So you’re looking to spend some time camping during the cool weather but want a change of pace. We HIGHLY recommend giving kayak camping a shot!

Get off the trail for a bit and let your favorite river carry you along the way. While you’re camping in a familiar place, the perspective will be completely different. It’s a similar experience to backpacking to a primitive campsite as you’ll want to keep your gear as light as possible. However, you shouldn’t let that keep you from trying it out. Even with traditional car camping gear, there are ways to pack your kayak to keep you balanced and paddling on track.

Here are our top 5 tips for packing your canoe or kayak for camping!

1. Keep It Light

The more gear you have, the heavier your kayak will be. The heavier you kayak is, the more paddling performance is impacted. Keep it light and you’ll enjoy the paddling experience much more.

There are two ways to keep it light:

  1. Everyone should bring their own lightweight gear.
  2. You can share. If you are going with a group, consider sharing tent(s), cooking supplies, and other camp gear. You can split up your camping gear checklist amongst the group and spread the weight evenly across all the kayaks.

2. Keep It Dry

Dry bags are a kayak camper’s best friend. If you like it, put it in a dry bag.

We recommend using an assortment of dry bag sizes. Smaller ones can be used for your clothing, personal items, and electronics. While your larger bags will store your sleeping bag, tent, and other bulkier camp gear.

It’s important that you close and secure your dry bag properly. We recommend you roll the top of the bag at least 3 times before buckling. Be sure there is nothing sticking out through the opening before you start rolling, this could hinder its performance. It’s always a good idea to secure any piece of gear to your kayak, especially your dry bags. If you happen to take a tumble, the worst part will be collecting all of your gear. You can do so using rod/paddle leashes as well as simple paracord.

3. Maximize Your Hatches

Hatches are a great place to store gear without cluttering the deck of your kayak. You can utilize the hull of your kayak to store items that you won’t need during your paddle (sleeping bag, tent, cookware, etc.).

There are options for bags designed to fit in the hatch if you choose to use the space to store smaller items. Using a hatch bag will prevent those smaller items from rolling around and getting lost in the hull of your kayak.

Dry bags are a kayak camper’s best friend. If you like it, put it in a dry bag.

4. Weight Distribution

Where you place your gear on the kayak has a great impact on its paddling performance. The heaviest items should always be stored low and centered. We recommend packing this gear in your hull, directly behind your seat or as close to your feet as you can if loading from the front. If you pack your heaviest items on the deck of the kayak, this could jeopardize the stability of the kayak and ultimately increase the chance of you capsizing. You’ll likely have a heavy cooler on the deck of the kayak. For this we suggest you secure it behind the seat where it’s easily accessible. The closer to the seat, the less impact it will have on stability.

When packing your small and lighter weight items, store these near the ends of the kayak. This will keep your kayak tracking above the water, preventing water from coming over the bow.

5.  Stay Organized

Know where your gear is at all times. The last thing you want to do while kayaking is scramble around to find a piece of gear.

You’ll be surprised how easily you can tip a fully loaded kayak while you toss and turn looking for your items. To avoid this, we suggest you keep items that you know you’re going to need during the paddle on the deck of the kayak and close enough for easy access.


If you take the proper precautions for preparing your gear and planning out the trip, kayak camping can be one of the most rewarding experiences for any adventure seeker.

Whether you’re an avid paddler or and expert car camper, take your adventures to the next level and get a group of friends together for a kayak camping trip!

For more information on planning out your kayak camping trip, check out our blog: Kayak Camping – “You’ve Thought About It Go Do It!”


  1. Using a filter for drinking water instead of carrying a full trip’s supply of bottled water is a big weight saver. Also, a chimney stove (ex/Solo and others) is another weight–and space–saver.

  2. I am now 66 and have been backpacking since boy scouts. 20 years ago I started kayak camping. I am an ultralight backpacker so my fully outfitted pack base weight is 6 lbs. With food I keep it to 15 lbs. At 15 lbs my pack is half the size of my 3 year old grandson’s. I use the same gear whether backpacking or kayak camping. I just stuff my pack into a dry bag and stick it through the rear hatch. No muss no fuss I am ready for a week in the back country. This year I added Hobie sidekicks and a Falcon sail to the kayak for open water sailing on small and large lakes. Leave the pack home and add fishing gear and I am walleye fishing on lake Erie.