How to pack a kayak for a camping trip

How to pack a kayak for a camping trip

A kayak camping trip can be a unique adventure, however it does require a certain level of planning before setting off. So in this article we share our favourite tips and methods for learning how to pack and prepare your kayak for a successful adventure over both land and water.

How to Pack Your Kayak for a Camping Trip

We have broken this down into several sections. We will include both our recommendations for storing these and how and where to store them in a kayak for your camping trip. We are also going to look at the various locations that can be used for storage in and on your kayak.

Let’s break these locations down into three distinct locations.

Day Hatch

The day hatch is going to be your number one location for storing your kayak camping gear. This location is big, depending on the kayak, and is protected by the hull. This makes it an ideal place for storing longer items like tents and even items that are fragile.

If you imbibe in the fermented drink, you might want that to be wrapped up in a sleep pad and stored in the day hatch.

Deck Bag

Your kayak may or may not have a deck bag, but we would highly recommend investing in one. It’s like a cargo box for your car. These strap to the hull and are a great place to hold lighter gear. You can add higher priority gear to this location as it will be easier to get to than items that are buried in the day hatch.


While you might not consider a backpack as part of packing for a kayak camping trip, you better believe it is. In fact, everything you put in your pockets and backpack are part of that packing. The backpack can be a life saving means of storage that holds things like your ditch kit for a tip over or even your water supply.

We will discuss this in detail later in the article, but backpack is essential.

If we had to offer up an affordable, lightweight and incredible effective bag for just this purpose, it would be the new Surge by 3Vgear. It comes from their Redline series and makes a great companion bag on your kayak. It even comes with a 2L water bladder.

Easy Access

There are going to be a collection of items that you want to have access to both while you hike and while you are paddling away in your kayak. These will be things like

  • Maps
  • Ready to eat foods
  • Water
  • First aid pack

…and other items that are important to your trip.

While these items fall in other categories or might be packed in separate places in the kayak, a small bag or backpack can be a great way to assure you have quick access to these items even when all of your items are packed up and you are on the water.


The first step in packing your kayak is to understand what it is your packing. This can be done by executing a simple inventory. That is really a big word for just creating a list of the gear and items that you need for your trip then using that list to be sure that all of the items are on hand at the time of packing.

We have a full equipment breakdown and list here.

Once you see all your gear, food and other items laid out before you, you will get an idea of how to pack your kayak for a camping trip.

One of the most important things you can do before a kayak camping trip is to pack your kayak completely. You can even sit in the kayak and try and reach for, and find, a few items while you are sat in the kayak. Now, this might seem a little silly, but you will feel even more silly if you capsize trying to dig around for something important while you are on the water.


You cannot do a camping trip right without some food! The type of food you bring will determine a lot about how you pack your kayak. If you go for the freeze-dried camping trip than you have lightweight dried foods that should packed under heavier items. Pulverized, rehydrated mush is not a great way to enjoy your kayak camping trip.

If you are doing some cooking and have raw ingredients in a cooler, that is likely to be your heaviest item to pack and should be either nestled into your kayak storage area first or pack and should be either nestled into your kayak storage area first or you might even be able to invest in a tow behind cooler that your kayak can pull. This will also free up space!



A minimalist “kitchen” should be packed in your Kayak as well. This, along with your food would be packed in the day hatch to keep it dry and because of the combined weight could one of your heaviest items.

You will never need one of your kitchen items in a hurry so no need to store these at the top of the day hatch, in the backpack or at the front of the deck bag.

  • Jet Boil Type Stove
  • Fuel
  • Utensils
  • Small Cast Iron Skillet or lighter pans
  • Seasonings or Hot Sauce
  • Trash Bag


If you fold and roll your clothes you will be astounded at how much you can pack. Be sure that you pack some paddling clothing (bathing suit or wet suit) and some clothing for hiking and lounging around camp.

As a backup we like to keep one vac sealed outfit or ziplocked outfit to be certain I can get dry no matter what we run into. This could be on the water or a rain that takes us by surprise. Regions like mountains can be very hard to predict even with up to date weather reports.

Clothing can be stored on a deck bag or in a day hatch. I like to store my clothing near the top of the loadout in the day hatch.

Sleep System

How you sleep at camp, once you arrive, will determine a lot about what you must carry. For us, the idea has always been to pack light. Because of this we opt for a hammock camping setup. This is because the size, weight and comfort are all tremendous benefits for me.

We can eliminate:

  • Poles
  • Ground Tarp
  • The Tent Itself (Which can be a challenging shaped item for packing)
  • The Sleep Pad

The hammock camping system is a powerful one and it works great for kayak camping. Islands can be a pain to find flat ground on, but they hold plenty of trees. Also, the lightweight and packable nature of a system like this can both be stowed in the day hatch or even packed in your deck bag.



Water is always one of the heaviest things you carry. There are a couple of ways that you can handle this. The way that we pack our kayaks for a camping trip to deal with hydration is by packing the Katadyn Hiker Pro which is a powerful hand pump water filter.

We also pack a steel water bottle. This gives us the ability to pump, filter and boil water from the source that is all around us. Of course, if you are kayaking brackish or saltwater this might not be your best option.

We also wear a 2L water bladder in my backpack that can also be refilled using the Katadyn water filter. By doing this we do not have to carry a gallon of water or a large water bottle.  

The Katadyn hiker pro packs down to the size of about 3 fists and can be stored in your day hatch or even buried in your backpack because once your bladder is full you will have water stored by you for a long time.


You should keep a few items for repair stored in either the backpack or the deck bag. It would be a bad idea to head off for a kayak camping trip without a few vital items to repair your kayak if you suffer serious damage to your hull.

Duct Tape – Duct tape fixes everything, right? Well, when it comes to patching minor damage in the hull of your kayak duct tape will get it done. It’s not a permanent fix but it can get you over water and back to dry land.

Hatch Cover – If there is damage to your hatch cover you will take on water over time and the items, you store inside your kayak will get wet. That is a big problem. Having tough propylene sheeting and some tape or strong rubber bands will give you an emergency cover in the worst-case scenario.

Pack Towel – Having a good towel can plug holes or sop up water.

Gorilla Glue – A powerful glue is going to do all kinds of things for you. We like Gorilla Glue because it is water activated.

Alcohol Swabs – A clean surface is vital for your glue to stick to and alcohol swabs are a great way to clean that area up.

Multitool – There are screws and nuts holding important things in place on your kayak. Sometimes these get loose. The multitool is an answer for that.

Alcohol Swabs – A clean surface is vital for your glue to stick to and alcohol swabs are a great way to clean that area up.

Ditch Kit

This kit should either be on your back or the entirety of your backpack. When you are packing a kayak for a camping trip do not leave out this ditch kit. If your kayak tips and you wind up getting lost downstream.

Disaster and emergencies happen. It’s a scary thing but if you are prepared it can make a world of difference. Every year thousands of people get lost in the woods. There are a few things that can make your emergency a quick and easy memory to laugh about rather than a life-threatening situation.

  • Water Purification Tabs
  • Emergency Food Bars or Ready to Eat Foods
  • Emergency Tent
  • Small Knife
  • Fire Starter
  • Bug Repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Handkerchief
  • Emergency Whistle or Emergency Comms


It’s important to note that the kayak camping trip can be a nightmare if you go into it unprepared. Most people wouldn’t jump into something like that. All that said, if you make yourself a written inventory and use the planning tips that we have highlighted in our previous article, kayak camping can be an incredible adventure.

3 Important Tips

1. Pack your kayak on dry land first.

2. Use dry bags and keep a spare pair of shoes and clothes on hand in case of a submersion

3. Don’t just pack heavier items at the bottom be sure you consider priority items.

Once you have all your inventory in place if you take the time to pack your kayak effectively. While being a master of organization is a big deal you will always have much more success when you are packing a minimalist amount of gear. Trade the tent in for the hammock and the water bottles in for the filter and bladder.

Related guides

Single Kayaks vs. Double Kayaks

Sit-on-Top VS Sit-Inside Kayaks

Kayak Transport Ideas

How Do You Store a Kayak in an Apartment?

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