Summer Means Kayak Camping…Let’s Go!

25 06 2010

Kayak camping is great.

Breakfast at Waldo Lake

You don’t have to carry your gear, as in backpacking. You can bring along a few luxuries, such as a folding chair. Still, there are definite limitations. One standout is the hatch size. Some decked kayaks only have 10 inch diameter hatches, limiting the size of what can fit inside. You might be able to fit some items in the cockpit. But don’t over stuff, or you’ll interfere with your ability to wet exit. Either way, unless they’re secured inside, they might be lost. As for the big sit on tops with gear wells, everything must be in dry bags and secured. No matter which way you go, as long as you adequately plan your kayak adventure, you’ll have fun!

You’ll need enough food to cover the number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners on the trip. It’s a good idea to plan on food that doesn’t need refrigeration. Many options are available; you just need to rethink your normal cooking routine. You can usually have a luxurious first meal by freezing meat or seafood and allowing it to defrost during your paddle. After that, consider bringing food that can be rehydrated or food that can be brought without refrigeration. A fun idea is to split up the meals amongst the group. So a threesome prepares one breakfast, then another a dinner, and so on.

Obviously you’ll need clothing for wet conditions. Today’s synthetic fabrics work the best when you might sweat and the weather is wet. Wool works well too. These will wick the perspiration away from your body, allowing it to evaporate. A cotton layer will trap the moisture, keeping you wet. Cotton is better suited for camp, when you’re relaxing. River shoes are also important as you’ll be walking in and out of the water. Drybags are essential for all kayaks to carry your gear because sometimes hatches leak. Smaller size bags (15L and under) are preferable because first they’ll fit into the hatches; second they are good for organizing and third they can be stuffed into the nooks and crannies of the kayak. There are also compressible dry bags so you can squeeze even more clothing.

Safety gear is a requirement. PFDs, carabiners, ropes, maps, flares, and a good first-aid kit are must-haves. Depending on the trip, a map, compass, GPS and emergency locator might also be important. FRS radios are very handy in areas with no cell phone coverage and now some have a 20 mile range.

Packing the Boat
Pack the kayak so that the heaviest items are on the bottom. Your boat will ride much better that way. Also try to pack the boat so that the weight is as evenly distributed bow to stern as possible. If you can’t get it perfect, it’s better to have the stern heavier than the bow. A rudderless, bow-heavy boat is very difficult to steer in challenging conditions. Further, if you need to stash extra gear on deck, start with a small amount on the deck right in front of the cockpit and then go to the stern deck. Try to pack it as low as possible so it won’t catch the wind. On one kayak trip, a paddler over packed the bow so much that his boat constantly veered to port. Having paddled too far to repack, the only way he could correct the problem was cocking his rudder – at least he had a rudder! It makes sense to pack day use items nearest the hatch cover so they’re handy. And remember that some small electronics like GPS, cell phones and iPods are not always waterproof. There are numerous accessories which enable you to carry these protected from the elements. Still, other personal use items like sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm should be packed outside of the spray skirt so they can be accessed easily. There are PFDs with gear pockets, spray skirts with pockets or zippers, deck bags and over-the-shoulder mini dry bags for today’s necessities.

Conditions – Planning Makes Perfect
Planning for the weather and conditions where you’re going make the difference between a safe, pleasant voyage and an unpleasant, perhaps disastrous experience. Check the weather forecasts for the area you’re paddling. Research specifics such as whether the area normally experiences higher winds later in the day. On a large lake, find out if, for example, the afternoon wind usually blows from the west. If so, you might want to head across the lake to the west in the morning, and take advantage of the wind returning. If your trip is in tidal waters find out the size of the tide and tidal directions and velocities and their timing during your trip. When setting up camp you must set camp above the high tide line and well protected from waves created by any passing ships. You’ll want to plan your paddling to take every advantage of the tide, because in some areas, you cannot paddle against the tide. In many rivers near the ocean the outgoing tide doubles or triples the river current. Find out if commercial traffic will be traversing your route. Ships and barges travel much faster than they appear from a distance and are often constrained by the shipping channel. If you take advantage of general weather conditions, local nuances and tides, they can work in your favor. Otherwise, well, I think you can probably imagine.

Paddling Equipment
Spray skirt
Repair kit
Dry bags
Paddling gloves
Permits for your journey or overnight camping (if necessary)
Immersion wear

Camping Equipment
Extra batteries
Duct tape
Water filter
Lighter and matches
Tent/Ground cloth
Repair kit
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Pillow (optional)
Backpacking Hammock

First aid kit
FRS Radios
Throw bag
Float bag
VHS Radio

Synthetic Long Underwear
Waterproof / breathable pants
Waterproof / breathable shell
Sun hat with brim
Fleece or wool jacket
Winter hat

Camp soap
Bug spray
Toilet paper
Lip balm
Shaving kit
Toothpaste and brush
Toilet paper

Eating Utensils
Mess kit
Stove and fuel
Garbage bag
Camp soap and scrunge
Dish towels

Optional Fun Stuff
Mask, flippers, snorkel
Fishing equipment
Reading material
Foldable camping chair
Beverage of your choice
Musical instruments

Suggested Food
Tuna, salmon, crab or chicken in foil packages
Simple Lipton Pasta quickie meals
Gorditas or soft tortillas for bread. Regular bread is easily crushed.
Powdered butter
Powdered soft drinks
Green or red peppers
Pancake mix (add water only type) (repackage), syrup and oil (repackage)
Non-stick spray or oil
Trail mix
Instant coffee (if you can stand it)
Instant oatmeal
Power bars
Condiments – you can head to fast food joints for no-refrigeration needed packets of ketchup, relish, Dijon, horseradish, sugar, salt, wasabi, soy sauce, it’s amazing the treasure you can find!



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