Future Kayaker, need advice.

Hello all,

First off, if this isn’t the right forum, please direct me to which one I should post questions like this in.

I am hoping to do some kayaking in the not too distant future. I am presently on the Gulf Coast of Florida, but hope to make it back to the Great Lakes area (where I’m from) within the next couple of years. I’m looking at building a CLC, probably around a 17 footer. I’m 6’2 195, and am hoping to do some lake touring/camping. Maybe some river trips as well.

I’m mid 50’s, but have 3 young kids under 9, and I would like to start doing some small camping trips with them real soon. But as I accumulate supplies for doing that I’m hoping to select items that will also be good choices for kayak camping. I’m assuming small and light are the way to go, due to the limited storage area involved on the kayak end.

So, any guidance on types of equipment that I can get now that will serve me well later when I hopefully add kayaking into the camping trips would really be appreciated. Right now I’m looking to pick up a 3 man tent and some sleeping bags/pads/mats, that’s for starters. Again, if this would be better in a different forum, please advise.

Thank you

Build first kayak?
Personally I wouldn’t build my first kayak as it is a time/$$/space investment that is hard to recoup if you don’t like the sport. Best to buy used until you find out what you want in a boat. I’ve seen many partially built projects up for sale.

I built my second kayak after buying one and renting several to get an idea of what I wanted in a boat. But once you do there is nothing like being in a boat that you built.

small and light is good
If you’re a backpacker you’ll do fine. I usually fit much more in my kayak on trips than I do backpacking but small and light is still a priority. Almost all of my camping gear serves both backpacking and kayaking trips.

second what slushpaddler said
Backpack gear works well for kayak camping (minus the backpack). You have a lot more space in a standard (or even small) sea kayak than a backpack. And weight is a lot less of an issue.

You will find that you will need dry bags or similar for when you kayak camp. The storage hatches are never rally dry, so you put everything in it sown dry bag (at least the stuff that needs to stay dry). Lots of small bags is better than fewer large bags. I wouldn’t get any bag larger than 20 liters, unless you have few specific pieces of gear that need larger bag (like say a sleeping bag).

right place
Sure, this is as good a place as any to ask such questions. Certainly an appropriate topic.

Right off the bat I’ll put in a plug for the Klymit Static V inflatable sleeping pad. I’ve backpacked and camped for nearly 50 years so I’ve used every kind of closed or open cell foam or inflatable sleeping mat that’s been made. And now that I’m older I need comfort as well as insulation. I picked up one of the Klymits last summer before a kayak camping trip to Quebec and was really impressed with it. It’s very comfortable for sleeping on the ground, inflates quickly and deflates down to less than a third of the size of any pad I’ve owned. It will fit in the smaller side pocket of a backpack. Even comes with a little patch kit in case it springs a leak (though it is well made and the tubes are sealed in a nylon shell.)

I loaned it to a friend who did a week long backpacking trip along the Pacific Coast this Summer and he liked it so much he bought one for himself afterwards.

It’s so light and compact even your younger kids could easily carry their own pad when you take them on trips.

are the younguns going to get
their own boats?

Three men tents are notorious for being adequate for two and very cramped for three. I suspect that you like the average person does not sleep like stacked cordwood.

So that would be IMO two three man tents… One of the challenges is tent pole in hatch so make sure you buy a tent which has poles which section into short lengths.

Many thanks!
Thank you all for the thoughtful replies.

Grayhawk, yes, I’ll probably go used first. I check CL somewhat regularly, just haven’t found the right fit yet for me. But pretty sure I want a longer boat, built for touring.

slushpaddler and Peter-CA, thank you for the insights. Looks like I don’t have to go really portable on the equipment, that makes buying good quality items much easier, not having that be a driving consideration.

willowleaf, I’m reading up on the Klymets now. Thank you very much for the recommendation. Reviews look really good so far.

kayamedic, On the short trips I hope to take soon, it would just be me and my two young sons, so a 3 man will do. But in a year or so, I plan on picking up another tent, and then splitting the group up into two tents as you recommend, as there might be four of us by then, and if not, the 2 boys will probably be getting pretty big. Growing like weeds…

Thank you again to all, I really do appreciate it.


Canoe now, kayak future
Seems like for your situation a canoe will make more sense than a kayak. At present, you could pile you, the kids and gear into a canoe. As the kids get bigger and need to move out of the boat, add a kayak or two.

As for gear, check out the hatches of kayaks. Everything needs to fit through the hatches. The huge dry bag with shoulder straps that I use for canoe trips doesn’t work in the kayak. So, since you think you are going that way in the future, get multiple small dry bags instead of the big honkin’ bag. Your tent has to fit in a hatch, which imposes some maximum packed size, perhaps 8 x 25, but that depends on the kayak hatch dimensions.

Kitchen gear–the small, single-burner stove will fit, the Coleman two-burner probably doesn’t fit.

Weight doesn’t matter too much, but select your gear through the lens of hatch size and you should be okay.

My group was visited by a ranger at a paddle-in campsite. We had paddled the canoe up a little creek next to the site and left it tied to some bushes. A half dozen kayaks were pulled out and lying near the landing. The ranger wanted to know who owned the chainsaw he saw next to a pile of wood. I was worried we’d broken some rule, and so was the ranger, but there wasn’t a rule prohibiting chain saws. Rather, there is a rule that everything brought to the site be packed or paddled in, and he couldn’t figure out how the chain saw got there in a kayak. All was fine once we showed him the canoe. So, unless you get a kayak with really big hatches, no chain saw!


Depending upon
the competency of the children, putting them in a canoe with most of the gear and giving them some autonomy when paddling could be a great way to go. The CLC (or pygmy, or other kit boat) will be faster and more responsive, so keeping up with the kids will be possible as they become more and more adept at paddling.

I’ve done this with scouts and was able to keep up with the best paddlers in the group (16-18 YO duo) or to catch up with them when the boats were spread out over too large an area.

Canoes can hold considerably more gear than a kayak and may be (at least potentially) easier to keep gear dry (with adequate dry bags, of course). For 3 people, food, tent (you can get a larger tent into a canoe), and most equipment will easily fit into a canoe and you could pack your on the water needs (snacks, kayak specific stuff - spare paddle, etc.) in the wood boat.

Over time, you can switch boats and let one of the youngsters (after they gain some proficiency in the canoe) paddle the kayak. This will help they find which experience they prefer.


Follow up questions.
Good thoughts about the canoes, might just go that way. But I still want to start assembling my gear for Kayak camping with storage in a kayak as the driving criteria. I’m looking at tents and their poles as a possible hangup, and was wondering if anybody here also kayak camps, and can tell me that they have a “xxxxx model” kayak, and the collapsible tent poles break down to “XX inches” and they fit OK, so I can get an idea of what my limits might be, on average at least. My predicament is I’m trying to do this with two unknowns, the big one being the storage dimensions and entry size, on my Kayak, because I haven’t picked it out yet. Again, I’m thinking I want a longer boat, for touring on bigger waters mostly, nimbleness isn’t really a prerequisite.

Thanks to anyone who might be able to give some insights.

I didn’t read your original post, but…
to answer this one, my wife and I do a lot of multiday kayak camping trips.

If you get a 17 or 18 foot long kayak, you should have no problem fitting the necessary gear in the compartments, on the deck and behind the seat

There are many back packing tents that have the poles break down to short lengths.

Water is the biggest concern, and you can get bags for it that can be strapped to the deck.

Along with plastic gallon jugs, we use the half gallon juice bottles that fit nicely behind the seat.

Go into a REi store and start looking at small back packing tents and when you see some that you like come back with the brand and model and many people here will rate them for you.

While you are there take a look at the tiny butane stoves and sleeping bags etc

Jack L

What I use
I kayak camp a lot out of my 13 foot Sit On Top kayak. Lakes & rivers in the western US. I just did a 5 day/4 night trip a few weeks ago on the Colorado River in So. Utah where I carried all my drinking & cooking water. The main hatch on my kayak is 11 X 7 inches, so I have to be careful about measuring gear to make sure it fits. I learned the hard way when I bought my first bear canister and had to return it to REI because it wouldn’t fit through the hatch.

Tents - any decent 1-2 person tent will work fine. I use a Big Agnes Blacktail tent which measures about 20X7 inches packed. It fits nicely between the scupper posts in my kayak. I use an Exped inflatable sleeping pad. Very comfy.

Camp furniture - Travelchair Joey is my choice. Packs small and comfortable. Lots of others in this style. Some folks use the crazy Creek type chairs that are on the ground. I love my camp tables. They are GSI micro tables & they also pack small & skinny to fit inside the kayak.

Cooking - any good backpacking stove will work. I use an MSR Windpro II. Lots of my friends like the Jetboil.

Sanitation - we use wag bag systems. Most all of the places I kayak require either a wag bag or a hard sided system that can be emptied in an RV dump. I discovered the Turbo Toilet at Emergency Essentials and it works fantastic. Also packs flat & fits in the kayak hatch.

Don’t forget safety equipment - first aid kit, spare paddle, repair kit, throw rope, paddle float, etc.

Have fun. I’ve come to kayak camping & touring from 20 years of whitewater rafting where I could haul just about an luxury item I wanted on my raft. I have been very pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I can be in my kayak with smaller, compact, and lighter gear. Being able to just throw stuff in my SUV, load up the kayak and go has been a wonderful change of pace from all the heavy gear & trailers involved in rafting.

General kayak thing
Make sure everything you get for camping either starts out being able to fit thru an oval or round hatch or will break down to do so. Recommendations from canoeing or rafting tend to not have this criteria.

Tents for example, if they are larger enough for creature comfort you often find the poles need to be separated to get the thing into a kayak. Stoves simply have to start out small. Sleeping pads pack better at 3/4 length if you want them to be thick.

Clothing is similar for all of them, warm under layers and top layers that block water and chill.

Electronics may need a good submersible rating in a kayak if you are likely to want to clip them to the front deck. They will absolutely get wet there.

Stuff like that…

Select gear that will fit into stuff sack dry bags. For example sleeping bags need to stay dry. Buy sleeping bag and stuff sack to keep it in when packing kayak. You pack a kayak you don’t load it. You put a kayak on you don’t ride it. Back packing gear is the best choice. Think big bags to carry from boat to camp site. Little dry bags to pack the stuff into the hatches. You can also buy the pointy bags that fit in the whole front and aft hatch areas. Most outfitters give the clients a bow and stern “pointy” bag to go home and pack the day before leaving so they know everything fits. I have a duffle bag of dry bags to carry to the boat.

Select all gear for size and weight. You’d be amazed how heavy a 17ft kayak is once it is packed with gear, food and water. On a simple overnight I had to pack it four boat lengths from the water at a crowded launch. It took four people to lift and carry it to the water.

Buy things that collapse after they are empty. For example, Yeti 45 qt is a fine cooler, but it is heavy, and takes up too much room. Yet a NRS “six pack”, or “twelve pack” cooler can be deck mounted, stowed inside and collapsed when no longer carrying food, ice, etc.

Learn how to effectively use a tarp, 550 cord and paddles to make a quick shelter. Always pull the kayak up above the high tide line, plus storm line. Tie it to something. Cover the cockpit with cockpit cover. Critters crawl inside you don’t want with you tomorrow.

General camping gear, drybags general sizes, some cookware…see WalMart.

Electronics…buy the dry bags at West Marine for cell phones and GPS. They have special ones to fit the phones.

Back pack camping gear…tents, sleeping bags, some cookware…REI

Special kayak gear …for camping, coolers, special dry bags like sleeping bag stuff sack/dry bag…NRS

I too recommend buying, renting, etc other kayaks before you build. Unless like me the kayak is just another in a long line of other boats and builds. If you look at CLC the most popular model is the Chesapeake 17. It is dimensioned for your height and weight. You might have to adjust cockpit size. But that is the advantage of building. CLC web site has classifieds. This site has classifieds. There is also Craig’s List. You didn’t say where on the Florida Gulf Coast you are but there are outfitters in most areas.

CLC will be coming to Tampa/St Pete and Merrit Island in February with demonstration boats you can try out. It is a good time to try completed boats. Look at News and Schools portion of their web site.