The Ultimate Guide for Getting Kitted Up for Coasteering

As coasteering gains popularity among adventure enthusiasts, it's crucial to have the right equipment to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. That's why we've put together a helpful guide on choosing the best coasteering gear, whether you're exploring the rugged UK coastline or exploring coastlines around the world. Read on for our top recommendations for essential coasteering equipment that will provide comfort and security during your coasteering adventures.

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Coasteering is Growing Fast!

Coasteering is growing, that’s a fact! With more and more providers appearing, not just in the UK, but all over the world, coasteering is now an activity that allows more people than ever to enjoy an adventure exploring a rocky section of coastline.

Check out this article from 2020, where I took a deep dive into coasteering’s growth in the UK, and how it has proliferated all over the world. This article is in need of serious updating, as more and more providers have appeared, including many parts of the Mediterranean, as well as more exotic locations, such as Goa, India.

Note that this article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using any of the partner links on this page, we may receive a small commission at no extra charge to yourself. Thanks!

Self-led Coasteering

More and more people are getting into independent coasteering, to enjoy the thrill of authentic coastal exploration for themselves. Coasteering is rather unique in that, since it has been known as ‘coasteering’, it has almost entirely been carried out as a guided activity, with most of the participants enjoying it maybe only a few times ever, and only under the guidance of a professional coasteering provider.

Opinions are divided on whether this is a good thing or not, and I’ll be weighing in heavily on this topic very soon. But, opinions aside, it is happening, and if you’re reading this, you’re likely one of those people looking to get out there and spend more time coasteering. You’re going to need a fair amount of the right equipment to ensure you, and the people you go coasteering with, are safe and comfortable.

The following article will point you in the right direction. First and foremost, it can’t be stated too often that coasteering, like any adventurous activity, carries with it its own unique set of risks. This is not an article on whether you should go coasteering, or how to coasteer safely. But, it is important that I convey that safe coasteering depends on having the appropriate equipment.

Compared to many hobbies and activities, the bare minimum of equipment isn’t too pricey. And like any activity, there is the possibility to accessorise infinitely. The order of suggested equipment will be, more in less, in the order of priority needed to ensure safety. As the list goes on, more equipment will be needed, as your objectives become more ambitious.

Coasteering Equipment – the Essentials

Coasteering, even as part of a guided coasteering session, relies on four essential pieces of equipment. Most of this will be lent by your provider if you join a guided session. But if you’re planning to head into the water by yourselves, to get started you’re going to need:

  1. A wetsuit
  2. A helmet
  3. A Buoyancy Aid
  4. Footwear

Choosing a Wetsuit for Coasteering

This article is written with the assumption that you are in the UK. If you are lucky enough to be coasteering somewhere more exotic, you may need to adjust this advice accordingly.

In the UK, we experience water temperatures ranging from 6-10°C in winter, and 15-20°C in the summer. The short answer to this is that, even in the summer, you’re probably going to want a winter wetsuit. That’s usually a 5/4mm wetsuit, i.e., 5mm around the body, diminishing to 4mm for the limbs.

The hardier among you may decide to get by in a ‘summer’ wetsuit. I don’t recommend this. If you’re coasteering for any length of time whatsoever, you’ll likely find that a ‘summer’ or 3/2mm wetsuit will be inadequate. Add to that a cloudy or breezy day, and you’re almost guaranteed to get cold.

At the very least, getting cold can rapidly take the fun out of being in the water. But remember that, in the worst case scenario, being ‘underdressed’ in too thin a wetsuit could lead to you getting hypothermia. If you are coasteering somewhere remote this could easily lead to a very serious situation.

At Kernow Coasteering we strongly recommend C-Skins wetsuits. We have been using them for years. Their build-quality has remained excellent throughout this time. And if cared for correctly, they last for years.

We use C-Skins ‘Adventure’ suit. This is unavailable to the public, but is based on their ‘Legend’ wetsuit. A proper 5/4mm, winter wetsuit, this is the kind of thing you’re going to want.

If you’re intending to go coasteering throughout the year, then you may need to consider some heavier armour against the winter cold.

If you’re looking for a winter wetsuit, I’d personally recommend the C-Skins Rewired 6/5mm wetsuit. It’s a tank of a wetsuit, that still remains surprisingly flexible. You can read my full review of the C-Skins Rewired suit here, or watch the video I made. Check it out to not only get the lowdown on the wetsuit, but also enjoy some January coasteering exploration at a beautiful spot in west Cornwall.

Coasteering in Warmer Waters

If you’re lucky enough to be coasteering in warmer waters, then lucky you! Depending on the water temperatures you’re experiencing, you may have want to change your wetsuit accordingly. If a 3mm wetsuit is all you need, then consider the C-Skins Legend 3mm. 

You’ll see that summer wetsuits come in at considerably less money, but don’t be tempted to cut corners here if you’re intending to use such a suit in somewhere like the UK. I daresay you’ll regret it.

Coasteering Without a Wetsuit

Is coasteering without a wetsuit even a thing? Well, yes in suitably warm waters it certainly can be. However, you should consider that the wetsuit actually serves an additional purpose. The wetsuit serves as all-over body armour, giving us a good layer of protection from sharp rocks and fauna that we encounter in the intertidal zone in which coasteering takes place.

The mandatory wearing of a wetsuit in the UK waters may have been instrumental in the development of the sport: people experienced in other activities could experiment with coasteering without the problems of getting cut to pieces by barnacles and sharp rock edges.

So bear this in mind if you’re coasteering in waters warm enough to not need a wetsuit. Without the layer of protection offered by a wetsuit, you are much more vulnerable to minor injuries from cuts and slices, at the very least. As a general observation, warmer waters tend to be home to a great number of spiny and spikey creatures that we may encounter, compared to colder climes.

However, if you are aware of the risks, and are comfortable managing them, why not enjoy the freedom of coasteering in just some shorts and a t-shirt? I recently was lucky enough to do just that when I got to do some coasteering exploration in Oman. In one of our sessions we surrounded by flying fish! But that’s a story for another day…

Flying Fish takes to the air near a startled coasteering guide in Oman

You Need a Helmet for Coasteering!

I can’t put that in any simpler terms. It is possibly the one piece of equipment that is most essential for safe coasteering. In the same way you might frown upon someone who was cycling without wearing a helmet, I hope you would feel the same about coasteering without one.

Helmets are relatively inexpensive, and it would only take a small wave or movement of water to unexpectedly knock you into a rock and it could be game over.

When choosing your helmet, you want to get one that has been certificated as passing the requirements for this kind of activity. As ever, coasteering is too niche to have helmets specifically designed and tested for the sport. Maybe the closest analogue is kayaking. The European Standard for a kayaking helmet is EN 1385.

To summarise briefly the properties a helmet needs to achieve EN 1385, it should fulfil the following criteria:

  • Ensure adequate protection from impacts
  • Possess the ability to float even when submerged
  • Offer a comfortable and secure fit
  • Absorb shocks from knocks and bumps effectively
  • Utilize reliable fasteners to prevent movement or dropping off
  • Be designed to not hinder your field of vision.

Our recommendation is the Bumper water sports helmet by Nookie. It’s a basic, but very capable helmet. Coming in two sizes (adult and junior), each size has a huge range of fit due to its adjustable head band. For the price, it’s a great helmet, and is the helmet we offer our guests here at Kernow Coasteering

However, the Bumper helmet does have its limitations. It is quite bulky and admittedly isn’t the most stylish looking helmet. Looks aside, it can rock out of place, impairing the field of vision somewhat. Finally, the material used for the chinstrap, whilst robust, can rub on the neck, particularly on those longer sessions.

If you want to avoid these minor drawbacks, then a more high-end helmet should not give you any of these problems. What’s more, you’ll look like the coasteering badass you really are. If you want to splash out, then try something like a Gath helmet.

Buoyancy Aid for Coasteering

Another vital piece of your core coasteering kit will be your buoyancy aid, also known as a PFD (personal flotation device). A buoyancy aid carries out a number of secondary functions throughout your coasteering session.

This includes reducing your penetration into the water from jumps, meaning you can jump into shallower water than would otherwise be possible. The buoyancy aid allows you to much better harness wave motion to move around, and when done correctly, exit the water. And, of course, a buoyancy aid helps with swimming, allowing you to conserve energy and coasteer for longer.

So, what’s the primary function? God forbid, but if you lose consciousness for any reason, a buoyancy aid is going to keep you on the surface, thus improving your chances of survival exponentially. The bottom line is, do not go coasteering without a buoyancy aid.

Recommended Buoyancy Aids for Coasteering

Once again, our friends from Nookie provide a perfectly adequate, but very affordable solution. The NKE buoyancy aids are a great bit of kit. They come in 4 sizes, from junior to extra-large, so they will have a model that will fit basically anyone.

We’ve been using these buoyancy aids for years, and we will continue to do so. They are low profile, well-fitting, and last for years.

However, if you are planning into getting into more self-led coasteering, you may want to consider something of a higher specification. As ever, coasteering tends to borrow equipment from kayaking and other sports.

Many coasteering guides primarily participate in other sports, such as surfing and kayaking. You can always spot the sea kayakers, as they bring their sea kayaking PFD along to the coasteering sessions. Typified by a huge, bulky front pocket, ideal for having kit immediately to hand when sitting in a sea kayak, I personally find this style of buoyancy aid to be to front-heavy for coasteering.

Thus, I prefer a more low-profile buoyancy aid. However, a key feature you may want to look for are front pockets. These for me are essential for carrying various bits of gear, particularly camera equipment. But you’ll find front pockets indispensable once you start wearing a PFD that has them.

A higher spec buoyancy aid will have more adjustments straps, allowing for better fit, as well as extra padding, i.e., around the shoulders, for improved comfort.

If you’re looking for a low-profile PFD that ticks all of those boxes, go for something like the YAK Xipe 60N Buoyancy Aid.

Whichever buoyancy aid you go for, make sure it is authentic and is CE EN 393 (12402-5). Yes, that last number is very important. If you get that wrong, you may acquire a flotation device that can actually hinder your movement, rather than be a helpful piece of equipment.

Footwear for Coasteering

The final piece of your core essential equipment is footwear. The thought of navigating through the intertidal zone, with all its sharp rocks and fauna is unthinkable. Not to mention getting up and down the cliff path, whether it’s over rocky paths or spiky vegetation. Just no.

However, it’s the one item of equipment I really don’t recommend a specialist product for. The chief reason is that, in my experience, salt water destroys footwear quite rapidly. I have heard of expensive canyoning shoes falling apart quite quickly when used for coasteering.

And I won’t name and name, but a well-known surf / kayaking manufacturers sea trainers showed signs of failure after just one coasteering session.

The solution is just any pair of trainers. They can be used as long as they remain intact and continue to give adequate protection to your feet. Once the sole starts to peel off, or your toes start to poke out of the inevitable holes caused by barnacles, it’s time to replace them.

Do Not Wear Beach Shoes Coasteering!

Do not wear those cheap, flimsy shoes, variously known as sea /reef /beach shoes coasteering. I mean the ones that consist of a very thin sole with usually a thin neoprene upper. They are not appropriate for a number of reasons.

  • The sole is not thick enough to provide any real protection.
  • They are usually hard to get a snug fit, and are therefore at great risk of being lost when jumping, or in white water.
  • In general, they are cheaply made, and can fall apart at a moment’s notice.

If you’re going to follow the rest of this guide and buy appropriate equipment, don’t cut corners with your footwear. After all, I’m not recommending you spend the earth on a pair of trainers. Any old pair of lace-up trainers will do.

Coasteering Over-Shorts

To the uninitiated, coasteerers look a little odd. Not least of all because on top of their wetsuit, they’re usually wearing a pair of shorts. Why is that? The answer is simple. A cheap pair of shorts is a sacrificial layer that protects your wetsuit from the ravages of the barnacles and other sharp things you constantly interact with when coasteering.

With the best will, and best coasteering skills, in the world, you’re not going to be able coasteer regularly without potentially scraping up the rear end of your wetsuit. Save yourself the grief of costly wetsuit repairs by simply wearing a pair of shorts over your wetsuit.

Literally any pair of shorts will do. You can get shorts with just about any pattern on these days. For example, I like dragonflies, and I also like the night sky and the milky way. Yep, it turns out my needs are catered for when it comes to finding a funky pair of shorts.

Don’t hide your light under a bushel: As we all look ridiculous anyway, it’s a great opportunity to don some outrageous shorts you might not be seen dead in at any other time!


That covers the bare essentials needed for safe coasteering. This means you’re equipped to be part of a group of like-minded adventurers looking for some excellent coasteering exploration. However, there is also some essential group equipment that every expedition should have with them.

Stag Do Coasteering in Cornwall wearing a Tutu

Coasteering Safety Equipment

Whenever you go out coasteering, at least one member of the group should be carrying a safety bag, containing a minimum amount of key safety equipment. Of course, someone in the group needs to know how to use this equipment. If necessary, contact your local coasteering provider to see if they can offer you some training to set you off on your independent coasteering adventures. In addition, consider doing a first-aid course.

A first-aid course will provide skills that you could use to save lives, not just when coasteering, but potentially anywhere. We use First Aid Cornwall Ltd, and highly recommend them.

There’s no avoiding the fact that a full set of coasteering safety gear will come at a price. If you are coasteering in a busy spot, near a life-guarded beach, for example, you may be able to get away without one. Indeed, your first self-led coasteering trips should be in such an environment anyway.

But as soon as you want to tackle more remote and challenging objectives, you should consider the following safety equipment essential. If you are part of a group who are interested in coasteering together, then consider sharing the cost of these items between you.

Coasteering Safety Bag

A key item of safety equipment is the bag in which you carry these things. For me, there is only one realistic choice here. Having tested numerous products over the years, it is US brand Watershed that make the only waterproof bags that I trust. Made from durable material, and featuring a unique closure system, they are awesome drybags, and maybe the only ones I know that actually do what it says on the tin.

The primary safety bad I use is the Watershed GoForth Duffel dry bag. The duffel bag is just the right size to fit a carefully selected range of safety equipment in. Watershed dry bags are not cheap, but they’re certainly cheaper than having to replace the contents of your safety bag when another product lets you down.

As you will have observed, the Duffel Dry Bag isn’t exactly a convenient design for taking coasteering. That’s OK, because unfortunately, one bag is never enough! Despite being the best I’ve found, I cannot say Watershed Dry Bags are 100% waterproof, 100% of the time. Occasionally, whether it’s user error or not, some water will get in through the closure.

And inevitably, it will only be a matter of time before any item you take coasteering will show signs of wear and tear from rocks and barnacles.

Therefore, we put the safety bag inside another bag, a ruck-sack. We now have a much more convenient solution for adventuring along the coast. A rucksack can be worn throughout the coasteering activity, including swimming and scrambling. But do take it off for jumping. You risk damaging the bag, the contents, or even yourself, if you jump into the water wearing a rucksack.

Recommendations for a Coasteering Rucksack

I can offer two solutions for a coasteering rucksack, both of which I own.

Overboard Premium Waterproof Backpack

As you will have observed, the Duffel Dry Bag isn’t exactly a convenient design for taking coasteering. That’s OK, because unfortunately, one bag is never enough! Despite being the best I’ve found, I cannot say Watershed Dry Bags are 100% waterproof, 100% of the time. Occasionally, whether it’s user error or not, some water will get in through the closure.

And inevitably, it will only be a matter of time before any item you take coasteering will show signs of wear and tear from rocks and barnacles.

Therefore, we put the safety bag inside another bag, a ruck-sack. We now have a much more convenient solution for adventuring along the coast. A rucksack can be worn throughout the coasteering activity, including swimming and scrambling. But do take it off for jumping. You risk damaging the bag, the contents, or even yourself, if you jump into the water wearing a rucksack.

Watershed Big Creek Rucksack

At more than three times the price, you may decide to go for something much cheaper. But the Big Creek is the Ferrari of waterproof rucksacks. Offering genuine waterproof protection, it is also very comfortable to wear.

With a capacity of 40 litres, it’s just big enough to fit a well-stocked Watershed GoForth Duffel bag, ensuring there is no wasted space, or having to endure the unnecessary bulk of the Overboard rucksack.

Whether you go all in for the Watershed bag may be a tough choice. Bear in mind that even this Big Creek will succumb to the coasteering environment eventually. But even when it has a few small holes from barnacles in, it still remains just as effective at the Overboard rucksack for quite some time!

Coasteering at Nicholls' Cove near Porthleven, Cornwall.

What You Need in Your Coasteering Safety Bag

There are many products and systems that one could carry in the safety bag, but they can be broken down into three key areas.

  1. Equipment for calling for help
  2. Equipment for keeping warm /hypothermia prevention
  3. Basic first aid equipment, as well as any personal medication.

Nothing, even Watershed dry bags, are 100% waterproof all of the time. I therefore suggest a multi-layered approach. The first line of defence from water is your outer rucksack. The second layer of waterproofing will be your chosen safety bag. Finally, everything in the safety bag could and should be in an additional waterproof bag or container.

This may seem like overkill, but at the very least, it will ensure the longevity of your safety equipment. But worst-case scenario, it could prevent failure of a vital piece of equipment, when you need it most.

Calling for Help Coasteering

Calling for outside help during a coasteering expedition is the last thing anyone wants to do. But as an adventurous activity, even the most experienced coasteerer has to admit that it could happen to the best of us. If it did, you wouldn’t want to suddenly discover that your only means of calling for help was malfunctioning. Therefore, it is recommended to have several means of calling for help in your safety bag.

  1. Mobile Phone: If you are lucky enough to have signal, the most obvious choice for calling for help will be your mobile phone. As part of your multi-layered system, you may want to get a robust phone case to carry inside your safety bag.
  2. Signal Flares: As ordering explosives by post is not a great idea, go to your local chandlery, who should stock a decent range of rocket and smoke flares. Make sure you have a working knowledge of how they work, and do note that they do have an expiration date.
  3. VHF Radio: If you’re out of phone signal, you may want to carry a VHF radio. Remember that in the UK, use of a VHF radio requires a licence. You’re not looking for a radio with all the bells and whistles. A model such as the Uniden Atlantis 155 is perfectly adequate. It has an IPX7 rating and you can talk to the emergency services on channel 16. Job done.

Equipment for Keeping Warm

If for any reason you can’t exit your coasteering route, or if a member of your party is injured and cannot be moved without external help, hypothermia is a serious consideration. Carrying just two lightweight items could make the difference between life and death.

At the very least, you should carry a simple plastic survival bag. This can be used both in and out of the water. In addition, if a number of people cannot be moved and need to wait it out, for any reason, a small group shelter will make that experience a lot more tolerable.

Take a First Aid Kit Coasteering

The bare essentials of a first aid kit can be extremely light and low volume, so there’s no excuse not to carry them with you. In a continuation of my multi-layered approach to water defence, an all-in-one waterproof first aid kit makes total sense to put inside your coasteering safety bag.

That covers everything you need to have in your saftey bag. But just remember, I recommend that every item you put in the safety bag has it's own additional waterproof bag or container. If anyone in your group needs to carry any kind of medication, make sure to carry it on every expedition.

Throwline for Coasteering

Throwlines are certainly an essential piece of equipment for guiding a coasteering session. Even in small amounts of swell, inexperienced coasteerers often need a bit of handy throwline assistance.

You may decide that a throwline is a very worthwhile addition for your coasteering group too. Less experienced group members may get themselves into a bit of bother and a throwline is a very effective solution at giving people aid without putting yourself at risk.

They can be invaluable for body belays on shorter sections of scrambling, etc. Many people use an integral belt from which the throwline unclips. I find these to be unnecessary faff. Just clip the throwline to your PFD with a climbing carabiner.

Using a Throwline Coasteering. A throwline is essential coasteering equipment.

Coasteering Accessories

Waterproof Torch

I hope you agree, that exploring sea caves is one of the most exciting and compelling elements of coasteering. These other-worldly caverns feel as out there as you can get – being jostled around by the swell in almost pitch-darkness is a very strange experience indeed.

To get any value out of the larger, deeper sea caves, where you’ll be in almost total darkness, you’re going to want to bring some additional light with you. A torch is also invaluable if your exploration goes on longer than planned and daylight starts to fade.

As ever, I present you with two choices. The first is cheap and cheerful. Generic waterproof torches are widely available. They make very exaggerated claims about the number of lumens they deliver, and they lack any additional features. However, they do the job, and for the price, they really are surprisingly good.

If you’re looking for something a bit extra, I use a Nitecore SRT7 handheld torch that delivers a legitimate 960 lumens. This flashlight has a maximum beam distance of 308 meters and is designed to withstand being submerged in water up to 2 meters deep. Additionally, it can withstand impacts from drops as high as 1.5 meters. It does have a few additional features, such as different colours. These are of no use to the coasteerer, but it does flash in both white and red light which would be very useful if trying to summon help, or guide a rescue to your location.

Exploring a huge sea cave near Godrevy in west Cornwall

Keeping the Cold at Bay when Coasteering

Read on if you’re coasteering in colder waters, or plan to coasteer throughout the year. As well as a thicker wetsuit, you’re going to want a couple of extra items to keep you warm. Yep, you guessed it, some extra neoprene on your extremities can ensure you stay snug and that your coasteering session doesn’t become a suffer fest.

Wetsuit gloves, boots, and even hats come in all shapes and sizes. A thickness of 3mm is adequate for all of these items. Choose a wetsuit sock, rather than a boot, as a boot maybe have a split toe, or in-built sole that will not work well inside a pair of trainers.

I find that 3mm is also perfect for gloves. This thickness is just warm enough, but also retains maximum dexterity so you still have some grip in order to climb and effectively use handholds as you navigate the coasteering environment.

Finally, you may want to get a wetsuit hood. Ensure that whatever helmet you’re wearing will still fit over your hood.

At this point, you are now fully-equipped to tackle most coasteering objectives you’re likely to encounter. In a future article we’ll recommend some completely optional coasteering accessories to make your life both in and out of the water more enjoyable.

But in the meantime, have fun out there, and stay safe!