Get in Gear: 16 Cool Boat Gadgets You Never Knew You Needed

Every boat needs to be stocked with necessary items like life jackets, fire extinguishers, flares, VHF radios, registration papers, anchors and what have you.

The best part is digging into the cooler boat gadgets—the fun and functional things you never knew you needed, but are extremely happy to have aboard.

Now it’s time to really personalize your boating experience, making it more fun and comfortable for everybody.

Whether you’re fishing, cruising or towing tubes, everybody can use a cool boat gadget or two… or ten.

16 Cool Boat Gadgets You Never Knew You Needed

Gadgets for Creature Comfort

A day on the water should be a time for relaxation.

From hammocks and umbrellas to cushioned helm pads and pet products, here are some of my favorite cool boat gadgets to keep you comfortable on or off your feet—or paws—all day long.

Dog Boat Ladder

Paws Aboard Doggy Boat Ladder and Ramp
  • The Doggy Boat Ladder is an excellent choice for use with arthritic, older, or overweight pets
  • Portable, lightweight and durable
  • Making boating fun and safe for you and your pet

Recommended: Paws Aboard Ladder

Have you ever tried to lift a dripping wet, 60-lb dog into a boat? It’s always the 60-lb ones that like to jump in the lake and splash around—never the easily-liftable, 5-lb fluffballs.

Added to the weight and wiggling of said dog is the unstable rocking of waves or boat wakes, making this task all the trickier. If your dog is a regular companion on your boat, you might want to consider a handy pet ladder.

The Paws Aboard ladder is lightweight and portable enough to take on any water excursion. Simply attach it to the boat ladder and you’re good to go. Your dog will thank you. So will your back.

Spill-proof Water Dish

The Orginal Buddy Bowl 1/2 Gal Clear
  • SPILL PROOF - And Splash Proof. Holds water upside down. No more wasted water. Water stays cleaner.
  • EASY TO CLEAN - Dishwasher safe, comes apart for easy cleaning.
  • NON-TOXIC - BPA free, made from tough food grade plastic.
  • HEALTHY - Keeps dogs from drinking too fast and keeps long ears dry. No water gets up dogs nose.
  • GREAT FOR TRAVELING - No more spills in the car when traveling.

Recommended: Buddy Bowl

Dogs need fresh water, especially out on a boat, to stay hydrated. Avoid letting them drink lake or sea water, which can be hazardous to their health, whether they believe it or not.

And when you’re giving your dog some fresh water, bowls come into play. Yes, you’re out on the water, but do you really want to step in slobbery puddles from spilled dog dishes all over the deck? In addition to being a safety hazard, it’s just plain annoying.

I really like the Buddy Bowl spill-proof water dish because it stays where it’s supposed to. It comes in 32, 44 and 64-ounce sizes and is made of non-toxic polyethylene. It has three durable pieces—the bottom bowl holds the water, an insert works as a funnel and the top keeps the water in the bowl.

Boat Seat Umbrella

Mantis Original Pro Plus - Pacific Blue
  • • The Mantis Original Pro Plus offers virtually unlimited angle adjustment for all day sun protection: 360 degree side to side; 180 degrees front to back; 360 degree rotation on mount (Mounts sold separately).
  • ·         The Mantis connects almost anywhere with 14 mounting options (sold separately). Mantis Mounts include: Swivel Seat, Butt/Pro Seat, Rail, Rod Holder, Suction, Clamp, Deck, Semi-Flush Deck, Side Wall, and Bench Seat (Mounts sold separately)
  • ·         The Mantis shade is 55" W x 35" deep when opened. It is multi-purpose, highly portable and lightweight (6 lbs.), deploys and retracts in seconds, is easily moved to multiple locations, minimally interferes with fishing and other outdoor activities and stores compactly (38" x 6" x 5") when not in use.
  • ·         The Mantis offers an sleek and attractive aerodynamic design which resists wind and eliminates heat pockets building under the shade.
  • ·         The Mantis is built to last and endure the elements. It features only quality materials (aluminum frames, stainless steel hardware, marine Sunbrella solution dyed acrylic fabric, and strong and UV resistant Nylon 6 plastic) and offers a lifetime frame warranty.

Recommended: Mantis Original Pro Plus

As much as I like being out on the water, I really need some shade now and then. The Mantis umbrella can attach nearly anywhere—just don’t forget to purchase the correct brackets to attach it, since those are all sold separately.

At 55 inches wide, it makes a great little get-away from bright sun or even raindrops. It’s also adjustable, so you can turn it to any position you want.

Portable Nylon Hammock

Recommended: Himal portable hammock

What says relaxation better than a hammock? Okay, maybe frosty drinks with flirty little umbrellas, but I’ll get to that later.

Himal makes a portable and lightweight hammock that can be attached to poles, masts or rails. It’s made out of high-strength “parachute” fabric and includes galvanized stainless-steel carbiners, so it’s super sturdy.

Just fold it up and stash in a bag when you’re done. It’s quick drying and mildew resistant, which is one of my number one requirements with any boat gadget.

Cushioned Helm Station Pad

Recommended: SeaDek helm station pad

Standing at the helm of a boat all day can be tiring on the legs, feet and back. The SeaDek helm station pad gives a nice, cushiony feel to the feet.

It’s made of 13mm EVA foam, and the peel-and-stick backing keeps it from sliding around. It’s available in several color combinations for the fashion-conscious boater.

Waterproof Dry Bags

Montem Waterproof Bag / Roll Top Dry Bag, 20L - Blue
  • 【WEATHER RESISTANT】With superior quality, your Montem Dry Bag comes in 500-denier polyester, vinyl-coating to seal out the elements with watertight, welded seams. Adjustable shoulder strap included! Keeps your gear safe & dry!
  • 【SUBMERSION READY】Our bags are suitable for quick submersion. While you are kayaking, traveling, boating, white water rafting, camping, hiking, hunting, skiing, snowboarding, our dry bags will protect your valuables from dirt, dust, sand and water.
  • 【ESSENTIAL PROTECTION】Protect your valuables with our 5L, 10L, or 20L dry bags! Just toss your gear inside, roll it down, and you're good to go on your next adventure.
  • 【OUR PROMISE】Includes one (1) shoulder strap. We take care of you better than anyone else! Making sure you are 100% delighted and the product is perfect when it reaches you.
  • WARRANTY - One Year Limited Warranty.

Recommended: Montem dry bags

Dry bags rank right up there with necessities that need to be on every boat. Unfortunately, some of us don’t realize that until it’s too late. Don’t ask me how I know that.

The name says it all. Dry bags can protect everything from extra clothing, camera equipment and towels to those much-needed phones and VHF radios. Montem dry bags are made out of a thick waterproof fabric.

To eliminate user error, be sure you’ve properly folded the top down and secured the buckles. It even has an adjustable shoulder strap, which I find to be a great feature for toting it on and off of the boat.

Insider tip: Choose a bright color so that it’s easy to locate if it happens to take a dip overboard.

Cool Boat Gadgets to Entertain

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Whether you’re on an actual party barge or not, boats were made for entertaining. That’s why they have all of those cool cup holders. Is your boat decked out with any of these festive extras?

Wireless Bluetooth Speakers

OontZ Angle 3 PLUS - Portable Bluetooth Speaker, Superior Stereo Sound, 10+ Watts for Louder Volume, Richer Bass, IPX5, Incredible 30 Hour Battery Playtime, Bluetooth Speakers by Cambridge SoundWorks
  • HIGH QUALITY CRYSTAL CLEAR SOUND distinct mids and highs from our two precision acoustic drivers delivers excellent stereo sound and enhanced bass from our proprietary passive bass radiator design
  • LOUDER VOLUME & MORE BASS distortion-free at maximum volume; room filling sound, perfect for home, dorm room, kitchen, bathroom, car, parties
  • WATER RESISTANT IPX5 splashproof, rainproof, dustproof, sandproof; outdoor shower speaker, perfect for the beach, poolside, car, boat & golf cart -- IPX5 rating speaker can resist gentle water spray & splash but cannot be partially or fully submerged
  • EXCEPTIONAL 30 HOUR BATTERY PLAYTIME --- 4400MaH battery capacity provides up to 30 hours playing at 2/3 of max volume -- Portable Design just 13 ounces, and 6.5" long and 2.8" high, perfect for travel and long weekends trips
  • CONNECT OVER BLUETOOTH IN SECONDS to: iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops, Computers, Chromebooks ---- Works great with Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot---- To play from non-Bluetooth devices and TVs use the included 3.5mm audio cable con

Recommended: Cambridge SoundWorks OontzZ

Turn up the tunes and don’t worry about the water. The SoundWorks OontZ speaker is lightweight and portable, and it connects to Smartphones, iPods or tablets for a full day of music.

While I don’t recommend tossing it overboard, it’s water resistant and completely capable of handling splashes of water or drops of rain. Now if I could just get the kids to listen to my music.

LED Rope Lights

Sale
LTROP 2 Reels 12V 32.8ft Waterproof Flexible RGB LED Strip Light Kit, Color Changing SMD5050 300 LEDs, LED Strip Kit & Mini 44-Key IR Controller + 12V 5A Power Supply, Adhesive Light Strips
  • [All in one kit] This kit includes 2 reels RGB LED light strips (16.4ft 150leds/ reel), remote controller, power adaptor and connectors. No other accessories are required. But please note here: The 12V 5A power adapter only can load 32.8ft light strips at the utmost, please don't increase the strip lights.
  • [Waterproof IP65] These LED strips are waterproof. But please note: only LED strips are waterproof. Remote controller, power adaptor and connectors are non-waterproof.
  • [Ideal for decoration] Multi-color Strip Lights with 300 waterproof 5050 RGB SMD LEDs in 32.8ft with dimming and brightness controls, suitable for indoor outdoor lighting and décor. Such as kitchen, under cabinet, dining room, bedroom, garden, patio, balcony, party, wedding etc.
  • [Easy Installation & Use] Led strip light can be cut between every 3 leds. self-adhesive tape can be fit on any dry and flat surface. Lifespan is over 50000 hrs. Save effort and cost.
  • [Remarks] If the power adapter or other accessories do not work, please contact us for a free replacement. Connect the load and power lines, make sure all connection right before power switched on; Ensure there is no obstacle between the IR controller and the receiver when operating. Note: The "W" key on the remoter controls the pink white not the pure white.

Recommended: LTROP Waterproof, Adhesive Light Strip

Nighttime boating just got a little bit brighter and a lot more fun. The option we’ve chosen is a super cool rope light set that comes with over 30 feet of waterproof rope lights, a built-in controller and a wireless remote.

String it around bow rails or hang from a Bimini top for a starlight effect. Try out multiple color combinations and lighting scenarios such as strobes, festive colors, red night-vision and several white light settings.

This would make a great idea for a special occasion or birthday party.

Tailgater Blender

Waring TG15 Tailgater Blender
  • Plugs into a vehicle's cigarette lighter for pre-game and other outdoor parties
  • 14-foot cord stretches to tailgate or picnic table
  • Basic 1-speed, 6-cup blender crushes ice and mixes drinks, dips, and sauces
  • Stands 14-1/2 inches high on a 7-inch-diameter base
  • Product Built to North American Electrical Standards

Recommended: Waring TG15 Tailgater Blender

Now let’s get to those frosty drinks. The Waring TG15 Tailgater Blender has a 14-foot cord that plugs into a cigarette lighter.

Along with the margaritas and daiquiris, you can whip up dips, sauces and smoothies in the six-cup plastic pitcher. At 14.5 inches tall, it can easily sit on the center console when you’re ready for a boat drink.

Shatterproof Drinkware

Tervis Captain First Mate Emblem Bottle, 16-Ounce, Pack of 2, On The Water - 1168889
  • Keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold
  • Co-Polyester BPA and melamine free construction
  • Microwave, freezer & dishwasher safe
  • Unconditional lifetime guarantee
  • Made in the USA

Recommended: Anything by Tervis

What’s a cool boat blender without some cool boat drinkware? Of course, glass is off limits, but the popular Tervis brand is perfect for the boating life.

Ice buckets, stemware, cups and water bottles are made of non-BPA acrylic and can take a tumble. Nautical designs include anchors, fish, yachts, pirate ships, flags and even tumblers emblazoned with “Captain,” “Crew” and “First Mate.” I especially like the Guy Harvey ocean art and Margaritaville-branded designs.

Bar Caddy

Docktail Boat Bar & Ultimate Marine Cup & Bottle Holder - This Boating Accessory Includes Rod Holder Mount - Holds Handles and All 20 and 30 Oz Tumblers - 12 oz Cans and Bottles - Starboard
  • Mounts in most standard sized rod holders and allows you to level flat at most any angle. If you don't have a rod holder on your boat other mounting types are available. Please ask for recommendations.
  • Portable Boat Bar, Bottle and Cup Holder. Holds most bottles and cups from 1.75 liters and smaller.
  • Made of King Starboard, UV stabilized, fastened with stainless steel hardware, folds flt for storage.
  • Bar includes 1 cutting board insert and has 6 pre cut bottle slots - Two 1.75 Liter, 2 1 Liter, 2 two Liter and 3 accessory bottle slots.
  • Turn key package includes bar, cutting board insert, Magma rod holder mount, stainless steel hardware.

Recommended: Docktail Boat Bar Caddy

Keep all of those mixers, drinkware and bar supplies close at hand and clamped down. The Docktail Boat Bar Caddy mounts to most standard-sized rod holders and can be leveled flat for stability.

It has stainless steel hardware, a cutting board, three accessory slots and six bottle holders that hold l-liter, 2-liter and 1.75-liter bottles. You can use the accessory slots for soda cans, cups, napkins and what-not. Sturdy and lightweight, this cool boat gadget folds flat for easy storage when you’re not entertaining.

Cool Boat Gadgets for Fun in the Sun

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Who says you have to just sit back and soak in the sun on a boat? Get up and get in gear with fun products designed to make and capture memories (or post them on Facebook at the very least).

Floating Hats

Recommended: Orvis Wide-Brimmed Sun Hat

Can you count how many hats you’ve lost to the waterways? Probably not.

This Orvis hat has a floatable brim to reduce the chance of losing it when that inevitable wind takes over.

It’s designed for the sun with air vents, perforated side panels, a Coolmax sweat band and UPF 40+ rating. It may not be the most fashion-forward in looks, but it’ll keep you cool.

Bodyboard

Zayak Sea Sled A1-XL Deluxe Sea Sled Bodyboard
  • The Zayak Sea Sled is a Great Alternative for Those Who are Uncomfortable with Floating Semi-Submerged While Breathing Through a Snorkel
  • The Rigid and Stable Flotation Platform is Safer and More Comfortable Than Conventional Snorkel Equipment
  • The Wide Angle Panoramic Window Below Provides an Exceptional View of the Underwater Environment
  • The Well-Ventilated Neoprene 'Dry Mask' Blocks All Ambient Light and Reflections
  • Recommended Capacity: 240 Lbs./109 Kg

Recommended: Zayak Sea Sled Bodyboard

Some of us love snorkeling. And some of us want to love snorkeling but just can’t get over that claustrophobic feeling of being underwater and breathing through a tube. Can you guess which category I’m in?

Whichever category you happen to fall into, the Zayak Sea Sled Bodyboard is a fun and unique alternative to traditional snorkeling.

Designed like a bodyboard, the Sea Sled allows you to lie down and put your face next to a wide-angle acrylic window (kind of like your very own glass-bottom boat).

The neoprene mask blocks out light from above and keeps water from getting between your face and the window. By using the handles at the front, you can navigate through the water while the platform keeps you high and dry.

You might not even get your hair wet.

Waterproof Camera

Nikon - Coolpix AW130 16.0-Megapixel Waterproof Digital Camera - Orange
  • Waterproof up to 100ft; freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit; shockproof for drops up to 7 feet
  • 5x optical zoom NIKKOR ED wide-angle glass lens
  • Capable of taking up to 5 shots per second
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC for easy transfer to your smartphone
  • Built-in GPS, mapping, Electronic Compass and Points of Interest (POI)

Recommended: Nikon Coolpix AW130

I’m never without a camera, but I do worry and stress about it while on the boat. Even if you’re not into underwater photography, a waterproof camera is a great investment for a boater (for both the novelty and the peace-of-mind factors).

The Nikon Coolpix AW130 is waterproof up to 100 feet, and it has built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, mapping and compass. With five shots per second, snorkelers can catch every colorful fish they find.

Sale
Nordic Flash Waterproof Camera Float - Pack of 2 - Bright Yellow
  • Don't lose your camera when swimming or snorkeling, this is a cheap insurance!
  • Easy to spot bright marine-yellow fabric, made of soft foam-filled neoprene
  • Comfortable floating strap that easily slips onto your wrist
  • This listing is for 2 (two) floating straps that fit most waterproof digital cameras and binoculars (camera/binoculars not included in the listing)
  • Each strap is made to float waterproof cameras up to 7 ounces/200grams

While you’re at it, pick up a waterproof camera float in a bright color. These foam-filled neoprene straps are lifesavers when it comes to valuable camera equipment. If your camera does happen to go in the drink, this strap will keep it afloat.

It attaches to the strap clip on the side of the camera and will float items up to about seven ounces. Buy a bunch and hook ‘em to everything. I like to use the wrist strap while overboard for hands-free snorkeling or swimming.

Camera Tripod

Sale
JOBY GorillaPod SLR Zoom. Flexible Tripod for DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras Up To 3kg. (6.6lbs).
  • STAND STRONG. Get crisper shots with this durable, lightweight tripod. The rubberized foot grips and wrappable legs will secure professional cameras up to 6.6lbs. as they hold their stance to any viable surface.
  • CAPTURE SUPERIOR PERSPECTIVES. Look at life from a different point of view with the GorillaPod SLR Zoom Tripod. Easy maneuverability and precise positioning with 360 panning, to expand the range of shots you can capture.
  • GROUND DOWN. Get ultra-stable and find your grounding with over two dozen leg joints and German TPE joins, so you’ll never have a shaky shot. The GorillaPod SLR Zoom can fiercely secure equipment up to 6.6 lbs., making the impossible shot, possible.
  • SET UP WITH EASE. Take this lightweight SLR and mirrorless camera tripod anywhere. The quick release plate simply stays connected to your camera, so you can interchange with ease. Hold on tight with the 1/4”-20 standard tripod mount and 3/8” adapter.
  • MADE TO LAST. Made of durable Japanese medical-grade ABS plastic, stainless steel, and German TPE, it’s made for the wear and tear of everyday life, or the rigor of adventure. Pair it with your mirrorless camera or SLR to capture the worthy moments of life.

Recommended: Joby GorillaPod Tripod for Cameras

Selfie sensation aside, sometimes I want the whole group in the picture past arm’s length. Or I might need a super steady surface for long exposures and nature photography.

The deck of a boat isn’t the most camera-friendly spot to trust a traditional tripod. The octopus-like legs of the Joby GorillaPod Tripod can be wrapped around deck rails, masts or flag poles.

Then all you have to do is bend it into the perfect position for safe, convenient and blur-free photos. The rubberized foot grips help keep it steady on deck.

Tow Rope with Buoy Booster Ball

Airhead AHBOB-1 Bob Tow Rope w/Inflatable Buoy Booster Ball Lake Towables Tubes
  • 4 rider tow rope with inflatable buoy to boost towable performance
  • Keeps rope out of the water while towing to reduce drag, rope spray, and submarining
  • 60 foot long advanced towing system (including ball)
  • 4,100 pound break strength
  • Features a heavy duty full nylon cover

Recommended: AIRHEAD Bob Tow Rope

A big inflatable ball bopping around behind the boat may look a little strange while towing water-skiers, wakeboarders and tubes. It definitely gets inquisitive stares and questions. It will also save your tow rope from dragging in the water and possibly getting tangled up in the prop.

Simply inflate the Buoy Booster Ball and attach it midway down the tow rope (unless you have lots of hot air to spare, I recommend a foot pump for the inflation process). The ball is designed to hold the rope out of the water, which creates less drag and rope spray for skiers and tubers.

Plus, it’s fun to watch.

 

Hopefully this list has given you some ideas for your own boating adventures.

Once you’re fully equipped with all the most useful boat gadgets, you’ll feel more prepared than ever next time you kick off from the dock.

It’s time to say “go go, gadget boat!” and unleash the full potential of your boat.