Every experienced boater knows that the boat is just the beginning. Whether you’re just renting a boat for the day, or you own your own boat, having some smart boat accessories and boat gadgets on board can turn a good day on the water into an epic one.
Boat gear and gadgets are like any other kind of accessory or supply item: some are truly must-have, while others are gimmicks that will just take up space. Not to mention, how you want to use your boat will affect the kinds of accessories and gadgets you ultimately keep on board—whether that’s spending time fishing, .
Here’s a look at what most boaters think about when creating their shopping list of the best boat accessories and must-have gadgets for the 2022 boating season:
- Waterproof dry bags
- GoPro camera
- Personal locator beacon
- Portable solar charger
- Yeti cooler
- SubSafe containers
- Marine grade boat grill
- Portable, waterproof Bluetooth speaker
- Shatter-resistant drinking glasses
- Outdoor blankets
Let’s dive into some of the best options for each of these 10 items, which you can find at a variety of different recreational retailers.
1. Waterproof dry bags
When you’re in an environment where everyone and everything is wet, you need a place to keep stuff like smartphones dry. This is where a couple of good-quality dry bags come in.
Dry bags are just what they sound like: waterproof bags that seal to keep things dry. They come in different sizes, so you can stuff everything from your driver’s license to a T-shirt into them, and they’re made in submersible and non-submersible styles. The non-submersible bags are usually tough enough to withstand splashing on board, and they generally cost less than submersible bags.
A great place to shop for good dry bags is with shops that outfit surfers and scuba divers.
2. GoPro Camera
Many good cameras and smartphones have died a watery death after getting wet or going overboard during a day out on the boat—taking all those great photo memories with them. Nobody wants to suffer that fate, which is why a GoPro camera is the best option for capturing photos and videos out on the boat.
- GoPros are waterproof digital cameras that can be handheld, wrist-carried or mounted on everything from the boat itself to kayaks and paddles.
- They shoot still photos as well as video—in slow-motion or regular motion, with video stabilization, and with other bells and whistles that help eliminate blurriness aboard moving boats that themselves are atop moving water.
- If you’re using a boat for snorkeling, GoPros can go overboard alongside the fins and masks, then resurface to be used on dry land.
These cameras are versatile and durable, and make it virtually impossible to lose memories of a day out on the boat.
3. Personal locator beacon
If you’ve read our Boat Safety Equipment Checklist, covering both required and recommended items to have onboard, then you probably have a good understanding that safety should always be top of mind whenever you’re on the water. A personal locator beacon is a great safety gadget for any style boater, and can be especially helpful if you’re bringing new people on the boat who feel a little nervous cruising away from shore for the first time.
These beacons are individual tracking devices that let rescuing authorities find you in an emergency. They’re small enough to be clipped onto a pair of shorts or a life jacket, and they provide real peace of mind in virtually any scenario.
- Ocean Signal, Garmin, and ACR Electronics all make reliable personal locator beacons that can be used not only on the boat, but also during a day out hiking or biking in wooded parks or other off-road locations.
These must-have boat gadgets are versatile, and if you experience a serious problem or get lost, they can be actual life-savers.
4. Portable solar charger
We all know the dreaded feeling of watching a smartphone drain down to 10 percent, then 5 percent, then 1 percent battery life when we’re in a place with no option for recharging. This is the time for a portable solar charger, which can be set up anywhere—turning a boat, a beach or an island campground into a spot for rejuvenating the digital juice.
- GoalZero makes portable solar chargers that have USB ports so you can plug in everything from a smartphone to a tablet.
- These chargers have multiple panels that fold for easy stowage or carrying, and they’re small enough when folded up that they can be attached to a backpack without adding a lot of weight.
- The largest models can run a portable refrigerator.
5. Yeti cooler
Yeti makes coolers that hold up in freshwater or saltwater conditions. These coolers come in various sizes, styles and colors.
A pro tip for coolers aboard boats: Get the soft-sided ones, because as you take stuff out throughout the day, the cooler takes up less and less space on board, and becomes easier to stow by folding it up and placing it under a seat or in a side compartment. You can’t do that with a hard-sided cooler that’s the same size even when it’s completely empty.
The soft-sided coolers that Yeti sells are sized for everything from a single lunch on a kayak to a family day of fun on a boat. Some of the soft-sided coolers can be carried like backpacks, making them easier to toss into a dinghy and take ashore for lunch on the beach.
6. SubSafe containers
If you’re packing a cooler full of sub sandwiches, the last thing you want is for them to end up soggy and mushy in a melting pile of ice by the time you’re ready to eat. SubSafe containers are watertight and crush-resistant, so they protect your pastrami and provolone even if it gets buried underneath an avalanche of cubes and cans.
- SubSafe containers have a three-piece design that lets them hold either a 6-inch or a 12-inch sub. The containers float if wet hands drop them overboard, and they’re dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning once you get home.
- What’s more, after you’re done eating your sub, these containers can double as a spot to keep everything from car keys to sunglasses dry.
7. Marine grade boat grill
If you prefer your onboard lunch to be hot, then a portable boat grill is the way to go. You’ll want a marine-specific grill like the ones that West Marine sells because out on the water, home-style charcoal grills are useless. The charcoal briquettes can’t withstand the marine environment. You need a portable gas grill—and, ideally, one made to be attached to the boat so it doesn’t tip over if the boat gets hit by a wake and starts rolling from side to side.
- Magma is a brand that makes boat-ready grills as well as the mounts to keep them safe on board.
- Magma also makes tabletop legs, so you can take the grill from the boat to a picnic table ashore and set it up there.
- The mounts that connect the grill to the boat can be removable or permanent, attaching to either a rail or a flat onboard surface (depending on how often you plan to grill on board).
8. Portable, waterproof Bluetooth speaker
Many boats come with built-in stereos and speakers, but some are better than others, and none of them can be picked up and carried onto a kayak or the beach. Hence the need for a portable Bluetooth speaker as a must-have boat accessory. JBL is brand of choice for this purpose.
- The JBL Go 3 is waterproof and dustproof, which means it will continue to crank out the tunes even if it gets plopped onto a spit of sand.
- It will wirelessly connect to any device with Bluetooth.
- It plays for five hours on a single charge.
- And, it comes in fun colors that range from bright red to camouflage.
9. Shatter-resistant drinking glasses
We’re all trying to reduce our use of single-use plastics and aluminum cans, but on a boat, traditional glasses are a hazard because they can break and cut bare hands and feet.
Shatter-resistant glasses come in all kinds of sizes and styles today.
- Amazon sells a wide variety of “unbreakable” glasses for use on the boat or by the pool.
- There are wineglasses with or without stems, pilsner beer and old-fashioned glasses, and good ol’ 12-piece assorted sets that will hold everything from soda to iced tea.
- Some are tumblers with lids that can be ideal aboard boats where you plan to cruise fast for much of the day.
10. Outdoor blankets
Beach towels are always one of the best boat accessories to have onboard—and oversized beach towels are even better: They can double as makeshift blankets at the end of the day when everyone is wet and tired and starting to get a chill as the sun sinks low in the sky. But the best thing to have in that moment is an outdoor blanket, the kind that can also be used during camping and RV trips.
- L.L. Bean makes waterproof outdoor blankets with soft polyester-fleece surfaces that are also durable enough to handle everything from a splash to wet grass.
- They come in a selection of fun colors and patterns, and can be ordered in extra-large sizes so a couple of kids can tuck under them while mom and dad pack up all the other boat accessories and set a course for home.