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What Equipment do I Need for Kayak Camping?

Embarking on a kayak camping adventure requires careful selection of gear to balance weight and utility. Essentials include a durable kayak, paddle, PFD, dry bags for gear, a compact tent, sleeping bag, portable stove, water purification system, and appropriate clothing. Have you considered how these items can enhance your experience on the water? Dive deeper to ensure your journey is unforgettable.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Kayak camping is an outdoor sport which involves paddling kayaks to a camping site and spending the night. A kayak camping trip can last overnight, or much longer, depending on personal taste, and campsites can be reached through rivers, lakes, or the open ocean. Properly preparing for a kayak camping trip is crucial, and will make the experience more enjoyable. As you become more experienced with kayak camping, you will learn about the gear that works best for you, the climate, and the environment.

The gear for kayak camping starts, of course, with a kayak and paddles. Always bring extra paddles along, in case of accidents. Depending on what kind of vehicle you have, you can strap the kayak or kayaks on top, or tow a trailer with your kayaks strapped on. Make sure that safe parking is available, or that someone is available to drop you off and pick you up. You should also pack your kayaks before heading out, to ensure that all of your gear will fit, and the weight will be evenly balanced.

Sleeping bags may be useful during kayak camping.
Sleeping bags may be useful during kayak camping.

The basic principle of packing for kayak camping is that you should assume that everything you pack may get wet. You can minimize the risk of this by packing supplies in dry bags, heavily insulated plastic or rubber bags which can be sealed. However, if a dry bag fails, you want the contents to be usable, so try to pack water resistant items, and textiles which can be quickly and easily dried. Avoid wool and other materials which will get heavy if they are wet.

Basic first aid supplies, such as aspirin, may be good to take kayak camping.
Basic first aid supplies, such as aspirin, may be good to take kayak camping.

At a minimum, you will need food, water, water purification, and shelter. You want to pack as lightly as possible, since you cannot carry too much gear, both volume and weightwise, in your kayaks. For shelter in warmer climates, a sleeping bag is sufficient. However, packing a tent or tarp is an excellent idea, especially in cooler areas or in a region where rain is likely. In addition to food which can be eaten straight, you may want to expand your options by packing a cook stove, and you should also pack pots, pans, and utensils to cook and eat with. Try to focus on high energy foods which are easy to prepare.

A kayak and paddles are the first items needed for kayak camping.
A kayak and paddles are the first items needed for kayak camping.

Water is extremely important. In addition to bringing fresh clean water, a water filtration pump should be packed if you will have access to fresh water. Otherwise, you need to pack approximately ¾ gallon (three liters) of water for each camper per day. You should also plan on bringing layers of protective clothing, including rain gear. Some people like to wear a wetsuit for kayak camping, with a hat and a long sleeved shirt on over it for additional protection.

Biodegradable soaps will help keep campers clean and comfortable.
Biodegradable soaps will help keep campers clean and comfortable.

Personal care items will help to make kayak camping more enjoyable. Hairbrushes, toothbrushes, bug spray, aspirin, biodegradable soaps, and other products will help keep campers clean and comfortable. In addition, a supply of toilet paper and garbage bags should be packed. You should plan on packing everything out with you when you leave, and you may want to check on laws governing the disposal of biological wastes. In some regions, you may be asked to use so called “honey tubes” to collect your waste and drop it off at a bathroom on your return.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the essential items I need for kayak camping?

One may want to have a cook stove for kayak camping.
One may want to have a cook stove for kayak camping.

Essential items for kayak camping include a suitable kayak, paddle, personal flotation device (PFD), dry bags for gear protection, a tent or hammock, sleeping bag, portable stove, food and water supplies, and a first-aid kit. It's crucial to prioritize gear that is compact and waterproof to maximize space and ensure safety.

How do I choose the right kayak for camping?

Bug spray is essential when camping.
Bug spray is essential when camping.

Choosing the right kayak for camping involves considering the trip's duration, water conditions, and storage needs. Touring kayaks are often preferred for their storage capacity and stability. Look for kayaks with multiple sealed hatches and deck rigging to secure additional gear. According to REI, longer kayaks also track better and offer more storage (https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/kayak.html).

Is a special type of tent required for kayak camping?

A roll of toilet paper can come in handy during a camping trip.
A roll of toilet paper can come in handy during a camping trip.

While a special tent isn't required, a compact and lightweight tent is ideal for kayak camping. Space is limited, so a tent that packs down small is beneficial. Additionally, a tent with a high waterproof rating is recommended to withstand potential wet environments. Freestanding tents are also easier to set up on varied terrain.

What kind of food should I pack for kayak camping?

Pack non-perishable, high-energy, and easy-to-prepare foods for kayak camping. Options include dehydrated meals, instant oatmeal, nuts, energy bars, and jerky. Consider meal planning to ensure you have enough calories for the duration of your trip. Remember to pack out all trash to adhere to Leave No Trace principles.

How do I ensure my gear stays dry while kayak camping?

To ensure gear stays dry, use dry bags and waterproof cases for sensitive items like electronics and clothing. Pack items in multiple smaller bags rather than one large one for easier management and to reduce the risk of everything getting wet if one bag fails. Seal seams and closures properly every time.

What safety equipment should I bring along on a kayak camping trip?

Safety equipment for kayak camping should include a PFD (personal flotation device), helmet if navigating rough waters, a whistle, a waterproof headlamp or flashlight, a map and compass or GPS device, a bilge pump, paddle float, and a spare paddle. Additionally, a communication device such as a VHF radio or a satellite messenger for emergencies is crucial.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Sports&Hobbies researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Sports&Hobbies researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon101209

carrying it on its side is the absolute best option. if this is not possible, then transport it upside down.

tu2dogs

What is the proper position for a kayak during transport? What happens if it is not in the proper position.

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    • Sleeping bags may be useful during kayak camping.
      By: Danicek
      Sleeping bags may be useful during kayak camping.
    • Basic first aid supplies, such as aspirin, may be good to take kayak camping.
      By: blueskies9
      Basic first aid supplies, such as aspirin, may be good to take kayak camping.
    • A kayak and paddles are the first items needed for kayak camping.
      By: Janet Wall
      A kayak and paddles are the first items needed for kayak camping.
    • Biodegradable soaps will help keep campers clean and comfortable.
      By: Africa Studio
      Biodegradable soaps will help keep campers clean and comfortable.
    • One may want to have a cook stove for kayak camping.
      By: Maygutyak
      One may want to have a cook stove for kayak camping.
    • Bug spray is essential when camping.
      By: Maridav
      Bug spray is essential when camping.
    • A roll of toilet paper can come in handy during a camping trip.
      By: Ruggiero Scardigno
      A roll of toilet paper can come in handy during a camping trip.