Ignorant of Kayak Camping

I am a canoeist and not even considering a kayak…but an earlier thread got me wondering.

When we go out, everything we need for a week can be packed into two large packs, suitable for portages. This includes all food, a 4-person tent and three tarps, plus two sleeping bags & two Therma-rest pads…and two lawn chairs. Not heavy, but bulky. Add a little fishing gear for fun.

How much gear can you reasonably expect to take if you go wilderness camping with a kayak for a week?

Like Backpacking
I equate it more to backpaking but can bring along 50% more stuff by weight. If you are solo, smaller tent is used. If several people are with you, you can all share some common used items like stoves and pots. I took a 5 day solo trip and brought all my water (8 gal). Had plenty of food and water for another 3 days when I was finished. Big camp chairs can be a problem to bring along unless you want to strap them to the deck. Everything goes in smaller dry bags an little nooks can be filled with small items. This works great but I wouldn’t want to try a portage trip in a fully loaded kayak. My boat is an Artic Tern 17’.

my advice is to think like a backpacker
all of your gear needs to be smaller, and lighter. You can fit a hoarkload of gear in a sea kayak, but it needs to be small and compact to fit in hatches. I’ve also found that the more small dry bags you have the better off you are.

I usually pack a small backpacking/mountaineering tent, that is 7lbs or less, a mountaineering stove, clothes, my food in several small drybags, my sleeping bag inside a drybag in a dryseal compression sack, and I have an ultralite thermarest, the kind that can actually fold over once before rolling up. The pots are the lightweight aluminium kind that fit one inside the other and so on. I can give you a complete packing list if you want offline and what type and size of drybag if any. My boat is also not the highest volume, a silhouette, and I have packed it for a 10 day trip before.

depends on the boat
Everything has to fit through the hatches. Your gear is much more constrained by size.

We used to bring lawn chairs and packs when we canoe camped. We can still bring too much if we’re not careful, pretty much everything has its own small bag now.

It takes onger to pack and unpack the kayaks than it did our canoe. My hatches are only 9.5" in diameter. It took some trial and error to develop a packing system to keep everything organized, but it’s easy to pack for a week.

Not everybody has hatches
Did you see Kelty’s attempt at a lightweight four season solo tent?


Close… but the Hilleberg Unna looks fairly attractive also. Recently emailed Marmot asking them why I should buy another of their tents as opposed to a Hilleberg.

Do like the Yak-ers did in the swamp
Invite along a few canoers and pack the bulk of the gear into their canoes…

We that canoe are like the pack animals but having fun!

Check out Eureka’s one-person tent
I bought one from Campmor and posted a thread in here about it a while back. Can’t remember the tent’s name but if you look in the catalog you’ll know it right away because it is a one-person

FREESTANDING tent, a rarity. Hilleberg’s is the only other one I know of, and their tents cost several times as much. The Eureka tent cost only about $120 and includes two vestibules.

“Enough” gear: divide and conquer
I’ve only taken enough gear and food/water for 5 days but a full week would be doable without changing anything. Longer trips would be possible if I made dehydrated food; it’s the food volume that’s the limiting factor. Amount of clothing and camping equipment is the same whether 5 days or 5 weeks.

The big difference is it’s not doable in “two large packs.” Gear has to be split up into smaller packing units to make good use of the kayak’s cargo space. Not a big deal, just requires some thought and practice, then making a “map” of where things go till it’s memorized.

a month is no problem
i routinely kayak for a month on the coast of Newfoundland and other wilderness spots and have no trouble with gear. water of course, needs to be replenished about weekly but that’s not a problem either.

Is all the mesh closeable? I like being able to adjust the ventilation.

God…I pack too much crap when I kayak camp. After hiking so much it feels like I can carry anything in a kayak…or on top of it. Since all of my kayak camping has been on sheltered waters I have no aversions to packing light, bulky items on the deck in deck bags…they don’t really adversely affect the CG and since I’m in sheltered waters wind effect isn’t really a big deal. If I were crossing a large lake or something I’d want everything below decks. And in the ocean…well…I just don’t know that I’d sea-kayak much in the ocean at my current skill level.

In any case…if you look at my most recent trip report you can see how much crap I packed into my Cape Horn 17…way too much stuff and I made note of what I didn’t use this time to that I won’t be tempted to bring it again…hehe…

Here’s the report…



Packing and portaging are harder.
I’ve heard this topic discussed various places, and portaging is always the main issue that comes up. On a long cross-country trip that might involve a dozen lakes and as many portages per day, a kayak is a real disadvantage. All that time spent packing and unpacking could be used to put a lot of extra miles behind you.

A friend of mine recently did a solo kayak trip in the BWCA, and she rented her boat from an outfitter who has costum-built kayaks made for this. These yaks have what amounts to an extra cockpit (or two?) where you can toss in a big Duluth pack and then cover it up with a special cover that attaches like a spray skirt. She said the boat was a royal pain to portage compared to a canoe, but she said that not having to pack and unpack the boat and the backpack for every portage was the only thing that made the trip possible. I never did find out what model those kayaks were based on. I’d suspect that they were rather wide, maybe a modified rec kayak.

Kayak Camping
I have gone out four days in a 14’ Necky running the Namekagon River and had no shortage of food. I did portage the dam and it was a pain to carry a bulky waterproof backpack. I separated everything so it was in smaller bags to fit in the hull and I think this year I would try cheap plastic shopping bags for the same portage and I would carry a water filter instead of all that water.

Mesh closeability
The big mesh areas (windows) are closeable via zippers. There are a couple of very small mesh vents on the roof that do not close, if I remember correctly. The fly covers them, with several inches of air space between.

I was concerned about too much mesh, too, because my old tent body was almost half mesh. Great for spring/fall desert camping but too cold for anything else I did.

Water is the biggest problem
Coming from backpacking, I found kayak camping akin to having a support truck along for the trip. All my camping gears fit in the hatches with lots of room to spare. So I bring along extra lens for the camera, tripot, camp chair… stuff I couldn’t even think about taking on backpackign trips. A week or 2 day weekends, it’s no difference. Now, it the trip stretches to a month, I can see a few extra luxury items I would need to be creative to bring a long to make the trip more enjoyable…

But all that water I have to carry is a different story. Unlike in a backpacking trip, where I always camp by some sort of fresh water source, kayaking in the coast almost always means I have to carry all the fresh water! And I really like to drink a lot! The longer the trip, the more water I need. :o(

Great trip report
Gators, bears or wolves, there is always something to think about at night when you are camping solo. I like the “lessons learned” at the end. Great story.

Its just like backpacking, Granted in a yack you cant carry the obligatory Cooler of beer. L. I have Canoe camped and yack camped, if you are set up for backpacking yack camping is no problem. The bonus of yack camping, your gear is in side the boat, if you have decent hatches during heavy rains your gear stays Dry, if you roll, your gear stays with the boat. Also the speed of a yack is a bonus too. The canoes big advantage is its disadvantage. It can haul a ton of gear, more then most folks would need, sort of like commuting in a Suburban. The disadvantage of a yack is packing and unpacking, but if you have big hatches that’s not a problem, its still easier then backpacking.

But when Actually on the water, how much easier is the yack to paddle?

What everyone else is saying about smaller sized items, plus I stuff three small camo day packs (cheapos) in there for the trips I have to portage. Un-pack boat, stuff items and small drybags into packs, portage, un-pack day-packs back into boat, paddle. It’s not as hard or as long an evolution as it may sound and the day packs make it easy to haul more per carry and easy to stash in the bush at the next put in if it’s a hike. They also make good “stuffers” for final padding, keeping things stowed properly for sea-worthiness.

Sea kayaks and portaging don’t mix
Oh I suppose it could, but that’s a big reason we started kayaking the great lakes - we despised portaging. Fewer bugs on the exposed coast too.

If I were going on an inland lake route I would definitely go back to kevlar canoes. I’ll never forget the look on a friend’s face at the end of a 10 day trip. We had rented a 70lb royalex canoe for him and his partner from an outfitter. The longest of our portages was about one mile but there were many. He thought I was the incredible portage machine until the last day of the trip when he picked up our canoe for the first time to load it on the car. The transition from wide eyed astonishment to a look of betrayal was instantaneous.