Kayak Camping Checklist

We love that our customers call us when they have questions. Generally we help folks determine which boat kit design is right for them and we answer stitch and glue construction questions, but on occasion we get different questions and we do our best to answer those as well. It was in one such conversation when a customer asked, “What do you pack in your boat when you tour?” that we realized this would make a great blog post! So here it is. An outline of gear we often bring and some tips on packing. Of course this list depends on where you are paddling but it serves as a good outline for many trips. As always research the area you’ll be paddling in and understand the risks associated with that region (tides, current, water temperature, weather, winds, boat traffic, wildlife, fresh water accessibility, etc.), and be sure to pack out what you pack in.


Basic Camping Gear:

Tent: (depends on how many people are camping, a compact 2-3 person tent fits nicely in most hatches). A good rain fly is a must, especially here in the Northwest. Make sure your rainfly goes all the way down the walls, and bathtub construction on the tent floor helps you not get wet if your tent happens to end up being pitched in a small lake.
Sleeping bag: (depends on the weather but a 15-20 degree or warmer bag is generally a good starting point, unless you live in a very warm climate)
Sleeping pad: something light and packable like a Therm-a-Rest. Freya and John both prefer a Neo Air (John jokes he adds an inch with each decade).
Footwear with good traction: (Chacos sandals are great for summer and can even be coupled with neoprene socks in cooler weather. John loves his neoprene NRS boots for winter paddling and he even keeps a pair of Chacos that have the toes shaved off a bit to fit in narrower boats like the Murrelets. Keens are great water shoes but tend to have bulbous toes so if your feet fit snugly, like a size 12 in a standard Coho, then a lower profile shoe may work better.)
•  Warm socks: (multiple pairs of wool are best)
Warm clothes in layers: NO COTTON (*note: a puffy jacket or vest also works nicely as a pillow when stuffed in a stuff sack but remember to keep this in a dry bag so it doesn’t get wet!)
Gloves if it is cool at night
A warm hat / beanie if it is cool at night
Rain jacket: For onshore hanging out or side hikes rain jackets are more comfortable and easier to take on and off than dry tops. In very wet climates waterproof pants are also necessary.
A wide-brim hat for Sun/rain: If paddling in a rainy environment then a waterproof hat can really help with visibility! We like OR’s Seattle Sombrero.
Water Containers: We LOVE MSR’s Dromedary Bags because they are well made, don’t leak and their shape is malleable making them more efficient for packing. In addition a water bottle (or two!) for easy accessibility on deck (if camping in a place without water plan on a gallon per person per day + enough for cooking). For a cheap solution to carrying water purchase liter water bottles at a convenient store.
Dry bags Typically a minimum of 21 for clothing and 1 for the sleeping bag. Trash bags are a cheap way to keep sleeping pads and tents dry but shouldn’t be relied on for warm layers)
•  50 feet of line (whether for hanging clothes to dry on or to tie up boats at night, it always seems to come in handy)
Cook Stove & Fuel (quantity of fuel depends on how much you like to cook!)
Camp pot/s
• A bowl for each person
Spork (spoon + fork in one!) or Chopsticks and a Spoon
Cup (one that can hold a hot beverage if you drink coffee or tea)
Pocket Knife and maybe even a chopping knife (again, it depends on how much you like to cook)
Chopping Block  for cooking (small wood one or a flexible plastic one is nice)
Sarong Absolutely optional but Laura loves hers as a towel or as picnic blanket, especially on sandy beaches. There are so many uses and they don’t take up much space.
• Toiletries: Toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap (Dr.Bonner’s soap is a nice camp soap as it is biodegradable). Here’s a video that has a good example of low impact tooth-brushing
• Fishing Rod (if you like to fish) John likes a 7 ft. telescopic spinning rod (He writes, “I take two DAM 7′ telescopic spinning rods. They are perfect for a kayak. High quality carbon fiber reinforced with glass fibers, But they are made in Germany and last time I checked they were no longer a available in the US. I haven’t been able to find a quality replacement.”)
Camp Chair (check out these cool new Treo camp chairs from Therm-a-Rest, perfect for kayak camping)
• 2 Lighters (John likes blowtorch style butane pipe lighters)
• Oil, Salt, Pepper in addition to other groceries… these are the things that are easy to forget.
Baby Wipes (many campers will scoff at this but these can be handy!)
 First Aid Kit
Boat Repair Kit (John packs a 6oz nalgene bottle of resin, 3oz of hardener, stirring sticks, gloves, 1sq yard of 6oz fiberglass cloth, a partial roll of fiberglass tape, partial roll of Gorilla or Duct Tape, string, 2 brushes. In all of his trips John has only used it once to repair a broken Paddle.)

And don’t forget a positive attitude! 🙂 This makes all the difference.


The new Therm-A-Rest Treo Chair fits nicely in a hatch!

Additional Items John carries on extended trips: 

Folding greenwood gardeners hand saw
20″ wide stainless steel grate with folding legs
3 ft. x 3/8 inch blow tube for fire bellows (see video below)
Dry fire stick type fire-starter cut into 3/8 inch pieces (great for exceptionally wet climates)
Ring style twist folding mosquito headset in case of serious bug emergency
2 gallon Ziploc bag to treat clothes with mosquito repellent
White or light colored, tight weave quick dry pants and longsleeve shirt that mosquitos can’t penetrate

A note from John: “I cook with small fires with sticks less than 1 inch thick. It helps with bugs. I carry a small stove for backup. I never build a large fire and I never catch more than I eat.”

Paddling Gear:
Bilge Pump
Pogies (if paddling in cold water and you get cold hands)
Paddle Float
• Lifejacket/PFD
• Spray Skirt
• Cockpit Cover
 (not necessary but nice for keeping overnight rains and dew out)
Paddle + a spare paddle
• Appropriate clothing for the environment (in cold water climates this means a dry suit or neoprene, in warm water climates this may just be quick dry material or SPF clothing)
Rescue Sling if needed for a wet re-entry
• Map + Map Case (if paddling in the ocean, current charts as well as tide tables and the knowledge on how to read this)
• VHF / Weather Radio (some trips may not require this but having some ability to check wind forecasts is VERY helpful)


Packing Tips:

• Pack the heaviest stuff in the stern hatch just behind the cockpit. This will keep the boat in good trim.
• Always have water accessible, whether that’s on deck or in a camelback that attaches to your PFD (these are pretty cool: Kokatat Tributary Hydration System)
• We like to organize meals into lunch, breakfast and dinner bags. When packing in the morning it’s a good idea to pack the lunch bag last so it’s accessible when you stop.
• Small collapsible coolers or insulated grocery bags work great for packing things that need refrigeration. Pack frozen water bottles in them to keep groceries cold and plan to use these items in early meals. When the water bottles have thawed you can drink the water!
• If you like wine, boxed wine is great for kayak camping (no risk of glass breaking). Just removed the cardboard outside so you have less trash to deal with while paddling and wrap it in a thick trash bag in case it springs a leak.
 Did we leave something off? Help us make this list more comprehensive by sharing your favorite kayak camping gear with us: info@pygmyboats.com
Customer Additions:
“Great List!!  I also carry a small ziplock with a few  18” lengths of paracord and a dozen light “S” hooks (made mine from heavy coat hangars). Tie a cord around a tree and hang flashlight, cup, camera, towel, binocs, etc., etc., etc., off the ground.”

Loaded and ready for adventure!


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