Kayak Camping: Everything You Need to Know Before Hitting the Water

Oreos and milk, spaghetti and meatballs, wine and cheese. Sometimes it really pays off to combine your two favorite things. Luckily, perfect pairings don’t have to stop in the kitchen and can extend to your outdoor adventures. 

Enter kayak camping. 

That’s right— kayaking and camping, all in one. If you’ve never heard of kayak camping before or you’re familiar and want to learn more, listen up! We’re here to help you out by providing all the basics you need to know before you set out paddling.

In this article, we’ll break down:

What is kayak camping?

As the name implies, kayak camping combines two outdoorsy favorites: kayaking and camping.

In many ways, kayak camping is similar to backpacking or primitive camping. But instead of hiking to your campsite, you paddle there via kayak. 

Like dryland camping, kayak camping trips can take whatever shape you like. Maybe you’re envisioning a journey along a body of water, where you pack up camp each morning and paddle somewhere new. Perhaps you have a special destination in mind that is only accessible via boat.

The specifics are up to you and the limitations of what you can pack. 

Need help finding places to camp? Apps like AllStays can help you find campsites, trails, and everything else you need for a successful kayak camping trip.

Kayak Camping Checklist

Since kayak camping combines two outdoor favorites, you’ll need to be sure you bring everything you need for both paddling and setting up camp. You’ll need food and drink, so we’ll cover that as well. 

Kayak Gear to Bring

Anytime you set out on the water, you need to ensure you’re bringing the basics

First off, you’ll want to be sure you have the right kayak. If you’re setting off on a days-long journey, a small recreational kayak probably isn’t going to cut it. You need to have enough storage and that your kayak type matches the waters you’ll be paddling in. 

Aside from your boat and paddle, you’ll want to be sure you have items like:

If you have a list that you use every time you go out on extended paddling trips, this would be a good place to start. Don’t forget to include your sunscreen, chapstick, and insect repellent

You should also be properly dressed for kayaking, but what, exactly, you bring and pack clothing-wise will depend on the weather and conditions that you’re going out in.

Camp Gear to Bring

Now for the camp gear.

1. A small tent / camping hammock

First, you’ll need a shelter of some sort, whether it be a small tent or a camping hammock.

If you really feel like showing your survival skills, you can build an adequate shelter from materials at your campsite— but don’t rely on this being an option unless you’ve done some research or you’ve done it before.

2. A sleeping bag

Second, you’ll need a sleep system that will keep you warm at night. This can be a sleeping bag or a sleeping bag + padding combo.

Make sure that your sleeping bag has moisture-proof insulation to prevent sleeping in a cold and soggy bundle. 

The best kayak camping gear is pieces that can withstand exposure to water without falling apart or mildewing because chances are, things will get wet at one point or another.

3. Cooking equipment and utensils

Third, make sure you have means to cook food and build a fire.

  • Bring matches or a spark-igniter in a waterproof bag (or two, because you really don’t want this to get wet).
  • A small propane camp stove is great for boiling water and heating up meals.
  • You can find excellent sets of camping pots, cups, utensils, and bowls.
  • Kitchen multi-tools that include things like a can opener, knife, bottle opener, and corkscrew are also great. 

4. Hygiene essentials

Lastly, don’t forget hygiene essentials. Pack any hygiene or personal items that you’d take backpacking.

Think about common bathroom goods like toothbrush, toothpaste, and, of course, toilet paper. If you’re going out for a quick trip, you may get by without soaps and shampoo. 

Food and Drink to Bring

When it comes to packing water, stick to the tried and true rule of thumb: at least one gallon of water per person per day.

At over eight pounds per gallon, water weight adds up quickly and may be a limitation to the duration of your stay. If you’re going out on fresh water, you may also opt to bring your own filtration and purification tablets to cut back on how much water you pack.

You’ll also want to be sure you have an ample amount of food. You need to keep your energy up until the end of your trip, as you’ll have to pack up and paddle back.

Foods that can be easily prepared and stored are key. Think of goods like:

  • Protein bars
  • Freeze-dried meals that just need boiling water
  • Dried meats and fruits

Don’t forget to include enough for snacks in addition to your daily meals. 

How to Pack for Your Kayak Camping Trip

Once you have all of your items that you want to bring along on your journey, you’ll need to pack them in your kayak. If it’s your first time, it’s a good idea to do a dry run and pack your kayak before you set off on your journey. 

Consider a few things:

  • The weight of your items. Be aware of how much weight your kayak can hold. Even if it all fits, you plus your gear may cause your kayak to exceed its weight limit. You’ll also want to evenly distribute the weight of your gear, and place heavier items towards the bottom of your boat.
  • What must stay dry. Even if you have a dry hatch, don’t assume that water won’t get in. Be sure to put items that must stay dry in waterproof bags.
  • What you’ll want near you. Pack your gear strategically. If you’re going to need it while on the water, make sure it’s within reach and you won’t need to take out 10 things to get to it. 

Get on the Water

Like most multi-day outdoor activities, the best way to approach kayak camping is with a little preparation. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Do a little more research ahead of time to plan what you’ll need for the conditions you’ll be paddling in and the activities you want to do. Then, once you’re confident in your knowledge, go get your ‘yak on!

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