What Safety Equipment Is Required for a Boat?

Whether your next boat trip is two miles out or 200, there are certain must-have items you should never go without. This equipment can ensure the safety of all passengers onboard your boat, not to mention yourself. What safety equipment should you have?

The following safety equipment is required for boating:

  • Sound signaling devices
  • Visual signaling devices
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Throwable flotation device
  • Personal flotation device

These items are highly recommended as well:

  • Diver down or skier flag
  • Powerful flashlight
  • Snorkel mask (if you have to go in the water)
  • VHF radio
  • Medical kit 

Do you personally need to stock up on some, maybe even all the above items? No problem! In this article, we’ll share links to relevant Amazon products so you can do some shopping as you read. You won’t want to miss it! 

The Required Safety Equipment for Boating

Sound Signaling Devices

The first piece of safety equipment you must always have when you sail is a sound signaling device. As the name implies, this device emits very loud sounds. In doing so, other boaters and even the Coast Guard can be alerted to your boat and get you help. 

It’s ideal to use a sound signaling device after an accident or onboard incident, such as a severe injury, illness, or running out of power. These devices are reliable for getting assistance both day and night since they’re audible, not visual. You might use the sound signaling device on its own or in conjunction with a visual signaling device, which we will discuss next.

Here’s a sound signaling device from Federal Signal on Amazon. It can emit sounds as loud as 110 decibels, which is very difficult to miss if you’re anywhere nearby on the water in another boat. Designed for indoor use as well as outdoors, this device has a continuous sound pattern sure to draw the attention of others when you need it most. 

Visual Signaling Devices 

Whether your boat was just hit by another or you capsized, a visual signaling device could get you help right away. This device works in much the same way as a sound signaling device, except it’s all visual. Flares, smoke, or light are launched from the device and into the sky. 

The presence of your visual signaling device should let others know you’re in a bad situation. This UST See-Me 1.0 Waterproof LED light is a handy device to keep close. You can order two different versions of this LED light, one with a strobe or one with a steady-on light.

The entire device measures 1.0 inches wide and 4.95 inches long, so it doesn’t take up much valuable room on your boat. You only need two AAA batteries to operate it. A loop and hook as well as a cord made of lanyard make it easy to keep this LED light on your person even as you captain the boat. 

If you ever find yourself using your visual signaling device, this one has a twist cap that lets you turn it on and off in an instant. When powered on, the UST See-Me has a vivid LED light that runs on 20 lumens and extends 3.4 miles on the water. The US Coast Guard only mandates that a visual signaling device be seen from one nautical mile, so the UST See-Me exceeds even those requirements. 

It’s also waterproof, with a rating of IPX7. If you submerge this visual signaling device a meter deep, it will still work. 

Fire Extinguisher

Although you always hope the worst won’t happen, as the captain of your boat, you must be prepared nonetheless. Should a fire break out on your boat, what would you do? Abandon ship and encourage all your passengers to do the same?

That may be the best course of action in severe fires, but for smaller fires, you can likely put them out yourself. Of course, you need a fire extinguisher to do so. Not only are some boats legally required to have a fire extinguisher onboard, but this device can save your boat. By containing the fire quickly enough, your boat can be repaired and sail once again.

The First Alert rechargeable marine fire extinguisher is a great pick on Amazon. Not only does it have five stars out of a possible five, but it’s made for boats just like yours. The extinguisher features a color-coded gauge that lets you easily determine the pressure when in use. This gauge also will never corrode. 

If your fire is about 10 square feet in size, this is the extinguisher to reach for. It will quickly put the fire out. Made for combatting electrical fires and flammable liquid fires alike, you get four extinguishers in a bundle. Talk about cost effectiveness! 

Throwable Flotation Device

Another required item on your boat is a throwable flotation device. This is self-explanatory, as you can guess what it’s used for by the name alone. While you’ll still need a life jacket or vest (more on these shortly), having a throwable flotation device to toss to a passenger in need can get them to safety in dicey situations.  

STEARNS’ utility cushion is an Amazon’s Choice product, and quite an inexpensive one at that. That low price point means you can stock up on a whole handful of these flotation devices. 

Each is 14 inches by 16 inches. The flotation device has two webbed straps, both an inch, that a passenger can hold onto as you throw the cushion down to them. The flotation foam is made of Crosstech that’s sure to hold up in all sorts of conditions. This material is even approved by the US Coast Guard for throwable flotation devices. 

Classified as a Type IV flotation device through the US Coast Guard, you can get this utility cushion in either orange or blue. 

Personal Flotation Device

You can have a whole arsenal of throwable floatation devices, but it’s still mandated by the US Coast Guard that you and each passenger have access to a personal flotation device as well. Also called life jackets or life vests, personal flotation devices come either inflatable or packed with featherweight foam to provide buoyancy. 

If you’re curious what a Type IV throwable flotation device is, it fits into one of five types or classes as designated by the US Coast Guard. Personal flotation devices are in these categories as well. 

Here are is an overview of all five types of flotation types:

  • Type I: These heavier life vests are made to keep you on your back in case you’re unconscious. They can handle remote and rough waters without you sinking. You can choose from a hybrid, inflatable, or inherently buoyant Type I personal flotation device. 
  • Type II: Slimmer and more streamlined than Type I life vests, Type II are not made for long periods in the water. They’re still plenty buoyant, but these personal flotation devices lack comfort. They also don’t always leave you on your back if you’re not conscious. 
  • Type III: If you’re paddle boarding or doing other light boating, a Type III life jacket is recommended. These are even less bulky so you can move your body freely. That said, should you be unconscious, these life jackets would not keep your face out of the water. 
  • Type IV: All Type IV flotation devices are throwable.
  • Type V: Lastly, there’s type V personal flotation devices. These are for special usage only, such as when windsurfing, waterskiing, and kayaking. Type V vests are not made for activities other than these and some others. 

If you need to shop for your own personal flotation device, the ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports life vest is a highly-rated Amazon’s Choice product. In comes in a slew of sizes, from extra small to double extra large. 

The vest contains foam for buoyancy that’s hidden behind a nylon fabric shell made to be both tough and durable. In fact, the nylon ripstop is rated 200 denier. Pockets throughout are expandable and have zippers for keeping certain items. Mesh drainage holes prevent the pockets from holding water and weighing you down. 

Included reflective strips that are SOLAS-grade make you more visible on the water. You can adjust this life jacket for a closer fit at the shoulders, which also have neoprene padding for comfort. There’s also lower back meshing so you can use this life jacket if sitting in a high-back seat. 

Other Recommended Items 

As we said in the intro, the following items are not legally required on your boat, but they’re still good to have close anyway. 

Diver Down or Skier Flag

Do you often go boating with a diving enthusiast in tow? If so, then it’s within your best interest to invest in a diver down flag. Also referred to as a skier flag, you attach this flag in a prominent spot on your boat. Now, other boaters know you have a diver close by in the water. They’ll give you a wider berth.

This Flagslmp diver flag measures three feet by five feet. It’s made to last with double stitching and a color that resists UV fading. The design is screen-printed on both sides so no boaters miss it. The entire flag is stitched from heavy-duty polyester with a 100-denier count. Included brass grommets on both sides of the flag allow you to hoist it up high. 


If you’ve ever wanted to experience the beauty of sailing at night, we’re not here to discourage you. You just have to be twice as careful, for there are so many invisible dangers in the darkness. A flashlight will allow you to keep your bearings at night or in other dark conditions, such as a sudden storm. 

It’s better to buy a waterproof flashlight, because it will probably get at least a little wet at some point. The Dorcy waterproof battery-powered floating flashlight on Amazon is a solid pick. This flashlight can float, for starters. It’s even got a carabiner clip for easy attaching.

The beam is 67 impressive meters, while the illumination is almost blinding at 200 strong lumens. Dorcy’s flashlight requires only three AA batteries to work, and these do come with your purchase. You get about 17 hours of brightness before you need to replace the batteries. 

The impact-resistant shell includes rubber portions designed to handle shocks without damaging the flashlight. It’s also waterproof, so a few sloshing waves won’t hurt it.  

Snorkel Mask 

A snorkel mask is another one of those “hope you never have to use it” type of items. Sure, you could always have fun snorkeling off your boat if you venture out to tropical seas, that’s not why you need one of these masks. Rather, it’s so if you ever have to dive deep into the water, you’re ready to.

Those situations do crop up. For instance, maybe one of your passengers was knocked unconscious and is sinking deeper into the water. You may also have to go under your boat to check for damage after an accident. In those scenarios, you’d be glad you took the time to buy a snorkel mask.

The Cressi panoramic wide-view mask and dry snorkel kit is a great one to have. It’s an Amazon’s Choice product and made in Italy. In your kit, you get a snorkel mask with ratcheting buckles for readjusting the mask to fit as needed. When you get the mask on, its double-feathered edge skirting creates a tight seal. This keeps water out of your face as you dive. The skirt is made of silicone rubber.

The lenses, each tempered glass, have a polycarbonate frame that can stand up to some wear and tear. The lens design is also such to create a type of main lens that offers an open field of vision while underwater. 

VHF Radio

Having a line back to land (a literal landline, in this case) gives any boater peace of mind. You know that in a true emergency, you could connect with someone to begin the rescue effort on your behalf. 

A VHF radio is a boating standard. These two-way radios are waterproof and designed for marine use. You can communicate with others on the shore, in other ships, and maybe even at a nearby airline in some cases. 

The Uniden waterproof two-way VHF marine radio is an Amazon’s Choice pick. It features a Triple Watch mode that hones in on channels 16 and 19, both of which are used for marine communications. You could be trying to reach someone on a different dead channel, but if this radio picks up activity on channels 16 or 19, it will switch to it so you can get in touch with another person.

You get Canadian, international, and US-based communication channels with the radio. If you need longer-range communication, just switch your settings to five watts. If you’re only talking to someone who’s short-range, then shrink your wattage back down. This keeps the battery in Uniden’s VHF radio running longer. 

Should the radio fall in the water, don’t stress. It’s fine if dropped from five feet and left in the water for up to 30 minutes. That gives you plenty of leeway. 

Medical Kit 

If you’re one of those people who believes you can never be too prepared, then you’re going to want an expansive marine medical kit for your boat. This one will more than suffice. Its translucent plano waterproof case lets you see just what’s inside. Should you have to reach for a specific supply in a flash, you won’t struggle to find what you need.

Strong latching clasps on one side of the case ensure that none of your most valuable supplies get wet. What kinds of supplies do you get in this kit? We’re glad you asked. Here’s an overview:

  • Sinus relief packets (two)
  • Pain relief packets (two)
  • Antacid packets (two)
  • Ibuprofen packets (two)
  • Non-aspirin packets (two)
  • Cool jet packet (one)
  • Bug towelette (one)
  • Antihistamine packet (three)
  • Sting relief packets (three)
  • Lip guard packets (three)
  • Sunscreen packets (two)
  • Electrolyte replacement packet (one)
  • Adhesive tape
  • Non-adhering pad (one)
  • Gauze pads (2×2, 3×3, and 4×4, two each)
  • Fingertip and knuckle bandages
  • Extra large bandages (four)
  • Cloth bandage strips (10)
  • Plastic bandage strips (20)
  • Alcohol pads (six)
  • Antiseptic towelettes (six)
  • Safety pins
  • Cold pack
  • Vinyl gloves
  • Bandage shears
  • CPR mask
  • Gauze roll
  • Triangular bandage (one)
  • Tweezers
  • Rescue blanket 

You’ll never need another kit than this one on your boat, that’s for sure! 


Boaters should always have five pieces of safety equipment onboard: sound signaling devices, visual signaling devices, fire extinguishers, throwable flotation devices, and personal flotation devices. Other necessities like a waterproof flashlight, a marine-grade medical kit, VHF radio, and a snorkel mask are recommended as well (although not enforced).

You now have some shopping to do. Once all your new items arrive, you’ll feel more confident than ever the next time you ride the open seas! 


I am the owner of sailoradvice. I live in Birmingham, UK and love to sail with my wife and three boys throughout the year.

Recent Posts