Pontooning is fun, but with it comes a whole lot of responsibility for not just your own safety and that of your passengers, but also for other people out on the water.
I have often been asked by beginner pontooners if there is a master-list of the basic and essential items that they should always carry on their pontoon boat to help with not just safety, but also for practical reasons you might encounter whilst boating.
On this page you will see a list of all the must have items on a pontoon boat – some required by law in your state, others just sensible must haves.
Important Note: These are not items intended to increase the amount of fun you have on your boat, as you can find recommendations for those elsewhere on Pontoonopedia, but instead essential items for safety and also those that are legally required.
List of Must Have Basic Items for a Pontoon Boat
I have simply listed my must have items in an alphabetical list.
You might not need all of these legally, as it will depend on your local state law, but I would recommend all of them regardless of what the law says. They will keep you safe and could save your life at some point in the future.
If you are not sure what the legal regulations are for what you need to carry on your pontoon boat in your state, then click here to access state-by-state regulations and laws.
- Anchor – With a 50 to 100-foot line (see my recommended anchors)
- Aspirin – Could save someone’s life if they are having a heart attack
- Boat Hook – I recommend the Star Brite on Amazon
- BoatUS or Sea Tow Membership
- Chart Plotter
- Depth Finder
- Distress Flag – Hopefully you will never need one, but this one is good
- Dock Line and Rope – for transient slips
- Extra Boat Key – Just in case you lose one onboard or in the water
- Extra Fuses
- Fire Extinguisher – Ideal for gas and oil fires, I recommend this on Amazon
- First Aid Kit
- Flash Light – This one on Amazon is waterproof and can be submerged up to 80 feet
- Floats on Your Keys – Just in case you drop them in the water, these ones are awesome
- Jump Box and Tow Rope – In case you run out of gas
- Life Jackets – One for each person and they must fit
- Life Preserver – To throw overboard or a throwable flotation device
- Long Arm Net – Helps you fish items out of the water and found on Amazon
- Pair of Binoculars – Waterproof ones are recommended, click here
- Paper Towels
- Pocket Knife – Take a look at this Berger knife on Amazon
- Portable Battery Jumper – just in case you need it or to help out a stranded boater, I like this one on Amazon
- Radio – Or at least fully charged cell phone
- Small Emergency Tool Kit – Small, portable, and always useful – see prices
- Tow Ropes
- Water – I always take 20% more than I actually need
- Weed Eater String
- Whistle – Fox are great brand, view on Amazon
- Ziploc Bags – I have lost count on how handy they are
Other Essential Items to Consider
If possible, I also travel with a good first mate who can run the boat. This is just in case anything was ever to happen, which I hope it won’t! But, you always need someone to take the wheel once and a while.
The state that you live in also might require you to have taken a boater safety course and hold a boating license. Take a look at state laws and how they differ in this guide. Once you have done that, also check that you have everything required by law on your pontoon, in this checklist of legal required equipment.
Other items I like to take with me are throw rugs as I have carpet on my pontoon deck. Yes, they will get wet and damp, but I can wash them and hang them out to dry as it saves my carpets getting dirty. It’s far better than having mud stains.
And lastly, make sure that you have a jump box and a tow rope in case you run out of gas. The gas gauges in pontoon boats (or any boats for that matter) are notoriously inaccurate.
I have first-hand experience of this, as I once ran out of gas despite the gauge saying I had a quarter of a tank. Thankfully I had just enough for my trolling motor to get me to a marina. From that day on, I have always made sure I am prepared just in case it happens again and I am not so lucky.