Kayak Camping Tips important Gear & Packing Guide

kayak camping

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Kayak camping is an ideal adventure for those who enjoy both kayaking and backpacking. It offers the opportunity to experience the beauty of backcountry wilderness while enjoying the tranquility of being on the open water. Unlike traditional backpacking, kayak camping allows you to avoid the strain of carrying a heavy load on your back for miles on end. While paddling a boat full of gear is still a great workout, camping with a kayak offers more flexibility to take breaks and provides a unique perspective, even in areas that you have previously explored.

If you’re planning a kayak camping trip, it’s important to have the right gear and packing strategy to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. In this section, we’ll cover the essential gear you need for kayak camping and offer tips on how to pack efficiently for your trip.

Now that you know some great locations for kayak camping, let’s talk about some tips and gear to make your trip a success.

Kayak Camping Tips And Gear

kayak camping
 kayak camping tips
Kayak Camping Tips important Gear & Packing Guide 5

When planning a kayak camping trip, it’s important to keep in mind some key tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some essential kayak camping tips:

  1. Plan your route and camping spots in advance. Before embarking on your trip, research the area you’ll be paddling through and identify potential camping spots. It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan in case your intended camping spot is occupied or unavailable.
  2. Make sure you have all necessary permits and are following local regulations. Depending on where you’re camping, you may need permits or have to follow certain rules and regulations. Check with local authorities beforehand to ensure you’re in compliance.
  3. Pack as lightly as possible to make room for camping gear. Kayaks have limited storage space, so it’s important to pack only what you really need. Consider packing multi-functional items and opt for lightweight gear.
  4. Use dry bags to protect your gear from water damage. Even if you’re confident in your kayak’s stability, accidents can happen. Protect your gear from water damage by packing everything in dry bags.
  5. Pack a repair kit for your kayak in case of any damage. Always be prepared for any possible equipment failures by bringing a repair kit. You can purchase a pre-made kit or create your own with essentials such as duct tape and extra bungee cords.
  6. Bring plenty of water and food. Staying hydrated and nourished is crucial on any camping trip. Bring enough water and non-perishable food to sustain you throughout your journey.
  7. Don’t forget to bring a first aid kit. Accidents happen, and it’s essential to have a first aid kit on hand in case of emergencies. Make sure your kit includes items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers.
  8. Leave no trace: pack out all of your trash and avoid damaging the environment. As with any outdoor adventure, it’s important to minimize your impact on the environment. Pack out all of your trash, and avoid damaging any vegetation or wildlife.

Kayak Camping Gear

When planning a kayak camping trip, having the right gear is essential for a safe and comfortable experience. Here are some essential items you’ll want to bring along:


First and foremost, you’ll need a suitable kayak for your camping trip. Look for a kayak with enough storage space for all of your gear, including your tent, sleeping bag, and food. You may also want to consider a kayak that is specifically designed for camping, with extra storage compartments and features like adjustable seating and footrests.

Tip: Make sure to choose a kayak that is appropriate for your skill level and the type of water you’ll be paddling in.


Kayak Camping Tips important Gear & Packing Guide 6

Choosing the right paddle is important for your comfort and efficiency while paddling. Look for a paddle that is comfortable to grip and suits your paddling style. Some paddles are adjustable, which can be helpful if you’re sharing your kayak with someone else who has a different height or paddling preference.

Tip: Consider a paddle with a lightweight and durable material, like carbon fiber or fiberglass, to reduce fatigue and increase efficiency.

We reviewed the best kayak paddle holder

Life Jacket

Kayak Camping Tips important Gear & Packing Guide 7

Safety should always be a top priority, and wearing a properly fitting life jacket can save your life in case of an emergency. Make sure to choose a life jacket that is designed for kayaking and fits snugly without being too tight. Look for a jacket with a US Coast Guard-approved rating.

Tip: Consider a life jacket with extra features, like pockets for storing small items or a built-in whistle for signaling for help.


Your tent is your home away from home while kayak camping, so choose one that is lightweight, compact, and easy to set up. Look for a tent that is suitable for the expected weather conditions, whether that’s a summer tent with good ventilation or a winter tent that can handle snow and wind.

Tip: Consider a tent with a waterproof and durable material, like ripstop nylon or polyester, to withstand the elements.

Sleeping Bag

A good sleeping bag can make all the difference in your comfort level while camping. Choose one that is appropriate for the expected temperatures, and consider a lightweight and compact option to save space in your kayak. Look for a sleeping bag with a temperature rating that matches the lowest expected temperature.

Tip: Consider a sleeping bag with a hood and draft collar to keep your head and neck warm, and a compressible material like down or synthetic insulation for easy packing.

Camping Stove

A lightweight and portable camping stove is essential for cooking meals on your trip. Look for a stove that is easy to set up and use, and consider a fuel-efficient option to save space and weight. Choose a stove that is compatible with the type of fuel you’ll have available.

Tip: Consider a stove with a windscreen to protect the flame and increase efficiency in windy conditions.


A small, waterproof cooler can keep your food and drinks cold and fresh. Look for a cooler that is small enough to fit in your kayak and waterproof to prevent any leaks or spills. Choose a cooler with a sturdy and durable material, like hard plastic or stainless steel.

Tip: Consider freezing some of your food and drinks ahead of time to reduce the amount of ice you’ll need to pack.


A hands-free headlamp is essential for nighttime activities like setting up camp or navigating in the dark. Look for a headlamp that is bright, lightweight, and easy to use. Choose a headlamp with a long battery life and adjustable brightness levels.

Tip: Consider bringing spare batteries or a rechargeable battery pack to ensure you always have light when you need it

Choosing the Right Kayak for Camping

kayak camping
Photo by Mounir Abdi on Unsplash

Choosing the right kayak for camping is crucial to ensure an enjoyable and safe trip. There are different types of kayaks available, each with its advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a kayak for camping, consider your paddling style, the type of water you’ll be navigating, and the amount of gear you’ll be carrying.

Types of Kayaks Suitable for Camping

Sit-on-top kayaks are an excellent option for camping as they offer more storage space and are easier to enter and exit. They also tend to be more stable, making them ideal for beginners. However, they are slower than sit-in kayaks, and you may get wetter due to the open design.

Sit-in kayaks, on the other hand, are more suited for colder weather and rougher water conditions. They offer better protection from the elements and are faster than sit-on-top kayaks. However, they have limited storage space and can be challenging to enter and exit.

When choosing a kayak for camping, look for one with a weight capacity that can accommodate your gear and still float safely. Additionally, consider the length and width of the kayak, as it can affect the stability and maneuverability of the kayak.

We have a comparison on Sit-in vs Sit-on Top Kayak

Ultimately, the best kayak for camping is one that suits your personal style and preferences. Test out different kayaks before making a decision, and consider renting or borrowing a kayak before investing in one.

In addition to a sit-on-top kayak, you may consider other types of kayaks suitable for camping. A touring kayak is designed for longer trips and can offer more storage space. A folding kayak is a good choice if you plan to hike with your kayak, as it can be easily carried in a backpack. An inflatable kayak is another option for camping as they can be easily transported and inflated at your destination.

Paddles and Lifejackets

Paddles and lifejackets are two of the most important pieces of equipment for a safe and successful kayak camping trip. Choosing the right paddle is crucial as it affects your speed, maneuverability, and overall enjoyment on the water. It’s important to choose a paddle that is comfortable to hold and suits your paddling style. The length and shape of the paddle also play a significant role in determining its suitability for your needs. If you’re unsure about which paddle to choose, consult with an expert or experienced kayaker to get their recommendations.

Just as important as selecting the right paddle is wearing a properly fitting lifejacket. A lifejacket is a must-have safety item for any water-based activity, including kayaking. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, a lifejacket can provide an extra layer of protection in case of an emergency. It’s important to choose a lifejacket that fits properly and is comfortable to wear. It should also meet the appropriate safety standards set by the US Coast Guard or other regulatory agencies.

Tents, Sleeping Bags, and Pads

Tents, Sleeping Bags, and Pads are crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable kayak camping trip. A good tent provides shelter from the elements and a cozy place to rest after a long day of paddling. Look for a tent that is lightweight and easy to set up, yet spacious enough to store your gear and move around comfortably. A waterproof tent is a must to ensure that you stay dry in case of rain.

Sleeping bags are designed to keep you warm during the night. They come in different temperature ratings, so make sure to choose one that matches the weather conditions of your camping destination. For colder nights, a bag with a lower temperature rating is necessary. On the other hand, for warmer nights, a bag with a higher temperature rating can be used.

Sleeping pads provide insulation and comfort when sleeping on the ground. They prevent heat loss through conduction and provide cushioning for a comfortable sleeping surface. Choose a pad that is lightweight, easy to pack, and provides the right level of cushioning and insulation for your needs.

Having the right camping gear can make all the difference in your kayak camping experience. With a quality tent, sleeping bag, and pad, you can sleep comfortably and wake up ready for another day of adventure on the water.

Cooking Equipment

Cooking equipment is an important part of any kayak camping trip. You’ll need to bring lightweight and compact gear that can fit in your kayak and is easy to set up. Here are some essential items you should consider bringing:

  • Stove: Look for a lightweight stove that can be easily packed and set up. There are many types of camping stoves available, from simple ones that use propane to more advanced models that use wood or even solar power.
  • Cookware: You’ll need pots and pans to cook your meals. Look for lightweight and durable options that can be easily packed. Many camping cookware sets come with everything you need, including a pot, pan, and utensils.
  • Utensils, Plates, and Cups: Don’t forget to bring utensils, plates, and cups for eating and drinking. Look for lightweight and reusable options that can be easily packed.
  • Cooler: A cooler is essential for storing food and drinks. Look for a compact and lightweight cooler that can fit in your kayak. You can also consider using freeze-dried meals or food that doesn’t require refrigeration.
  • Water Filtration System: It’s important to have clean drinking water on your trip. Bring a water filtration system or purification tablets to make sure you have safe drinking water.

By packing the right cooking equipment, you can enjoy delicious meals while enjoying the great outdoors on your kayak camping trip.

Clothing and Navigation Tools

When packing for a kayak camping trip, it’s essential to bring the appropriate clothing and navigation tools. Here are some tips to help you pack:

Kayak Camping Clothes

When planning your kayak camping trip, it’s important to consider what clothing to pack for your adventure. Here are some tips to help you choose the right clothes for your trip:

Swimwear – Swimming is a popular activity while kayaking, so make sure to bring appropriate swimwear. Check the water temperature before your trip to determine what type of swimwear to pack.

Water shoes or sandals – Water shoes or sandals are essential for kayaking to provide grip when traversing wet rocks. Columbia’s PFG Tamiami Shoes are a popular choice as they are designed for watersports and are comfortable for camp or heading into town.

SPF shirt – Most kayaking spots involve a lot of open exposure, which means you’ll be exposed to harmful sun rays. It’s important to protect your skin by wearing an SPF shirt. Outdoor Research’s Echo line is a great option as it keeps you cool while protecting your skin.

Hat, sunglasses, or both – Sun protection is crucial when kayaking, especially when the sun reflects off the water. Wearing a hat, sunglasses, or both can help protect your face and eyes. The Wallaroo Sedona hat is a popular choice, and you can use the code BEARFOOT20 to get 20% off.

Puffy jacket – Kayaking can get chilly, so it’s important to pack a synthetic down jacket to stay warm. A puffy jacket can be easily packed away and will keep you warm in case of colder temperatures.

regarding navigation tools,

Navigation Tools

  • Bring navigation tools such as a compass and map to help you stay on track and avoid getting lost.
  • The ACA recommends bringing a GPS device as well as a backup power source for it.
  • It’s also a good idea to bring a whistle or other signaling device in case of an emergency.
  • Be sure to know how to use your navigation tools and plan your route ahead of time.

Efficient Packing Tips for Kayak Camping Trips

When preparing for a kayak camping trip, it is crucial to pack efficiently to ensure a smooth and comfortable journey. Here are some tips to help you pack efficiently the top 9 tips:

  1. Invest in Dry Bags or Waterproof Containers: To keep your gear dry, use waterproof containers or dry bags to pack your clothes, food, and other essentials. This will prevent water from seeping in and damaging your items.
  2. Pack Heavy Items Low and Center: When loading your kayak, pack the heavier items low and toward the center of the kayak. This will help maintain stability and prevent your kayak from tipping over.
  3. Use Compression Bags: To save space, use compression bags for your sleeping bag and clothing. These bags will reduce the size of your items and make them easier to pack.
  4. Keep Frequently Used Items Accessible: Pack frequently used items, such as snacks, sunscreen, and water bottles, in an easily accessible location. This will save you time and energy from digging through your bag to find them.
  1. Organize Your Gear by Category: Categorize your gear and pack them in separate bags or containers. For example, pack all your cooking supplies in one bag and your sleeping gear in another. This will make it easier to locate items when you need them.
  2. Pack Smart: Consider the weight and size of the items you’re bringing. Opt for lightweight and compact gear that won’t take up too much space in your kayak. Avoid bringing unnecessary items that will only add weight and take up valuable space.
  3. Maximize Your Space: Use every inch of space in your kayak to your advantage. For example, pack smaller items like socks and underwear inside your shoes or pack your cooking supplies inside your pots and pans.
  4. Consider the Weather: Check the weather forecast and pack accordingly. If you’re expecting rain, pack extra rain gear and waterproof bags. If it’s going to be hot and sunny, pack plenty of sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
  5. Pack for Safety: Make sure you have all the necessary safety gear, such as a life jacket, whistle, and first aid kit. Keep these items in a waterproof container and easily accessible.

By incorporating these additional tips, you can pack efficiently and be better prepared for your kayak camping trip. Remember to pack only what you need and stay organized to make the most of your space.

Virginia Kayak Camping

Virginia offers a variety of locations for kayak camping, including the Chesapeake Bay, the James River, and the Shenandoah River. The Shenandoah River offers a peaceful and scenic setting with plenty of camping options. The Chesapeake Bay offers a unique paddling experience with a mix of salt and freshwater.

Maine Kayak Camping

Maine is another great location for kayak camping. Green Island Quarry is a popular destination for kayaking and camping. The island is surrounded by clear waters and offers stunning views of the Maine coastline. Jewel Island is another option for kayak camping in Maine. The island features a secluded campground and beautiful hiking trails.

Colorado Kayak Camping

Colorado may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of kayak camping, but it actually offers some incredible opportunities. The Upper Colorado River is a popular spot for kayaking and camping. It offers both calm stretches of water and exciting rapids, as well as beautiful scenery. The Colorado River also passes through several state parks that offer camping options for kayakers.

Georgia Kayak Camping

Georgia is another state with a variety of kayak camping options. The Okefenokee Swamp is a unique and fascinating destination for kayakers. The swamp features over 120 miles of water trails and abundant wildlife, including alligators and a variety of bird species. The Georgia coast also offers some great options for kayak camping, including Cumberland Island National Seashore and the nearby Little Cumberland Island.

Best kayaking places in the USA

How to Load a Kayak for camping?

Yo, so packing a kayak for camping is no joke, it’s an art form. Unlike regular backpacking, you can’t just pack at home and hit the trail, so you need to practice a bit before your first trip. Here are some tips to keep in mind when loading up your kayak:

  • Use dry bags: You gotta keep everything dry, and smaller or medium-sized dry bags (around 35-65 L) make it easier to pack everything in. Try color-coding them or using see-through bags to make finding stuff easier.
  • Distribute the weight: Keep the heaviest items, like food, water, and fuel, closest to your center of gravity. Store lighter items, like your sleeping bag and clothes, on either end, with mid-weight items in between. Try to balance the weight from front to back and side to side.
  • Keep your essentials accessible: Anything you’ll need on the trip should be easily accessible. A waterproof fanny pack is a great option for things like your phone, sunscreen, and camera. And make sure to keep another layer of clothes handy.

Make sure you also have all the essential gear for kayak camping and learn some beginner tips before you hit the water. And trust me, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be hooked on the peacefulness of kayaking and camping combined. Check out these references for more info:


Kayak camping offers a unique and exciting way to experience the great outdoors. With proper planning and gear, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip. Whether you choose to explore the rivers of Virginia, the coast of Georgia, or the wilderness of Maine, kayak camping is sure to provide unforgettable experiences and memories. Happy paddling!

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