What To Bring Paddle Boarding

Embarking on a paddle boarding adventure is an exhilarating experience, but knowing what to bring paddle boarding can make the difference between a dream day on the water and a day you'd rather forget. Equipping yourself with the right gear is incredibly important, not only for your comfort but also for your safety. If you're a novice paddler or even an experienced enthusiast unsure about what to pack for your outing, this inclusive guide will be your go-to checklist, ensuring you have everything you need.

Be sure to Print out or Screen Shot the Checklist at the bottom of this article!

What to bring paddle boarding can be summarized as essentials that enhance your paddle boarding experience, ensuring safety, comfort and allowing you to have the best possible time on the water. This comprehensive list addresses 20 crucial items you must consider packing when heading out for a paddle boarding quest. From the actual paddle board and paddle to personal flotation devices, appropriate clothing, hydration and more, this article covers every possible angle. So let's dive into what makes these items so important to have while paddle boarding.

10 Paddle Boarding Essentials

10 (actually 11) items you want to be sure you bring with you every time you go paddle boarding.

Stand Up Paddle Board including the Removable Fin

When you ask yourself what to bring paddle boarding, this seems pretty obvious, but there was a time when we got so busy getting the kids sorted out that we forgot…

A good paddle board, suited to your skill level and intended use, is the first necessary item for a paddling adventure. Imagine going for a paddle boarding trip and finding out you forgot the board. Now that would be like attending a potluck dinner without a dish!  

Not only do you need you paddle board, you need the removable fin that goes on the bottom.  We have forgotten this on multiple occasions and it is a real bummer.  While technically you can paddle the board without the fin, it is a huge fight.  The fin keeps the board going in a straight line. Without it, you will constantly be correcting the direction of the board and if there is a wind you will get blown all over the place.  Picture yourself trying to paddle an air mattress in a heavy wind... its basically the same thing.  

Read all about the best paddle boards depending on what kind of adventure you want to have.

Inflator Pump

best pump for paddle board

We prefer inflatable paddle boards because we love to paddle board a variety of ways (standing up, sitting down, with dogs, tandem, fishing) and we like to take our paddle boards with us when we go camping. Plus, we have kids so we are talking about multiple paddle boards.

For all of these reasons we love inflatable paddle boards because they are easier to transport, to store and we can carry more of them with us. However, they do require a pump to inflate them.

No pump, no paddle boarding… So, remember to bring your electric and or manual inflator pump.

Personally, we store a manual pump in the bag with each of our paddle boards so as to not forget them. Since most inflatable paddle boards come with the pump, this is easy to do. Then all we have to do is remember our electric pump so we can easily fill all of the paddle boards when we go to the lake with the kids. If we forget the electric pump, then at least our day isn’t ruined since each kid can fill their own paddle board manually!

Read all about our favorite inflator pumps.


Not only do you need a paddle, but you also need the right paddle for how you plan to paddle that day. How many adult paddles do you need versus kid paddles?

An adjustable SUP paddle is a great tool that enables you to paddle efficiently while standing up.

If you are planning to paddle sitting down on a chair, then a kayak-style paddle that feathers works best.

If you aren’t sure, then you may prefer a convertible paddle so you can paddle both standing up with the handle or sitting down with two blades to dip in the water.

If you have kids, beware, it sucks to be an adult trying to paddle with a kid’s paddle. Trust me, both John and Julie have gotten caught out wondering how they didn’t notice which paddle they were holding sooner.

Read all about the best paddles for paddle boarding.

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

A PFD or life jacket is a non-negotiable essential. It's like an insurance policy on the water. Kids are required to wear a life jacket.

We trained our kids to love their life jackets early on because if they are wearing a life jacket, we can all relax and enjoy our day. Life jackets are super adjustable, so it is easy to get one for you and one for your child that you will both love.

Read all about the best life jackets.


When it comes to your list of what to bring paddle boarding, this one is the least likely you will forget since people usually leave the leash permanently attached to their board.

With a leash, you don’t have to worry about losing your board if you fall off. Picture yourself in the middle of the lake, struggling to swim after a runaway board. Sounds like a scene from a comedic film, doesn't it?

Swimming after their board is a favorite activity of our kids. However, if we are paddling on a river or in the ocean where there may be a current, they could actually lose their board, so we make them wear the leash.

For us adults, we typically wear the leash around our ankle while we are standing since we are more likely to go swimming. If we are going paddling while seated in our favorite folding chair, we attach the leash to our folding chair since we rarely tip over and it is much more likely that we will lose our chair than the board.

Read all about the best paddle board accessories!

A Folding Chair or Kayak Seat

When it comes to what to bring paddle boarding, some people might not consider a seat essential.  However, Julie and John find having a comfortable folding chair on their paddle board to be essential.  You never know when the wind might kick up and make forward movement impossible while standing.  Julie has bad knees and a bad back so kneeling or sitting without a chair is very painful.  Meanwhile, it is so easy to pull a folding chair out from under the bungees and sit down comfortably.  Over the years, we have had hundreds of other paddlers look at us with great envy as we swiftly paddle by seated comfortably while they are kneeling or hunched over trying to make way in a head wind.  

Read all about our favorite paddle boarding seats.

It is amazing what a difference an inexpensive folding chair can make!

Appropriate Clothing

We typically wear a bathing suit in hot weather and bring a nylon or polyester coverup that also doubles as a windbreaker just in case clouds come in or the wind kicks up.

During the winter we wear a full or short wetsuit if we will be standing to paddle or neoprene tights or shorts if we plan to paddle sitting paired with a polyester or nylon long sleeve top, a fleece layer and a paddle jacket depending on how cold it is.

It is always good to have layers of nonabsorbent clothing (no cotton, linen, or wool) because nobody wants to become a popsicle!


The sun's reflection on the water could leave you with an unanticipated sunburn. Not using sunscreen and going out paddling could turn you into a "you've been where?" meme.


It is easy to forget a hat when considering what to bring paddle boarding.  A hat with a brim can reduce direct sun exposure and help avoid any chance of getting a heat stroke or sun-induced headache.

A hat is also very helpful for situations where you may end up paddling into the sun in the late afternoon on your way back to where you started. By pulling the brim of your hat down, you will be able to see where you are going.

Just be sure your hat fits well or has a way to secure it to your head so that it doesn't get blown away when the wind does kick up.  


A quality pair of sunglasses, especially ones with polarized lenses, will protect your eyes from the harsh sunlight reflected off the water while improving your visibility. An afternoon without them could feel like trying to wade through a sea of white! You’re going to want to see those gorgeous views clearly, after all. 

Polarized lenses are very helpful for avoiding underwater hazards since they cut the glare and allow you to see into the water more clearly.  

Water Shoes

When considering what to bring paddle boarding, don't forget the right footwear. Water shoes protect your feet from underwater hazards while providing a better grip on your board. While we often take our shoes off, especially while we are paddle boarding sitting down during the summer. We always wear shoes and stow them under the bungees when we are not wearing them. Try and paddle board barefoot over a rocky reef, and you'll soon understand the gravity of the situation.

In the winter we almost always paddle wearing neoprene booties with good soles to keep our feet both warm and protected. A long paddle home with cold feet when the wind has kicked up in the afternoon is no fun.

Read all about the best shoes for paddle boarding.


Always keep a water bottle on hand to stay hydrated, as paddle boarding can be a real workout.

There's one story about a friend who forgot his water bottle and ended up drinking lake water. Well, let's just say nature called earlier than anticipated. You do not want this to be you.

When we paddle with the kids, we have found disposable Calistoga water bottles stored in a nylon or mesh bag stored under the bungees to be especially convenient since we can bring a couple per kid and then crush them when they are empty so they don’t take up a bunch of room on our paddle board.

Not Essential, but Very Nice to Have.

The following items are not essential, but they will often make your paddle boarding experience much better depending on what you are doing and who you are with.

Waterproof Bag

To safeguard items like your smartphone, wallet, or keys from water damage. Imagine reaching to call for a pick-up after a tiring day only to find your phone's taken a freshwater bath! Our lunch and snacks also live in a waterproof bag because kids refusing to eat soggy food is a real bummer.

Read all about the best paddle boarding accessories.


For longer durations, you'll need some energy refills. Without these, the rumble in your stomach could compete with the noise of the waves! John considers snacks an essential on his what to bring paddle boarding list. Hungry cranky kids are a real headache!

waterproof drybag

Portable Waterproof Speaker

If you enjoy music, these can add extra fun to your journey. After all, it's like you’re in a life-size music video set to your favorite tune.

Julie and John often go paddling speaker-less when it’s just the two of them because they love the sound of the water and wind.

However, with the kids along, a speaker transforms a long paddle to and from a cool island or waterfall into a dance party. And you can always turn up the volume to block out the whining in case of emergency… heh, heh!

Dry Change of Clothes

Trust me, nobody likes driving home with a soggy bottom. Add dry cloths to your "what to bring paddle boarding" list for after you get off the water. So, unless you fancy making your car seat a waterbed, consider packing a dry set of clothes!

GoPro or Waterproof Camera

Who wouldn’t like to relive their water adventures or flaunt them on Instagram? You don't want to miss recording your best friend toppling over in slow-motion, do you?  We wouldn't trade the pictures and videos we have of our paddle boarding adventures, especially our family trips, for anything!


Handy for on-the-fly adjustments or fixes. What to bring paddle boarding when fishing.  Remember, out on the water, you're the only handyman around! We always have one in the car just in case.  When we go fishing, we bring it on board with us!

Headlamp or Flashlight

If you're stuck out after sunset, you'll realize the sun isn’t the only one that sets, so does visibility! It would be best to see where you’re going and also alert others of your presence. 

This is another item we always carry in our car and will take out on the paddle board with us if we are planning a longer adventure that may end after dark.

There was one time we were out paddling and we ended up saving a guy who had gone out fishing and then couldn’t find his way back to where he started… 


A safety measure to signal others in case of any difficulty. Don’t find out the hard way that yelling for help in the middle of a lake isn’t all that effective!

If you are paddling out on the ocean, the coast guard requires a PFD and a whistle. On lakes, having one is super convenient, just in case.

SUP Trolley or Carry Strap

Unless a broken back sounds appealing to you, get some aid to lug that paddle board to and from the water.

We carry our paddle boards to and from the car when we are paddling without the kids. Especially when we are using our shorter, lighter boards. John can carry multiple boards when using a shoulder strap attached to the d-rings on the paddle boards.

However, lugging all the kid stuff, food, multiple boards, etc. is much easier with a SUP Trolley since we just stack all the boards up, dump the kid stuff on top and wheel the whole mess back to the car for deflation. Remember, a hernia doesn't have to be part of your paddleboarding experience!

Read all about the best paddle boarding accessories.

First Aid Kit

Any activity can lead to minor scrapes or cuts, especially if there are kids involved. Imagine needing a Band-Aid and having to use a strip of duct tape instead. Ouch! It has been done. For this reason, we always carry a first aid kit in our car.

Last Thoughts

In conclusion, choosing what to bring paddle boarding can impact your paddleboarding outing more than you might think. Each item on this list serves a purpose, aiming to enhance safety, convenience, or enjoyment of your time on the water. From essential equipment to comfort items, knowing what to pack can mean the difference between an ordinary day out on the water and an unforgettable paddleboarding experience.

Knowing what to bring paddle boarding also gives a feeling of preparedness, adding confidence to your adventure. As you glide on the waves with the sun illuminating the waters, you'll comprehend the value of each item you brought along. You'll be equipped not just with things in your pack but memories etched in your heart.

So be sure to print and keep the below checklist handy for your next paddleboarding outing, and you'll thank yourself later. Happy paddleboarding!

We hope to see you out on the water!

What to Bring Paddle Boarding Checklist

(Print or Screen Shot)

  • Stand Up Paddle Board including the FIN: You can't paddle board without one. Choose one that suits your skill level, body weight, and the kind of conditions you'll be boarding in.
  • Inflator Pump: A electric pump makes filling your paddle board quick and easy. A manual pump is a great back-up if you plan to stand (12-15psi), or a great primary pump if you are planning to paddle seated and only need to fill your board to 5psi.
  • Paddle: The right paddle will allow you to change the length based on your height and the kind of paddling you'll be doing.
  • Personal Floatation Device (PFD): Safety is paramount. A US Coast Guard-approved PFD is highly recommended, and in some places, required by law.
  • Folding Chair or Kayak Seat: Easy to store under the bungees, these are priceless when returning back to where you started in a head wind or if you are tired.
  • Appropriate Clothing: Depending on the weather and water temperature, and how you plan to paddle (seated or standing) you might dress in a bathing suit, wet suit, or combination. Always consider bringing a non-absorbent wind breaker type jacket.
  • Leash: This attaches to your paddle board and leg, keeping your board close if you fall in the water. It can be a lifesaver in rough water.
  • Sunscreen: Protect your skin from sunburn since you'll be exposed to the sun reflected off the water's surface.
  • Sun Hat or Cap: Along with sunscreen, a hat can provide additional protection from the sun’s harmful rays and shield your eyes from glare so you can see where you are paddling.
  • Sunglasses: These can improve visibility and reduce the sun’s glare off the water. Opt for a good pair with polarized lenses and a strap so that you don't lose them.
  • Water Shoes: These specially designed shoes can keep your feet warm and /or provide added traction and protection from rocks, shells, and other underwater hazards.
  • Waterproof Bag: Great for storing your items and keeping them dry.
  • Water bottle: Paddleboarding is a workout. Stay hydrated with a bottle of fresh water.
  • Snacks: For longer outings, energy snacks are a good idea to keep your stamina up. For longer paddles, bring a picnic lunch in your dry bag!
  • Portable Waterproof Speaker: For those who enjoy a day out on the water with some tunes.
  • Dry Change of Clothes: If you plan on ending your day somewhere public, you might want a dry change of clothes for comfort.
  • GoPro or Waterproof Camera: To capture those moments of adventure or beautiful scenery.
  • Multi-Tool: Useful for making any necessary quick repairs or adjustments.
  • Headlamp or Flashlight: If you plan on being out after dark, a light can help you see and make you visible to others.
  • Whistle: This can be used for signaling in case of emergency.
  • SUP Trolley or Carry Strap: To make transporting your paddleboard to and from the water easier.
  • First Aid Kit: Always important to have on hand in case of minor injuries or stings.

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