Pontoon accessories are nothing to squawk at.
A small item can help you land that big catch, keep the party going or even save your life.
Being out on the water can result in some unexpected twists and turns.
At the very least, you’re looking to have food, water, comfort, safety, storage space and fun.
Whether you’re out for an hour, a day trip or an extended camping trip, you’re going to need some key accessories to be fully prepared and confident.
Surprised to hear me talking about camping? Well, pontoon camping is a ridiculously fun experience! If you haven’t tried it already, you really need to. It’s tooning at its finest.
Being prepared for a pontoon trip is very much like being prepared for a camping trip anyway—there’s tons of overlap to keep you and yours having a blast outdoors.
That said, sometimes the general idea of boating or camping, for any length of time, can get a little intimidating. What might you need? What’s really essential? What’s too much? What’s too little?
If you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to outdoor excursions, you might be sitting around scratching your head over what to bring.
Now add a boat to the mix. Knowing you can’t easily hop in a car to fetch something you forgot makes things even more overwhelming.
I’m an avid camper and I still get overwhelmed, spending hours searching for things in recreational outdoor stores. So from my camping expertise, I hope to provide ‘tooners (and other boaters) with an essential list of gear and important things to consider for any water-based trip.
1. Durable Cooler
Keeping your drinks cold while under the hot sun for an entire day is already difficult enough. Keeping your food and drinks cold for an entire weekend or several days is even harder.
There are many trusted cooler brands out there, but be sure to invest in a cooler that can handle itself for a few days without the pain of you going back out to find bags of ice.
Perhaps the best name in the cooler business is Yeti. The Yeti cooler pictured right is one of its bestselling and highest-rated coolers, and it will keep things cold for a ridiculously long time (buy on Amazon).
It doesn’t have to be a Yeti, though. Everyone knows the name, but there are arguably other brands just as well-made (and less expensive) like Pelican or Engel. I recommended this nice Pelican cooler (buy on Amazon) in another post, and I’ll recommend it again—it can keep your ice frozen for a week, which is impressive enough for most.
2. Flashlights and Headlamps
Think of all that you could accomplish with both hands free at night. You could even use a headlamp for night fishing. You know, in case you need both hands free to reel in the big one.
This waterproof and rechargeable headlamp (shown right, available on Amazon) is an excellent purchase and very versatile! What I love most about it is the detachable lamphead which works as a handheld flashlight if needed.
3. Changing Room or Pontoon Enclosure
If you’re okay with going on shore and sleeping in a tent, that’s fine too. At the very least, purchase yourself a portable changing room (on Amazon) for a bit of privacy when you have guests.
A portable changing room could be anything from a drop down bimini attachment—which is really a breed of pontoon enclosure—to a collapsible pop-up changing room (buy on Amazon). I personally think pop-up changing rooms are sufficient because, unlike the drop-down biminis, you’ll be able to set it up anywhere you wish. Sometimes a drop-down bimini just gets in the way; a pop-up folds and stores away beneath a seat when not in use.
4. Portable Toilets and Sanitary Items
If you plan on camping somewhere remote, you’re gonna want a portable toilet like this slick option from Thetford (available to buy on Amazon). This is one of the nicest-looking portable toilets out there, and it will come in handy sooner or later. Plus, this portable toilet has an integrated toilet paper holder and a holding tank level indicator so you know when it’s time to empty it out.
Not all of us are comfortable with the idea of taking a trowel and burying our business. Having one leaves your site more sanitary and not so gross for the next campers.
Another reason to get a portable potty is the convenience. Most campgrounds will have pit toilets, but even so, it’s not the easiest place to find stumbling around in the middle of the night—even if you’ve got your headlamp on. Have a means of relieving yourself on board instead.
If you’re only planning on making day trips with your pontoon, it’s still a nice addition. Now nobody has to stress about getting back to the dock!
5. Grills and Camp Stoves
A classic Coleman propane stove is a camping standard. Nowadays they have even smaller camp stoves. But where safety is always a concern with any stove, propane is risky and frowned upon in the boating community.
They’re unsafe to use or store in enclosed spaces as leaks can build up, potentially causing an explosion. But you should also never use this inside a pontoon enclosure, as the fumes can build up and knock you out.
We’ve reviewed a few choice grills thoroughly, so be sure to check those out.
6. Camp Chairs and Tables
If you don’t already have a set of camping chairs, I recommend investing in a few crew deck chairs instead. That way you never have to worry about forgetting them, and can just leave on board at all times for extra guest seating during other occasions.
A collapsible table for gathering around for meals is important to have also. Plus it’s great for playing cards or games around too. Again, something you can just leave on board and fetch whenever you need.
7. Mess Kit
The popular Magma cookware set (buy on Amazon) is a good set whether you’re cooking on a large cruiser or pontoon. The nesting ability saves space and the stainless steel makes it very durable.
8. Glassware and Utensils
Glass has no place on a boat. Well… except for windows.
But don’t even think of bringing breakable porcelain plates or glassware—just don’t do it! Any bowls or plates or wine glasses should be BPA-free plastic. Or better yet, stainless steel! Go with something that’s shatterproof, easy to clean and capable of handling hot liquids.
When I was a novice camper, I took basic plastic cups which eventually became scratched and cloudy. Not to mention they never could handle hot liquids like coffee or tea very well. So I also recently invested in a set of FreeTail Outfitters tumblers. What I love most about these is they’re durable and versatile. They’re powder-coated, stackable and can hold either a cold pint or your morning joe.
I’m not a fan of throw-away plastic utensils or paper plates. It just seems so wasteful. And it doesn’t take much extra effort to clean your dishware and flatware. I purchased this set of utensils (shown right, available on Amazon) for myself and love them!
They have a carrying pouch to keep them organized and have a normal hand-weight. And Sea to Summit is quality brand name in camp gear; they make lightweight and stackable tableware sets.
9. Mosquito Repellents and Nets
Again, a pontoon enclosure would come in handy for this, especially ones with roll-down windows, but if you can’t afford it—no worries! What you could invest in instead is a mosquito curtain.
Check out Mosquito Curtains. They specialize in exactly this sort of thing, and they have a variety of netting options. With three different mesh type screens including marine-grades for mosquitoes and no-see-ums (a flea-sized mosquito) native to more humid climates, they can shape and customize for everything from pontoons to sailboats to cruisers.
10. Water Purifiers and Tablets
Five-gallon containers are a quick pick up at your local grocery store. But if you have the ability to gather water from a fresh source, you can get a water purification system.
Lifestraw is known for making literal straws that purifies water as you drink, useful for long-distance backpackers who sip directly from streams. But they also make this much larger family-sized pouch (buy on Amazon). You can take this along for any excursion—not just camping!—to clean off sand and mud before stepping back into the boat.
11. Portable Showers and Travel Soap Dispensers
Nemo Equipment Helio Pressure Shower (buy on Amazon) is a versatile shower with stellar reviews.
With a plentiful 11-liter tank it’s not only great for showering but the perfect camping companion for cleaning up your dishes.
You can also use it for rinsing off pets, and should every time if they swim in salt water.
12. Food Storage Organizers and Prep Stations
Chopping and cooking while camping can be a frustrating experience. You forget where you packed things and sometimes find yourself fighting time to eat in daylight. And this is with the luxury of a picnic table.
If you take your boat to a remote island, you won’t have much counter space. So I suggest this portable prep station (buy on Amazon). With collapsible legs, it can hide away on the pontoon when not in use and on any normal weekend, doubles for cleaning fish.
Get a dry box to keep food or other things from getting wet. Stanley is reputable brand and has very heavy-duty dry boxes. I like this style because it has wheels and a latch (to keep out critters). Plus, you can always keep it on the boat and just add already pre-organized bags of groceries or clothes.
13. Dry Clothing and Dry Sacks
Even when you go cruising for only a day, you need these! Even at minimal speeds with no chance of splash, there’s still a chance for rain. Protect your food, paper towels, beach towels, electronics (the list goes on) and keep them bone dry in a dry sack or dry box.
But when it comes to camping—dry bags and dry boxes help keep clothes, sleeping bags and pillows from getting too damp. Even the most skilled campers can’t protect their fabrics from absorbing air condensation and moisture. The best you can do is make sure you bring along a watertight container made for all-weather protection.
Also for extra measure, bring moisture-wicking clothes and more than you think you’ll need. And microfiber towels may not be as luxurious and plush, but they dry a lot faster than a regular beach towel.
14. Propane Fire Kit
If you find this to be the case, and you just can’t imagine a bonfire-less camping experience, go purchase a portable fire stove (buy on Amazon). This also frees up space on deck you’d otherwise need for firewood. And propane doesn’t get that smokey campfire smell into all your clothes.
Although I don’t recommend using this on board your pontoon.
You already enjoy the water, so why not appreciate the rest nature has to offer! But if you’re not sold on camping, try one night first and break yourself into it.
You might be pleasantly surprised. And don’t forget to bring marshmallows for s’mores!