What to bring kayakpacking

For flatwater kayakpacking what you bring along is going to largely depend on what you already have and your personal preferences. If you're already familiar with backpacking then you probably already have most of what you need for a great multi-night kayakpacking adventure.

Compared to backpacking or bikepacking modern touring kayaks can support a lot of gear. A lot! But beware... there is a trade-off when it comes to your load out weight. The extra weight will make you pay in reduced maneuverability, stability, and in the case of the occasional portage – convenience. Like our back and bike camping cousins we adhere to the age old adage "lighter is most always better". When there is an option to save on weight we advise that you take it.

If you are new to kayakpacking then don't let the availability of heavier gear stop you before you even get started. If you are already set-up to go car camping then with relatively little in the way of adjustment you are all set to kayackpack (just leave the cast iron pots and pans home). Start off with what you have and slowly swap out your heavier or outdated gear with lighter or more modern alternatives.

Kayakpacking gear list

While everyone's needs will vary below is a base list of what we load out on a typical multi-day kayakpacking adventure. This covers the basics of camp, clothing and cooking, with some redundancy built in for added measure where failure is not an option. Some items are linked to our budget recommendations which may be helpful if you are looking to replace some outdated or heavier items.


Paddle + spare
NRS cVest mesh back PFD 
Bilge pump
Spray skirt 
Rockagator Dry bags
Signaling whistle
Large sponge
Compass or GPS
Sealine map case


REI Half-dome 2-plus tent
NeoAir XLite MAX SV mattress
Streamlight 66318 MicroStream
Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleep Bag


Eno Doublenest hammock
Chill Gorillla tarp
Chill Gorilla mosquito net


Etekcity camp stove (2x)
Stove fuel (2x)
Solopot 30oz cook pot
CRKT Spork

Anatomy of a properly loaded kayak

No matter the base weight of your gear and provisions there are only a few simple rules to effectively pack your rig. Most deal with weight distribution that aids in safety, stability and maneuverability. This step takes a lot of practice and something that you don't want to wait till last minute to organize. You'll likely have to make adjustments during longer adventures as your load-out weight changes over time.

Heaviest items

Pack your heaviest items below the waterline and as close to the center of your kayak as possible. Water, food, and cooking gear will likely be the bulk of these heavier items. Also, don't hesitate to practice packing these items taking care to balance the load port and starboard as they will have the greatest effect on ballast.

lighter items

Stow your lighter items above the waterline, fore and aft of center. Also keeping the weight as evenly distributed as possible will will aid in steering. Too much weight in the stern and you will find yourself fishtailing all day, especially if you have a current behind you. Too much weight in the bow and you'll find it difficult to steer.

on the deck

With those wide open spaces you'll be tempted to load your deck with all sorts of items, but be careful on this account. Too much and your craft will become top heavy, unstable and in windy conditions you'll regret having the added surface area. Small deck bags are great solutions to secure items that you need at the ready like maps, snacks and a compass.

A few thoughts on dry bags

Just assume that everything is going to get wet or, at the very least, has the potential to get wet. That being said there are a number of different ways that we can mitigate the potential with the use of dry bags. As the name suggests they are great when they are use correctly and its an area that you'll want to spend some time and money investing in. There is no substitute for a good dry bag.

Remember also that not everything that you have in your kit needs to be kept perfectly dry. We make regular use of some sturdy freezer zip lock type bags for the non-essentials.

drybag items

Sleeping bag
Medicine + First Aid

zipper lock

Camp shoes
Some food items


Some food items

Many Smaller as opposed to fewer larger.
You might be tempted to save a few dollars by getting larger but fewer dry bags but its been our experience that a good supply of smaller ones are much easier to manage and stow. Some kayak hatches have very small openings and the space in the bulkheads are short and narrow.

We recommend that you start off with a few 10 to 20 liter bags to keep your essentials dry and make some adjustments from there. Two of each and you'll have more than enough to keep everything that needs to be kept dry, dry.

Are you new to the world of kayakpacking and kayak camping or know someone who is?

Download the FREE Kayakpacking 101 Guide. (2.2m pdf)

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