10 Kayak Camping Tips, Plus Recommended Gear

Thank you to all who participated in our online Paddlers Show & Tell session on Kayak Camping. We look forward to using the great tips and recommended gear on upcoming camping trips! This post gives basic tips for kayak camping, and also links to some recommended gear.

For kayak camping opportunities and overnight practice campouts for new kayak campers, see our Paddle KC paddling club calendar.

10 Kayak Camping Tips

Kayak camping refers to taking all your camping gear in your kayak, to camp on the bank on river or lake paddling trips. This list of basic kayak camping tips is an overview and reminders of points we discussed in our online Show & Tell session.

  1. Go with experienced kayak campers first, if possible, to learn easier and more safely, and avoid mistakes many of us learned the hard way.
  2. Use appropriate boat/board and gear – a smaller boat may not be able to carry all gear, and may be dangerous if over-packed. While it’s possible to use a 10 foot kayak, it’s much easier in a 12 foot or longer kayak, and much safer in a kayak with two closed bulkheads.
  3. GO SMALL with gear – Backpacking or bikepacking gear. Backpacking gear is available at all price points.
  4. Pare down to essentials and multi-purpose items
    1. Shelter and sleeping (tent/hammock, sleeping bag, sleeping pad)
    2. Cook kit (small fuel, burner, water/cook pot, plate, spork, foil, backup matches)
    3. Food packed by meals or day, water and water filter if appropriate
    4. Paddling clothes, separate campsite clothes, rain gear
    5. Paddling gear
    6. Safety/emergency gear and First Aid kit, including power charger & batteries for any important devices
    7. “Camp Bag” for carrying gear to and from boat, like IKEA bag or large mesh duffle
    8. Headlamp and multi-light (small flashlight/lantern combo)
    9. Backpacking chair or sitting pad
  5. Remember your ABCs when packing – Accessibility, Balance, Compression. Keep things used during the day and also emergency gear accessible, balance front to back and side to side, and compress air out of dry bags and use compression sacks.
  6. Practice Packing Your Kayak. Ensure everything fits and plan what goes where BEFORE launch day. This is especially important with smaller kayaks. Use smaller dry bags to make packing easier and more efficient. 
  7. Have a Plan A and Plan B for campsites on sandbars or at designated campgrounds, and verify by recent satellite maps and/or local outfitters or rangers.
  8. Learn safety skills and be ready to use them. Only paddle with people who have your back and are able to help save you if needed. Take classes or learn online with articles and videos. NEVER LEAVE ANYONE BEHIND and don’t paddle with people who leave others behind.
  9. Leave No Trace. Paper/box (burnable) > can (crushable) > plastic or bottle (carry out).
  10. Track weather forecast and changes before launch, and during your trip. Consider how rain affects that particular paddling location, and contact rangers on that route for input before launch for input based on their experience. Some rivers flood fast, and evacuation options may only be on one side of the river.

Recommended Kayaking Camping Gear

These are some of the things we love for kayak camping, and gear we discussed during our Show & Tell.

One Person Tent example

Two Person Hyke & Byke Tent

Two Person Kelty Tent

Ultralight Backpacking Tarp

Backpacking Stove with Lighter

Jetboil Stove

Stove Windscreen

Camp Cooking Kit

Folding Camping Table

Water Filtering Bottle

Water Filter Press Bottle

Water Filter Squeeze Pouch

Waterproof First Aid Kit

Inflatable Pillow

Inflatable Sleeping Pad, inexpensive and high-end

Lightweight sleeping bag, inexpensive, mid-range, and high-end

Waterproof Compression Sack for sleeping bags

Camp Blanket with Sleeping Bag Liner and Pillow

Silk Weight Sleeping Bag Liner

Quick Dry Camp Towel

Backpacking chair, basic, deluxe high-back, rocking

Waterproof Headlamp with Red Light

Compact Lantern/Flashlight

Waterproof Power Bank

Folding Backpacking Seat Cushion

Drybags, Ultralight

Drybags Set

Drybags and Compression Dry Bags, High Quality

Rescue Throw & Tow Rope Bag

Camping Multi-tool with Hatchet

Sun Hats for Kayaking

Splash Jackets

Paddling Pants and Jackets

Smart Wool Socks


Join Paddle KC at upcoming Kayak Camping events! We add events regularly, and welcome member suggestions!

Current Paddle KC Paddling Club Full Calendar


Related Info

6 Bear-Proof Kayak Camping and SUP Camping Gear Suggestions

Winter Kayak Camping – Paddlers Show & Tell

Prevent Theft of Your Kayak, Paddleboard, Canoe

Pimp My Kayak Easy DIY Upgrades