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036 | Coxing Gear

036 (from Breana).jpg

Coxswains carry a lot of things to help us do our jobs. While some items are common across coxswain toolkits, ultimately you’ll adapt what you carry to suit your individual coxing situation. Equipping yourself for coxing doesn’t have to mean spending a ton of money; there are lots of free or cheap ways to build up your coxing gear, which your CoxPod hosts Breana and Anne will discuss below, in addition to sharing what we keep in our kits and why.


(Some links in this article are affiliate links – as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)

Coxing Gear Decision Making

You’ll hone the contents of your coxing toolkit over time, as you discover what you need and don’t need. Here are a few aspects to consider:

  • Brand(s) of rowing equipment: What types of shell/oar manufacturers are represented among your team’s rowing equipment? Do your boats use standard/imperial or metric components? Do they have any specialty parts that you may need to carry spares of?

  • Environmental conditions: Are you expecting to deal with rain, sun, wind, waves, or other weather conditions that will modify what you have in your kit?

  • Support system: Does your coach carry a full toolkit in the launch every day? If so, you may need to bring less equipment than a coxswain who runs their practice from the coxswain seat without a coach. If you’re at a regatta, will there be lots of officials nearby who could lend you a wrench, or are you on your own if something breaks down?

We recommend getting together with other coxswains at your boathouse or online to share what gear you each take with you on the water. This is a great way to learn about other coxswains’ must-have items, and you may discover something creative that you hadn’t thought of before!

Gear Storage on the Water

Part of curating your coxswain toolkit is deciding what type of storage option you prefer. Here are some options that coxswains can use:

  • Drawstring bag (affiliate link) or small backpack: This is Anne’s current storage method.

  • Fanny pack (affiliate link) or crossbody bag: This is Breana’s current storage method.

  • Dry bag (affiliate link): This is a great option for ensuring that your gear stays dry.

  • Large water bottle (affiliate link): This is the preferred strategy of the Short and Snarky Coxswains as described in their excellent coxing book (affiliate link).

  • Pelican case (affiliate link): Clear varieties let you keep tabs on what you have inside.


Wrenches/Tools/Boat Parts

When it comes to carrying tools and spare boat parts, remember to consider the brands of boats you’ll be working with: do they take metric or standard tools? If your boathouse has a mix of both, you may want to carry a bit of everything to be prepared for any shell you’re assigned.


Breana and Anne both like to carry their wrenches on a lanyard with a carabiner. To ensure that your tools don’t end up on the bottom of the river, we recommend attaching a floating buoy—Breana loves this one (affiliate link), which is also large enough to write your name and contact information on in case it gets lost.


For wrenches themselves, your preferences may vary in terms of what features are important to you. Here are some options:

  • Coxswain multi-tool: These efficient tools can sometimes be harder to get your hands on compared to a typical set of wrenches, but they have everything you need to tighten metric or standard equipment.

  • Standard combination wrench: This is the easiest type of wrench to find. As you build out your toolkit, you may consider having two of each type (7/16 inch and/or 10 millimeteraffiliate links)  to deal with stripped bolts that spin in place rather than tightening down.

  • Adjustable wrench (affiliate link): Look for a small model so that this remains a space-efficient tool in your kit. Anne recommends oiling your adjustable wrench regularly so that it doesn’t rust.

  • Ratchet/socket wrenches: Some coxswains prefer the bonus features on these types of wrenches for faster rigging or for reaching into tight spaces, but as with the item above they can be at higher risk of rusting in a water environment.

  • T-handle wrench: True to its name, this type of wrench is shaped like the letter T and enables you to easily grip and turn the top while the bottom socket end connects to a bolt in a tough-to-reach spot.

  • Allen wrench set (affiliate link): Some boats use bolts that require this extra item in order to tighten them down, so having a comprehensive set never hurts.


To help ensure that your wrenches get back to you, a lot of coxswains like to use a unique identifier like tape printed with a distinctive design (affiliate link) or nail polish.

Another tool you may want to have with you is a screwdriver, which can be useful for adjusting oars, foot stretchers, and other equipment. Phillips head and flathead screwdrivers are the most commonly needed kinds, and you can even find products with interchangeable/reversible heads that cover both options, like this one(affiliate link)


You may also opt to carry spare boat parts like wing nuts, metal washers, bolts, etc. Anne stores hers in small plastic bags like these. If you’re looking for a sturdier option, consider a small fishing tackle box or jewelry storage box (affiliate links). 


It isn’t truly an outing unless a rower asks us for a spacer, so many coxswains carry these frequently-requested items in their toolkits. Make sure to note whether the spacers are sized for 3/4 inch or 13 millimeter oarlock pins.


General Purpose Items

Breana and Anne both carry index cards and pens for writing down information like lineups or workouts. Some coxswains like to bring a full-fledged notebook into the boat with them; several companies sell waterproof notebooks (affiliate link) that suit that purpose. A Sharpie is another useful writing instrument to have on hand, for example if you need to label something. 


Particularly at regattas where our boats will be going through equipment compliance checks, having something on hand that can serve as a replacement heel tie is a great idea. You may keep zip ties (affiliate link) for this purpose; for a low-budget solution, use an old shoelace. Breana also keeps a set of travel scissors (affiliate link) in her kit for cutting up shoelaces so that they can be used on more than one foot stretcher.


Electrical tape can save the day in so many ways in rowing, whether you need to firmly attach a bow number or patch up a small puncture in the boat. Anne recommends Scotch Super88 (affiliate link) for its ability to function at a wide range of temperatures.


On the note of tape, medical tape (affiliate link) is another variety that rowers may ask you for in the boat. Other useful medical supplies to have on hand include Band-Aids, gauze, and Neosporin. As a coxswain you may also be asked to temporarily carry rowers’ medical supplies such as Epi-Pens or inhalers. If you’re handed more than one of these, that’s where the aforementioned Sharpie can come in handy!


Here are some other items that may become part of your kit if they make sense in your rowing context:

  • Hairtie (affiliate link): In addition to serving the named purpose of holding back long hair, in an absolute pinch you can use one of these as a makeshift spacer—Breana has done it before!

  • Sponge: If conditions suggest you’re going to need to bail the boat during your outing, a sponge is an excellent item to have on hand. Anne carries a kitchen sponge (affiliate link), but keeps it as a minimal item in her kit by squashing it down while wet, so that it dries into a convenient wafer. If you anticipate a bigger bailing job, you may carry a full-fledged automotive sponge (affiliate link).

  • Water bottle (affiliate link): As coxswains we often get asked to carry these for the rowers, but consider whether you also want to bring a water bottle for yourself. Our advice is to choose a kind where the part you’re going to put your mouth on isn’t exposed to the elements, since this thing will roll around in the bottom of the boat, get splashed with river water, and who knows what else!

  • Whistle (affiliate link): This is especially useful as a safety item if you cox without a coach or end up in super foggy conditions. At a regatta, it can also be useful for getting the attention of a nearby boat that is endangering themselves and your crew in the warmup area but isn’t responding to your voice.

  • Flashlight (affiliate link): If you launch or land when it’s dark out, a flashlight can help rowers maneuver equipment safely. While on the water, a flashlight can also be useful if you or a rower need to see something in the dark. Bonus points if you get one with a keyring that can go on your lanyard!

  • Bungee (affiliate link): While we usually think about breaking these out to get our shells travel-ready, you can also use a bungee to tie down a seat if you have to cox a 7+.

  • Cooling towel (affiliate link): If the conditions call for it, this lightweight item brings a lot of value. Simply dip it in the water next to you to reactivate it during a hot row.

  • Hand warmers (affiliate link): On the opposite end of the temperature spectrum, you may opt to keep these with you instead.

  • Life jacket (affiliate link): Some teams or rowing jurisdictions require a life jacket under certain weather conditions, and others require one at all times. If that applies to you, consider this as part of your kit.



At CoxPod we have always been adamant that coxswains should not be sent out on the water without proper voice amplification equipment. Depending on your preferences or team availability, this could include a CoxBox or CoxOrb with its accompanying headset. If your device includes a removable battery and a spare is available to you, we recommend bringing it with you on the water. Anne was grateful for this strategy when her CoxBox battery died during the first few strokes of Head of the Charles. If you absolutely have to make do with another voice amplification solution for your outing, you can try a cheerleading-style megaphone or a powered megaphone.


You may also carry additional technology that provides you with data from the boat, like a SpeedCoach or Coxmate. And of course, many of us bring our cell phones in the boat with us. Breana keeps hers safe with a floating waterproof case (affiliate link) that she keeps around her neck on a lanyard. Anne stores hers in a reusable silicone snack bag (affiliate link) that she keeps in her larger drawstring bag. Lots of coxswains also wear a watch (affiliate link) as a backup option or as their preferred method for telling the time of day and for timing workouts.


Specialty Items

In case the above list hasn’t been comprehensive enough, here are a few other items that may be applicable to you on a routine or infrequent basis, depending on your circumstances:

  • Video/audio recording device: You may bring a GoPro (affiliate link) or other portable video or audio recorder (affiliate link) with you to capture your row. If you do, we highly recommend putting a floatie on it!

  • Walkie-talkie: Some teams carry these for cox-to-cox and/or coach-to-cox communication on the water. Say it with us: put a floatie on it!

  • Yoga block (affiliate link): These are great for lifting yourself up out of a really narrow coxswain seat in a sternloader. They’re also useful for sitting more comfortably on the deck of a rowing barge.

  • Bowloader “plug”: If you’re on the shorter side, you’ve no doubt had the experience of being launched into the hull of a bowloader when the check is bad. Coxswains have used everything from spare life jackets to homemade styrofoam devices to keep themselves from disappearing into the boat in these situations.


Practice vs. Racing Gear

Many coxswains opt to carry less on race day than they do at practice. As mentioned above, begin by considering what kind of support you’ll have at the regatta. You can also include the state of your team’s equipment in your calculations: if you often have to make repairs at home, you should have what you need to do so on race day. As masters coxswains, Anne and Breana continue to carry a fair bit with them even on race day.


Additional race-specific items that may become part of your gear include any weight that you need to carry to bring yourself up to coxswain weight minimums, and your race credentials (e.g., a wristband or lanyard) if applicable for that regatta–don’t launch without either of these things!


Some coxswains have a lucky item that they bring with them on race day. We’d love to hear about yours!


“Home Base”

Whether we’re at practice or a regatta, when we’re off the water our teams usually have a “home base” of sorts, be that a tent, a trailer, the boathouse, a team bus, etc. Here’s where we can keep a larger form of storage (like a backpack or duffle bag) for things that won’t go with us on the water but support our endeavors as coxswains, like food or a change of clothes. Be sure to put a nametag on your bag because your items may be moved without you there. Make sure that they won’t be left behind! To protect her bag from the elements, Breana likes this style of waterproof bag cover (affiliate link - unfortunately the exact model she ordered is no longer available online). For intense rain and mud, Anne recommends putting your backpack or duffle in a clear trash bag so that someone doesn't mistake it for trash when you're not at your team's site.


What’s in your “home base” storage? Here are some items you may want to consider:

  • Extra clothing/shoes: We have an entire episode on clothing considerations for coxswains! Check it out here: 031 | What Not to Wear (Coxswain Edition)

  • Race-specific items: Find out whether it’s your job to carry bow numbers or the team race packet. And don’t forget safety pins (affiliate link) to attach those bow numbers, in case you don’t get any in your packet.

  • Food/water: Even if we aren’t exerting ourselves in the same way as the rowers, we need to fuel ourselves on race day too. If you can't count on a source of potable water at the regatta site, be sure to bring extra water.

  • Binoculars (affiliate link): Anne brings these to scope out the racecourse before launching.

  • External power bank (affiliate link): Regattas are usually in outdoor locations without readily available outlets, so one of these can be indispensable for charging tech like your phone.

  • Coxswain tech: You may protect your CoxBox with a carrying case, and we love this unique option of a solar charger! We even know some coxswains who are so serious that they travel with their own harness and speakers to equip any boat with the setup they need for voice amplification.

  • Personal care items: You may want to bring items like hand sanitizer/wipes, tissues, toilet paper, sunscreen, bug spray, and throat lozenges.

  • Work/entertainment: If you anticipate having a lot of downtime at the regatta, you may want to bring items like books, work, headphones, or reading glasses.


Free and Cheap Ways to Get Coxing Gear

We require a lot of gear to carry out our jobs as coxswains, but equipping yourself for this role doesn't need to break the bank. Breana is a believer in scoring as much of your gear as you can in free or cheap ways, especially because in the rowing environment our gear often gets wet, stained, torn, or lost altogether at the bottom of the river.


Here are some ideas of where you can score free or cheap coxing gear:

  • Library loan: Your public or campus library may offer short-term technology loans for items like voice recorders or GoPros.

  • NK Grant Program: The makers of the CoxBox, SpeedCoach, and other coxing equipment offer rolling $500 grants towards the purchase of any NK product.

  • Lost and found: You know those sunglasses that someone left on the team bus two months ago and never claimed? Give them a new home!

  • Hand-me-downs: If someone is getting rid of gear-related items that you need, snap them up! Or, hand things down to yourself by repurposing. Anne cleans out old snack bags and reuses them for rowing items, and when she retires a pair of sneakers she makes sure to pull the shoelaces out first to keep in her kit.

  • Gifts: If a teammate, family member, or someone in your life wants to give you a gift, consider asking for a piece of gear that will support you as a coxswain. People in your life want to give you things you’ll enjoy and use, so help them know what those things are for you. For more insight, check out the most popular post on our site: The Ultimate Coxswain Gift Guide.

  • Thrift stores, charity shops, yard sales: Scope these out for cheap versions of any general purpose gear you may need.

  • Corporate merch: Are you going to a conference, employment fair, college info fair, or regatta? Scope out the vendor tables for free items like lanyards, pens, notebooks, mini flashlights, and more!


Ultimately, the goal is to carry just enough to suit your coxing needs, but not more than that—we can't bring the whole boathouse with us! Over time you'll hone what's in your kit. You may even be the hero for your crew (or another crew!) by having something they need to keep the boat moving forward. And don't forget: all of this doesn’t need to break the bank.


What indispensable items are in your kit? Do you have a "good luck charm" that you carry with you for every race? Tell us about it on Discord, here on our website, or on social media. We’d love to hear from you! 

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Episode timestamps:

  • 00:00  Introduction

  • 02:38  Deciding what to carry

  • 04:24  Storage options for carrying your gear

  • 07:21  Selecting and carrying wrenches

  • 13:52  Other tools and boat parts

  • 16:28  General purpose items

  • 21:09  Medical supplies

  • 23:17  More general purpose items

  • 27:30  Electronic equipment

  • 31:11  Items for special circumstances

  • 33:31  Paring down for race day

  • 36:11  Additional gear for race day

  • 38:11  Larger “home base” gear storage

  • 46:45  How to acquire cheap/free gear

  • 51:42  Episode recap

  • 53:20  Closing

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