New Kayaker need some help

Hi all,

I am doing a trip down the devils river in a few weeks, and we are camping two nights from our kayaks. I’ve kayaked many times before, but I’ve never camped from one. I am an experienced hiker/camper though, so I have the gear, but the problem is how much I can/should take in a kayak?

I am renting a Jackson Coosa Kayak, and wondering if anyone knows the amount of gear I should take. Especially helpful would be an estimate in terms of 40L, 60L, 80L, etc. backpack capacity.

Also, any tips on rafting the Devils river would be very appriciated.


advice on Devils River

As to what to take, it should be the minimum that you absolutely need.

The Coosa is a short sit on top. You can’t calculate storage volume on an open boat, but the less the better – certainly no more than you would take if you were backpacking for a weekend. So you are going to have to pack very carefully, using good dry bags, preferably also stashing your stuff inside the dry bags with garbage bags as well because everything, including you, is going to get wet on a Class I to III river trip in an open boat. You will also need straps, ropes or bungies to secure everything in the boat so you don’t end up with an underwater yard sale in a capsize. Be sure to allow for proper clothing including stashed dry wear (everything should be polyester, nylon or wool and quick drying) and windproof top and bottoms.

I presume you are going with more experienced folks who know the river and have done extended trips before? Get together with them and sort out what gear you will each take. No sense in everybody bringing a stove or cooking pots, for instance. And one tent will serve 2 or 3 folks – you can split up the components among you.

The coosa has two hatchs, one front and rear. So I can put stuff inside it.

My question is how much? And yes, I know I want to put in the minimum, but I’d rather not do a 3 day trip with half a granola bar, when I could fit a few meals in easily.

You have me confused
Your sentence = “I am an experienced hiker/camper though, so I have the gear, but the problem is how much I can/should take in a kayak?”

The solution is the same as an experienced hiker/camper should know about - a compact stove like a WhisperJet, some dehydrated food and some provision for purifying water. Minimal tenting/sleeping gear and a stuff sack for whatever you do have to bring. You might want to explore whether you can even get tent poles into this boat, may not be doable if you also want a couple of beers for by the fire at night. This is not a sea kayak, evident from the pics, so space will be at a minimum.

If you want the capacity in gallons inside those hatches, a call to Jackson would probably get it.

The other thing you are likely to need is dry bags for the stove, matches and clothing. Probably can’t count on things staying dry.

What you want is the most compact stuff you can get and that should already be within your reach from what you said.

A big NO to garbage bags
Having an extra layer of protection for stuff that’s inside dry bags is a good idea. Using garbage bags is not. They will be punctured by the slightest abuse, even by the gear that they contain, and often times the pressed seam along the bottom already leaks even before any damage occurs. In every instance where I’ve seen someone rely on garbage bags to keep their stuff dry, and it actually became necessary for the bag to do its job, it failed.

You can buy heavy-duty clear poly bags from many common sources, including Staples. These bags are about 100-times as durable as the best garbage bags you can buy. You don’t have to baby them, but if they do get punctured, the puncture won’t “grow” and duct tape will take care of it.

better bags
I actually should not have recommended generic garbage bags – my bad. The trash bags I use in dry bags are the kind sold for electric home trash compactors. They are super heavy duty ( a couple of mils I think) and a compact size (like large wastebasket) They are super tough – I also use them for cat litter box waste because they are bombproof even with a heavy load of sodden clay litter,) We also use these for riverbank clean up volunteering outings – even broken bottles and metal scraps won’t puncture them. In fact, after I have emptied one or two on a trip (use them also when backpacking) when the food has been eaten or it is the last day and I need not worry about keeping my sleeping bag protected, I will tend to fill them with gathered trash if we find any along the trail or waterway.

I am also puzzled at why you (the OP) can’t simply translate your land based camping experiences into packing and provisioning for this trip. How is this different from loading a backpack, other than making sure the items will stay dry? Certainly you must know how to choose food products that can be carried into the field and prepped on a camp stove. Ziplock baggies and tupperware-like tight sealing plastic containers are your friends. Regular grocery stores are full of easy prep foods nowadays that need no refrigeration and are quick to cook, no need to go to an outfitter and shell out for pricey freeze-dried. Flatbread, wax-wrapped single portion cheeses, tuna and salmon in foil pouches, precooked bacon, dried eggs, instant rice dishes, ramen bowls – the choices are endless. Heck, I have even done weekend trips in the Summer without a stove and just used cold ready to eat foods. Did one 3 day trip with a large loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a bag of apples and a package of granola bars.

the problem
The problem is, I am renting this kayak from an outfitter and flying in. I can’t bring everything I think I might need, and load the kayak with what will fit.

Neither can I bring the bare minimum, and expect to have fun if, for instance, I don’t bring a sleeping pad because I’m afraid I won’t have room for it.

So I have to plan a pretty good estimate of what I can fit, before I get onto a plane.

I was hoping to find someone whos used or owns a Coosa, and get an actual size estimate. Or someone whos actually done Devils river, and can give tips for that specific trip.

Thats a good idea to contact Jackson Kayaks directly, I will try that.

With more info in mind…
You need to make some phone calls about the cooking part. You can’t take the fuel on the plane even in checked baggage, at least if they look.

Is there any likelihood of an outfitter out there who could rent you a package of gear?

sleeping pad
I would suggest buying a Thermarest pad. You really do need a pad, as much or more so than a sleeping bag in fact due to heat loss through the ground. A deflated and bagged Thermarest is tiny and will fit in any hatch.

A small butane fuel stove like a Coleman Peak One would be easy to find gas canisters for in most sporting goods and big box variety stores.

What gear DO you already have?

Contact the people who are renting you the kayak for some advice on gear and what might be available for rent. i would imagine they are also an outfitter, no? Or see if you can find a dealer for Jackson kayaks local to you and go look at a Coosa in person.

That’s not his problem Willow
He has gear. If he brings a bunch of gear that won’t fit in the boat he doesn’t want to leave it sitting on the bank.


– Last Updated: Apr-13-15 11:40 AM EST –

yes, I get that, but still am puzzled over the consternation on this. Several quality drybags and a bunch of good bungee cords would probably solve those issues. I'm sure that is what most sit on top users do, right?

Looking carefully at the Coosa spec page, the day and stern hatches are tiny -- only meant for keys, camera, sancks and similar day stuff. The cargo areas are both open and you can approximate the footprint pretty easily from the photos on the Jackson site.

I would say get yourself 2 large and 2 medium dry bags and fit your gear into them and stash on the deck. personally I would get a medium waterproof duffel bag (like 24 or 30 inches long) and travel to the put-in with all my stuff in that, but have two medium drybags with me. Then take half the gear out of the duffel so it will squash flat in the storage deck behind the seat, and place the stuff I removed from the duffel in the two dry bags side by side in the forward gear depression. That way you won't have a high profile load in your way and affecting your center of gravity. This should fit in one of the storage wells:

Your camping gear will not fit in those lidded hatches which are 5 1/2" and 8" x 5". Despite how it looks in the photos, the space in front of the footrest is NOT a hatch. An 11 foot boat really is a bit small for overnight camping. You are going to really have to be bare bones with your gear or try to find a larger boat to rent.

Not just keys surely?

– Last Updated: Apr-13-15 4:08 PM EST –

The photos you linked seem to show a largish hatch at the bow, through which one should be able to access a fairly considerable fraction of the hull. Additional "dryish" storage may be accessible via the stern hatch, in addition to the tankwell.

If you check the video, you'll see that the bow and stern hatches provide access to a large fraction of the hull. Looks like at least 100 L (twice a rucksack) of space available...

packing a sit on top
This isn’t hard.

I had a Hurricane Phoenix 120 (11’ 6" long, 30 wide) with smaller hatches than that. Plenty of room below and you do have that stern well behind you for things you want to reach while on the water. Just remember everything topside can/will get wet, sometimes good and wet.

Drybag and use small carabiners on a hard (non-bungy) line to make a string of bags. Load them heaviest at the end and so on up the line. Pull up and out as needed and detach the bags you need. Color coding the drybags would be a plus, as are the clear drybags made by SealLine and others.

The Coosa has a pretty large trapezoidal hatch opening (see #9 in the diagram - looks to be larger than many seakayak hatches, esp the models with the little round 8" bow hatches) which gives the paddler access to the whole “open space” in the hull beneath.

It’s 11.2" long, 32" wide. Can’t do an exact cu in calc with those measurements. But with 6-7 linear feet open space in the hull (maybe more) you will have plenty of room if your backpacker gear is, as it should be, light and highly compressable. That kayak will hold at least what can be carried in two medium sized backpacks (30-40 L) and very likely three. But don’t use backpacks, use drybags. You won’t need to drybag your tent. I personally drybag my sleeping pad as it adds condensate inside the tent if it’s moist, and it can also wick water to my sleeping bag.


tent for 1 or 1+, maybe a small 2 person

sleeping pad collapsing to size of nalgene bottle

example Big Agnes Air Core or T-rest Neolite.

sleeping bag down or Prima loft

small tyvek or silnylon tarp to shelter you. One that packs down like a fat Nalgene

backpacking stove (buy fuel when there)

backpacker cookset/eating utensils. Matches.

2 changes of clothes - one to sleep in, one spare to

switch off w. the set you wear on the water.Extra

socks and sunglasses because

rain cover and hat

change of footwear

personal hygiene items/medications

mini first aid - the guides will likely carry a

full on kit

water - about 2 quarts in plastic

water filter - a compact Katadyne Hiker Pro or there’s even smaller ones.

fire starter kit

food - I did a four day with 1.5 cubic feet of a mix

of dried and fresh foods incl eggs, cheese, etc. plus snacks for paddling. with two quarts water that’s about 2 cu ft. You can likely take more like

you can invest in some small insulated lunchboxes (softwalled) about 9x9x6 which are excellent for fruit, cheese, eggs etc. and which pack down smaller when empty. If the water’s cold enough putting food in the hull means you can take lunchmeats, sausages etc.

That’s pretty much the essentials which should be EASY to fit in the open space of the Coosa. If you bring extra drybags in small to medium sized (1L, 3L, 5L, noting over 10L except for sleeping bag if that)then they’ll give you the flexibility to pack.

If you don’t wind up needing all the drybags they roll up small and can be stuffed anywhere in the hull space. I keep one topside which is the lunch/snack bag for the day, secured to a line on the SOT. Same bag holds sunscreen and insect dope if they won’t fit in my pfd.

If you fish, invest in a collapsible rod and a mini hard box for lures.

I got chat feedback at lunch break from Outdoorplay (Jackson dealer) with volume on the two hatches. Scribbled it down just as I had to shut down my workstation for a software install – its lost somewhere in the papers on my desk but I’ll dig it up tomorrow.

But it sounds like you’ve already gotten the feedback you need.

excellent, thats exactly the kind of estimate I was looking for. Also jackson kayak got back to me, and while they couldn’t provide any kind of dimensions for some reason, they did say it had tons of room available under the hatch and down the kayaks interior.

thanks all

found this packing guide

– Last Updated: Apr-17-15 9:28 AM EST –

This Buzzfeed link has a visual guide to what to bring and how to pack a kayak similar to what you are renting. You may have to scroll about halfway to see it. Watch for the yellow kayak.

As I said, two large and two medium drybags should do it. They don't show food but that can go with the cooking gear.