New England
Touring Kayaker
Providing Paddling information about New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont Since 2006

Camping from a Kayak

Camping from a kayak will present many more challenges to deal with compared to traditional camping. For starters, there is the overall lack of room for the conventional camping gear that most of us have become accustomed to. Portable shower stalls, coolers, and of course, the complete line of cookware will have to be left behind. Downsizing your gear and bringing only the essentials will be key to making a long trip in a kayak possible, so careful planning is very important. Take your time planning the trip and make a checklist as you go along. Use the checklist to not only pack your car or truck, but also when you pack the gear in to the kayak. That extra set of batteries for your headlamp will do you no good if they were left somewhere in your vehicle.

I have read many articles about camping out of kayaks and several have stated that you can have complete gourmet style meals while out in the wilderness. I am still scratching my head trying to figure out how they carried perishables for several days in a kayak, but my best guess is that they camped at single location for the entire trip and had access to ice. When setting off on weeklong excursions that will have you camping at different sites every night, it is impractical, if not impossible, to bring along food that needs to be kept cool. Dehydrated food has come a long way since it's invention and there is now a huge selection of food that will satisfy most palates, Kittery Trading Post has the largest selection that I have seen to this date, but of course, there are many places online that also offer a large selection.

As for water, if you are going to be out in the wilderness for any length of time you can forget bringing the entire supply of water with you; that will be too much weight and add too much bulk. If you are going out on a freshwater lake, then I would recommend the water filter/purifier manufactured by First Need. It is currently the only FDA approved combination filter and purifier out on the market, and it accommodates the Nalgene wide mouth water bottles. For trips lasting more than just a few days, bring along an extra filter. Saltwater touring will require you to plan stops along your route that will give you access to fresh water. With the many marinas and small towns along the coast, finding fresh water should not be too much trouble. Some recommend that you bring one gallon of water per person, per day but I always plan on one and half gallons per person, per day. It is also a very good idea to keep a two to three days' supply on board, stored in several containers so you can distribute the weight evenly in both the front and rear of your kayak.

When it is time to choose your camping gear it is very important to select gear the will fit through the hatches of your kayak and also remember to keep it light. Choosing items that will have more than one function will help conserve both space and weight. Don't overdo it; a 4-person tent is not needed for just 2 people. Select a sleeping bag that is light and compresses well. The ground cover for your tent can also double as an emergency shelter if the need should arise.

Another great item I found is a dry bag manufactured by Seattle Sports which have large openings that allow for easy access to your gear. These bags come in three different sizes, are great to store your clothes in and can be easily strapped to the front or rear decks with bungee cords. In my opinion, these are must have items for anyone planning on camping for several days. The small bag is ideal for storing your meals, snacks and other smaller items that you need access to on a regular basis. I go into more detail about selecting the right gear in the Camping Gear section of our tips page.

Remember to distribute the weight evenly in your kayak; putting too much weight in the bow or stern will severely compromise your kayaks stability and handling. It may take several attempts to get the load balanced correctly, but this is something that cannot be overlooked. Kayaks, just like all boats, have a weight limit. Know what yours is. The limit includes the paddler and all of the gear. For example, if the kayak has a limit of 350 pounds and the paddler weighs 180 pounds, this will allow for 170 pounds of gear. Overloading your kayak is just as dangerous as not distributing the weight properly.

Always expect the unexpected; bring along a fully stocked first aid kit, waterproof matches, extra batteries for your headlamp and GPS, flares and or a flare gun, tow rope, and a couple of extra changes of clothes. When you carefully plan ahead for all the possible conditions you may encounter while on your adventure, a camping trip in a kayak can be just as comfortable as any other camping adventure.

Disclaimer, Cookie and Privacy Policy