By Elliot Thomas

Over the past decade, I’ve found myself embracing more electronics and technology into my passion for the outdoors. No, I’m not referring to weather stations, GPS trackers or boat radar units but simple things, like weather apps, checklists, notes and journals, which have helped me in enormous ways.

Photo by Todd Corayer

Good days on the water start with good planning

Personally, I’m obsessed with kayak fishing but the habits I’ve incorporated would also benefit anyone into golfing, mountain biking, hunting, camping, and more. The simplest things I could recommend would be to keep simple notes of your gear on your smartphone. For my own purposes, I keep a fairly detailed list on my smartphone of all the various rods, reels, and other bigger items.

Inevitably I’ll be at the store or online, looking at a product and I can’t remember the exact size or model rod or reel I’ve got. Rarely do you take a fishing rod or mountain bike to the store with you, but even at home it can be frustrating to stop what you’re doing and go to the garage or basement or shed.

Organization with notes for a successful adventure

The author begins by making a list of his important items for each adventure. photo by Elliot Thomas

The most important habit I’ve tried to instill on myself is the gear checklist. Again, a simple, bullet-point list on your smartphone is easy to use and easy to access. Any number or apps and platforms will do, but I’ve come to prefer apps like Evernote or Google’s Keep  because I can also access them from my laptop. Again, my own personal love is for kayak fishing, but feel free to alter things to accommodate your own passions.

Usually during late winter or early spring before the “season” is really upon us, I try to take a day or two in the garage with all my necessary gear and I’m not referring to lures, jigs, hooks, and the like; I mean actual kayak fishing gear. I spread things out all over the place to not only make sure I didn’t lose anything, but also evaluate the condition of some items. Personal flotation devices, VHF radios, waterproof phones cases and the like all need to be replaced from time to time, so I like to make sure they’re all in good working order.

As I put items away, I do my best to shelve the least necessary items first, saving the every-trip essentials for last. This will leave the most important items out in front and they’ll be less likely to be forgotten. As I put things up on my garage shelves, I’m also building and editing that checklist on my phone. Entitled simply “Kayak Fishing”, this checklist encompasses pretty much every item I would hate to forget on the average fishing trip.

Organization on the water start with good notes

A lot of gear might be required to satisfy our passions, so being organized is critical. Photo by Elliot Thomas

The list is quite expansive after a few years of adding to it and not every single item goes with me on every single trip. For example, I have “Emperor Drysuit” on my list, but in the middle of summer I’ll skip that, knowing I’ll be wearing just dry pants or splash pants. Also, an item on the list like “landing net” will be left at home when I’m out targeting striped bass because I have no use for a net.

The goal of my checklist is to give me a quick double-check of all the stuff I really want to have with me, like a PFD, VHF Radio, kayak seat, pliers, gloves, socks, hand towel, sunglasses, etc. How many times have you gotten to the boat launch, trail head, golf course or ski lift and said to yourself, “Shoot, I forgot my ____?”

Sure, in some cases you can go on without that item you forgot on the kitchen counter or in the closet. You can still mountain bike without your GoPro and you can still play a round of golf without your cigar but in many cases, a simple and often forgotten item like sunglasses, gloves or sunscreen can make for a pretty uncomfortable day outdoors. If you go thru the checklist and still forget something, simply add it to the checklist so it doesn’t get forgotten next time. Personally, the more important the item is, the higher on my checklist I place it.

So do yourself a favor and when you’ve got some down time, build a checklist. Spending a little extra time getting yourself organized now will help you enjoy the outdoors even more the next time you get out there.