When I got into Kayaking and the solo Freedom Hawks, my wife paid for a two hour+ instruction from a local guide.
One of the things, the guide stressed was to use a small dry bag with a tether to hold certain gear.
She said to blow air into the bag after I put the gear in and then seal it with a 3' tether attached to an outer part of the yak. That way if the yak flipped, and I was tethered to the yak, the tethered paddles and my dry rescue bag would be floating together.
In most of my areas, a VHF is worthless. So I carry an ARS rescue beacon:http://www.wmjmarine.com/marine-safety- ... eacon.html
When, I graduate to using my yaks in salt water bays, I will take my Uniden Atlantis 250 which floats.
Now, I double zip lock bag my cell phone, even that in many areas doesn't work due to lack of cell coverage. There is good coverage on my local river and one of the lakes.
I have a regular Leatherman and one with brush loppers, other tools and a saw blade in the bag. I have ordered a fisherman's/Diver's fixed blade knife to wear attached to my PFD.
I have tested the REI dry bag re its ability to float with the air and gear/stuff in it in swimming pools and water by launch sites. It floats and keeps the gear dry.
The bag is hung with its tether by our back door where I keep my truck keys. That way, I don't forget it. I keep the Uniden in the same area where it can be charged.
A younger 40 something relative, who has been boating since he was a teenager, liked the floating dry bag and has a similiar one with stuff in his. He has a couple of the 5 hour energy drinks and a couple of sealed granola bars.