Pack smarter or larger kayak?

I’ve been extremely happy with the personal fit, paddling capability, and quality of my Impex Montauk on larger lakes. However, with an interest in increased weekend camping trips, my ability thus far to bring what i want has been challenged. I pack as a backpacker (backpackers stove, high-end sleeping bag, thermerest, etc) but it still is tight! It seems spoiled to move into a larger kayak (Impex Currituck) for a handful of camping trips a year vs. improving my packing ability. This would seem like a common dilemma and appreciate hearing some thoughts on the kayak-camping topic.


i’ve been on week long (and longer) trips with folks paddling 16x22 boats that had smaller hatches openings than the montauks 16x30 hatches. you should certainly be able to get weekend gear in there with no problem so i suspect it’s either the gear you’re trying to pack or the way you’re packing it.

tip on dry bags: lots of small dry bags rather than a few large ones.

tips on placement: thermarest goes in the front hatch (rolled very tightly) and of course, facing the long direction of the boat. food can be packed in around the thermarest and in front of it (up in the nose of the boat). you’ll get much more use of the space this way than trying to pack the food in one bag anywhere in the boat. tent goes next to the front bulkhead, facing sideways. that should leave some space for back packing stove and other small items.

sleeping bag goes in the back hatch facing sideways rather than the long ways and up against the bulkhead … saves alot of space. use the far stern of the boat for small items and long items like tent poles. that should leave space for water and other sundries.

tip for carrying water: i use REI or Sterns 2.5 gallon water carriers which have a flatish square profile when filled and find this maximizes use of space rather than taking up alot of room that other water carrier types use up. in trips where i need to carry alot of water, i place one of these water bags under my thighs in the cockpit.

this works for me but naturally all boats are different in hull design and optimum placement of gear. you need to pack your boat a few times before you get the best use of space.

naturally, small stoves, small tents, etc. are called for in a kayak … simply using “backpacking” gear may not be sufficient since much such gear is simply too big for a kayak.

Get a friend with a canoe
Canoers will glady carry all your excess gear!

Seriously, you said it yourself. Its silly to spend the bucks for a new boat if you will only need the capacity a few times a year. Learn to pack more efficiently, or take less.

Jeeze, there is way more storage space in my Montauk than in my backpack. And, I used to be able to go out for 1-2 weeks at a time.

I think the thing that may be a challenge is to pack enough water for a week when going to a place that has no fresh water.


No harm on rear deck
Don’t forget the rear deck as a cargo space. Lighter, low profile items can go there for a day or two and as you use up other items from within the hatches, just relocate as you find space, especially water, carry packable or crushable water containers. A tent in a drybag can be stowed ondeck easy enough, tent poles, folding chairs, sleeping bags, etc.


well, i guess this is my opportunity
to get up on the box and tell y’all about having things on the rear deck. if you’re paddling in warm water on a warm day kinda situation, then i suppose having things on the rear deck is ok. but if you’re paddling in rough conditions in cold water, having things on the rear deck is a recipe for disaster.

ever try a rescue with “stuff” on the deck? if not, try it. crawling over “stuff” to reenter a boat is difficult enough, and getting tangled/caught in the buckles, tie-downs, toggles or whatever else is keeping all that “stuff” on the rear deck is a real hazard.

then there’s the wind catching all that “stuff” and increasing the weathercocking of your boat … and thereby decreasing your ability to control it.

in sum, keeping “stuff” on the deck is not a good idea. you may get away with it in warm conditions but it’s not good to get into the habit of needing that “storage space” to pack your boat for a trip. too, if you need the deck in summer when you’re clothes are a pair of shorts and a shirt or two, what are you going to do in colder months when you need to pack some serious gear.

learn to pack your boat. the deck is no place to carry your gear.

not to mention
trying to paddle through any sort of surf with a bunch of stuff on your deck. A good wave will certainly clear the deck so to speak.

Pack smarter
I don’t know how tall you are which would indicate how your footpegs are adjusted but in most production boats there is a lot of wasted cockpit space between the front bulkhead and your feet. I always store my tarp and garbage bag there when on a camping trip.I have over 12 inches of waste space in my boat so this winter I’m moving the bulkhead back,getting rid of the keepers footbraces and gaining 12 inches of dryspace up front.Then I’ll get a lighter weight tarp to fit in the hatch.But what’ll I do with the garbage? My partner can carry it in front of her footpegs,got it all figgered out.




I took a look at your boat on-line, without counting the dayhatch, it looks as though your boat has 5875 cubic inches of storage space. I can do weeklong backpacking trips in my 3200 cu in pack. The only thing attached to the outside of my pack is my sleeping pad. So my advice is to reconsider what you are packing. The biggest culprits are usually food, and clothing. That said, if your interested in truly overhauling your food system pick up a copy of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) book on food planning (I’m not quite sure what the full name of the book is) this book can literally cut most people’s food weight in half not to mention it’s pack size. The biggest idea is to remove packaging and reduce total size. For example, I love to take instant pudding as an after dinner or lunch desert. I take the pudding out of it’s box and pouch and put it into a zip-lock bag, add the amount of powdered milk necessary. Then I take the flap of the box which has the flavor printed on it, write on the back how much water needs to be added, and put it into the bag. Finally remove all the air from the zip-lock and your done. Half the size, and ready for only water to be added. You can even mix the pudding right in the bag with your hands.

Clothing is something that has a tendency to be too bulky. This may be where you need to spend a little more money. Many companies now produce clothing that is ultra-packable and all synthetic. try to find clothes that take up less space any maybe have more than one use. I hardly ever carry a 200 wt polar fleece anymore. Two items have replaced fleece for me. I own a primaloft sweater from EMS which packs smaller than most 200 wt fleeces, is lighter weight, warmer, windproof, twice as breathable as any of the windproof fleece, because it is primaloft fill, it dries faster than fleece, and it stay warmer when wet than standard polar fleece. The other jacket I use is also from EMS and called the Windshear. It is a very thin brushed poly (similar to fleece, but not as piled) covered by a tightly woven silicon impregnated shell. Once again it’s fully windproof but drastically more breathable than any windproof fleece, and it’s also very water resistant.

The third thing that may help is upgrading to coated nylon tapered drybags for inside your boat rather than vinyl. These take up drastically less space, and are much more flexible as to fill up those tight points at the tips. Here are some links to backpacking sights which may help you pare down your gear selection.

Hope this helps,


Want to pack smarter?..

– Last Updated: Jul-10-04 11:14 AM EST –

1) Candle lantern + 3 eight hour dripless candles-

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)

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

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

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

6) Machette (good mil issue ones are stronger)-

7) 100ft of "para-cord"-

8) Four aluminum tent pegs

9) 2liter Hydration-pak

10) Campers combination knife & mess utensils-

11) Gerber multi-tool

12) Dry-bag

There you go... Now you have the "campers dozen".


Other than the basics all you should "NEED" is: acouple extra pair of socks, acouple extra pair of underwear, "handi-wipes" for cleaning, acouple extra quarts of water & a mag-lite.

There now you should have your shelter, your bedding, your kitchen, your light, & wood gathering tools. Packing all this in your boat should take up about "HALF" of your rear hatch. Now you have space for food!!! Well, a simple menu would be MRE's or rice or Ramen noodles or spagettios??????? These are all light, small & easy to pack & cook. Why get extravigant on camping trips??!! Making fillet minon' on a camping trip isn't roughing it!! You might as well go to the resort.........

I can fit everything I "NEED" for a weekend &/or week long trip, into the back end of a Critter with my hydration pack on the rear deck. Anything other than what you "NEED" is just taking up space!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paddle easy,