Kayak Tents and Shelters

The best tent, tarp, and bivy options for boating trips.

Photo: Steve Thomsen

By Rob Lyon

When I made the pilgrimage to Aspen from SoCal in the late 60′s and found myself in the heart of the Rockies, the first thing I did was buy a tent; then I set out to explore the surrounding peaks and valleys that beckoned me. Years later, when I moved to the Pacific Northwest and discovered sea kayaking in the coastal wilderness, I was equally blessed. Edgy like the mountains, wild and remote, but dangerous if you weren’t careful. I found the shelter situation a little different there too. High-end mountaineering tents were de ri·gueur to withstand torrential rains and hurricane force winds that visited the north coast on occasion, but most of us carried roomier models to accommodate a slew of dry bags and to provide a more comfortable lifestyle when we were weathered in.

Coastal sea kayaking is as much about the beaches where we go ashore to spend the night as the water we paddle over. Northwest marine weather is fickle and prone to surprises gales and storms, particularly in fringe seasons. Even in mid-summer the chance of a steady downpour is a good bet. While some of us simply put on the rain gear and carry on with business as usual, or throw up a tarp to hunker under, others relish the downtime, relaxing in a trusted sanctuary while leaden skies piss and moan. Regardless of whether you’ve packed along a portable manse or a nylon tarp, when the rains hit the fan you’ll crawl inside or under whatever you’ve brought along and pray your long anticipated kayak trip doesn’t go from ecstasy to misery in short order thanks to a poorly chosen kayak tent.

One word of warning. Tent designers, driven by a market economy, like to bring a new face to the market place each year. Caveat Emptor is a good rule of thumb to bring along when you shop. Not all that’s new is good or better than what came before. Excellent warranties exist from all manufacturer’s listed here.

The Big Question: Tent, Tarp, Bivy or Hammock?

Big Agnes
Royal Flush
Integral Designs
Big Agnes Royal Flush Hennessy Hammock Hilleberg Staika Integral Wedge Bivy
Noahs Tarp
Mountain Hardwear
Kelty Gunnison Kelty Noahs Tarp Mountain Hardwear Trango Nemo Moki
North Face
Sierra Designs
Nemo GoGo Nemo Pentalite North Face VE25 Sierra Designs Meteor

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Add a Comment

  • http://www.the-boating-store-blog.com Doreen Murgatroyd

    You don’t say which you personally would recommend. Looking at your photo, it would perhaps be Nemo Moki?

    Weight and ease of putting it up, one would imagine would be two top considerations.

  • http://lyonexpeditions Rob Lyon

    Hey Doreen!

    My go to shelter for the northwest coast is a VE-25, but yeah, that double Moki set up was the cat’s ass.

    Weight is not an issue for me; big boat, no hurry And ease of set up is also a non-factor. I’ll gladly take the time to set up five poles and skook out my tent. I see them as sanctuaries potentially and want the best possible advantage in a storm. I like to DIG the storm and relax, not queebing about my tent busting up.

    That said, I’ll use something quick and dirty on a river trip; where we move most every day. Oftentimes, Nemo’s Go Go Ex, or something like the Noah’s Tarp is all I need.

    That help?


  • KayakGuy

    Don’t forget the simple and extremely lightweight single wall pyramid designs by Mountain Laurel Designs that have been used on many fast and light expeditions + you can use a paddle as the center pole.

  • http://twitter.com/TL TL

    Great article. Thank you for your tips!

Buyer's Guide

Buyer's Guide