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15 Best Tents For Kayak Camping

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15 Best Tents For Kayak Camping

Any long-distance kayaking trip starts with learning how to pack a kayak for a camping trip. In order to do that effectively, you are going to need to choose one of the best tents for kayak camping.

Most kayak campers use sit-in kayaks because they offer sealed bulkhead compartments for overnight gear. These compartments help you keep your camping essentials dry while you’re on the water, but it never hurts to put everything in a dry bag before packing it away.

That said, our focus today is on helping you pick the right tent for the type of kayak camping you’re hoping to do. Compact tents are the way to go for kayak camping because they are easier to pack and lighter to carry.

If you’re planning on camping with a larger group of people you are better off packing more smaller tents that can fit two to three people than trying to secure an extra-large tent on one unlucky person’s kayak.

So let’s talk about tent buying tips before we review some of the best tents for kayak camping!

Photo by Stas Toltsnev via Shutterstock

Best Tents for Kayak Camping

  1. Camel Crown Tent
  2. GEERTOP Ultralight Tent
  3. ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian Tent
  4. ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr Tent
  5. ALPS Mountaineering Lynx Tent
  6. Nemo Aurora Tent
  7. Marmot Vapor Tent
  8. Kelty Grand Mesa Tent
  9. Coleman Sundome Tent
  10. REI Co-op Flash Air 1 Tent
  11. The North Face Stormbreak 2 Tent
  12. Mountain Hardwear Nimbus UL 1 Tent
  13. ALPS Mountaineering Mystique 1.5 Tent
  14. Marmot Limelight 2 Tent
  15. Nemo Dragonfly 2 Tent

Tent Buying Guide

Photo by Pyatak via Shutterstock

Tent buying is about more than just looking at tent size and weight. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when comparing different camping tents:

Tent and Bulkhead Compartment Size

This is the logical place to start when you are comparing tents for kayak camping. From a size perspective, start by measuring the length of your sealed bulkhead compartments, as well as the dimensions of the compartment opening.

These dimensions will tell you how large of a tent you can get while still having it fit in a bulkhead compartment. Storing your tent inside your kayak is recommended to keep it dry no matter what the weather or the paddling conditions outside look like.

Keep in mind that you may also want to store your tent inside a dry bag before inserting it into your bulkhead compartment. If this is the case, you will need to allow for a little more space to make sure everything fits and you can secure the hatch cover so no water leaks inside.

Tent Weight

Weight should be your next criteria to consider, along with the combined weight of all the rest of your camping gear. Ideally, you should approach packing for a kayaking trip in much the same way you might approach packing for a backpacking trip.

Carrying a 60-pound backpack is going to make for slow hiking and a lot of extra weight on your hips, knees, and ankles. While the weight you pack in a kayak isn’t carried directly on your body, you will still need to use your body to get your kayak in motion.

As a rule, the heavier your kayak is, the more difficult it is going to be to propel forward and maneuver around obstacles. Kayaks may allow you to carry a little more weight than you would when backpacking, but you should still seek to minimize the weight of your kayak camping tent.

Generally, try to find a tent that doesn’t weigh any more than 10 pounds. If you can go under five, that will give you even more freedom to bring some extra “fun gear” once your sleeping bag, pad, and other camping essentials are secured.

Tent Capacity

Next up is considering how many people you need to sleep comfortably in your tent. As we mentioned earlier, it is better to bring several smaller tents instead of one larger model if you are going to be able to store your tent safely inside one of your kayak’s compartments.

That being said, your main choice will probably be between a one-person or a two-person tent for kayak camping. The major benefits of a single-person tent are smaller size and, typically, lighter weight.

However, single-person tents can be pretty narrow and cramped when you crawl inside. If you’re on a long-distance kayaking trip, it can be really nice to spread out a bit and have the space inside your tent to do a little ground-based stretching.

If you have any twisting yoga stretches that you like to do to loosen up your back when you’re spending all day in a kayak, it might be worth it to carry a slightly heavier and larger tent that makes it easier to do your morning stretch routine.

Weather Protection

Most tents are also rated for the number of seasons in which they can be realistically employed. Four-season tents are obviously going to be the most durable and offer the highest degree of insulation from cold temperatures and wind.

Just to be clear, you won’t really find one-season or two-season tents out there. So the rest of your options will be three-season tents that can be used from spring through fall, as long as particularly bad weather isn’t forecasted during your trip.

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CAMEL CROWN 2/3/4/5 Person Camping Dome Tent, Waterproof,Spacious, Lightweight Portable Backpacking Tent for Outdoor Camping/Hiking (2 Person, Orange-1)
GEERTOP 2 Person Camping Tent Lightweight 4 Season Waterproof Double Layer All Weather Outdoor Survival Gear for Backpacking Hiking Travel - Easy Set Up
ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2 Person
ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2-Person Tent - Copper/Rust
ALPS Mountaineering 5024617 Lynx 1-Person Tent, Clay/Rust
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CAMEL CROWN 2/3/4/5 Person Camping Dome Tent, Waterproof,Spacious, Lightweight Portable Backpacking Tent for Outdoor Camping/Hiking (2 Person, Orange-1)
GEERTOP 2 Person Camping Tent Lightweight 4 Season Waterproof Double Layer All Weather Outdoor Survival Gear for Backpacking Hiking Travel - Easy Set Up
ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2 Person
ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2-Person Tent - Copper/Rust
ALPS Mountaineering 5024617 Lynx 1-Person Tent, Clay/Rust
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CAMEL CROWN 2/3/4/5 Person Camping Dome Tent, Waterproof,Spacious, Lightweight Portable Backpacking Tent for Outdoor Camping/Hiking (2 Person, Orange-1)
Title
CAMEL CROWN 2/3/4/5 Person Camping Dome Tent, Waterproof,Spacious, Lightweight Portable Backpacking Tent for Outdoor Camping/Hiking (2 Person, Orange-1)
Star Rating
Prime Status
Details
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GEERTOP 2 Person Camping Tent Lightweight 4 Season Waterproof Double Layer All Weather Outdoor Survival Gear for Backpacking Hiking Travel - Easy Set Up
Title
GEERTOP 2 Person Camping Tent Lightweight 4 Season Waterproof Double Layer All Weather Outdoor Survival Gear for Backpacking Hiking Travel - Easy Set Up
Star Rating
Prime Status
Details
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ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2 Person
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ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2 Person
Star Rating
Prime Status
Details
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ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2-Person Tent - Copper/Rust
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ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2-Person Tent - Copper/Rust
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ALPS Mountaineering 5024617 Lynx 1-Person Tent, Clay/Rust
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ALPS Mountaineering 5024617 Lynx 1-Person Tent, Clay/Rust
Star Rating
Prime Status
Details

Best Tents for Kayak Camping

1. Camel Crown Tent

CAMEL CROWN 2/3/4/5 Person Camping Dome Tent, Waterproof,Spacious, Lightweight Portable Backpacking Tent for Outdoor Camping/Hiking (orange-2Person)

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Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 86.61” x 59.05” x 43.31”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 18.11” x 5.51”
  • Weight: 4.9 pounds

This is a freestanding tent with aluminum poles and a polyester outer shell. The internal proof and the base fabric are both made with 150-denier oxford cloth and the tent comes with iron ground stakes to help you keep it secure in windy conditions.

Speaking of windy conditions, four guy lines on the corners of the tent allow you to further secure the tent down in unseasonable conditions. Still, this is a three-season option that takes minutes to set up and is easily one of the most affordable tents out there.

2. GEERTOP Ultralight Tent

GEERTOP 2 Person Camping Tent Lightweight 4 Season Waterproof Double Layer All Weather Outdoor Survival Gear for Backpacking Hiking Travel - Easy Set Up

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Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Four Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 82.6” x 55” x 45”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 17.3” x 6.7”
  • Weight: 6.8 pounds

This GEERTOP tent is the only tent on our list that advertises itself as a four-season option. It boasts two entry doors on either side so that you and your camping partner don’t have to climb over each other to get in or out.

The exterior of the tent is made with 210T breathable polyester and a fine mesh high-density nylon. The floor offers 5000-millimeter polyurethane and the rainfly is made with 3000-millimeter polyurethane.

3. ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian Tent

ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2 Person

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Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 92” x 62” x 46”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 19” x 6.5”
  • Weight: 7.9 pounds

The Tasmanian tent from ALPS Mountaineering is one of the heavier options on our list, but it is also one of the longest two-person tents you’ll find, which makes it an excellent choice for taller paddlers.

This unique design features the two entry doors at the head and foot of the tent, respectively, but it is also a freestanding design that makes it easier to set up and break down. The main benefit of this design is that two people can sleep foot to foot and you will each have your own dedicated vestibule for gear storage.

4. ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr Tent

ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2-Person Tent - Copper/Rust

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Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 88” x 58” x 38”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 19” x 6.5”
  • Weight: 5.5 pounds

The Zephyr is another incredibly affordable two-person tent from the fine folks at ALPS Mountaineering. The polyester rainfly features a 1500-millimeter coating that provides ample resistance against water and ultraviolet damage.

Each person will have their own vestibule for gear and a dedicated entry door for getting in and out. Those two doors provide great ventilation and the rainfly on this tent is super easy to take on and off as desired.

5. ALPS Mountaineering Lynx Tent

ALPS Mountaineering 5024617 Lynx 1-Person Tent, Clay/Rust

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Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1 person
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 90” x 32” x 36”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 17” x 6”
  • Weight: 3.9 pounds

The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx Tent is the first single-person design on our list if you’re looking for something for solo adventures. It is very lightweight and also packs down to a super reasonable size to fit inside your camping kayak.

Just one entry door is all you need with this camping tent, but it does come fully equipped with an internal gear loft, storage pockets, and heavy-duty #8 zippers. Putting on the rainfly creates a useful vestibule for your gear and the top of the fly is ventilated for more comfortable summer sleeping.

6. Nemo Aurora Tent

Nemo Aurora 2P (Surge) & Footprint

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Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 88” x 52” x 44”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 23” x 7”
  • Weight: 4.5 pounds

The Aurora tent from Nemo is one of the lightest and most affordable two-person kayak camping tents on our list. It features vertical sidewalls at the head and foot to offer better moisture-wicking capabilities and the rainfly boasts added ventilation at the head and foot as well.

This is a freestanding tent with a fully screened roof that makes for excellent stargazing when the weather permits. When it doesn’t, the rainfly goes on in seconds and provides each sleeper with a dedicated vestibule outside of their respective entry doors.

7. Marmot Vapor Tent

Marmot Unisex's Vapor 2P Ultralight Camping Tent, Burnt Ochre, 2 Persons

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Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 88.2” x 48” x 41”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 21” x 7”
  • Weight: 5.5 pounds

The Marmot Vapor tent is an igloo-style freestanding tent with two entry doors and two vestibules for gear storage once the rainfly is secured. Upper mesh provides plenty of ventilation as well as insect protection for spring camping.

The rainfly boasts plenty of water and UV resistance and the floor of this tent features band-welded seams and a raised tray to ensure you don’t wind up sleeping in a puddle even when the weather does take a turn for the worse.

8. Kelty Grand Mesa Tent

Kelty Grand Mesa Backpacking Tent (2020 Update) - 2 Person

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Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 85” x 57” x 44”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 16” x 7”
  • Weight: 5.05 pounds

The Kelty Grand Mesa is another tent that falls in that category of being exceptionally affordable for its size and features. Plus, this tent features a recent upgrade that includes quick corners that keep your poles in place during setup and fully taped seams on the EZ-Zip vestibule.

It’s not often that you talk about the bag that a tent packs up into, but Kelty’s patented Shark Mouth bag makes it so much easier to pack up and store this tent. The tent itself also features a 68-denier polyester floor and rainfly.

9. Coleman Sundome Tent

Coleman 2-Person Sundome Tent, Navy

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Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 84” x 60” x 48”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 24” x 6”
  • Weight: 7.5 pounds

While the Coleman Sundome has one of the larger packed dimensions of the tents we’ve chosen, it makes up for it when it comes to affordability. Still, this is a tent you might consider strapping to the deck of your kayak in a kayak deck bag that’s large enough to accommodate it.

The Sundome sets up in less than 10 minutes and features Coleman’s patented Weathertec system with welded floors and inverted seams that work together to keep you dry. It also includes a large window and ground vents to provide ample ventilation on hot nights.

10. REI Co-Op Flash Air 1 Tent

PC REI

Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1 person
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 88” x 35” x 42”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 16” x 6”
  • Weight: 1.65 pounds

Welcome to the lightest tent on our list and also one of the most compact when it comes to packed size. If you are looking for an ultralight tent for long-distance expeditions, it’s hard to beat this one.

The Flash Air 1 is a nonfreestanding design that can be set up using its own poles or trekking poles. It offers a single easy-entry door, a roomy vestibule for gear storage, and a hybrid single-wall design that maximizes interior space while minimizing overall weight.

11. The North Face Stormbreak 2 Tent

PC REI

Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 87” x 50” x 43”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 22” x 7”
  • Weight: 5.9 pounds

The Stormbreak 2 is a roomy tent for you and your tandem kayak partner, but it doesn’t happen to be too heavy either. The four-pole design of this tent creates more headroom so you can sit up more comfortably if you have to spend a rainy afternoon in your tent.

This is a freestanding tent made with a 68-denier polyester floor with a 3000-millimeter polyurethane coating and a 75-denier polyester rainfly with a 1200-millimeter polyurethane coating. It also boasts two entry doors with multi-configuration vestibules.

12. Mountain Hardwear Nimbus UL 1 Tent

PC REI

Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1 person
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 86” x 38” x 38”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 12” x 5”
  • Weight: 1.9 pounds

Like the cloud it is named after, the Nimbus is another one of the lightest single-person tents out there for kayak camping. Under two pounds, this tent boasts a pre-bent pole design that maximizes headroom and interior sleeping space.

The single entry door is at the head of the tent and the foot area tapers down to increase wind resistance. When the 20-denier ripstop nylon rainfly is secured, it creates a large vestibule at the head of the tent for storing your gear.

13. ALPS Mountaineering Mystique 1.5 Tent

PC REI

Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1 person
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 96” x 36” x 36”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 18” x 5”
  • Weight: 4.8 pounds

The Mystique tent from ALPS Mountaineering is somewhat of a hybrid design that stands in a category of its own. While it is technically designed for a single sleeper, it offers more interior space than most 1-person, three-season tents, which is why it is given its 1.5 moniker.

This tent features a large entry door on one side and a large vestibule comes off that side once the rainfly is secured. Speaking of that rainfly, it is constructed with waterproof polyester taffeta fabric that provides plenty of ultraviolet resistance and also remains taut when wet, unlike other rainfly materials that can sag into the mesh of the tent’s interior.

14. Marmot Limelight 2 Tent

PC REI

Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 88” x 54” x 43”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 20.5” x 7.5”
  • Weight: 5.6 pounds

The three-pole design of this two-person tent provides plenty of interior headroom when you need to sit up and quench your thirst. One of the doors opens completely and the other provides a D-shaped opening, but both are covered by sizeable vestibules once the rainfly is in place.

The poles of this tent are color-coded and easily clip into place so you can set up this freestanding tent in minutes the first time around. It also boasts a 40-denier polyester mesh canopy that provides nearly full-sky visibility for stargazing on clear nights.

15. Nemo Dragonfly 2 Tent

PC REI

Available Specifications

  • Seasons: Three Season
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2 people
  • Open Dimensions (L x W x H): 88” x 50” x 40”
  • Packed Dimensions (L x W): 19.5” x 4.5”
  • Weight: 1.75 pounds

The Dragonfly tent is the second-lightest tent on our list, but because it is actually made for two people, it gets the nod as the lightest two-person tent for kayak camping. Each side of this two-door tent features a vestibule with multiple roll-back points to open or close as much or as little as you like.

This tent also features internal gear pockets, overhead light pockets, and protected strut vents on each flap for improved ventilation. It boasts black no-see-um mesh walls for great temperature control and excellent sky viewing on clear nights.

Our Pick – ALPS Mountaineering Lynx Tent

ALPS Mountaineering 5024617 Lynx 1-Person Tent, Clay/Rust

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The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx Tent is our pick for the best tent for kayak camping because it’s a very affordable tent in an incredibly lightweight package. It is suited for a single sleeper, which means your paddling buddies will be responsible for bringing their own tents.

We also love it because it’s a freestanding tent that is easy to set up in under two minutes when you’re tired at the end of the day. Plus, the rainfly is easily secured or taken off if you want to enjoy a night under the stars.

If you are looking for an option with a little more sleeping space, we would recommend the two-person Nemo Aurora Tent. The Aurora is one of the lightest two-person tents on our list and it is also available at a very reasonable price.

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Best Tents For Kayak Camping

Author: Peter SalisburyPete is the Owner of KayakHelp.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of KayakHelp.com. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.