Kayak camping newbie

I have been a car camper for a long time and have alot of the car camping gear. I recently camped on a car accessible river and finally merged the paddling with the camping. Loved the solitude and combining of the two activities. My next step is to remove the vehicle and bring everything in my kayak. I have a Loon 138 which will hold a good amount of gear. My plan is to get a longer boat with bulkheads. Not there yet. I don’t plan on doing more than 2 nights for a while. Probably 3 or 4 times per year. I know I have to pare down my equipment and supplies. My tent is fine. Need a new sleeping bag. No problem there. I like the Coleman Dual fuel single burner integrated stoves. I know I need more drybags and other stuff like that. I have 2 questions. First, can I find a decent cookset for $20 or less or do I really need the MSR Blacklite gourmet set? Second, I am a 210 lb side sleeper. Will a thermarest be worth it or should I just resign myself to a rough nights sleep. I may try to bring my 4 inch air mattress and pump if it will fit. Maybe if 2 or 3 of us are going we will have room. I have gotten a ton of info from the archives. Just need more specifics.


I camped for many years with

– Last Updated: Oct-01-04 10:01 AM EST –

a closed cell foam mat, several years ago I was given a therma rest mat ($50) and it is great...the only time I don't take with me is when I bac pac ultralight..for 2 or 3 day trips in a loon 138 you should be able to pac enough to be quite comfortable...I use the MSR stainless steel cook set, about 10 years now and it serves me well, about $35

air mattress stinks!
an air mattress is perhaps the worse inventation ever made, imo. Noisy, conducts cold, etc

I am bigger than you and used my new thermarest on my last outing. Best sleeping ever in the tent. I have the 2" model. It is wide and full length. Worth the investment.

Cooking gear–get teflon. The easy of cleaning is worth it.

You can combine mattresses
I also sleep on my side. The last Boundary Waters trip we took had temps into the low 40s at night. I took both a backpacker’s air mattress (folds into a cylindrical package about 6 inches long with a 4" diameter) and a closed cell foam pad. The air mattress kept me comfortable and the foam pad kept me warm (I put it on top of the air mattress). The combination was lighter and more compact that the 2" or 3" thick Thermarest systems, and compactness is as important as weight when boat camping.


I am a Thermorest fan (when i am not sleeping in my Hennessey Hammock, but that is another thread). I seem to be more comfortable on a 3/4 length mattress than a full length one, and I’m well over your weight. I’m a side sleeper too.

I used a Hope SS cookset for almost 20 years, but then I switched to a Blacklight set. Better heat transfer with the aluminum (=less fuel use) and I don’t know how I ever managed without non-stick surfaces. I know I will not get 20 years out of the new set, but I can live with that.


I also use a Loon 138…
but I do have the advantage of already having backpacking gear. I use two dry bags, one in the nose, and one in the rear(I also have the optional hatch, but no bulkhead). I use a MSR Whisperlite, and only carry 1 medium size teflon coated pot. I normally use just a sleeping bag liner in summer, and a 20 degree mummy bag in spring and fall, with a 2" thick ThermaRest. I weigh 250 lbs, and also sleep on my side. I wouldn’t sleep outdoors without it! You didn’t say, but I assume you are just carrying enough gear for you, I think the key is to travel as light as possible. Only take what you will use every day, nothing extra! Happy Paddling!

Better than a ThermaRest
I too am a pretty big guy and a very “active” side sleeper. I have a medical condition that makes getting good sleep pretty critical for me. After much experimentation I’ve found the following sleep system to work the best for me.

I’ve got a reasoably inexpensive closed cell foam pad and an Big Agnes Air Core insulated air mattress. I cut the foam pad to fit the shape of the air mattress. I inflate the mattress and place the foam pad ontop.

I sleep like a baby and stay on the mattress most nights.

Go for it!

– Last Updated: Oct-01-04 1:27 PM EST –

I bet you'll love car-free camping. I got into it after many years of car camping and enjoy the different benefits of both.

If you are a side sleeper, definitely check out the various ThermaRest pads. They make at least two types of closed-cell foam (ridged or egg-crate) as well as many variations on the self-inflating pad.

The closed-cell foam pads have the advantages of being inexpensive, instantly ready to use, and not damaged by punctures. However, they are not as cushy as the self-inflating pads. (BTW, the term "self-inflating" is a misnomer--you WILL need to add air by mouth or pump.)

The inflating pads come in a huge variety of dimensions, thicknesses, and type of interior foam. The lightest ones have perforated foam inside and are meant for weight-conscious backpackers. They pack down very small. In addition, ThermaRest makes two lines of nonperforated-foam pads that are slightly bulkier but less expensive (and warmer for a given thickness).

Because my kayaks do not have huge amounts of cargo space, I pack two of their pads: the folding Z-rest eggshell pad (full-length version) and the original short, thin self-inflating pad. This "Divide and Conquer" method of packing allows me to get a good night's sleep without sacrificing usable space for one huge pad. I put the eggshell pad down first and the inflatable on top, making a very comfortable combo. Top 2/3 of body gets the extra cushioning where it's needed. It's also nice that if the inflatable punctures, I still have one intact pad.

I noticed on a long trip that another long-distance kayaker we met carried three ridged-foam pads. I'm sure they make a plush bed when stacked on top of each other. I hesitate to say this, but those pads might even double as flotation units if you stuff them into your bow and stern ends (you do need flotation bags or some other "help" since the Loon has no bulkheads).

For car camping, I use an ancient plain aluminum Girl Scout cookset. For kayak camping, I take a more compact ti cookset. The latter ($40) is easier to clean.

One other piece of gear I highly recommend is the Black Canyon Compression Dry Bag (in the size meant for sleeping bags), made by either SealLine or SeattleSports. Sorry I can't remember which company. Anyway, the compression dry bag has a bleeder plug that allows you to really smash the bag down small. This bag makes my synthetic sleeping bag small enough to stow in my hatch. Though this drybag is not cheap, it is cheaper than paying for the same-warmth sleeping bag with down insulation.

Because you intend to start with short trips, you should have lots of space due to carrying less food than a longer trip would require. This will allow you to gradually acquire more compact gear if you want. I agree--first priority is to make sure you get a good night's sleep!

Therma-rest a must
I’m over 50 and would not camp without my Therma-rest pad. I did once on an Thief Island off the Maine coast and learned my lesson.

When I was using my Elaho (15’10") for camping my Therma-rest ended up on the rear deck. Now that I use an Aquanaut for camping outings I have more than enough room inside the boat for all my gear often with room to spare.

Exped DAM
My wife and I have two of the deluxe pads now. They take up even less space than our self inflating foam pads. My wife loves them.


Thermorest rock…
I’m may be a bit prejudice but nothing ruins a good camping trip than a poor night’s sleep.I have fairly basic camping gear–nice but not exotic–but the ThermoRest Camper Luxury 2 3/4" full-length pad was worth every penny I paid–and it’s not cheap.

It is bulky, doesn’t compress too small and would be a nuisance for most people–until they laid down on it.

Camping is a trade-off between our desire to enjoy the peace and beauty of the wilderness and our desire for comfort. ThermoRest is my sacrifice to the comfort gods.

Enjoy whatever you do and learn as you go. Great Teflon campware is nice but cheap aluminum gear for a fraction of the price will do. If you have the budget, go for the goodies–they are nice. But they are not necessary for a fun adventure.

Trash bags can be dry bags, though they are more vulnerable to puncture( I wrap my ThermoRest in a trash bag before I store it in my forward hatch).

My point: do it anyway and have fun.

Thanks All,
Great advice as usual.

All good input. Another thing to
consider is purchasing a lot of small to medium-sized dry bags over a couple of large bags. You will find that they are easier to pack and load. Different colors help you keep track of contents. This allows you to strategically load out so that you do not have to completely unload everytime you want something. Also remember, for the most part, all you need is something that makes it hard for water to get in. I have found that the new plasic, “fresh-seal” coffee containers are excellent for dry containers. I have many that I use. I put a different color of duct tape on the outside for content reference. I use one for first-aid, one for fire-kit, one for toiletries, one for personals (pager, beeper, wallet, watch, etc). Pick up a good backpacker manual and approach kayak camping from that angle. After a few trips, you will have a good idea of what you really need to bring. Just paddle.

But what about…
I’m just curious. With all of the time/effort/money spent on minimizing the load for the trip, what about beer? Is bringing beer (and some method to keep it cold) as ludicrous a concept as packing a wide screen TV?

an air mattress is perhaps the worse inventation ever made, imo. Noisy, conducts cold, etc

I’ve slept in the same tent as Chipheb. Trust me. The mattress isn’t what’s causing the noise. :slight_smile:

My $.02 worth…
I have the GSI Boiler cookset.


I love it. It packs small and weighs hardly anything. I can get my MSR Whisperlite inside of it also. I also own MSR’s Blacklite cookset and I’ve just about retired it, except for trips when I know I’m going to need a bigger pot.

As far as your sleeping concerns, I’ve yet to find anything that I can truely sleep great on when I’m kayak camping. I think my next attempt will be trying to take along a Coleman Twin Quickbed. I use one car camping and always sleep great on it. I know it’s bulky and heavy but I think I can make room for it. Sleeping comfortably is just one of those things that I’ll gladly sacrifice something else for.


beer is easy. Cases of ice-cold beer,
now that’s a diferent story and why you always have a buddy that canoes. I have found that the cheap, soft-sided, six pack coolers work great for your choice beverage. Put 4 cans in the cooler and wrap pieces of dry ice in newspaper and fill the spaces left in the cooler. Left unopened and out of the direct sun, these will keep stuff cold for about four days. Personally, it has turned me to bourbon.

Cases aren’t necessary
I’m not looking to get absolutely hammered, but a few beers around a campfire is awfully nice.

My wife has this hydroculator that is shaped like a mask that covers the eyes. It’s a flexible gel pack and she keeps it in the freezer. It seems to me that a flexible six-pack cooler made out of this stuff would be terrific.

BTW - where would the average shmoe like me buy dry ice?

I won’t even think about camping
without my thermarest:) I am currently using a Big Agnes sleeping bag so that I can never roll off my thermarest! I am also a side sleeper.

I bought my MSR light weight cookset on sale at REI for about $45, but you don’t need one. For many years I happily used a 2 qt saucepan that I picked up used. I took off the handle it came with for ease of packing, and used an inexpensive camp handle when cooking. I do think a nice camping mug and lexan spoons and forks are worth the money.

All you need… The Camper’s Dozen…
1) Candle lantern + 3 eight hour dripless candles= $12

2) Poncho (mil surplus has grommets) (can be used as a shelter also… e-mail me & I can send you a picture of easy shelter configurations)= $20

3) Poncho liner (can be used as blanket)= $25 AND/OR "snug-pak sleeping bag (rolls up to the size of a football= $30

4) SVEA Trianga alcohol stove w/ mess kit (have been using mine for about 4 years now)= $5

5) K-Bar knife (can be used for anything!)= $40

6) Machette (good mil issue ones are stronger)= $30

7) 100ft of “para-cord”= $5

8) Aluminum tent pegs= $3

9) 2liter Hydration-pak= $30

10) Campers combination knife & mess utensils= $5

11) Gerber multi-tool= $30

12) Dry-bag= $15

There you go… Now you have the “campers dozen”. This should get you on a GREAT start to your future of spending/trying camping equipment.

If you want I can e-mail you websites to get this stuff… You don’t “NEED” all the hi-priced fancy pants stuff to have fun kayak camping…

Paddle easy,