7 Kayak Camping Survival Tips and Tricks

[cs_content][cs_element_section _id=”1″][cs_element_row _id=”2″][cs_element_column _id=”3″][cs_text _order=”0″]

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h1″ looks_like=”h2″ accent=”true”]Kayak Camping Survival Tips[/custom_headline]

Kayak camping survival is no different than any other survival situation. All survival is dependant on our skills, abilities, and training.

7 survival tips just don’t seem like enough. I have quite a few books that I’ve read and collected over the years. From a Boy Scout handbook to my Marine Corps training manuals, there are thousands of pages of survival techniques within my reach.

Here are the ones I thought could come in handy if the need arises.  For more detailed information on each one, just keep reading.

7 Kayak Camping Survival Tips

1. Build an emergency shelter with a tarp (or a poncho) and some rope.
2. Filter water for drinking with items around the campsite.
3. Make your pants a floatation device.
4. Know how to recover from a capsize.
5. Eat plants, fish, and trap your food.
6. A signal for help.
7. Stay Calm.  

1. A Place to Lie Your Head

If you find yourself kayak camping and either forgot or lost your tent, this one can be a saving grace. You will need a tarp or you could use a poncho in a bind. You’ll also need some rope or paracord.

I try and bring at least 50 feet of paracord when kayak camping. You can never have too much paracord.

  • Find a couple of trees about 8’-10’ apart.
  • Using your rope or paracord, tie the rope from tree to tree at roughly shoulder height.
  • Now evenly drape your tarp over the tied up rope.
  • Using either tent stakes if you have them, or sticks about the thickness of your thumb, tie down the 4 corners of your tarp.
  • If your kayak paddle two pieces, you can use them to hold up one side of your shelter. This makes getting in and out easier.
Emergency Tarp Shelter
Emergency tarp shelter

That’s it! That’s the basic setup for an emergency shelter.

2. Filter for Your Water

You can typically survive for 3 days without water but I wouldn’t suggest it.  Depriving your body of water for too long can have serious side effects and can even be fatal.  

Dehydration Symptoms


Dry Skin

Dry Mouth


Dark Colored Urine

Fatigue and dizziness

The longer you go without water will only intensify these symptoms as well as add some more severe problems.

Increased Body Temperature

Muscle Cramps and Spasms

Difficulty Breathing


Rapid Heart Rate


*If you ever feel you may be dehydrated and you are able to reach clean drinking water, drink that first.  If you feel it’s severe dehydration, seek medical help immediately.

How To Make a Water Filter

Materials Needed:

  • Plastic water or soda bottle with a lid.  The larger it is the better.
  • Shirt or other cloth
  • Rocks, gravel, and sand
  • Charcoal – Gathered after a fire.


  1. Cut the bottom of the plastic bottle off as close to the end as possible.  You’ll want the most amount of room possible.
    Kayak camping survival water filter
    Example of a DIY Charcoal water filter
  2. Poke a few small holes in the lid and screw it back on.
  3. Place a piece of the cloth at the bottom (well, the top really).
  4. Now break the charcoal up and place it on top of the cloth inside the bottle.  Get the pieces as small as you can.
  5. Place a layer of clean sand over the charcoal, then a layer of fine gravel rocks.
  6. Put another layer of the sand and another layer of gravel.  
  7. Place a clean drinking cup under the lid, and slowly pour the unfiltered water into the top where the rocks and sand are.

*You’ll want all these layers to be relatively even, so that’ll be determined by the size of the container you’re using.

It will take a little time for the water to make its way through and out the cap, but it will.  Actually, I feel like the longer it takes, the cleaner it should be. Whether that’s true or not I have no research for, just my thought.  

This filter will produce drinkable water in an absolute emergency situation.  It won’t get everything out that is harmful, and it’s always best to boil the water after it’s filtered.  This way you’ll know for sure it’s clean, filtered, and free of bacteria.

3. Floating By the Seat of Your Pants

The first time I remember this trick was in middle school. We were told to bring in a pair of jeans that could get wet. It’s a really cool trick and I was even taught this in the marine corps with our BDUs.

If your kayak camping, you should already be wearing your life jacket. With that said, if there’s a tsunami while you’re at your campsite, and you find yourself floating down the river, this is the perfect trick.

  1. Using a double knot, tie the pant legs together as close to the end as you can.
  2. Put your head between the legs with the knot behind you and the waist in front.
  3. Hold the waist open under the water.  Use your other hand in a cup shape, and  “scoop” air down under the water and into the pants legs.
  4. It will take 3 or 4 “scoops” to have the legs filled with air completely.
  5. You’ll need to hold the waist down with one hand, and you can use the other to help stay afloat.

It won’t hold air forever, and you may have to refill it, but in a survival situation, it’s a lifesaver.

4. Are You Prepared For a Capsize?

Capsized Kayak

I guess this isn’t necessarily a “kayak camping survival” tip so much as it’s a “general kayak” type of tip.  Nonetheless, a real survival situation can occur if you capsize and you need to be prepared.

I wrote an article for beginner kayakers answering the question “Do Kayaks Tip Easily”.  In that article, I explain and show the techniques used to recover from a capsize. If you don’t know how to get back on your kayak after a fall, you need to practice it now!

Not being able to regain control of your kayak could be devastating.  Aside from possibly losing all your gear to the current or the bottom of the river, you could potentially be stranded with no kayak.

Check out my article on Do Kayaks Tip Easily?

5. Get yourself some fresh food

Kayak Camp Fishing
Fishing for Food from your kayak

While you’re doing the daily grind of surviving the elements and staying hydrated, you may get hungry. If you ran out of food or it was taken by the river, there’s still plenty of options available.

Since I don’t know where you’re located, I can’t tell you what edible plants are common in your location. What I’d suggest is picking up a guidebook on edible plants for the area you’re in or where you plan on being.

Ok, so you didn’t get the guidebook. Now you don’t know what plants are safe and which will have you seeing a smoking caterpillar.  Better not risk it I’d say.

Another option is fish.

If you happen to be out kayak fishing when catastrophe strikes, you’re all set. If not, here are a few options for catching some fish in a survival situation.

Fishing Survival Tips

Minnow Trap

Kayak Camping survival minnow trap
Minnow Trap
  • You’ll need 2 plastic bottles for this one.  
  • Simply cut the top off of one bottle, and the bottom of the other.
  • Put some sand or rocks to keep it weighed down to the bottom, and some food.  A piece of bread or cracker will work fine.
  • Then put the top you cut off, into the bottom.  
  • This design allows the small fish to swim in but not out.  
  • After you catch a bunch, you can either eat them or use them as bait for larger fish.  

Paracord Fishing Line

  • Now you have the minnows but that won’t really fill you up.  You’ll need some larger fish to do that. 
  • In a pinch, you could take a piece of your paracord and separate the individual pieces within the liner.  Now you have yourself some thinner line you could use to catch some fish.
  • A safety pin can be used as a hook.  One can also be made from wood.
  •  You can utilize the other strands from your paracord to reinforce your hook or to secure it to the line. Now you have a down and dirty fishing line.

Trapping Survival Tips

In a survival situation, you need all the calories you can get.  If fishing isn’t working for you and you don’t know what plants you can eat, trapping your food is another option to consider.  There are so many various types of traps for small game that can be made. there’s no way to list them all, so here’s just one to get you started.

Deadfall Trap – This one can take some practice setting up, but it’s extremely effective at catching mice or other small rodents.  You can use a heavier deadfall rock, and that can catch you a slightly larger game.

Kayak Camping survival deadfall trap
Typical deadfall Trap

6. Signaling For Help

So, you got yourself stranded on an island with no kayak or paddle.  Maybe you capsized and injured yourself. Whatever the reason you’re stuck, and you need to get help.  If your gear was lost and you have no phone, you’re not totally screwed.

The One Time Smoking is Good for You

kayak camping survival smoke signals
Sending smoke signals

Starting a fire is a great way of getting the attention of rescuers. However, for the best results and most visibility, after the fire’s burning hot, add some green sticks and grass.  This will increase the smoke cloud and hopefully increase the chance of being rescued.


I’d hate to be stranded on a tropical island, just as I’m sure you would.  If you did, however, find yourself stuck on the sandy white beaches of a Caribbean island, signaling for help can be done another way as well. (do you sense the sarcasm?)

If it’s known that you’re lost, and search efforts are underway, airplanes will most likely be used.  Using sticks or parts of your gear, spell out HELP or SOS on the beach to hopefully attract the eyes of rescuers.  Use the most contrasting colors that you have available. This will help someone see it clearly.

A mirror is another great option if you have one available.  Using the sun and mirror to flash a passing boat or plane could save definitely save your skin.

7. Staying Calm

This may sound like a cop-out to 7 survival tips, but staying calm is the most important thing to remember.  If you aren’t calm, you’re in trouble. Here are several things you can do to stay calm if disaster strikes.

Be Prepared

Kayak camping survival checklistPrepare now before a survival situation occurs.  Practice your paddling and recovering techniques on the water. On land, take some classes in first aid and CPR. The more knowledge and practice you have, the more second nature it will become.

Being prepared and trained for a “what if” will help keep you calm if the time does come.

Assess and Determine

When panic sets in, our minds dart from one direction to the next.  You need to stop and focus.

Assess the situation and determine what needs to be done.  Remember, you KNOW what to do. You have prepared for this.  


That’s right, get your ass in gear and get it done, NOW!!!!

When your training takes over and your body begins to react to the situation, stay focused on one thing at a time.  Doing this will help you maintain control of your emotions and fears by focusing your mind elsewhere. There will be time to reflect later, now is the time to get up and get moving.

Stay Safe and Have Fun

There needs to be one lesson here, and that is preparation.  Of course, there are a hundred other ways to make a shelter or signal for help. The most important part of survival is preparation.

Hopefully, these kayak camping survival tips helped you.  To learn about the many mental and physical Health Benefits of Kayaking click here.  There are plenty more tips on staying safe,  so, leave a comment below with yours.

[/cs_text][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][cs_element_section _id=”10″][cs_element_row _id=”11″][cs_element_column _id=”12″][x_share title=”Share this Post” share_title=”” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”false” pinterest=”true” reddit=”true” email=”true” email_subject=”Hey, thought you might enjoy this! Check it out when you have a chance:”][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][cs_element_section _id=”19″][cs_element_row _id=”20″][cs_element_column _id=”21″][x_author title=”About the Author” author_id=””][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][cs_element_section _id=”28″][cs_element_row _id=”29″][cs_element_column _id=”30″][cs_element_text _id=”31″][/cs_element_column][cs_element_column _id=”32″][cs_element_text _id=”33″][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

Jamie Wilkinson

I'm a fervent lover of the great outdoors, having spent countless hours soaking in the tranquility and beauty that nature offers. My passion for kayaking and camping has led me to explore numerous waterways and campgrounds, each journey adding to my treasure trove of experiences. Through KayakCampingWorld.com, I aim to share these adventures and insights with you. My hope is to inspire fellow outdoor enthusiasts and provide valuable guidance, whether you're paddling your first kayak or setting up camp for the hundredth time. Dive into my articles, and let's embark on this outdoor journey together!

Recent Posts