It’s that time of year when warmer days invite us to take longer and more adventurous paddling trips. For many of us, overnight camping is part of the journey. Camping out of a kayak, like other lightweight forms of camping, can be made easier by choosing gear and techniques that make chores quick and easy. Gear that can do double duty for a variety of tasks can help to keep our loads lighter and more clutter-free.
Choosing a campsite is an important decision for your comfort and enjoyment of the trip. Often this means camping on or around beaches, the fascinating and dynamic boundary between water and land. I like to keep one eye on the weather and one on the ebb and flow of tides, so I prefer beach camps to have the visibility of sky and water, and to be relatively bug-free.
Pitching tents in the shoreline environment can pose some challenges, as you may be dealing with anything from loose dry sand to good-sized rocks. Even self-supporting tents must be anchored in most situations, and when tent stakes prove inadequate for the task and driftwood isn’t available, look to some of your other pieces of gear to help in the pitching process. Many items not immediately needed, such as extra cook pots, a bilge pump, or spare paddle, can be wedged into the sand and serve as anchor points. Stuff sacks and dry bags can be filled with stones and used as tie-down points or placed inside the corners of the tent body to anchor it against the wind. Likewise, kayak grab handles and deck lines can be recruited into service as rain-fly guyline points if needed.
Tents are awkward bundles to pack into the openings of some kayaks. If so, pack the tent components in separate stuff sacks. The rigid pole bag will often fit alongside the seat in the cockpit if nowhere else. Because camping around water often results in morning condensation, I usually pack the rain fly in an accessible place to retrieve and dry out during a lunch break, rather than waste valuable early-morning time (when seas are the calmest).
Cooking on a kayak trip also poses some unique issues. If no convenient tables or logs are available, your kayak might be the best sand-free surface for miscellaneous camp chores. If it’s windy, the inside of the cockpit or stern compartment can act as an effective windscreen and provide a stable surface for the stove. You will want to avoid food spills and odors in your kayak, however, if you are expecting nighttime visitors of, say, raccoon-size or larger.
Using a kayak to anchor the windward side and two paddles as poles, along with adequate guylines, you can rig up a serviceable shelter even in the most austere settings.