Any camping trip requires careful planning, research, and checklists, but before you set out on a kayak camping trip, you'll need to keep in mind a few extra considerations that will not only help your trip run more smoothly, but will also keep you and your party safe.
Keeping it dry
No matter how waterproof a latch on your kayak is said to be, there is always the chance that water will find its way through. For kayak camping, you'll need to bring several different sizes of dry bags and boxes, which should house the items that absolutely must stay dry, including sleeping bags, matches, lighters and tinder, toilet paper, electronics, and money.
Some camping gear should preferably be dry, but it isn't as imperative as the above items. If you don't have anymore room in your dry bag for your tent, camping stove and weatherproof flashlight, you can store these items a regular nylon stuff sack.
Dry bags come in several sizes, ranging from smaller, item-specific sacks (such as for your phone, GPS, or camera) to 40 liter bags you can pack all your clothes in. Before you leave, make sure everything is organized and will fit in your boat alongside the rest of your kayaking gear.
The food you bring along on a kayak camping trip will be very similar to a backpacking trip, and the way you prepare should also echo what you've done on the trails. Before going on your trip, sort out your food by meal—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks—and pack it into dry bag or stuff sack.
Finding water won’t be an issue in freshwater, but only if you bring along a water purification system. If you do have to pack your own water, such as for a salt water trip, bring it in separate, smaller jugs or bladders rather than a large tank. This will be important when it comes to properly packing your kayak to keep it stable. Whichever method you choose though, be sure to drink a gallon of water per day when paddling to stay hydrated.
Bringing along fresh foods, as opposed to freeze-dried camping food, is much easier on a kayaking trip than a backpacking trip. Frozen meat, for example, will thaw very slowly if packed low in the kayak, especially if you're paddling in cold waters.
Considering many kayaks can carry up to 100 pounds of additional weight, how heavy your gear is won't be as important as where and how it is packed. If it's your first time, you may run into the “fitting a square peg in a round hole” problem—hatches aren't always the shape you want them to be. It may take some finagling and planning to get everything in.
To start, place all of your heavier items close to the cockpit and deep inside the boat. Be sure the weight is distributed evenly in all directions, expanding out from the center. If you can, try to keep from strapping items to the deck of your kayak. Not only is this an eyesore, it will also affect the way you paddle, add unnecessary wind resistance, and make your boat much more vulnerable to waves.
The best way to ensure stability in your boat is to pack all items tightly. Rather than having loose gear rolling around causing your boat to wobble, tightly packed storage compartments will make paddling much easier. This may take a bit of trial error and techniques that differ from backpacking, though. For example, you can compress your camping tent down much further if you remove the poles, which can then slide down parallel to the boat.
If you fill up your compartments and there are still items you want to bring, resist the temptation to stuff them in the cockpit with you. You may need to wet exit at any time, and if you've packed items around you, you'll have to track them down and fish them out of the water. Even worse, loose gear could ensnare you on your way out.
Having weight around your hips could also make much more difficult to perform an Eskimo role, leading to an unnecessary wet exit.
A kayak camping trip can be a great way to combine the leisure of paddling with the serenity of the outdoors, and a well-stocked and well-packed boat will ultimately enhance the experience.
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