may seem trivial, or even unnecessary depending on where you’re fishing, you never know when a situation may arise, and that emergency TP suddenly becomes your best friend. Outside of the more obvious uses, toilet paper can be great for spills, scrapes, and a whole slew of other unforeseen predicaments. Of course, it’s essential to keep it dry, especially on the boat. Storing your toilet paper in a sealed, waterproof bag away from any possible leaks or dampness is the best way to ensure your TP is in tip-top shape.

First Aid Kit


Packing a First Aid Kit with your boating gear may seem fairly intuitive to many, however in my own experience, it’s also an incredibly easy item to forget ashore amidst the excitement of preparing for a day on the water. No one ever plans for accidents to happen- funny enough, that’s why they’re called accidents. As I’m sure is true for many of you, I have heard more than my fair share of fishing horrors stories entailing bumps, cuts, hooks ending up in the angler rather than the fish. Stocking a small, portable (and ideally waterproof) First Aid Kit with essentials like peroxide, Band-Aids, afterbite, gauze, and tweezer will make dealing with unplanned injuries on the water far easier and safer.


While I’m sure we’re all aware of the importance of staying hydrated while out on the water (especially in high sun conditions), storing water on the boat for more intense emergency situations isn’t always possible or practical. Keeping a product like the LifeStraw within your boating gear is a fantastic and potentially life-saving choice, should you ever find yourself without access to clean, potable water. The LifeStraw is a small, portable device that allows its user to safely drink from almost any freshwater by using technology to filter out any dangerous bacteria, parasites, and chemicals. Toss one of these into your pack for peace of mind, no matter where on the water you end up.  

Sealed Bin with Non-Perishables

Let’s view this item as something of a “set it and forget” precaution. While no one plans to end up stranded without food, stuff does happen. When it does, it pays to be prepared. Stocking a waterproof, sealed bin with non-perishable food items such as beans, canned fish, jerky, and protein bars, and tuck it away in one of your boat’s compartments. While you likely won’t need to tuck it into the bin very often, the peace of mind that it’s there in case of an emergency is well worth the effort.

Boat Hook


Maybe this is an item that you already viewed as essential and keep ready in your boat; or maybe it’s something you’d seen but not really used or consider getting for yourself. A long pole with a hook on the end of it, a Boat Hook can be a total lifesaver in a variety of scenarios. If you’re docking your boat in the wind, a Boat Hook can allow you to easily grab a dock ring or cleat. They can be used to move or grab a branch, or even to connect with another boat in choppy conditions. Think of it as an extra, telescopic arm.

Flashlight with Extra Batteries


As all passionate anglers know, it’s easy to fall victim to the one more cast mentality and wind-up fishing in the dark. While many larger boats nowadays come with built-in lights for navigating at night or in low light, having a flashlight in your gear is never a bad idea. Whether it’s used to navigate, or even let other boats on the water know of your location, a flashlight has a multitude of different uses. I’ve even used mine when a favourite fly has fallen into the dark recesses of a bottom compartment. Storing a solid, bright flashlight with extra batteries in a safe dry location will always be a bright idea.

Waterproof Matches


While we’ve all heard some version of the old adage “boats and fire don’t mix”, when it comes to emergency preparedness, having waterproof matches can be essential in the worst-case scenario. Technology has advanced in a variety of splendid ways, one of which is the invention of waterproof matches. Keep a pack within your gear, in a sealed container away from any possible leaks. Matches are a great, easy-to-use tool should you need to start a fire for warmth or cooking.

Rain Jacket


In all my years of fishing and boating with my father, there’s one thing I can always count on him to remind me of- bring a rain jacket! Yes, even on the sunniest, hottest day of the year, my father will insist we pack our dry sack with rain gear (often both jackets and rain pants). While my younger self would often scoff and roll my eyes at his insistence, years of experience have taught me that more often than not, I need that jacket. Another one of those items that may not seem necessary, you’ll find yourself thankful you brought along when an unexpected front rolls through and you’re the driest angler in the boat.


Tarps are probably one of my favourite pieces of outdoor gear. With a variety of sizes, styles, and colours, the possibilities are endless. They can be used to cover the boat when docked ashore, as a rain shield while out on the water, or even as a way to waterproof gear in an emergency. With so many uses, it makes sense to pack one (if not two) within your boat’s emergency gear.

Tow Rope

In my opinion, when it comes to boating, one can never really have enough rope. Whether you come across another boat stranded sans-gas, or you’re the one flagging down a ride home, it pays to have a tow rope tucked away. A nylon tow rope with ½ inch in diameter at about 200 feet should cover you in most emergency scenarios. I suggest choosing one that comes pre-spooled, for both easy storage and use.

No matter if you’re boating on the small lake at the cottage, or an expansive populated bay, it always pays off to put some extra thought into your packing. By including the items on this list, you’re sure to be prepared for almost any scenario and can focus on having… and of course catching fish.

About Jenna McKeown

Jenna McKeown has loved fishing since she was a young girl. Now as a young adult attending university, she has learned the basics of fly fishing. Like all good anglers, she welcomes instruction and education on all aspects of fly fishing and fish. She hopes to inspire other young girls and women to learn more about fly fishing and the great outdoors. Currently Jenna is attending university to become a teacher focused on one day instructing primary grade students in French. Jenna is a passionate singer, songwriter and guitarist. She produces much of the music used in The New Fly Fisher.

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