Overnight Kayak Camping
By Tom Watson
One of the most regarded luxuries of a kayak is its use as a means of "escape", a chance to ply quiet waters; far from the madding crowd; at one with nature — or one's self. It's also a wonderfully spontaneous means of sneaking away for an overnight of remote shoreline or backcountry camping.
Even mega kayak expeditions can be broken down into a series of day paddles. And where the hiker's camping pack is squarely on his/her shoulders, we kayakers sit in ours and paddle it. Overnight/weekend kayak camping can be as involved and complex as we dare or as casual and simple as we choose.
Oftentimes the frequency of opportunity to kayak camp is determined by the proximity of water access camping sites from our home. Even those living deep in the heart of the Midwest have scores of primitive river camps accessible for quick get-aways. Having such options, when coupled with our own desired levels of camping luxury, means a kayak camping overnight is just a few paddle strokes away.
Most kayakers quickly learned that most of the gear they had been using for backpacking works perfectly for kayak camping, too. Exposure to moisture and in some cases higher volume gear were limiting factors (water environment/small compartment hatch covers). Our clothing had to be re-thought for the big water environment and we had to acquire a few paddling skills. Once on shore, however, our basic backcountry camping skills took over.
The beauty of kayak camping is the range or depth of actual camping one can delve into. A simple overnight campsite on a remote beach might require nothing more than a sleeping bag, tarp covering, and a simple cooking kit. If you can read the weather and trust the signs of your environment, you might even skip the tarp and sleep under the stars. Point is, you don't need a full range of gear to enjoy a short get-away.
That said, it should always be your priority to carry an emergency kit, ditch kit, survival gear, whatever you call it. Whether you are paddling the pond or out along a remote coast for a week, you should always carry certain emergency items with you. As far as other typical camping equipment, sometimes a serendipitous outing means leaving some of the luxuries behind — or not. Too often we become a bit of a techy gear head, thinking we must have the latest camp stove, light or other paddling gadget. Some do offer the advantage of even more weight and size reduction as well as also bringing hi-tech function to the field — all of which can be incorporated into our inventory of gear.
That's one of the keys for a rewarding overnight/weekend kayak trip. We can target our gear to the level of experience we want to enjoy. On an extended trip, food volume and quality are issues, fresh water is a constant issue, adequate clothing and gear for an ever-changing environment — and it all must be carried along from Day One!
Short trips still provide us with an opportunity to see how much we can carry, how luxurious we want our camp to be and gives us a chance to test some of the gear we may be planning on using on a more extensive paddling trip later. At other times, we just may want to be the minimalist camper and enjoy a modest but fulfilling night just a few paddling miles along the shore.
Here are some options I've considered when gearing up for a short overnight camping outing in my kayak.
On such short trips you might even just take along components of a larger, fuller kit. Maybe you just need to boil some water and eat out of a couple of cups. If an open fire is part of your experience, by all means cook over the fire!
- Canoers use a Duluth pack to hall bundles of gear over portages and into the campsite from the shored canoe. Kayakers can do the same. Carry a large strapped bag and load all those small, storable items from throughout your kayak into one bag and save trips hauling all your separate little gear bundles up to camp.
- Deadman anchors - In addition to traditional stakes, even those made for sand, consider tying your lines to a log or rock and burying it in the sand. This is a deadman anchor. Lines are a bit harder to re-tighten but offer a secure anchor in otherwise softer ground.
- Angle your "roof" tarp slightly to encourage run-off, also rig a set up to collect that rainwater. A simple channel in the roof that pours into a container is a quick and safe way to resupply drinking water... and in some desperate cases a trickle of morning dew as well.
Be safe, have fun out there.
Tom Watson is an avid sea kayaker and freelance writer. For more of Tom's paddling tips and gear reviews go to his website: www.wavetameradventures.com He has written 2 books, "Kids Gone Paddlin" and "How to Think Like A Survivor" that are available on Amazon.com.
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