kayak camping checklist - packing and gear essentials

Kayak Camping Checklist [Gear List]

In Beginner Kayaking Tips, Camping Tips and DIY Guides, Kayaking, Products and Gear by Jamie WilkinsonLeave a Comment

Kayak Camping Checklist

Kayak Camping Packing List - Kitchen - Cooking Kit

Just like in Scouts!

So you’ve decided, today is the day you’re going to start planning the long-anticipated kayak camping trip.  That’s awesome!  Your kayak camping checklist should be one of the first steps in preparing your trip.

Obviously, if you’ve ever been camping you know how heavy your pack gets, and by the end of a weekend hike you have blisters on your feet, your legs are jello and your back is in a twisted, sore mess.  Well, at least for a 41-year-old me that’s the case. 

Kayak camping takes the stress out of lugging 50+ pounds down a mountain.  Although kayak camping does limit you to the water, you can carry just as much if not more, and still come home with a relatively unhurt body. 

This is why kayak camping is probably a quick developing, relaxing favorite of mine.

Now, because you aren’t strapping a pack to your back and feeling the amount of weight you’re carrying, don’t get too overzealous packing your kayak. 

Remember, you still need to flip it back over in the case you make an oops. 

If you take on too much water, you’ll have a very difficult time recovering with an overweight kayak.  Keep this in mind when you gather you’re final packing list and what your skill level is.  

Not sure how to get back in your kayak if you flip it?  Here’s what to do if you capsize.

Your number one priority with your gear and food is keeping it dry.  I’ve collected about a dozen waterproof bags of various sizes over the years.  The small ones are great for my toiletries or fire starting kit.  Medium size ones hold my clothes and other hygiene items.  The larger ones hold my food, sleeping bag, and hammock.  So your very first item to have on hand and ready to use is waterproof bags!  Get many and get many sizes.

Hygiene

Kayak Camping Packing List - Hygiene

Portable toothbrush holder

Just because you’re on a river, at a lake, or in the Everglades, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of yourself.  You still need to brush your teeth, wash your hands, clean your utensils as well shower, if it’s an extended trip. 

Your body still functions normally when you’re kayaking, so you’ll need to be “using the little boys or girls room” occasionally.

Here are some items you should consider adding to your kayak camping checklist for keeping yourself and family clean and healthy while kayak camping.  

I didn’t include a first aid kit within hygiene because I believe the first aid kid deserves its own category.  

Towel and Washcloth

Toilet Paper

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

Deodorant

Hand Sanitizer

Biodegradable Wipes

Bug and Tick Repellant

Spare Eyeglasses or Contact Lenses

Biodegradable Soap

Lip Balm

Sunscreen

Earplugs / Eyemask

Sunglasses

Comb or Brush

Prescription Medications

Vitamins

Small Mirror

Mouthwash

Solar Shower Bag

Feminine Products

Razor and Shaving Cream

Any Other Personal Items

Kitchen and Cooking

Cooking while camping is probably one of my most enjoyable aspects of kayak camping or camping in general for that matter.   Occasionally I like to use mother nature as a means to hold my hot dogs and marshmallows, but most often I enjoy the modern conveniences like a pan and spatula. 

You can cook your food in a variety of ways so this list will cover some of the options you’ll have.

Personally, I use a rocket stove and the fire when I cook.

Sometimes I’ll use the stove for heating water to cook my MRE (dried meal) or make coffee, and I’ll throw a tin-foil wrapped potato right into the fire. 

Just a choice you’ll need to make when determining what to bring along to get the job done. 

There are kits that come with a pan, utensils, plate, and bowl all in one little package. 

For those who were also in Boy Scouts, you know what I’m talking about.

Cooking Stove

Extra Fuel

Frying Pan and Pot

Paper Towels

Plates and Cups

Utensils – I use a spork

Pot Holder

Water Bottles

Tin Foil

Can Opener

Knife

Flexible Cutting Board

Roasting Sticks

Sponge for cleaning

Biodegradable Soap

Drying Towel

Spatula

Large Spoon

Whisk

Measuring Cup

Measuring Spoons

Coffee Making

Trash Bags

Cooking Spray

Tongs

Sandwich Bags

Camp Grill

Lighter

Collapsible Cooler

Ice Pack

Not all of the items on the kayak camping checklist are needed for camping, so you’ll need to decide what is going to be required based on the foods you plan on cooking and eating. 

You may find that with the ability to carry a little more weight while kayak camping, you’ll want to cook some more elaborate meals. 

My advice is to get your menu together first, then decide how you’re cooking it!  

Food for Meals and Snacks

Kayak Camping Packing List - Food - Strawberries

Strawberry Patch

I know I like to eat and I don’t really want to be limited on what I can enjoy just because I’m camping. 

There again is another added benefit of kayak camping.  With the ability to carry things a little easier, you CAN bring that extra couple pounds of bacon and sausage without the worry of being weighed down. 

By no means is this list an end all, be all when it comes to food choices.  This is just a basic guide for what you could need while paddling down the river for the weekend.  

Adding a variety of foods to your kayak camping checklist is the easiest way to feel like you’re at home on the river.   

Coffee and/or Tea

Powdered Creamer

Sugar

Granola Bars

Salt / Pepper

Herbs and Seasonings

Eggs (make sure to get a little carrier)

Powdered Pancake Mix

Syrup

Butter

Peanut Butter

Bread

Freeze Dried Meats

Powdered Drink Mix

MRE’s (Meals Ready-to-Eat)

Protein and Energy Bars

Marshmallows

Chocolate

Graham Crackers

Hot Dogs

Burgers

Trail Mix

Potatoes

Bacon

Sausage

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Again, this list is truly endless on what you can bring and cook on your kayak camping adventure. 

Remember to plan how many meals and snacks you will need and if you’ll be packing for others. 

Make sure your company doesn’t have any restrictive diets or allergies that you need to be aware of.  

Make it fun!

The last time I went was a Friday afternoon until Sunday mid-morning. 

So I knew I needed dinner and snack for Friday. 

I also needed breakfast for Saturday and Sunday, lunch and dinner for Saturday, and a few snacks. 

Of course, I needed multiple cups of coffee and almost always at each meal.  I did bring some energy bars as snacks and some homemade trail mix with extra chocolates and pistachios.  

Another option if you aren’t the cooking type is MRE’s.  MRE’s are ready-to-eat packs that typically only need hot water to rehydrate the meal.  

Gear for Around the Campsite

Kayak Camping Packing List - Around the Camp - Sleeping Bag

Lightweight, 3 Season Sleeping Bag

Now we have our kitchen stocked and our bodies cleaned, let’s talk about our campsite.  

There are certain things we’re going to need to really function around the camp.  This includes where we sleep, how we get our drinking water and how to dispose of waste. 

I haven’t slept in a tent for a number of years, I’ve been using a hammock and absolutely loving it. 

Tent

Tent Stakes (also for tying down tarps)

Hammer or Hatchet for getting the stakes in the ground

Hammock

Sleeping Bag

Sleeping Pad or Air Mattress

Pillow

Tarp

Flashlight, Headlamp, and Lanterns

Fire Starting Kit (Petroleum Jelly soaked cotton balls, starter sticks, matches, lighters)

Shovel

Multi-tool and/or Knife

Fishing Pole and Tackle (Don’t forget your fishing license)

Waterproof Bags (You really can’t have too many of these)

Saw or Axe

2 Way Radios for making it easy to communicate

Extra Batteries

Solar Battery Charger (great for keeping your cell phone charged all day)

Water Purification System (filter bag, straw filter, filter pump, iodine pills)

Disposal Bags for Human Waste

Compass

Paracord or Rope

Clothing and Footwear

Kayak Camping Packing List - Clothing and Footwear - Feet

Bring clothes that fit…

You can’t wear the same outfit for the entire outing.  

Well… I suppose you could but if you aren’t alone you may offend friends or family.  

You will also need some spare clothes in case you get a little wet.  I’d advocate for some quick drying shorts or swim trunks. 

It’s probably a wise idea to put on a tee shirt or sunscreen.  Neither of which I practice faithfully, so do as I say, not as I do.

The quantity of each item you need will be determined by the length of your journey so keep that in mind when packing.       

Socks

Underwear

Bra

Long-sleeve Shirt

Short Sleeve Shirt or Tanktop

Sweatshirt or Light Jacket

Rain Gear (Poncho or full rain suits)

Shorts (Quick drying is ideal)

Pants (Quick drying as well)

Flip Flops, Crocs or Sandals for lounging around the campsite

Sneakers or Hiking Boots if you plan on exploring

Gloves

Hat

Sleep Clothes

Laundry Bag

Belt

Extras and Activities

Kayak Camping Packing List - Extras - GoPro Mount

GoPro mounted to the front of the Kayak

You can certainly have a bare-bones camping trip that entails nothing but kicked back floating down the river.  

Personally, I like to video my kayak trips.  I usually use the GoPro that I mount with some double-sided tape to the front of my kayak.  It gives a nice perspective if you get into some rapids.  

Because of this filming hobby, I need to be sure to have the batteries charged, and memory cards ready.  I do bring a solar power battery pack, which I can then use to charge my phone and camera batteries.  

Here’s a video of the lake we live near and paddle around all season.  I shot this with my drone last spring.

While I’m kayak camping or camping in general, I don’t like to be on my phone unless it’s an emergency or taking pictures.  

I do try to bring some entertainment that doesn’t require technology though. 

However, if I go kayaking alone I usually bring my Kindle. I like to read in front of the fire while hanging in my hammock.  

If you like to color, bring some crayons and a coloring book.  My daughter brought word search book and her DSLR camera.  

It really depends on what your hobbies are and what would interest you while you’re out on an island.

GPS

Whistle

Camera with battery, film or memory cards

Candles

Maps (maps of the river your kayaking on are great. They can show you where to avoid and where to camp)

AM/FM Radio

Harmonica

Binoculars

Safety Pins

Cash

ID and Credit Card (keep inside a separate waterproof bag)

Travel Alarm Clock

Small Sewing Kit

Guidebooks

Field Guides to birds, trees, flowers or insects

Star Chart (most smartphones have stargazing apps)

Notebook and Pencils

Mounts for any cameras you’ll be using

Deck of Cards

Notebook or Journal

Book, Magazines, or Kindle

Small foldable pocket games (chess, checkers, tic-tac-toe)

Handheld Amateur Radio Reciever (need to be licensed)

Fishing Pole and Tackle

Solar Charger for Phones and Camera Batteries

Dog Toys (if you brought your pooch)

First Aid

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

A good First Aid Kit is truly a matter of life and death.  When on an island and an injury occurs, you need to be prepared.  *

In an emergency, remember, you are not just a phone call away from an ambulance ride to the closest medical facility.

Even though you may have cell phone service, and you are able to phone for help, it’s going to take them some time to get to you.  For these reasons, being prepared with the right equipment, and the knowledge to handle an emergency medical situation is paramount. 

*It’s always recommended and encouraged for you to take a first aid course with your local ambulance or fire company.  Not only will you gain the knowledge of what to do, you should gain the confidence to respond if needed.

Personal Medications

Roll Bandages

Medical Adhesive Tape

Antiseptic Wipes

Gauze Pads

Cotton Swabs

Bee Sting or Snake Bite Kit

Feminine Products

Aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen

Hydrogen Peroxide

Emergency Blanket

Antibiotic Cream

Antibacterial Soap

Butterfly Bandages

Thermometer

Sterile Latex Gloves

Hot and Cold Compress

Eye Drops

Burn Cream

Mole Skin

Nail Clippers

Tissues

Iodine Tablets

Band-Aids of assorted sizes

Pocket First Aid Manual

Coins and Cash

That’s my gear packing list for now.  Obviously, I won’t be packing all of these items in my kayak, but I will be using this guide as a starting point. I’ll begin gathering the gear I need to enjoy my next kayak camping trip.

Before you head out on the water, here are 7 Kayak Camping Survival Tips just in case!

7 main categories for planning your kayak camping list

  1. Hygiene – toothbrush, soap, medications
  2. Kitchen and Cooking – pots, pans, plates
  3. Food – chocolate, hot dogs, snacks
  4. Around the campsite – tent, stove, sleeping bag
  5. Clothing and Footwear – rain gear, shirts, gloves
  6. Extras and Fun – cameras, book, maps
  7. First Aid – bandages, nail clippers, antibiotic cream

Keep these 7 main categories on your mind while packing and you won’t forget a thing.  

If there are items not mentioned in this kayak camping checklist, please feel free to comment below with your tips, ideas, and suggestions.  

FREE Downloadable and Printable PDF coming shortly…

Share this Post

About the Author

Jamie Wilkinson

A jack of all trades and master of none. I like do-it-yourself projects and working with all types of materials. Being on the water is one of my favorite things to do. Kayak camping is something I wish I could do year round.

Leave a Comment