Paddle down a calm, expansive lake or river, the wind at your back, a sunny, inviting sandbar just ahead. Couple this with a few nights at a secluded campground under the stars, and these are all ingredients for the perfect kayak or canoe camping trip, taking everything you need to survive with you on your ship.
Canoeing or kayaking camping is very different from car camping or even backpacking, leaving many outdoor enthusiasts reluctant to try it. Luckily, this type of adventure isn’t as daunting as it might first seem, and a little know-how will help keep things safe, fun, and dry.
Where to paddle
When you’ve decided to try canoe camping, the first hurdle is deciding where to paddle. The decision can be easy if you live near a river popular with kayakers or a number of lakes with pristine shores. But there still remains the question of where to get on and off and set up camp.
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When planning your first trip, it’s a good idea to do some research online or stop by your local outdoor store or outfitter and ask questions. They can guide you to the best places to start and end and inform you about local laws, e.g. B. where you are allowed to camp and where not. They also inform you about possible obstacles such as rough water or portages where you have to carry your boat to cross stretches of river with shallow riverbeds or dams.
If you’re new to the activity, say so and ask about routes that are likely to have a lot of paddlers present. To get around, be sure to bring a compass (and know how to use it) and a waterproof map. If you can find it, get a canoe-specific one, as their layout differs from topographic maps and is easier to read when you’re in the water.
It goes without saying, but before you head out paddling and camping, you should at least have a basic knowledge of swimming. Additionally, make sure you get the knowledge you need – learn how to paddle and what to do if someone in your group accidentally falls in the water. It’s also important to know the signs of hypothermia and how to treat them, since you’re at an increased risk of succumbing to the common cold when you’re wet.
It’s also a good idea to pack a satellite communicator. You can buy these online or from an outdoor retailer, but they’re expensive, so you might want to rent one. They provide security and a virtually guaranteed way to call for help in an emergency.
What to pack
Next, pack your camping basics, which are mostly the same as backpacking or car camping, and in most cases the less specialized, cheaper gear works well for canoe camping.
You will need a tent or hammock, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, pillow, cooking supplies such as utensils, pot, pan and stove or grill if you plan to cook over the fire. If you’re an experienced camper, you probably already have most of it, says Mikaela Ferguson, a passionate canoe camper and co-founder of outdoor blog VoyageurTripper.com. And don’t forget the trash bags. Whatever you bring with you must be repacked, including rubbish and leftovers such as shells and seeds.
A water filter and purification system are essential, as is a life jacket, which you will wear when entering the water. In fact, Ferguson recommends packing an extra life jacket and paddle per boat. It’s easier than you think to lose one of the two in the drink, she explains, and if it swims away before you can reach it, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, most outfitters who offer rental packages will supply you with a replacement part. If not, ask for one.
What to wear, avoid cotton as it takes too long to dry. And you get wet. “As much as we believe we’re not going to tip over in a canoe, these things do happen,” says Ferguson. But synthetic clothing doesn’t have to be fancy or overly technical. She recommends a decent rain jacket and pants, because unlike car camping, when it’s raining you can’t just walk under a gazebo or curl up in the back seat.
To keep your feet comfortable, bring a pair of boat shoes and a pair of camping shoes. Boat shoes get wet and stay wet for most of the trip, while camping shoes should be kept dry at all costs. Ferguson wears quick-drying running shoes when paddling and comfortable sandals at camp.
If you choose a canoe you will find that you are not nearly as constrained by space or weight but if you are camping by kayak you will have less room to pack bulky items so you will need smaller and lighter gear, such as compact backpacking tents and smaller cook sets. Just make sure you leave room for a few comfort items. Ferguson recommends bringing your favorite snacks, campground games and even her new favorite gadget – a camp chair. This way you can relax and enjoy yourself as soon as you arrive at the camp.
keep it dry
The challenge of kayak or canoe camping is keeping everything dry when surrounded by water. Ferguson’s go-to spots: kegs and dry bags. Airtight barrels are better suited to canoes due to their size and weight, and can hold a lot of bulky gear like food and tents. You don’t need to buy your own as many outfitters rent them out to paddlers.
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Dry bags are perfect for kayaks and quick-to-reach items like sunscreen, cameras, raincoats, or snacks. You’ll need several per person: a large sack for gear like clothing, sleeping bags, and tents, and smaller ones for supplies and groceries. But they only work if you know how to use them, so ask for tips or read your dry bag’s directions to make sure user error doesn’t result in all your stuff getting soaked.
And like backpacking, always keep a pair of socks and a full set of dry clothing to avoid hypothermia and stay comfortable at camp.
“The first ride is always the hardest,” says Ferguson. “But once you do it, it becomes so much easier.” Build confidence by renting a boat for the day, camping just for the night, or taking a guided tour. You’ll be navigating waterways in no time and pitching your tent in scenic waterfront locations.