Everglades kayak camping trip report

As requested, here is a summary of my Everglades trip this weekend.

We launched from Everglades City after picking up our permits. Weather was sunny, hot (mid 80s) and humid. Lows around 70 overnight and fog in the morning. Light winds no more than 10 knots. First destination was Lopez River campsite, which we reached around noon, set up camp and then went back out for a short paddle up to Crooked Creek chickee and the start of the Wilderness Waterway. Lopez is a ground site with a porta potty and a picnic table. Bugs were brutal but with three Thermacells going we managed a couple of hours outside in the evening before getting overwhelmed and retiring to the tents. Lots of owls hooting all night which was really cool. I didn’t sleep very well as it was hot and the sleeping pad (Thermarest foam type) was not comfortable. I had borrowed another inflatable pad but didn’t set it up.

Pea soup fog the next morning to pack up camp and paddle back down the Lopez River to Chokoloskee. Fortunately the fog cleared as we entered Rabbit Key pass and by the time we stopped for a quick break on Turtle Key it was sunny and hot. The paddle to Turkey Key was uneventful, but we saw lots of wildlife. Dolphins, sharks, a sea turtle, a spotted eagle ray, lots of birds including a Great White heron! We arrived at Turkey around 3 PM and debated where to set up camp as the only flat spots were very close to the wrack line but ultimately we decided it would be OK as it was neap tides at the time (we had no problems). Bugs were brutal again but a campfire helped somewhat. I set up both pads the second night but slept even less (essentially not at all) and was still struggling with the heat, but it was so damp there was no option to leave off the tent fly. Also my right shoulder stiffened up in the evening from sleeping on it the night before.

The next morning my shoulder felt better but after maybe 2-3 hours sleep total in two nights I decided to head back to Everglades city as had I continued I would have been committed to two more nights. It was a pleasant 18 mile paddle back to the ramp although my back and shoulders were fatigued from the awkward sleeping. My two companions continued on and stayed at Lostman’s Five and then Crooked Creek, completing the loop this morning at about 80 miles in five days. I paddled 50 miles in three - still a decent outing!

Overall the trip was great except for the sleeping issue. I can’t sleep on my back and was uncomfortable and kept rolling off the pads trying to sleep on my side. I just ordered a wider, self inflating foam pad to replace the narrow air pad that I borrowed, and the Thermarest, which I will probably keep as a backup or extra pad/seat.

I definitely brought too much stuff and need to refine my organization as I was constantly looking for things. Less stuff and combining things differently will help a lot. I was very happy with the food I brought (even though I had too much) - good variety and plenty of choices when I wanted to eat something. The Mirage was packed to the brim but handled nicely, even though I was trying to keep up with two very strong paddlers in Epic 18x’s; I was definitely the slowest unless the wind picked up enough for the sail to help, at which point I could keep up easily. Had the wind been stronger they might have been trying to catch up to me! I need to tweak a few things on the kayak for comfort and convenience but overall everything worked pretty well.

Photos in reply!




And the usual gear yard sale while cleaning up (at my parents place, I crashed there Friday night before cleaning everything and then heading home on Saturday afternoon)


I grew up in Charleston, SC before A/C and can relate to the heat . Dry sheets were rare July-September. Mosquitoes don’t like me much probably because I was bitten so often as a child.
Good report. I felt your pain and the photos are great.

I love it out there but my shoulders are telling me they are not leaving my memory foam mattress

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On the sailboat I sleep on a 4” slab of memory foam cut to shape. It’s so soft that it can be difficult to get out of as you sink in so far! I love it - I know I won’t duplicate that softness but need something a little better.

Comfort is a necessary ingredient for an enjoyable time. Thermarest makes the neo air mattress Carol and I really like ours. You might check them out. I have slept well many nights on the regular thermarest pads, but everyone is different. A tip is not to inflate them all the way until they are hard. Another old-time tip I learned in scouts when we slept on the ground without pads is to dig out depressions were your shoulder and hips will be. There are also backpacking cots that pack down small, and are light weight, but I wouldn’t carry one backpacking, as I don’t need it. I do carry a small battery powered fan in hot weather kayaking/canoeing. my fan can run all night for several nights. I love my hammock for sleeping, but they don’t work well beach camping where I camp at the coast.

Here is a link to a review of some cots. I have the older thermarest cot number 8 in the list. I rarely use it when sleeping on the ground but do use it sleeping on floors.

Top 8 Ultralight Backpacking Cots Reviews - Below 3 Lb | Best Tent Cots for Camping

Love the Photos!


Always love a good trip report–Thanks!


Thanks for the report!

For mosquitoes try using a permethrin-based insecticide spray on your clothes and tent prior to your trip. Mosquitoes touch down, leave immediately, and die somewhere in a minute or two. Makes a huge difference versus just repellent, and no more thousand mosquitoes on your tent screen in the morning.

I have an air mattress with slightly raised side cells that keeps me centered. Looks like its out of production but there are others of the same style.


What a wonderful trip report even though the trip didn’t go as you planned! Have camped at both those sites and I suggest you invest in a backpacking air mattress. Klymit, Thermarest and Exped are three brands.

Thermarest pads are torture on shells!
We are paddling the Glades in Feb so those pics are a nice enticement… You had no big wind events I surmise.


@kayamedic very light wind the entire trip. I was able to use the sail as an assist at points all three days, but not enough to not be able to paddle. It was definitely a help though!

Great report and pics, thanks Brodie. Lack of sleep would be a bummer. I’m always surprised how well I sleep on trips, sometimes to the point of “oh, I gotta get moving here”, and I’m not one of those guys who can sleep anywhere, so it IS possible, don’t give up!

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Sleep…thats one reason we do out and backs to the travel trailers.

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Thanks for the trip report. I was following your preparations and looking forward to seeing how it went. Seems like it went pretty well even though you cut it a bit short.
Y’know… expectations play a role in our assessments of any trip and, this being your first kayak camping outing, there would be a lot that might be a little unexpected. Its the unexpected, the small surprises, that make even a small camping outing something of an adventure. Complete absolute comfort at all times is unlikely on any trip, but a little discomfort is a reasonable price to pay for a taste of adventure. If you want comfort, I’d suggest a lazy boy in a temperature-controlled living room with a good stereo and pizza delivery. A little adventure in one’s life is better, isn’t it?

Everyone’s different, of course, but castoff’s suggestion of hollowing out a depression for shoulders and hips works well for me when sleeping on sand - and I camp on sand a lot. (I prefer it to a bed. I’ve even thought of filling a water bed with sand so I can sleep better at home.) A lot has to do with sleeping after a decent day’s paddle. Being, calm, relaxed, a little tired, some warm food in the stomach, and the sound of waves, birds(except whi-por-wills :face_with_raised_eyebrow:), maybe a strainer or rapids singing nearby - there’s no sleeping pill that works as well for me. Perhaps for others as well.
That said, I definitely like something - an air mattress (I use an “air core” brand) - that is big enough for shoulder to hips and not inflated completely is great if tree roots, rocks, sea shells, and such has to be dealt with. You might want to give that a try.

I’m not sure this is objectively verifiable but I always seem to have less trouble with mosquitos after a few days out than on the first days of a trip. Perhaps I just get used to them… But I wonder if there isn’t some trace of scent detectable by mosquitos that lingers from soap, shampoo, fabric softeners, all that stuff that we routinely use which isn’t found in the habitat we’re venturing into that might attract mosquitos and initially set us up as a target then wears off. Standing in campfire smoke helps for a while if you can stand it. Deet is a last resort, IMHO.

Anyhow, welcome home and congrats on the trip. So the big question: All things considered, Is there anything else that you would rather have done? If not, welcome to the world of paddle camping!


Like Castoff mentioned a hammock is my preferred way to sleep, but I do take one when bikepacking or kayak camping.
I’ve pretty much given up sleeping on the ground (or in a bed) unless there are no other options, for shoulder reasons as I sleep on my side when not in a hammock.
I also spend most of my time in an area that is short on trees. So I have a small packable stand that I can take on the bike or yak. If I was/when I do the `glades I’ll probably get a second one just in case I’m short even one thing to tie off to. That way even a barren stretch of sand can be a place to hang my camp.

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Love the Everglades- know them like the back of my hands -Have done the wilderness waterway and many multi day out and back trips from Everglades City and Flamingo. -Was up at the southern
end two weeks ago
Thermarest and a Therma cell are what we use
Jack L


The Thermacells were indispensable! We had three going both nights and they kept it manageable for a few hours so that we could sit around and chat, and not have to go to bed at 7PM!

@PJC I don’t expect to be as comfortable as at home (I LOVE my bed on the sailboat) but I was downright miserable after two nights of essentially no sleep (2 hours total) and my shoulders were killing me from laying on them. I can’t sleep on my back under any circumstances, at home I will wake up if I roll over on my back and stay there more than a few minutes. I definitely think a wider pad (probably a foam self inflating as I have never liked sleeping on an air pad/mattress) will go a long way towards a better night’s sleep as I’ll be able to at least approximate how I normally sleep without squashing my shoulders or rolling off onto the floor.

It was also uncomfortably and unseasonably hot and humid - by itself not a huge issue but just added to the “fun”. I don’t live in a 100% climate controlled environment so am somewhat used to sleeping in hot/cold/humid conditions even if I don’t like them.

Jack, good to hear from you.