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Kayak Camping for Beginners (The Ultimate Guide)

Mann beim Kajak camping im Schnee mit Lagerfeuer.

A two-hour round over the nearby lake is a good thing for beginners. Especially lately there are many kayakers on the water again. The good mixture of relaxation on the water and sports activities is one of the main reasons for the popularity of kayaking. In addition to relaxing short trips on weekends, you can also experience real kayaking adventures.

We have already had some great experiences with kayak camping. With a suitable kayak, proper provisions and camping equipment, you can cover long distances that would not be possible in one day. On the kayak trips lasting several days you can tour hundreds of kilometres across Germany or world history, or just ride upriver for one day, set up your tent in the evening and return the next morning. In the afternoon at the latest you will be back at your starting point.

Kayak camping is wonderful. During the day you can paddle and use the breaks for fishing. In the evening the tent is set up at the camping site, a delicious dinner is prepared and the late evening hours are spent comfortably in front of a campfire. In our opinion there is hardly anything better in the world.

However, we are often met by kayakers who do not dare to go camping for several days. With this comprehensive guide we want to refute your concerns and make your first kayak trip of several days a great experience with our tips for choosing a suitable kayak and packing lists for provisions and accessories.

What is Kayak Camping?

Kayak camping is a type of camping where a kayak is used to drive to the next camping site. Essentially, kayak camping is a mixture of backpacking and car camping – only on the water.

On the trip between two campsites, as with backpacking, all your luggage is always with you. Most canoes offer plenty of storage space and much more space for equipment and provisions than a backpack. As with car camping, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort.

Kayak Camping vs. Canoe Camping

The main difference between kayaks and canoes, which are often mistakenly referred to as canoes, is the open design of the canoes. In addition, canoes use a one-sided paddle, while kayaks use double paddles.

We have already covered the differences between kayaks and canoes in detail. Here are the differences in terms of camping experience. Canoes offer more storage space and are often wide, which provides more stability. The disadvantage is that the extra storage space is open. However, dry bags or a tarpaulin can be used to protect the luggage.

Kayaks offer less storage space, but the luggage is protected from the water. Below deck or in storage hatches the camping equipment, changing clothes and provisions remain dry. Kayaks also cope better with turbulent waters and wind. In addition, the kayaks are lighter, can reach higher speeds and are easier to manoeuvre.

Ultimately, however, both types of kayak can be used for camping trips. In the past, canoes were often used for camping trips lasting several days. Nowadays, however, kayaks are more common. This is mainly due to the meteoric rise of inflatable kayaks, which quickly gained popularity due to low prices. Some inflatable touring kayaks are also great for camping trips.

5 tips for kayak camping

With the right preparation kayak camping is a great thing. The following tips will give you everything you need for your first kayak tours, from planning and packing your equipment to safety tips.

  • Planning: For the first tours a simple route with calm water should be chosen, which does not have too long stretches. The average paddler covers 10 to 20 km per day. Experienced kayakers can easily double or triple this value, but on your first multi-day trip you should take it slow. It is best to choose a day with good weather for the “maiden voyage”. Plan first only a two day tour with only one overnight stay. For the choice of route it is also important whether you want to paddle, fish a lot or spend more time in front of the campfire in the evening. The day’s goals are set accordingly. Also bring a printout of the route in a waterproof cover.
  • Organization: Dry bags are a good choice for kayak camping. On the one hand they keep the equipment dry. On the other hand, dry bags can be used to sort the equipment. We recommend a separate dry bag for the clothes, one for cutlery and cooking equipment. Furthermore, an empty hiking backpack is handy to carry your luggage from the boat to the camping site.
  • Packing: The space on the kayak is limited. Perhaps the most important step is to load the kayak. When fully loaded, a kayak behaves very differently from an empty kayak. The weight must be evenly distributed and should be as low as possible to minimise the impact of riding. When selecting the equipment, the maximum carrying capacity must also be taken into account. Heavy luggage should be placed in the front and rear, while light items should be stored centrally. Important items used in paddling should be easily accessible. A GPS device, a first aid kit, a map in a waterproof case and a smartphone in a waterproof case should always be within reach.
  • Safety: Kayak camping is only for experienced kayakers. Before the first overnight kayak tour, a test run should be carried out, during which you load all the equipment onto the boat and take a little lap. In this way you will get used to the new sailing feeling and you will be able to change the load or the distribution of the load. Wearing a life jacket is always part of kayaking. Especially when kayaking in cold water there are dangers.
  • Type of Kayak: Allround kayaks (cheap, wide kayaks that are suitable for beginners) and touring kayaks (best choice for longer distances that are fast, stable and true to track) are suitable for kayak camping. The best kayaks are those that offer shelter from the water, are safe in the water, are easy to manoeuvre and allow a good straight ride.

Kayak Camping Packlist

For a kayak camping trip the same things have to be packed as for backpacking. You will also need kayaking equipment that is adapted to the season and weather. You shouldn’t overdo it with the equipment. In any case, stay well below the maximum load.

A good starting point for planning your own kayak camping tour is our packing list:

Camping equipment

  • tent
  • sleeping bag
  • drinking water
  • provisions
  • snacks
  • Gas cooker with gas cartridge
  • garments
  • Cookware, plates and cutlery
  • torch
  • Lighter or matches
  • pocket knives

Kayak equipment

  • paddles
  • life jacket
  • dry bags
  • splash guard
  • Waterproof mobile phone cover
  • whistle
  • Compass and GPS device
  • bug spray
  • Map in waterproof cover
  • repair kit
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen

Optional

  • fishing gear

Several-day kayak tours are among the best things there are for outdoor sports. At first glance, a kayak trip of several days seems like an elaborate undertaking. With some preparation and the right equipment this is no problem.

Of course, the kayak offers less storage space than a car or a caravan. But that doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel. With a little creativity and practice, the boat is quickly packed and ready to go.

If you sit around the campfire in the evening after all the effort, listen to the splashing of the water and the creaking of the wood, you know that all the work was worth it.

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