We get to wondering at some time early in our paddling lives, perhaps while we’re nearing the end of a long paddling day but still a few miles from the takeout. “”What if I didn’t have to go home?” we ponder, attentively caressing our stubbled chins. What if I had everything I needed to eat, sleep, and be comfortable for a night right inside my boat? Perhaps two…?”
As a result, the ancient art of paddle camping has been resurrected. But beware: it was precisely this kind of irrational reasoning that drove many a voyageur and mountain man into the woods, never to be seen again.
Here are some guidelines and suggestions to make your own overnight kayak camping experiences more enjoyable.
Pack as little as possible
If you’ve suddenly switched from vehicle camping to kayak camping, you might be wondering where to put the cast-iron Dutch oven, chaise lounge, and beer cooler. Kayak camping isn’t quite as constraining as backpacking, but it’s close. When kayak camping, even much of your favorite stuff that can easily be eaten by a canoe will have to be left behind, so some severe discipline is required.
It’s All About the Size
To better adapt to the oddly-shaped inside of most kayaks, you’ll probably find it easier to utilize a bunch of smaller drybags rather than a few bigger ones. Color-coding your luggage for organizing is a good idea, as is labeling them with identifying tags. Heavy vinyl bags are fine for food because they are more resistant to puncture and allow less bear-attracting stench to drift through the woods, but they adhere to each other while packing into the boat.
Maintain Your Balance
Food and water should be packed near the center of your kayak, preferably just below the back bulkhead, while lighter, bulkier goods like sleeping bags and clothing should be put near the ends. To make your boat steady and balanced, everything should be packed low and centered from side to side. The only time you should deviate from these general guidelines is if you need to re-trim a boat for improved handling. When a skeg cable on one of my paddling partners broke halfway through a trip, he wisely weighted his boat stern-heavy the following days to avoid weathercocking.
Test-pack your kayak a few days before your first overnighter to see if all of your anticipated stuff will fit. It’s unlikely to happen. Remember that the whole point of kayak camping is to get away from it all as you choose stuff that won’t make the trip.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best way to pack a kayak?
Food and water should be packed near the center of your kayak, preferably just below the back bulkhead, while lighter, bulkier goods like sleeping bags and clothing should be put near the ends.
What kind of footwear do you use when kayaking?
Kayaking is best done with a water bootie or water shoe. They’ll stay on your feet, keep rocks out, and keep your feet warm when kayaking. Water sandals with correct straps are also a viable option, though you may experience chilled feet if the temperature is cool.
How much water should you consume throughout a kayaking day?
The typical rule of thumb is one gallon per person each day, which will leave you with plenty.