Every winter as the birds migrate south so do dozens of kayakers. Destinations such as New Zealand, Ecuador, and Chile tempt nomadic kayakers with the promise of an endless summer. Stepping off the plane in a foreign country is magical — you can taste the promise of adventure and world-class kayaking — but it can also be intimidating. As you’re planning that upcoming trip to a foreign county, here are some things you should toss in your checked bag.

  1. Boat outfitting. If you’re renting a boat or even bringing your own, bring extra float bags and foam. Most of the boats in South America have long lost their extra outfitting and there aren’t any paddling shops to pick up a stray piece of foam or an extra float bag.
  2. Ditto for extra paddling gear. Same goes for things like nose plugs or helmet padding. If it’s hard to think about rolling without nose plugs, bring a backup pair.

    Photo by Ben David Jacob

    Photo by Ben David Jacob

  3. Travel with a breakdown paddle. Avoid extra costs at the airport and have an easier time traveling through cities and on buses with a breakdown paddle.
  4. Learn directions in Spanish (or whatever the local language is). Make sure you learn numbers and how to give directions (left, right, a little farther) for the taxi rides to and from the river.
  5. Bring small bills. Ecuador uses the American dollar as its currency, and most countries will accept it, but most countries also can’t break anything larger than a twenty. Especially in Ecuador, you’ll be hard pressed to even break a ten some days. Bring a stack of ones.

    Photo by Ben David Jacob

    Photo by Ben David Jacob

  6. Peanut butter. Seriously. It can be really hard to find basic snacks we’re used to in America in foreign countries. If you have a particular protein bar you like or really love peanut butter sandwiches, bring it.
  7. A good first aid kit. Once you leave the bigger cities and head in search of whitewater, even basic medical supplies can become impossible to find. Throw a simple first aid kit in your bag to make sure you’re ready for the occasional wound.
  8. Sunscreen can be very hard to find and expensive, especially in South America.

    Photo by Ben David Jacob

    Photo by Ben David Jacob

This year, while you’re hunting down cheap airfare and trying to see how much it costs to check a boat, let the spirit of adventure and community of kayaking re-energize you. Paddling in other countries will challenge you and introduce you to people you would never meet otherwise.

More from C&K
Tips for Paddling in Costa Rica

Made in Mexico: Paddling like a girl south of the border — and being okay with it