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Kayak Camping – planning and preparation
  |  First Published: June 2016



Recently we caught up with friends who were planning to hike The Overland Track in Tasmania. After digging through the lightweight camping gear and gadgets that I carry on my adventures camping, they selected a few items that may make their adventure more comfortable, safer and more enjoyable. One thing led to another and by the end of the night we also had a basic plan together for an upcoming overnight kayak camping and fishing adventure.

Planning and preparation are key components of any successful kayak camping adventure, so I thought I would take this opportunity to break down these components while planning our upcoming adventure.

Camping lightweight from a kayak allows you to make the most of available time, spend more time on the water at peak bite times (dawn and dusk), and base yourself further from your launch site, often in less pressured and more productive waters. It’s also a great way to explore this magic country, escape the hustle and bustle of the everyday and catch up with mates, sharing a few fishing tales around a fire or lantern. Whether it’s being dropped off at a local river and picked up downstream a day or two later, paddling to a picturesque island campground to make the most of a weekend, or embarking on a multi-day kayak touring adventure, a quick Google for camping areas in your region of interest or a search for commercial kayak camping tours anywhere in the world could see you on the water.

Getting Started

Always remember safety first – assess the level of risk before making any decisions. It is important to consider your skill and fitness level, along with the payload of your kayak and whether it is designed to carry this payload over long distances. Then it’s time to select a destination, taking into account your launch point, distance to be travelled, weather, available facilities, booking and permits, insects and wildlife, and the timeframe that you have available.

Gearing Up

When it comes to selecting gear it’s often a balance between the available space and payload of your kayak, and the weight and pack size of the gear that you wish to carry. You need to tick all of the basic needs, such as shelter, bedding, cooking, lighting and food and water. If you are travelling with others, sharing gear such as an icebox, cooker, area lantern and bug spray, can allow you each to carry a few more luxuries. The evolution of hiking gear has created a multitude of equipment options that are perfect for kayak campers. Let’s take a brief look at each category of gear that you may want to consider.

Food and Water

If you’re doing an overnighter you may be able to carry standard meals in an icebox. Alternatively you may opt for packet or tinned options. We often carry freeze dried meals designed for hikers and these are pretty tasty, nutritious, come in a wide variety of meal options, are lightweight and simply require the addition of boiling water. These can be eaten straight from the packet to minimise dishes, or we often carry bread wraps and spoon these meals into the wraps for additional fuel.

Always carry more water than you think you will need for your trip. It’s a good idea to store water in multiple smaller containers rather than one large container, just in case this container leaks or is contaminated. Carrying a means of making safe drinking water, such as water purification tablets, a Steripen or Lifestraw is also a good idea.

Shelter

Hiking tents are the most popular shelter option for kayak campers and important things to consider include the erected size and configuration, pack size and weight, and depending on your destination, mesh screens and ventilation.

Bedding

Sleeping bags are the most commonly used bedding option and it’s important to consider fit size, pack size and weight, temperature rating, left or right hand zip, tapering, hood and I would suggest, a quality synthetic bag over down (feathers) as they retain their loft and therefore ability to capture air and keep you warm – even when wet.

Sleep mats are the most common bed option for kayak campers, including lightweight foam mats, inflatable mats and self-inflating mats. In cooler weather, insulated mats are needed to reduce the cold rising from the ground, while in tropical regions you can go extremely light with simple uninsulated inflatable mats. To minimise weight and bulk further you can opt for a tapered mat or 3/4-size mat that run from the head to the hips. Sea to Summit has an excellent range of mats, pillows and pumps for kayak campers.

Cooking

There are a range of cooking options available, with fuel options that include butane, methylated spirits, wood chips, fuel tablets such as hexamine and more. A couple of my favourite options include the Jet Boil butane cooker, which is simple, fast and ideal for short trips and the Trangia which is ideal for larger groups, longer adventures and you can cook a lot of meals on a single Trangia bottle filled with methylated spirits, making it extremely inexpensive to run.

When it comes to lighting these appliances, or lighting a campfire for cooking, check out the Fire Steel from Light My Fire, designed to produce high temperature sparks when struck with the included striker, even when wet.

Kitchen

When it comes to kitchen items it’s hats off to Sea to Summit again, a company that develops innovative, functional solutions for lightweight adventurers. I have a lightweight kitchen kit loaded with their products, including ultralight cutlery, folding plates, bowls, cups and pots, folding bucket and sink, spice holder, environmentally friendly wash and more.

Lighting

There are two forms of lighting we carry, a headlamp each and an area lantern for the group. We prefer headlamps that are waterproof, LED and battery operated, allowing us to carry a spare set of batteries. Area lanterns are available that are lightweight, compact and LED, offering longer run times. We use a lantern that pops open to spread and diffuse the light over a larger area for use when cooking.

Toilet and Shower

For overnight adventures you may be able to rough it, have a swim or use body wipes such as Wilderness Wipes. When travelling with your partner though, it may be worth including a Sea to Summit Pocket Shower in the kit to keep them smiling. Simply warm up some water, pour it into the lightweight shower bag, hoist it in a tree, turn the nozzle and away you go. Pocket Soap and Trek & Travel Liquid Soaps are ideal options for showering lightweight and a lightweight Tek Towel will see you dry, without the weight and bulk of traditional towels.

No one really likes to talk about the toilet, however this has been made more user-friendly with products such as the Pocket Trowel, Outhouse Toilet Roll Holder and hand sanitisers.

Safety and First Aid

When selecting a first aid kit it’s important to consider how many people are in your group, how long you will be away for and how far you will be from assistance. Most of the major first aid kits have tables on their website to assist you with your selection, along with supplementary kits that may be relevant to your adventure, such as snakebite kits.

We also carry a ‘MacGyver Kit’ that includes items such as a signal mirror, whistle, emergency blanket, multi-tool, zip ties, electrical tape, chemical lights, sunscreen, bug spray, fire starter, length of venetian blind cord and a few other items that could get us out of a sticky situation. I also have an EPIRB that joins us on our adventures, while many adventurers prefer a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon).

Navigation and Communication

Navigation is made simple with modern GPS units, however it’s a good idea to have a backup such as a chart of the area in a waterproof map case, a compass such as those that can be mounted on your kayak and an idea of where the sun will track in relation to your travels and launch point.

In terms, of communication a mobile phone is a good starting point and it’s a good idea to carry one of the portable charging options that are available. There are now attachments available that can convert your mobile phone into a satellite phone, for those on more extreme adventures. We also carry a pair of waterproof 5W handheld UHF radios, with VHF radios – an excellent option for those in remote and offshore areas. An EPIRB or PLB provides great peace of mind and is another option to alert the authorities should something go wrong. Most importantly, let someone know where you’re going, when you expect to return, how many in your group and your contact numbers. Safety first.

Clothing

The environment in which you are adventuring will often dictate your clothing, so consider heat and cold, humidity, wind and sun exposure. Technical developments in hiking clothing can be used by kayak campers, including lightweight waterproof and breathable outer layers, thermal base layers, a combination of layers rather than one heavy layer allows you to add or remove layers to better adapt to changes in temperature. Sun protection options include headwear, buffs, sun shirts, gloves, footwear and sun pants such as the quick dry Stealth Wear from Sun2Sea UV Protection.

When it comes to storing your kit, iceboxes, water drums, waterproof boxes, crates and dry bags are all good options, along with octopus straps and tie down straps for securing them. We use different coloured dry bags to easily sort, manage and locate particular items.

Whether it’s the fishing, adventure, wildlife, escape, mateship, exploration or whatever else drives you and recharges your batteries, kayak camping can be as simple as an overnighter locally or a more involved multi-day adventure further afield. On our adventures we have landed some cracker fish, watched some amazing sunrises and sunsets, interacted with wildlife such as dolphins and dugongs, and made some awesome memories. Stay tuned for a wrap up of our upcoming overnight adventures in coming issues.Caption

1

The Light My Fire Meal Kit 2.0 is ideal for kayak camping. Bowl, plate, spork, two waterproof containers, Pack-up-Cup, cutting board/strainer and harness all packs up inside itself.

2

A lightweight bedding solution – air mattress, sleeping bag, inflatable pillow and fitted sheet. The total weight of this set-up is under 2kg and fits in a medium dry bag.

3

Even your cutlery can be lightweight – hard anodised aircraft grade aluminium on the right and polycarbonate on the left.

4

Some more lightweight gems from Sea to Summit – pocket towel, ultralight backpack, pocket soap, folding bucket and even the kitchen sink!

5

Just one of the many lightweight-cooking options, the Mini Trangia, packs inside itself to minimise packing space.

6

The Mini Trangia set up and ready to cook – just add methylated spirits.

7

Hiking tents are a popular option, and this one only weighs in at about 1kg.

9

The author’s MacGyver Kit. Safety first.

10

Water drums and iceboxes are just a couple of storage options.

11

Kayak camping can put you right where the fish are.

12

Kayak camping can allow you to explore some amazing locations.

14

It’s all about location, location.

17

Looks like we’ve found our campsite.

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