Kayak Camping: Embrace the Freedom of Paddle-Camping

“There is no unhappiness like the misery of sighting land and work again after a cheerful, careless voyage.” – Mark Twain

Have you ever daydreamed about spending the night in your kayak, with everything you need right there? The ancient art of paddle-camping allows you to do just that. It’s a magical experience that brings a sense of freedom and adventure. However, before you embark on this journey, it’s crucial to be well-prepared. In this article, we will provide you with tips and pointers to make your overnight kayak-camping adventures more enjoyable. Let’s dive in!

Pack Smart, Pack Light

If you’re used to car camping, you may wonder how to fit all your gear into a kayak. Kayak camping requires more discipline than backpacking, as space is limited. The key is to use smaller, color-coded dry bags that can adapt to the interior of your kayak. Opt for lightweight nylon or polyester bags with a rubberized waterproof coating. These bags easily slide past one another, making packing more efficient. Remember to squeeze out the air from each bag to conserve space.

Find the Right Balance

When loading your kayak, it’s essential to distribute weight strategically. Place heavier items like food and water near the middle, while lighter, bulkier items like sleeping bags and clothing should be towards the ends. Keep everything low and centered to maintain the stability and balance of your kayak. If necessary, make adjustments to ensure your boat handles well.

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Prepare and Test-Pack Your Gear

A few days before your first overnight trip, take the time to test-pack your kayak. This will ensure that everything fits properly and that you haven’t forgotten any essentials. You may need to make some sacrifices as not everything will make the cut. Remember, the whole purpose of kayak camping is to get away from it all. Embrace the simplicity and enjoy the freedom of traveling light.

A Personal Packing List

Here’s a suggested list of items for multi-day, self-supported sea-kayak trips. Feel free to modify it to suit your preferences:

  • Kayak: Don’t forget the essentials like hatch covers, deck compass, paddle, spare paddle, and personal flotation device (PFD) with various handy tools and safety equipment.
  • Deck Bag: Keep items like waterproof binoculars, spare camera batteries, sunscreen, snacks, and more within easy reach.
  • Day Hatch or Accessible Location: Store water bottles, lunch, first-aid kit, and other essential items for quick access.
  • Bailout Bag / Ditch Kit / Survival: Carry emergency survival gear.
  • Kayak Repair Kit: Don’t forget the essential repair supplies and tools.
  • Paddling Clothing: Pack synthetic undershorts or swim trunks, long-sleeve and short-sleeve tops, wetsuit shirts, neoprene wetsuit, water shoes, gloves, hat, and sunglasses.
  • Shelter: Bring a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, rain tarp, bear bag kit, and clothesline.
  • General Clothing: Include multiple sets of synthetic undershorts, long underwear, camp shirts, socks, hiking shoes, sandals, convertible pants, fleece jacket, rain jacket, gloves, and more.
  • Personal: Don’t forget insect repellent, earplugs, headlamp, compact flashlight, compass, multi-tool, and other personal items you may need.
  • Kitchen: Pack food, stove, cookware, eatware, water filtration system, dish soap, and other kitchen essentials.
  • In Car for Drive Home: Prepare a bag with large trash bags for wet gear, street clothes, and your cell phone charger.
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Remember, this list is adaptable, and you can add or remove items to suit your specific needs.


With this guide, you’re now ready to embark on your kayak camping journey. Explore nature, embrace the simplicity, and enjoy the freedom of paddle-camping. Leave behind the worries of everyday life and reconnect with the serenity of the great outdoors. For all your kayak camping needs, visit UpStreamPaddle, your go-to source for top-quality equipment and expert advice. Happy paddling!