Just What Is Kayak Camping?

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Kayak camping opens up more of the world for you to explore. Kayak camping is simple. And just like ultralight backpacking lets, you travel between remote campsites during the day that you couldn’t get to otherwise.

This is a great way to explore out of the way parts of parks or nature that are connected to local waterways and don’t have a trail or conventional land route. While some people would argue this is the same as a basic multi-day kayaking trip, a focus on both activities creates a better overall experience for many individuals. While kayak camping can be a great way to enjoy a challenging or unique part of the great outdoors.

Kayaking Plus Camping

A good kayak campout can be as little as one night of camping between two days of kayaking or it can last days or even weeks depending on the level of exploration & adventure that you’re looking for. Long hikes aren’t a part of the process, but the legs will be glad to get a break from putting miles and miles on the trail. Carrying a back is much easier when the kayak is doing the lifting for you as you make your way down the river!

The camping side of things falls under the lightweight camping side of things. Since you need to carry whatever you will be using on your kayak, you definitely have weight limitations. A large family tent is out of the question, but a lightweight backpacking tent is ideal since it will provide shelter for one or two individuals without actually weighing down the kayak itself.

Planning the Trip

While many people love the idea of a spontaneous adventure, a kayak camping trip is not the kind of thing to just leap into from out of left field. You will need to know the route, what particular challenges might be ahead, and how many days and nights of food you’ll need to pack.

This type of information is important not only for safety’s sake and being able to tell others where you expect to be in case something goes wrong, but also for getting an idea of what the weight of gear is going to be and whether adjustments to gear need to be made before the trip.

Stability Vs. Speed

One of the major considerations when packing is going to be focusing on stability vs speed. A little bit of extra weight when packing things down might slow down your pace a little bit on the water but it could also provide stability which is important - especially if some of your gear isn’t properly wrapped in waterproof covers.

You will need to think about that balance between having the speed to make it to a good camping spot each night (made easier by modern maps and technology like Google Maps) while also being as balanced as possible to give you the best shot at a safe and steady arrival with plenty of time to set up camp and get a fire going before night.

The Importance of Weight

Weight is an important consideration when kayak camping. You need to go lightweight because you can’t weigh yourself down too low in the water. This means if you’re going on a longer kayaking trip of a week or more without re-supply then you really need to count the ounces and figure out the best way to balance the weight from food and water supplies, as well.

While this challenge can be a bit daunting at first, getting good at this aspect leads to better and better trips while also delivering the pride of mastering this skill.

Water Proof or Water-Resistant?

Always wrap and protect things as appropriate. Keep in mind that while kayaks have “waterproof hatches,” generally speaking, any experienced kayaker will tell you that generally, water-resistant or minimized water might be better terms. Things will get wet, so be sure to pack loose items in there that can get wet without issues (energy bars, bottles of water, etc.) versus gear that you need to keep dry.

Food & Water Considerations

Always take water purification tablets and a filter item like the LifeStraw with you. While it’s still a good idea to pack your water along so you know it is clean and you’re in good shape, you always want to have those backups on hand in case you misjudge the amounts, an accident happens, or you simply have a trip that is too long and challenging to pack enough water without risking the kayaks.

For food, granola bars and cliff bars are great and focus on a lot of calories and food for as little weight and space as possible. After all, weight and space are at a premium when kayak camping!

Be Prepared for Some Hiccups

Not everything is going to go smoothly, especially the first time around. This is all part of the adventure. Try to stay looking at the silver lining, be able to laugh at mistakes that should have been obvious in retrospect, and learn from it. Enjoy the good views, the good company, and the novelty of a new adventure. Even when things go wrong, focus on finding solutions instead of sulking over the hardships.

Is Kayak Camping For You?

If you love kayaking, or at least willing to give it a try and enjoy ultralight hiking/backpacking, then chances are you’ll love the combination of challenges and experiences that kayak camping brings to the table. You get to spend plenty of time on the water, look for the perfect campsite, and get to experience first-hand areas of nature that are not easy to reach or commonly visited. All these things together create a mosaic of wonderful outdoor memories and experiences that can make the trip an extraordinary one, indeed!

How To Pack For A Kayak Camping Trip

Pick The Right Gear

Gone are the days where you have to struggle with massive canvas tents. Modern camping gear is designed to be lightweight and easy to carry. Again, what you will take depends on the nature of the trip. The tent will most likely be the largest and bulkiest item you will need to bring with you. However, the tent does not have to be the heaviest as modern ones can weigh up to three pounds and still keep you warm and fit perfectly on the kayak.

You will need to eat while away, and cooking gear will form the other bulk. It is not advisable to build fires in the wilderness, thus the need to carry modern cooking stoves that take little space, save on fuel and are self-contained.

Towels are essential for your trip and the regular ones will be bulky and difficult to store. It is a good idea to buy microfiber towels that take in the same amount of water as the regular ones but are a fraction of the size. They also dry out very fast.

Keep it, Light.

Note that the more items you bring, the heavier your kayak will be, thus affecting its performance and reducing your paddling control. Keep it light if you wish to enjoy your expedition better. You can do this in a couple of ways. First, make everyone carry their own lightweight gear. Discourage people from bringing traditional heavy equipment. Second, share some of the items to avoid taking extra things. For instance, not everyone will require an individual tent and you can share or carry one that can accommodate several people. The same applies to cooking gear and you might be better bringing a single set. Once you have a checklist, split the items amongst the members and spread the weight evenly across the kayaks.

Maintain Dryness

Dry bags are your best choice, and if you want to enjoy your trip, settle for an assortment of these bags. Small ones can keep your personal items while larger ones will store the sleeping bags and tents. Secure your bags well before going on the trip. It is recommended that you roll the top of the bag approximately thrice before buckling it. Most of the watertight hatches are not reliable enough to keep your items dry and safe during the trip. Using dry bags will keep your electronics, matches and other things safe during the journey.

Stay Organized

Packing properly goes down to how organized you are. If you keep your items and load them on a kayak well, you will be surprised how you can store a lot of items in a small space. Dry bags are an efficient way of storing your items and keep them all organized in the kayak. Arrange them in such a way where you keep the things you need most on top and the rest further down. This way, you won’t be required to disorganize everything when you need something and risk tipping the vessel over.

Some of the crucial tips when packing for a kayak camping trip have been listed below. Do not rush over this trip and plan well ahead. Develop a checklist of the items you will need and here are some of the essentials:

  • The kayak
  • Kayak paddle
  • Deck compass
  • An assortment of dry bags
  • Bilge pump
  • Kayak repair kit
  • Waterproof headlamp
  • Water-resistant sleeping bag
  • Lightweight sleeping pad
  • Multiseason tent
  • Outdoor water filter
  • Camping stove
  • Food utensils
  • Dry backpack cooler
  • Waterproof first-aid kit
  • Rescue signal
  • Knife
  • Walkie talkie
  • Rain jacket
  • Water shoes

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