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Camped all my life but new to kayak river camping. As far as gear is concerned. What are some must haves. Brand specific. Dry Bags, dry boxes, knives, tarps, stoves… I have quite a bit of gear just want to see if there is something better that I have not thought of.


Hennesey , or similar,hammock.

if you have backpacked…
…you’ll enjoy the extra capacity.

Aside from paddling-related items and the dry bags to carry your gear, it’s always nice if you can break down your gear to fit it and distribute weight. I’d think more about packing strategy and there are plenty here who can comment on that better than I can. Well-distributed weight, heaviest toward the center of the hull, easy access to items you may want in the day and items you may want to grab quickly after a landing.

After that, you can start thinking about how to utilize all that extra space and taking some of the niceties you have to leave behind when backpacking.

A canoe with barrels and coolers for luxurious food. I suppose a raft would also be good if you are in big water.

My thoughts
I was just like you- camped all the time and had about everything I needed to be comfortable. Here’s what I learned:

Take all of the gear you used to camp (if you went all out) and use the exact same things, only smaller.

Couple examples:

Instead of a tent, use a tarp ( or backpacking tent)

I use-

Instead of a 2 burner stove, get a 1 burner stove

A Wok

Everything soaked through and through

– Last Updated: Feb-03-11 9:00 PM EST –

Be prepared to get all your stuff completely dunked and under water at least once.

Dry bags will fail when submerged, cheap zip lock bags will fail,
cheap dry boxes will have latches fail, etc.
Hatches may drip, kayak may get pinhole leak, etc., etc.
Cameras, binoculars and some GPS units sink like a stone.

Be prepared to deal with wet gear -- it "may" happen.
Have the skills to deal with it when it does.
A soaked, ripped, map becomes truly useless for a trip.
Help a travel companion in case they capsize their boat.

The un-expected can and does happen.
Your clothing choices for living on and in the water probably will be different than pure hiking on land.

sunscreen and hat
Have had a couple trips ruined when I or someone I was with forgot sunscreen…8 hours in the direct sun on water, even in frigid temperatures can blister you, witch makes for a miserable night in the woods.

Jet Boil
Quick and easy answer for meals and warmth. Packs small and I have found it to be very reliable.

There is an article I wrote a while back which is published on this site related to the basics of kayak camping:

Also, you may want to check out an article in the most recent issue (Winter 2010) of California Kayaker Magazine on dry storage (I was involved with this article also). Can be read for free online at

that’s a really good point
Something I seldom think of when backpacking is sunscreen, depending on where I am. Most of the time it’s wooded. But you’re right, just a few hours on the water unprotected can leave you scorched.