Required Gear

Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs)

PFDs are required by our Coast Guard permit and MUST be worn on the water at all times, subject to disqualification. Find one that is comfortable and functional. They don't have to be expensive. The kind they make for fishing are remarkably handy, allow for lots of movement, and have little pockets in front for sunscreen or lip balm, etc. A USCG or ISO approved PFD is what you want.

We know that some of you wear low-profile inflatable PFDs that we can’t see from a distance. You can wear inflatables but beware that these often fail to deploy if not worn properly. Our Safety boats will be checking for PFDs. Please test your inflatable prior to the race. If we ask, please graciously let us know you have an inflatable.

Cell Phone with Extra Battery Life

Every boat must have at least one functional cell phone and a means of keeping it charged. This is your lifeline and also our way of contacting you if need be. Figure out how to keep it dry and charged aboard your boat so you can utilize it for Race Tracking and in the event you need to contact Safety Dispatch for yourself or another boat.

Navigation Lights

Navigation lights for your boat are required. Bow lights must include a red light on your port (left) side, and a green light on your starboard (right) side. Your stern must have a white light.

Our race sponsor Some Beach Outfitters carries these inexpensive lights which work great. They are waterproof, last 100 hours and pretty darn bright. Make sure you set them for steady on, not blinking. You can tape off the portions that shine directly toward you. Your goals is to have your navigation lights visible from 360 degrees around your boat, but not directly in your own eyes (including the one behind you which will light up your paddle and hurt your night vision).

Don't scrimp on your lights! It's one of the easiest things you can do to keep yourself visible to other boats and safe on the river.

Here's a video about navigation lights on the race.

Reflective Boat Numbers

Your 3" tall and official 4-digit boat number should be reflective and affixed to both sides of your bow above the water line. These help us see and identify you, especially at night. Each team may choose their own 4-digit number upon entry on a first-come, first-served basis. Race numbers are to be affixed by the racers themselves, prior to the start of the race. Numbers should be a color that is high contrast against the background and reflective. Mailbox numbers from the hardware store work great.

Missouri River Map

There are a variety of ways to be aware of your current location on the river. Some of you will prefer an app that notes how many miles you are from the next Checkpoint. Some of you will rely on physical maps which include river mile markers. Some of you will rely on a combination of charts and river mile markers. Whatever your choice is, be prepared to know approximately what river mile you are near. This not only helps you estimate distances to your next ground crew meet-up, it will also be necessary information asked of you if you need to contact Safety Dispatch for yourself or another paddler. Also, if for some reason we need to call you or your crew asking for your location, this will be info we ask for.

The old Lewis and Clark maps the Corps of Engineers put out some years back are great resources. You can print them off and laminate. They work well for paddler AND ground crew. These are good backups for those of you who prefer an electronic map in the event of cell coverage issues as well as something to peer at occasionally to get an idea of the course ahead as it sits in the bottom of your boat.

Here is the full version of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Lower Missouri River Guide.

Strong Flashlight

A strong flashlight in your boat is essential at night. You can use it to locate buoys or other objects that make noise at night, signal a safety boat for help, and signal other boats to make yourself known. You'll also want a strong light to locate navigational beacons (signs) and mile marker signage.

We recommend you use a flashlight with lumens in the 260 and up range. 260-300 will light up anything reflective all the way across the river. If you pick one small enough you can carabiner it to your PFD for easy pick up and drop access as you need it.

Small Waterproof Flashlight or Chem Light Attached to PFD

While you're attaching things to your PFD, a small waterproof flashlight or chem light (glow stick) is important. Imagine separation from boat in the dark and you've swam to shore. All you have is what's on your PFD. So you've got a whistle and the flashlight or a chemical light to get the attention of a passing safety boat or fellow paddler.

Rain Gear/Extra Set of Dry Clothes

Assume you will either get rained on or otherwise cold at night. The steady drain of energy and calories can bite you at night and you can start to shiver. Simply putting on a rain shell under your PFD can reverse this immediately. Also, every boat must carry a Mylar blanket per paddler for emergency warming.

Matches or a Lighter

Bring a lighter or some matches in the event you need to start a fire. Your ancestors would be so jealous.

Emergency Mylar Blanket

These lightweight and compact blankets weigh nothing. Keep one folded up in your first aid kit and have your ground crew carry one. They are waterproof, windproof, and all of your body heat is reflected back onto you when you wrap up in one. These assist in situations of hypothermia but also when you need a general warm up.

Though this race is scheduled in summer, there are some chilly nights on the river, especially if you find yourself wet from a storm. In addition to your packed rain gear/extra dry clothes, one of these is required to be in your boat too.

One per paddler in your boat is required.


Lots of potential uses for a knife or multitool. Cut duct tape when your fingers are too sore, take care of some make-shift repairs in the boat, use it in an entanglement issue with fishing line or rope.

First Aid Kit

You don't need to go buy a big plastic case of a first aid kit to keep in your boat. This can be a DIY kit and in a small dry bag or packed into your spare clothes dry bag. Items you might consider: some type of tape for covering hot spots or blisters, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic, waterproof bandages, pain reliever, your emergency Mylar blanket, etc. Maybe this is where you keep medications you need to take and where you store your sunscreen. Maybe those are in a different little dry bag.

Think about how you need to pack your kit in the boat for easy access. Maybe you have two kits - one for the most common things you think you'll need and all the rest packed somewhere else. But have a kit and a plan before you head out.

Also be sure your ground crew has a kit. Not only might they need one, they can refill yours from theirs and save a trip the closest store.


A whistle is required equipment per our insurance. Attach to your PFD. This can help us find you in the dark.

Food and Water

Everyone has their own food preferences for racing. If you don't know yours yet, stick to what you like and what you'd consider taking on a long hike. Like an unusually long hike. You need at least enough food and water to get you to your next planned ground crew resupply.

Consider foods that are easy to eat in the boat, salty snacks, some high carbs, even some pure sugar snacks. These are very individual. Some racers get sick of sweet snacks as the race goes on and stomachs can get more sensitive or even upset. Have some options and stay in good communication with your crews about what you are needing.

Liquids should include water and also some electrolytes. Maybe you want to rotate between sports drinks and plain water. Maybe you want to throw in other options occasionally like coffee and a Coke. Same as food, make sure you have what you need to get you to the next resupply. You'll be sweating a lot and needing to replace that water. You'll likely find yourself dehydrated at some point, so keep sipping.


Please print and legibly complete your race waiver. Bring it to Kaw Point during Pre-Race Check-In on Monday. Blank waivers will be available if you forget, but it will save you time to bring yours with you. One waiver per paddler. Racers under the age of 18 are required to have their parent or legal guardian's additional signature included. See race rule #10.   More information about Check-In can be found here.

Extra Paddle for Soloists

Bring a spare paddle and keep it aboard. If you lose that main paddle and you spot it bobbing 10 feet away, how do you get to it? This really just applies to solo boats. The spare paddle can be small and just enough to get you there. Or, what some solos do is have a double blade paddle and a single blade. Switching throughout the day to change up the muscle groups. So one is always your backup.

Reflective Tape

Most commercially produced boats come with some reflective materials. Shine a flashlight on your boat in a dark garage and you'll see it. If not, get some and place it along the boat so you're easy to see by fishermen, towboats, etc. Also a good idea to put some around the shaft of your paddle in case you drop it in the water and need to spot it in the dark.

Duct Tape

Fix your paddle. Fix a small hole in your boat. Tape up your hands.

Good Footwear

Many folks end up barefoot and that's fine. But if you have to walk out of a situation it might be across rocks or sharp objects. Plus you might find it more comfortable to throw on some shoes to walk up a ramp. Some sort of shoes stashed somewhere on your boat is important.

Toilet Kit

Having a small DIY toilet kit is never a bad idea.

Tarp or Tent-like Shelter

In the event you need to get off the water and brace for a coming storm, a tarp or simple tent can be your shelter for staying dry. Maybe you find yourself in dire need of a nap on a sandbar. Something simple and lightweight can come in handy.

Rope Suitable for Towing

A rope can be helpful for tying up behind a wing dike to wait out a barge, pulling your boat onto a sandbar, and even allow another point of contact that a safety boat can work with in the event you need help. Some marine ropes are pretty lightweight. Tie to your bow and keep the slack tidy so it doesn't get wrapped around you or other objects.

Bed Roll

A small bedroll could be something you carry with you throughout if you plan to nap along the course. Or maybe you just pick it up at Waverly from your crew for a nap downstream at Hill's Island and give it back to your crew at Miami.


Even if you plan to wear long sleeves and a hat, you'll likely need this stuff. Your face gets a lot of reflection off the water, and the tops of your hands will get a lot of sun. Wearing shorts? Be ready to slather on every few hours.

Hat & Sunglasses

Not only are these sun protection, but they will let you see in front of you a little easier while you're trying to spot obstacles in the river.


We have been able to get food vendors at Checkpoints and even some Paddlestops. These are usually civic groups raising money. You can eat pretty well at one of these food stands for $5-$10. Remind your ground crew to do the same.

Secure Your Gear

What happens if you flip over? What could you lose in the dark? Can you get back in your boat? What's your plan?

Be prepared for a worst case scenario where you are separated from your boat and unable to catch it. Maybe it's being blown by the wind. Don't worry, we can get it later. Take care of yourself first. Get to shore. But now what. Do you have your cell phone? Do you have a small flashlight or chem light? Do you have the Safety Dispatch Card? It's a good idea to have bare essentials as part of your PFD. A PFD with pockets makes this easy.

Come up with a plan ahead of the race as to how you will secure gear to your boat and to yourself.

© 2024 Missouri River Relief. All Rights Reserved. Website design and development by Pixel Jam Digital.