What should I pack for an overnight kayak?

Megan Smith
 min read

What should I pack for an overnight kayak and which items can I confidently leave at home?

Packing for overnight kayak trip what should I pack for an overnight kayakIf you’re a backpacker, then you already have most of the equipment needed for kayak camping!

All you really need is a tent, a sleeping bag, a stove and pot and eating utensils.

Undoubtedly, this is a somewhat austere list.

In reality, you will probably take more than what we’ve mentioned.

What should I pack for an overnight kayak? Introduction

How do I plan an overnight kayak? By focusing only on the most essential things and items!

A comfortable kayak camping trip needs no more gear than you would take along on a backpacking journey.

Happily, you can use the same equipment, and we will provide an extensive list of items that most kayakers would consider taking along.

Appropriate clothing

For kayaking in warm environments, you can use cotton clothes; they will cool you down when wet (Tip: read our tips for first-time kayakers to discover even more handy facts).

For the same reasons, cotton is to be avoided in chillier climates.

That’s when we suggest polyester, and especially for the first layer, nylon and other synthetics do not absorb water easily, insulate even when wet, and are outstanding for layering.

Remember that wind permeates loosely woven synthetics easily, so wear a parka and wind trousers to avoid losing body heat to wind.

Camping tents

You can actually find camping tents that are suitable for kayaking.

The size, or bulk, of the packed tent is more important than its weight since you’re more likely to run out of space on your kayak rather than it being weighed down.

Try to find free-standing tents, because they are the more convenient to pitch if there is limited camping space.

For the same reasons, your tent should accommodate no more than two persons.

Select a tent designed to withstand winds, with guyline attachment points and a fly that does not flap loosely to keep you awake on a windy night.

A good camping tent is essential. It prevents insect bites while resting and defends against creepy, crawly things in your sleeping bag or clothes.

Even more importantly, it protects you and your equipment from rain and shelters you from wind chill.

Cooking stoves

What should I pack for an overnight kayak? A cooking stove for sure!

Portable stoves are an absolute requirement. To get an idea of what you can prepare to eat, we would like to refer you to our specific page What do you eat while kayaking camping?

Long gone are the days when wood-fueled campfires were acceptable in the wilderness, desert, undeveloped locations, or along the coastline of lakes.

Besides the risk of wildfire, wood fires create a long-lasting impact on the environment.

They also disrupt the natural recycling of nutrients as the wood is burned and not left to decay.

Backcountry wood fires are only justified to send signals or use as a heat source in potentially dangerous (even lethal) scenarios.

Cooking on a little portable stove is more manageable than on a wood fire: There’s no need for a grate or grill.

However, its weight is minimal, even with enough fuel for a lengthy journey.

Though white gas is the preferred fuel, better stoves will burn vehicle fuel and even kerosene. Modern stoves also allow flame control.

Ensure your site is shielded from the wind, as most cooking takes place out in the open.

While butane or gas-cartridge ranges are simple to light, bringing empty cartridges for later disposal is a significant downside.

Typically such cartridges are not refillable and only add to landfills.

Sleeping bags: What should I pack for an overnight kayak?

If you wish to invest in specific gear for overnight kayaking, then your sleeping bag and a suitable sleeping bag size are your first considerations.

Down bags offer the best heat-to-weight ratio and are one of the best insulators around but aren’t as good when wet.

Polyester fillings are bulkier and less efficient than down but continue to insulate effectively when wet.

This makes them the best choice for the water environment of a kayak.

Use compression straps to reduce the size of a packed polyester bag before putting it in a water-resistant, dry bag.

Waterproof rain gear

Parkas and raincoats serve well both while paddling and onshore.

Rain hats with large brims ensure that the water leaks at a distance from your face and neck and work better than hoods.

With fastening at the neck and wrists, paddling coats are great both on water and ashore.

Rain trousers will keep you dry in camp and can keep you warm on the water.

If they are top-notch, Breathable rain garments trigger less condensation and are comfier to use.

Foldable chairs

One of the positive aspects of kayaks is their ability to carry a good amount of equipment.

So you can choose to take anything along that will make life easier. For example, one item to consider is a canvas back-rest or chair.

Some models will work even if you slide out the stiff foam seat and back, making them less bulky.

If you’re going to spend some time sitting down in or out of the tent, then you’ll definitely want a chair.

Tarp that doubles as sunshade and cover from rain

Since some kayaking journeys take place in warmer climates, a word about shades might be in order.

Some manufacturers produce sunshades, with typically large structures, which are heavy, bulky, and will not withstand a good gust of wind.

You’d be better off using a very lightweight, ripstop nylon tarpaulin, preferably coated with polyurethane to repel rain.

Ensure that it has a substantial number of grommets at the corners, and every 2.5 feet on the sides – 8 x 10 feet is an excellent example for size.

If there are trees where you camp, pitching the tarp is easy, but you’ll probably not need it.

Shade is most needed out in the open, say in the desert or on a sandy beach. Your paddle can double as a pole.

Connect one side of the tarp to the end of the blade of a single paddle, or 2 corners to the blades of two paddles, and anchor the paddle/s to anything – stakes, rocks, driftwood, or bushes.

Take out the opposite side of the tarp and anchor to the ground in the same manner by piling rocks along the edge. You should now have a lean-to sunshade.

The techniques of anchoring differ according to the site and readily available materials.

Whatever you use for anchors, make sure to put them back where you discovered them. Leave the place pristine.

Appropriate footwear: What should I pack for an overnight kayak?

Everybody has their favorite, but it’s hard to beat knee-high rubber boots for simplicity and practicality.

They keep your feet dry while landing and going ashore and are supportive enough to use in camp.

Take different hiking shoes or boots if you think you’ll be hiking too.

Packing list with equipment by category

For security

  • lighter, matches in a water-resistant container
  • flares
  • flashlight
  • weather condition radio
  • wet or drysuit
  • barometer/altimeter
  • signal mirror

For camping

  • Enough water for at least an extra 2 days
  • sunshade
  • cup
  • cooking pot
  • spoon
  • range
  • fuel for stove
  • matches and lighter kept with range
  • tent with fly, stakes, wind people, extra nylon cord
  • sleeping bag & pad
  • water filter or treatment tablets
  • bowl

What should I pack for an overnight kayak for individual usage?

  • first-aid kit
  • wilderness medicine guide
  • insect repellent
  • mini binoculars
  • sunglasses, with strap
  • electronic camera & movie
  • prescription medications
  • sunblock (at least factor 15)
  • individual toiletry products
  • home entertainment products (books, cards)

For your kayak

  • heavy-duty 500 lb weight capacity kayak (to properly distribute your weight and all equipment and camping gear)
  • boat-repair set
  • cockpit cover
  • sponge
  • additional paddle
  • rope self-rescue sling or action
  • paddle
  • bilge pump
  • bowline
  • life vest
  • additional light line
  • compass
  • dry bags
  • spray skirt
  • kayak
  • maps or charts
  • paddle float
  • water canteen

What should I pack for an overnight kayak? Conclusion

The above lists contain items that most paddlers consider essential. No two lists will be the same.

To make your choice, ask yourself: Can you get along without it? Or, for safety items: Is deleting this too much of a risk?

Relying on your response, you may decide that the product is a necessity or otherwise.

Understand that these decisions will vary significantly, depending on your level of experience and expectations of your trip.

About Megan Smith

Megan has been fighting overweight and her plus size since her teenage years. After trying all types of remedies without success, she started doing her own research. Megan founded Plus Size Zeal to share her findings. She also developed various detailed buying guides for plus-size people in order to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Read More