Tips For An Overnight Kayak Camping Trip

One of the great things about having a kayak is the ability to get away from civilization. Floating far and away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives is often a welcome and much needed retreat, that’s one of the reasons why we paddle. Sometimes though,  a few hours away is not enough and adventure beckons us to go further into the unknown or at the very least take the next step towards it. When I hear that, I know it’s time to take an overnight trip.

Kayak camping is fun. It allows you to go to remote places that others cannot reach and connect with nature in a way that is uniquely yours. It takes you back to a simpler time when inland waters were the highways of commerce and communication and the people who traveled them were the adventurers that we still tell stories about today.

Gearing up for an overnight camping trip in a kayak can seem like a daunting task because not only are you limited by space, but you are also limited by weight. If you have a 10 foot craft, it makes you question whether or not you can carry everything you need to make the trip enjoyable. Many recreational and angler kayaks of that length will carry enough gear for an overnight trip and some will carry enough for trips that are longer. Remember, kayak camping is not much different than backpacking and in many cases, you can carry more gear with you because you are not carrying everything on your back, your boat is carrying it. If you are already packing the essential gear we recommend, you probably have some of the stuff you will need aboard like flash lights, fire starters, first aid kit, multi-tool and toilet paper. By going “light and small” with the rest of your gear, you should be able to pack for an enjoyable overnight camping trip with space to spare.

Things To Bring:

Dry Bags: Most of your gear is going to be stored in these. Having different sizes available is always a good idea.



Food:  Plan your meals ahead of time. For an overnight trip, you can usually get by with three to five meals. Most people bring freeze dried food, MREs, Dry soups, oatmeal etc.


These are all great and don’t take up much space, but as an addition for an overnight trip, a small flexible cooler with a little dry ice can keep food fresh/ frozen for a long period of time and is easy to stow.


I like to “pre-make” my meals with everything already blended together then store them in freezer bags in my flexible cooler. That way when I get to my campsite, cooking and prep time is minimized. Also, any dry goods I  bring (coffee, dry soups, canned good, etc.) I put in a dry bag.

 Water: You have to drink. Since carrying water takes up space and weighs 8.3 lbs per gallon, one option I use to lighten my load is carrying a small amount of water while getting to the campsite and when there using a LifeStraw.

Life Straw Mission

The Family and Mission models do not take up much space and removes virtually all bacteria, viruses and protozoa. (Does not desalinate salt water or remove heavy metals)

Mess Kit / Cooking Gear: Cooking while camping can be as simple as cooking over a campfire or as elaborate as a gas camping stove. It really is a matter of what you are comfortable cooking with and how much space you have to carry it. For simple overnight trips, I like to use the campfire for cooking along with a Sterno Folding Stove and a simple mess kit.  Yes, there are other options out there, but these work and don’t take up much space. Also, don’t forget eating utensils.


Shelter: Some people like to sleep under the stars, some like a tarp hung over a rope that’s strung between two trees. How much shelter you need is determined by the climate you are camping in, your comfort levels and the amount of space available in your boat. In Florida where I do a lot of camping, a tent is a must because of the insects and the ever changing weather. Small conventional one and two man tents do not take up much space and weigh between 6 and 8 lbs.IMG_1570

Bed Roll: Compressed sleeping bags are small and light. Hammocks with mosquito netting work well too. (Check the weather first before using this)



Other things I bring:

Extra clothes- Packed in compression sacks

Toiletries- I carry the small airline approved sizes.

Personal Comfort items- Inflatable pillow, journal and coffee maker (I don’t like instant coffee), camp chair or hunters stool.

Campers French Press

Most of this stuff can easily fit into a few dry bags, including the tent. Then it can be stored aboard on deck, in dry storage or in the cockpit. If your boat has dry storage, then smaller items can be stored there giving you more carrying capacity. You might be surprised how much you can get on board. You might even have enough space to bring more gear. If you are camping with other kayakers, together you can really carry a lot of gear/ supplies  and extend your overnight trip into a full weekend.

Things to Remember:

If your kayak is a sit in, when loading, make sure to place your heaviest items as low into the hull as possible, and utilize as much of any dry storage area you have. This will prevent you from being top heavy and prone to capsizing. Anything that is loaded on the deck needs to be as low profile as possible and secured either by bungee on rope. Utilize the space forward of your foot pegs for storage. If your kayak is a sit on top model, secure everything to your deck as low profile as possible.

Know what your kayak’s weight capacity is. Weigh your gear and add it to your body weight. As a rule of thumb, try not to exceed 80% of your capacity.

Anything that you carry in, make sure you carry it out. Keep our waters and forests beautiful.

Kayak camping is an incredible experience that allows you to get back to nature and center yourself. If you have never tried it, you should. If you already have, then you know what I’m talking about. I hope to see you out there.


Find Your Headwaters,













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