Summer is upon us and so is the boating season. Some personal watercraft enthusiasts might be sticking to riding in calm lakes, while others might be doing the brunt of their riding on rivers. But either way, you always need a few basic regulation mandated equipment on your craft at all times. But, what if you’re going on say, a week long trip on your PWC? What should you bring?

Me and my best friend are planning a nearly week long trip along the Rideau Canal from Kingston to Ottawa starting on July 4th. My buddy has some camping experience but I don’t. However, neither of us has ever done a PWC camping trip and while our crafts do have good amounts of storage it’s still fairly limited.

We thus brainstormed a list of essentials for us tailored for our needs and with some common sense. This list is in no particular order and may not apply for everyone. It may seem like overkill, but being stranded somewhere without having something useful for the situation sucks. Being well prepared is important. You’ll notice that spare fuel is absent from this list. The reason being that the longest distance we will go between marinas with fuel is 40km which is well within a safe range for the fuel consumption of our machines. We also have a list of all the available refueling locations.

Well, here goes:

  • Action Cameras. For cool footage and so I can entertain you guys and gals!
  • A roll-up solar panel to recharge cellphones and rechargeable batteries when either stationary or setting up/cleaning up camp.
  • Spare batteries for stuff like the GPS and lighting equipment.
  • A solar-powered and crank-powered radio so we can listen to weather forcasts, in case we end up outside of cellphone/data range.
  • A marine chart for the entire Canal with details for depth, obstacles, navigation, points of interest, fueling, marinas etc. The chart is waterproof and tear resistant. Also serves as a good, reliable backup to the GPS.
  • A small handheld trail GPS with topographical map and waypoint functionality.
  • A compass to help navigate with the map.
  • Flashlights and forehead lights.
  • Spare spark plugs!!! THIS IS IMPORTANT. On modern machines, this is the component that is the most likely to fail and leave you stranded. Spark plugs are cheap and easy to replace and take up almost no storage space. You have no excuse to not have a full replacement set.
  • An anchor. For obvious reasons. We are favoring the Cooper Anchor because the design seems brilliant, the reviews are glowing and, most importantly, it’s lightweight, compact and the nylon shell won’t damage the inside of our craft.
  • Extra charging cables for the cams and cellphones. Just in case one breaks.
  • Cell phones. No, not to text and ride. This is in case of emergency and also to let our families know where we set up camp every evening in case something happens so we are easy to track down. Safety first!
  • A basic tool kit. my waverunner FX comes with literally everything I need to replace the spark plugs in a pinch. You don’t need a lot. A small wrench or pliers, a philips and flat-head type screwdriver, a spark plug socket tool and that’s it. If you feel you need more then go for it.
  • A small survival kit from an outdoors supply shop. Survival kits usually come with a host of useful stuff and you can chose one to customize for your needs. Notably, you can get stuff like matches and firestarting material, fishing lines and hooks, fluorescent tape, candles and a bunch of other stuff. The kit I have has way too much stuff to list yet is very compact.
  • A first aid kit. This should be obvious.
  • A pocket knife. There are TONS of good pocket knives on the market now. Knives aren’t just useful for protection either. You can use them as tools as well around camp. The possibilities are nearly endless. Seriously, get one.
  • We decided to pack some energy dense foods like granola bars, protein bars and various nuts. We’ll be stopping by various marinas for actual meals since they are readily available. But riding all day makes you hungry and is way more taxing that people expect. Bringing a cooler with perishables is not practical in our situation so we are packing light but hearty foods to keep us fueled throughout the day.
  • Water. Fresh, clean water is going to be the most important thing you pack on a long trip. You’re going to be exposed to the sun and heat. You’ll sweat and dehydrate quickly. You also shouldn’t drink the water present in many lakes and rivers for various health and pollution reasons. The glove-boxes have room for a couple of decent sized water bottles that you can refill at marinas. Also bring some larger water containers or stuff like Camel Packs. Hail Hydrate!
  • Spare Clothing. Bring a few shirts, preferably long sleves, for the night. And having extras mean that if you get one wet you can still have something dry to wear. Long legged PJs for the night are also a good idea. The long clothing will keep you warm during the cooler nights and help protect you from bugs.
  • A good bunch of disposable contact lenses. Because me and my buddy have crappy eyesight and don’t want to risk losing a 500$+ pair of glasses in the water. We’ll also carry eyedrops to keep our eyes moist. The contacts will also allow us to wear...
  • Sunglasses. You’re going to be in the middle of a reflective body of water, in the summer, in the middle of the day. This will allow you to see better when it gets very bright and, critically, protect your eyesight from damaging UV rays. Bring a cheap pair you don’t mind losing. Actually, bring several pairs, in case you drop one or two in the water along the way.
  • Riding goggles to make your life easier if it ever rains and you decide to keep riding. (I advise against it. Rain drops hurt like hell at speed)
  • Earplugs. Spend several days with the wind blowing through your ears and the constant roaring/buzzing of a high-RPM engine assaulting your ear drums and tell me how your hearing fairs afterwards. Extremely inexpensive to buy, so you can buy a bunch of them in case you lose a few. Your long term hearing will thank you.
  • Head-scarves or other head gear. Ya know, to protect your skull from the heat and UV rays of the sun. Will help keep you cool and prevent sunburn on your scalp.
  • Riding Gloves. Unless you really want that handlebar pattern carved into your palms. Will help keep your hands comfortable and serve as extra sun protection.
  • A good pair of water-proof shoes. We found a few nice pairs of running shoes designed to be submerged and drain out water and dry fast when out of the drink. They will keep your feet covered and comfortable. Will also keep you from being barefoot or look silly if you have to walk in the woods or in the marina’s restaurant. Bonus: You get extra traction on wet, submerged rocks and on the deck of your craft.
  • Socks made from a special, quick-drying, low-absorbing material for nighttime camping. Keeping warm and covered is always important.
  • Sunscreen. Obvious. You’re going to expose yourself to the sun for something like 10 hours a day. You really don’t want skin cancer. You also don’t want a sunburn after your first day because the rest of the trip will absolutely suck if you get one.
  • Wallet with ID, Cash money and a credit card(if available). Don’t think I should have to explain why.
  • (Optional) Fender protection in case you dock at a marina and wan’t to avoid scuffing your craft against the docks.
  • Various ropes. Ropes for docking. Ropes to get towed by the other craft or another boat. Rope to tie your craft to a tree. Rope for the anchor. A tow-rope for water skiing if that’s your fancy. A rope can also be setup to suspend a tarp over you at night.
  • Hammock. A good, quality hammock is a LOOOOT more portable than a tent. They also keep you off the ground that can either be cold or full of bugs. You can still lay them on the ground if you can’t find any trees. Good hammocks also have zip-shut bug nets. Plus they cost a bunch less than a decent tent.
  • A waterproof tarp you can lay on the ground or suspend over your sleeping area in case of rain.
  • Toilet Paper. In case you REALLY need to go and can’t reach the marina on time.
  • Biodegradable, eco-friendly soap. To wash your hands and maintain decent personal hygiene.
  • Deoderant.
  • Toothbrush with an eco-friendly toothpaste.
  • Q-tips. For your ears or whatever you may need them for.
  • Trash Bags. Seriously, leave no traces behind, don’t litter and throw your trash out at the next marina.
  • A small funnel for..
  • Oil. Carry a small bottle of engine oil. Check your oil level every morning before you set off and add some if needed. This is basic maintenance and will prevent you from getting stranded.
  • A proper watercraft/boating shirt (or a couple). These are designed to keep you dry and will also cover your skin from the sun.
  • Floating Lanyard. You can’t start your craft without the lanyard. May as well grab one that will be harder to lose.
  • A couple of bathing suits.
  • A quick-drying towel.
  • Anti-acid tablets in case you eat like crap and get acid reflux. You wan’t to make sure you sleep well at night.
  • Waterproof Matches.
  • Fire-starting material.
  • Evening entertainment
  • If you don’t have enough storage on your craft then you can buy dry-bags that you can then hook up to the tow-hook on the back of your PWC. There are also dry-bag backpacks with a chest clip that you can strap onto your back that can hold anywhere from 9 to 20 gallons of stuff.

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So, that’s our list. If you have any questions, comments, concerns or suggestions, drop them in the comments below!