Kayak Camping Setup, Tips & Hacks 2024

Kayak Camping Setup, Tips & Hacks 2024

Are you ready to go on the kayaking trip of your life? Whether this is your first time going on a kayak camping trip or you’ve done it once or twice before, it’s critical to prepare correctly.

That starts with packing the right gear and picking the right camping spot. I’ll talk all about that and give you some helpful kayak camping tips and hacks in this article.

Pack Your Gear


You can’t go on a successful kayak camping trip without the proper gear. You’ll need more items than if you were to go on a regular camping trip, which also means you’ll need more space.


Of course, a kayaking trip wouldn’t be complete without a kayak.

You can rent a kayak at some camping spots. However, if you want to make sure you have a kayak that is the right size for you and your group, I recommend packing one beforehand.

There are many different types of kayaks available, so the exact one you pick should depend on your overall goals for your trip.

For example, do you want to go fishing and cook your fish on the same day at your campsite? If that’s the case, you might need a fishing kayak.

Heather Wharram/Shutterstock.com

One thing worth considering is the size of the kayak. That depends on your group and how much camping gear you will bring.

Picking the right size kayak for a camping trip can be tricky. On the one hand, a larger kayak requires more space, and it will be harder to carry around.

At the same time, you probably want a kayak that can fit all your camping gear in it, especially if you’re going to kayak from one place on the river and end up in another place that night.

Generally, I recommend picking a kayak that is between 8-12 feet long for your kayaking trip. It does depend on how long you’re going camping, how much your gear weighs, and how many people you are going on the kayak camping trip with.

We have a complete guide on the best kayaks for camping based on factors such as performance, storage space, maximum load, stability, and more. Check it out.


Another option is getting an inflatable kayak. Inflatable kayaks are more durable, sturdy, and long-lasting than you think – even Navy SEALs use inflatable kayaks.

They also offer excellent stability.

An inflatable kayak might be perfect for your camping trip because it’s effortless to carry around. You can deflate it while transporting it – it won’t weigh much, and it won’t take up too much space.

For more information on using inflatable kayaks, check out our inflatable kayak buying guide. Make sure to buy a good-quality inflatable kayak that can handle the weight.

If you don’t feel confident using an inflatable kayak on your camping trip, you can also use a folding kayak. Origami folding kayaks are made of flexible, sturdy materials that don’t inflate but which you can bend to save space.

The downside of folding kayaks is that after a certain number of uses, you have to get a new one. There’s only a certain number of times you can fold and unfold an origami kayak before it’s no longer safe to use.

You can check out our folding kayak guide. All kayaks in that guide allow you to fold them up to 20,000 times, which means they will last for years!


Duet PandG/Shutterstock.com

You’ll also need a good paddle. You may be surprised to learn that there are many types of paddles for kayakers of all experience levels.

Some paddles are expensive, while others are relatively affordable. There are straight shaft paddles, single-piece paddles, two-piece paddles, four-piece paddles, feathered-blade paddles, and many more!

Some paddles have blades of fiberglass, while others feature blades made out of carbon fiber, plastic, nylon, or other materials.

It can all seem confusing, but don’t worry – we also have a paddle guide that explains 15 different paddle types and which one is best for you based on your goals, kayaking style, experience, and budget.

Tent and Sleeping Gear


You’ll also need a tent – you can’t go on a kayaking camping trip without one. Aim for a multipurpose but lightweight tent that won’t weigh you down.

There are many excellent camping tents on Amazon that weigh only a few pounds. Don’t cheap out, though – you want your tent to last for a long time and withstand wind, rain, and other weather conditions.

Read the reviews before you get a tent.

Instead of a tent, you can also opt for a hammock. However, only use a hammock if you are camping in a place with excellent weather and which does not have any snakes or bears.

In addition to a tent, you should get a sleeping bag, especially if the weather is going to be chilly. Some people sleep directly on the ground in a sleeping bag while camping, without a tent, but it’s not for everyone.

A sleeping pad might also be helpful.


If the morning dawns early, and you have trouble sleeping when there is natural sunlight, consider getting an eye mask to be able to sleep in a little later. Most people love to fall asleep to the sounds of nature, but you can also get a pair of earplugs if you need them.

Waterproof Bag

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A waterproof bag is essential if you plan on going on a kayaking trip. Water will get into the kayak, and if you want to keep your clothes and other things dry, you’ll need a good drybag that doesn’t let any moisture in.

Drybags come in different sizes, but yours should have straps that make it easy to carry around.

Invest in a good bag. It might cost an extra hundred or two hundred bucks, but it’s well worth it.

A higher-quality bag will be more comfortable on your back – back pain can be an issue if you’re trying to paddle. Furthermore, good-quality bags will last for a long time and won’t start tearing in the middle of your trip.

Kayak Safety Equipment


Packing safety gear for your kayaking trip is essential. You might be an experienced kayaker, but weather and river conditions can always change, and you never know what kind of perilous situations you might find yourself in on the rapids.

A life jacket is essential. Even if you are a good swimmer, having a life jacket will help you stay abroad in sticky situations and when you find yourself too far from shore.

If you don’t know how to swim, a life jacket is the #1 thing that will save your life.


A bilge pump is also essential. For those that don’t know, a bilge pump is a device that pumps water out of your kayak.

There are times when your kayak might fill with water, especially if you are kayaking in rough waters. A pump will ensure you can stay dry – necessary in cold weather – and that the kayak can stay afloat.

I recommend getting a manual pump. Yes, you have to pump the water out manually with it, but it’s lighter and won’t weigh you down.

If you expect your kayak to take in a lot of water, consider getting an automatic pump, which uses a motor and doesn’t require you to do any manual work.

Motorized pumps are a lot heavier, though.

You should also get other critical safety equipment, such as a compass. There are waterproof deck compasses that you can put on your kayak, or you can simply get a waterproof case for your phone that you can hang around your neck.

A flashlight is also essential for camping. I recommend getting a headlamp so you can find your way in the dark while keeping your hands free.

Also, pack a first aid kit. It should include bandages, some rubbing alcohol, gauze, antiseptic creams, Advil, Tylenol, rehydration salts, poison ivy cream, Pepto-Bismol (for food poisoning), and Loperamide (for diarrhea).

Getting diarrhea on a camping trip can be torture, so get some Imodium (which contains Loperamide) for such emergencies. Also, take some Tums, which will be helpful if you get heartburn.

Take a whistle with you – it will be handy if you are ever in danger and need to attract attention to yourself. Everyone joining your expedition should take a whistle and hang it around their necks so they can call out when they need help.

Sunscreen will help you avoid sunburn, so pack a bottle with you as well. You might also consider a cap or wide-brimmed hat to protect your face from the sun or long-sleeved shirts to protect your arms.

Cooking Equipment and Food


You’ll need to eat on your camping trip, so take some essential cooking equipment with you. Start with a camping stove, a cast-iron skillet, some utensils, etc.

You should also take a water filter so you can always stay hydrated. Remember, water from rivers and other natural sources may not be safe if you don’t filter it.

There are many water bottles that contain filters.

You’ll also need some food. Take food that doesn’t spoil, such as:

  • Canned tuna
  • Canned beans
  • Trail mixes
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Crackers
  • Beef jerky
  • Granola bars
  • Breakfast bars
  • Cereal
  • Dried fruit
  • Instant noodles

Bug & Bear Spray

Dmitry Syshchikov/Shutterstock.om

Mosquitos and other insects can be troublesome when trying to sleep in nature. The last thing you want is to lose a whole night’s sleep due to the buzzing of mosquitoes in your tent.

Some bug spray or DEET mosquito repellent will help you avoid mosquitos, both at night and during the evenings.

Another thing worth taking with you is bear spray – if you are camping in an area where bears are common. Bear spray is a type of pepper spray that contains capsaicin, which deters charging bears.

You can also take regular pepper spray with you to deter criminals if you are concerned about your own safety and are camping alone.

Make Sure Everything Fits Beforehand

Before you head on a camping trip, make sure everything fits in your kayak. Try to minimize excess weight by cutting down on unnecessary sleeping gear and materials.

How much you will need will depend on how long you will go camping. It’s a good idea to plan for an extra day or two in case your trip is delayed.

It’s critical to pack your gear right in your kayak. The heaviest equipment should typically go in the middle – that will help you when turning on the water.

Of course, your kayak must also be balanced. Putting too much gear on one side can lead to an imbalance that would make you likely to tip over in your kayak.

Find a Safe and Secure Camping Place


There are a few places you can go camping while on a kayaking trip. Depending on where in the country you live, there might be camping spots on the shores of rivers or lakes that have docks for launching a kayak.

Those types of camping spots are the best, as they’re geared towards kayakers. They typically have designated areas on the campsite for setting up your tent, and they might even have bathrooms and showers available for the public.

Some camping sites also have cooking areas and other amenities.

You can also go camping anywhere, but you have to choose a camping spot carefully. It’s critical to know where to set up camp.

If you’re camping on the shore of the ocean, check where the high tide reaches. It’s pretty easy to discern where the water goes during the high tide – there will be rocks, driftwood, and other materials washed up to the shore until that spot.

Also, the beach might also look different. If it’s a rocky shore, the rocks might even be a different color due to being washed by water every day.

I recommend camping away from your cooking area. Leave a space of at least 15-20 feet.

Bears and other animals will naturally be attracted to your cooking area due to the leftover food and scents. You don’t want them coming anywhere near your tent.

Of course, you should always camp above the high tide. You wouldn’t want any surprises during the day or night, even if the tide wasn’t high the day before.

Keep all of your equipment above the high tide, including your kayak and bags. You might want to secure your kayak by tying it to a heavy log or anything else that can secure it.

Gordon Pusnik/Shutterstock.com

When you camp, you’re also going to need a place to relieve yourselves. When you’re camping at a campsite with bathrooms, that’s no issue – you can always go to the bathrooms, whether they are regular bathrooms or portable ones.

However, when camping by yourself, you’ll need to designate a place where you will urinate and defecate. If there is a patch of woods or bushes, you can use that.

When you’re camping on the beach or shore, you’ll need to designate a particular stretch of it away from your tent. I recommend using a spot that is below the high tide, so the waves clean it every day.

You should also set up some basic rules; for example, people should cover their waste with sand after relieving themselves.

Make Sure to Eat & Drink Well

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If you don’t fill your stomach with healthy, nutritious, and filling food, you’ll become hungry and irritated within a couple of days. You won’t have the energy required to paddle a kayak for long hours.

On a regular camping trip, you might relax on the beach all day or do some mild hiking. However, kayaking is a strenuous activity, and you’ll need a lot of power for it, so eat up!

I recommend making a meal plan that includes plenty of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Protein will help you stay full for longer, but carbohydrates are essential too, as they give you energy.

If you’re taking meat with you, try to eat it within the first few days so that it doesn’t spoil.

If you’re going on a fishing kayaking trip, then you can catch a game and cook it the same day. Doing that is a great way to get protein and essential nutrients while eating healthy and delicious food.

Otherwise, vary your meals, so they don’t get boring.

Unless your campsite has designated cooking areas, always cook below the tide line so the water can wash away any food particles. That way, you’ll avoid attracting bears and other wild animals.

Always clean up after yourself. Put any food waste in designated waste containers at the campsite.

Never litter – it’s terrible for the environment.

Go With Experienced Campers

If this is your first kayak camping trip, go with experienced campers and kayakers. It should be someone who has done a kayaking + camping trip specifically, not just any kayaker or camper.

They’ll be able to show you the ropes, teach you helpful tips, and explain how to avoid sticky situations. You’ll learn a lot from someone who has kayaking and camping experience under their belt, so try to find someone who is willing to go with you.

If you can’t find an experienced camper to go with you, at least take someone. While it’s possible to go camping and kayaking alone, I don’t recommend it.

First of all, going with a friend is just a lot more fun. You’ll be more adventurous naturally, knowing you have a friend nearby who has your back.

In addition, going kayaking alone can be dangerous. Having a buddy around is always helpful.

Only go on a solo kayaking and camping trip if you are an advanced kayaker and are confident in your abilities. Don’t let your ego get to you for this.

Learn How to Kayak First

You should also take some kayaking lessons if this is going to be your first time on a kayaking trip. If you’re going to be kayaking for several hours a day for multiple days in a row, you should be comfortable paddling and steering a kayak.

At the very least, you should know the basics: paddling, turning, maneuvering, etc.

Always choose a camping spot that gives you access to waters that are within your skill levels.

I also recommend knowing how to swim and tread. While that won’t excuse you from wearing a life jacket, it can still save your life.

Keep Track of Weather Conditions


Before heading out, check the latest weather updates on your phone. If there is a chance of a storm, you should probably avoid kayaking or stay close to shore unless you are an advanced kayaker.

Some weather factors that matter to kayakers include:

  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction
  • Temperature

Fortunately, there are many fantastic apps that give you access to a wide range of valuable data. They include:

  • Windfinder
  • Windy
  • Weather Underground
  • Accuweather

You’ll also want to monitor the tides so you can figure out the best time to get on the water. Apps like Tide Charts can help you with that.

We have a complete guide on the best weather conditions for kayaking. It discusses things to look out for, what kind of weather conditions are optimal for a pleasant kayaking experience, and the best apps to keep on your phone for monitoring weather conditions.

If you’re a beginner, you might want to check the direction of the current and just let the current take you downstream. You’ll be able to preserve some energy that way, and you’ll also enjoy a more pleasant journey.

Final Word

Going on a kayak camping trip is an adventure. Going with a good friend or significant other will provide you with a ton of memories and stories that you’ll be able to tell many times over.

However, it’s essential to prepare appropriately, especially if it is your first time going on a long kayak camping trip. Bookmark this guide and use it to prepare for your upcoming trip.

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Kayak Camping Setup, Tips & Hacks 2022

Picture of Peter Salisbury

Peter Salisbury

Pete 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.