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Heading Out on a Boat? Get These Essentials First

Your vessel isn’t truly seaworthy until you’ve added the right gear.

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A terrible cliché you’ll hear people mindlessly spout about boat ownership is that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day the boat is bought and the day it is sold. Whether or not that’s true is irrelevant: you, the ever intrepid lover of the sea, have decided to buy a boat. Yet before your vessel is truly seaworthy there are a few things you’ll need to buy. Some are required by the law; others are merely for the sake of your own convenience and comfort. But in either case, for a safe and successful day of boating, be sure to stock up on everything below before you set sail. Only then can you be concerned about what kind of beer to bring.

For the Boat


Safety First


Simrad GO7 XSE

A GPS and sonar system with an easy-to-use touchscreen interface. The Simrad is compatible with a number of cartography services (including Insight and Navionics) and allows users to set and store up to 10,000 waypoints.

Buy Now: $649

Standard Horizon GX1700B

VHF (very high frequency) radios are used specifically for maritime use and allow boaters to communicate with other seacraft, marinas and bridge operators, and to call for help. The Standard Horizon GX1700B is a great option and features digital selective calling (DSC), which automates distress signals in case of an emergency. What’s more, it also features built-in GPS which means it can send GPS positions through DSC and can be used as back-up navigation. (Note: you’re also going to need an antenna.)

Buy Now: $215

Kiddie Mariner 5

Class B (liquids and gas) fire extinguishers are a requirement on motorized boats. This specialized marine extinguisher from Kiddie is US Coast Guard approved, light, and can be easily mounted on your vessel in case of an emergency.

Buy Now: $36

Falcon Safety Super Sound Horn

While crossing, meeting and overtaking on the open water, and during any period of reduced vision, audible signals become necessary. This powerful airhorn can be used to signal vessels up to half a mile away.

Buy Now: $9

ORION Bluewater Alert/Locate Signal Kit

You’re also required to carry visual distress signals if you’re boating on US coastal waters or on the Great Lakes (as well as areas connected to these bodies of water by a waterway 2 miles wide or more). ORION’s US Coast Guard-certified kit fits the bill, featuring six handheld flares (five red, one orange), six aerial signals, a pistol-style launcher and a soft, buoyant case.

Buy Now: $140

O’Neill Wake Waterski Men’s Superlite USCG Vest

Boaters should carry at least one life vest per person. For most inland and calm-water boating, this type III vest from O’Neill should work nicely (it’s even appropriate for water sports). But should you venture into rougher waters, upgrading to a more substantial type I vest is recommended.

Buy Now: $40+

Cal June USCG Approved Ring Buoy

If your vessel is longer than 16 feet, you’re required to carry at least one throwable (type IV) flotation device, though it’s not a bad idea to carry one even if you aren’t bound by the law.

Buy Now: $45+

For Yourself


Comfort and Convenience


Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense SPF 50+

Kiehl’s comfortable and translucent sunscreen is oil-free, and will help keep your skin protected when you’re exposed to the sun for a full day of boating. What’s more, the brand states it is waterproof for up to an hour and 20 minutes.

Buy Now: $38

Filson Dry Duffle Backpack

Bringing a change of clothes, a towel or any other dry goods you’d like to remain dry? A rugged, handsome and water-tight bag ought to do the trick.

Buy Now: $160

Dom Vetro Jet Black Ernesto II

If you’re lucky enough, your day out on the water will be full of sunshine; regardless, a good pair of shades is necessary for giving yourself the best possible visibility while piloting. Any polarized lenses will do, but a pair of handsome acetate sunglasses made in the Italian Alps are never a bad choice — just don’t drop them overboard.

Buy Now: $295

Xtratuf Finatic II Deck Shoes

Before they were paired with shoulder-draped sweaters and brightly colored shorts on land, they were paired with shoulder-draped sweaters and brightly colored shorts on seagoing vessels. Boat shoes are a necessity for safely and comfortably traversing the deck. Xtratuf has long been a favorite among fishermen in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest — the brand’s deck shoe isn’t as extreme as its boots, but it is built for quick drying and slip resistance.

Buy Now: $85

Freeman Dijon

If the weather suggests rain is a possibility, pack a rain jacket. Freeman’s design takes pretty clear inspiration from the classic fisherman’s jacket, so its as appropriate as any other lightweight, rain-wicking option.

Buy Now: $325

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