How to Prep Your Boat for a Trip

Keep your crew safe and your boat operational and clean on the road.

Washing outboard motors in marina
Traveling anglers should pack up kits for first aid, boat cleaning and emergency repairs. George Poveromo

I’m a compact packer. When it comes to whittling wants down to necessities, I get competitive. But when you travel by boat, sometimes your ability to pack the kitchen sink makes or breaks a trip. Those who trailer their boats to fun destinations can pack the boat and the truck, but those who run a boat on its own bottom to distant locales should take greater pains to plan wisely.

The gear you carry with you also evolves based on trip duration, number of crew, boat size and travel distance.

To help you decide what to take, I talked with tournament traveling captain and charter guide Mark Henderson of Liquid Fire Fishing in North Carolina, as well as experts from West Marine and Star brite. 

First Aid

Of key importance, captains should carry bandaging supplies and peroxide, or something else that will kill germs. Hook injuries and cuts caused by fish teeth and fins top the list of on-water accidents. If you travel to remote locations, pack a suture kit, and don’t forget to remind passengers to bring extra supplies of their medications.

In addition, a topical ointment, mild painkillers such as ibuprofen, scissors, tourniquets and seasickness meds should make the list, especially if your destination lies far away from a convenient drugstore. 

Henderson keeps first-aid products in labeled plastic boxes, all tucked inside a waterproof bag. West Marine sells pre-made kits by Orion in Coastal, Cruiser, Offshore or Blue Water versions ($19.99 to $74.99). Look for “Selecting a Boating Medical Kit” in the company’s West Advisor articles.

Tools and Spare Parts

If you trailer your boat, you can stow more tools and spare parts in your truck bed beyond what you take aboard. You’ll also want to pack gear to maintain your trailer on the road. 

When heading offshore, Henderson keeps a case of basic wrenches and screwdrivers, a breaker bar and a prop wrench on his SeaVee 390Z. He also carries an alternator belt, a full set of spark plugs, a fuel filter and wrench, an ignition wire/coil pack, duct tape, CRC 6-56 and penetrating oil, a manual bilge pump, and emergency plugs that can stopper holes.

Because his vessel sports quad Mercury Verado 400 outboards, Henderson doesn’t worry about carrying a spare prop or a battery jump-starter. But on boats with fewer engines, those items should be considered.

West Marine sells a product made by Ancor called Repair Tape ($13.49), which remains flexible throughout a wide range of temperatures. A basic set of wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers and pliers of different sizes called the Stowaway Tool Kit costs $39.99.

For the rare emergency, Star brite suggests packing an epoxy putty stick ($20) to plug small holes, even below the waterline. Liquid electrical tape ($15) can be painted over wires or electrical panels to create a waterproof, removable seal. If you island-hop or travel internationally, a fuel treatment like Star Tron ($11) can save the day if you encounter questionable fuel. 

Read Next: Boat Trailer Maintenance Tips

Cleaning Supplies

Star brite recommends a few basic cleaning supplies for traveling boaters, including a good boat soap that can handle all surfaces, a spray-on speed detailer, and a general cleaner and degreaser that can dissolve everything from food spills to pogy mung and fish blood. Keep a microfiber wash mitt handy at all times.

For boats with heads, carry some form of treatment aboard. For a long weekend trip, a chemical-based deodorizer should suffice; for longer trips, consider a bacteria- or enzyme-based solution.

Snap and Zipper Lubricant ($16) helps keep enclosures operational, particularly important for stay-aboard trips.

In addition to cleaning products, Henderson keeps at least three 5-gallon buckets aboard, as well as a telescoping pole and medium-bristle brush. Most captains know that scrubbing off blood and fish slime quickly after they boat a catch can eliminate baked-on stains back at the dock. 

Henderson also carries Salt-X and Rain-X to battle corrosion and keep the windshield and isinglass fog-free.

As spring weather warms up your travel bug, start creating checklists and kits, and stow them in easy-to-reach dry cubbies aboard your vessel. Preventing issues and problems through preparation can deliver the ultimate remote fishing experience. 

Basic Packing List

First Aid

  • Bandaging supplies 
  • Suture kit and scissors
  • Peroxide
  • Ibuprofen 
  • Seasickness meds
  • Tourniquets

Tools and Parts

  • Basic tool set
  • Prop wrench 
  • Alternator belt
  • Spark plugs
  • Fuel filter and wrench
  • Ignition wire/coil 
  • Duct tape
  • Penetrating oil
  • Manual bilge pump 
  • Emergency plugs 
  • Epoxy putty stick 
  • Liquid electrical tape 


  • Boat soap
  • Cleaner/degreaser 
  • 5-gallon buckets (three or more)
  • Medium-bristle boat brush

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