By Jim Ware
Since first learning of the Lewis and Clark expedition back in grade school, I had always daydreamed of exploring a river or lake in a canoe loaded with everything needed for several days. Over the past decade, I have been fortunate enough to go on many fishing trips where I’ve spent one or more nights kayak camping on a river bank, a lakeshore or an island. Those experiences have allowed me to develop a pretty simple process that covers almost every aspect for a successful, fun and most importantly, safe adventure.
First you will need to decide on your destination and for me the weather and time of year play a major role in this search. I definitely don’t want to travel to the barrier islands of Georgia in the dead of summer knowing the mosquito and black gnat population will exceed the stars in the sky. I keep a close eye on weather systems and will cancel a trip in a heartbeat if severe weather is forecast. A fully loaded kayak paddled against 20 mph winds takes the fun out of it.
The next step will be to check the laws regarding camping. Is it public property? Are open flames allowed? Are you required to have animal-proof food containers? Some areas have very strict rules regarding human waste and require that you bring it out with any other trash that you generate. Obviously you will need to know the state fish and game laws and license requirements.
We are going on a fishing trip! If you are like me your fishing gear alone can take up all all of the available space on your boat. On an overnight kayak trip, the key is to minimize. Only take a few rods and carry the tackle you know you will use because your camping gear will take up much more space and weigh more than you may realize.
My kayak camping gear isn’t much different than what an ultralight backpacker would take:
• Small backpack or a dry bag to hold all essential gear.
• Hammock or light weight 1 or 2 man tent.
• Seasonal clothing that is light and moisture wicking.
• Prepackaged freeze dried meals.
• Small lightweight camp stove with fuel.
• Small backpacker’s cook kit.
• Survival/First Aid kit
• Extra paddle
• Enough water for the trip along with a water purifier.
Water may very well be the heaviest single item that you take and loading all of this properly onto your boat is very important.
The key to loading extra equipment into your kayak is to have it balanced. Every make of boat handles a load differently and I recommend a test run before you go. I personally like having even weight on the sides and the stern a bit heavier than the bow. When deciding how your boat should be loaded, do not exceed the maximum weight limit.
As we all know, kayak fishing is the most enjoyable sport on the planet and taking your kayak on a camping trip only makes it better. Consider these tips, use your imagination, wear your PFD and experience the adventure of a lifetime. It starts just around the bend in the river.