Long distance kayaking & canoeing: Packing tips for overnight kayak trips

May 19, 2020 BY AWE365 Team

There’s several types of long distance kayaking and canoeing. Distance races, expeditions, marathons and overnight kayak trips to name a few. They all need a level of preparedness way beyond your normal paddle.

Long distance kayaking and canoeing packing tips Royalty free image of Alaska from PublicDomainPictures

When long distance kayaking there are so many variations to the way you might pack. So I’ll cover the main things you should include for an overnight kayaking adventure.

Packing tips for overnight kayak trips

For most people kayaking with an overnight stay will be the longest paddle they do. Below is the main gear you should take with you.

The Basics

I’m assuming you’ve got a kayak, paddle, emergency shelter, safety and survival kit that’s recommended for all kayaking trips. Plus of course your navigation aids, passage plan (float plan) and appropriate kit to wear.

Remember you will need different gear for winter kayaking or for paddling at night. Plus of course you need self-rescue aids when kayaking alone.

Quality Tentage

Your tent and sleeping system is somewhere you shouldn’t skimp on. Even though it is always nicer having a larger tent, it will use up much of your allocated weight.

Camping equipment for kayaking expeditions flickr image by Mary Fairchild

My personal philosophy on packing is to keep it as light as possible. That means a tent that weighs less than 1.5 kilos. The good news is that there are many lightweight single person tents to choose from.

Synthetic sleeping bag

A down sleeping bag is useless when it’s wet – and water is never far away… Where as a synthetic bag will still keep you warm even when damp. Also synthetic bags are smaller and lighter when packed – weight and space are paramount.

Lightweight matt

For a good night sleep when camping you’ll need a small light mattress. Not only will it be more comfortable but it insulates you from the ground. You might have space for an inflatable pillow, if not rolled up clothing will do.


We all hope for clear nights when we can see, but that is usually not the case. So always pack a torch or headlamp and spare batteries.

Food and Energy

When you’re long distance kayaking and canoeing the kayak goes nowhere unless you move it. You might get some help from the tide or currents, but invariably they run against you!

how to buy camping cookware guide to camp stoves flickr CC image by ben.hollis

So, it’s up to you to move your vessel and that takes energy. Lots of energy! With the calorie count being around 10,000 for an entire day (eight hours) kayaking you need to ensure you have plenty to eat. To cut down on space and weight you need high calorific foods.

Freeze dried meals are a good option – so long as you have access to fresh water. Also you need to take food which won’t go bad if not refrigerated.

Hydration on overnight kayak trips

The next thing you need to consider is hydration. Now, I could say that you have to drink X litres per day, but let’s face it, we’re all different.

But you’ll always need plenty of liquids, and more hot drinks in colder climates whilst you’re paddling. Avoid diuretics – stopping for a whizz is a nuisance – as they can lead to dehydration if the lost liquid isn’t replaced.

If you are paddling on fresh water getting enough liquid won’t be a problem. If you are sea kayaking you’ll need to carry it yourself or know where you can get some. Fortunately, there are many ways to purify water for drinking when long distance kayaking and canoeing.

Long distance kayaking & canoeing: Packing tips for overnight kayak trips Flickr CC image of kayaking during expedition Argut in Alaska by Paxon Woelber

Stove and/or fire making

You can’t cook a hot meal without a stove or fire. Perhaps you are fine to eat cold food on overnight kayak trips, but I like to eat and drink something hot. These days there are many lightweight camp stoves that pack up small.

Make sure you take more than one way to make fire and spread them out in your pack. Personally I always take a lighter, matches and an emergency flint spark lighter. If you plan to have a fire some kindling can also be useful.

Change of Clothing

One of the best packing tips for overnight kayak trips is having different clothing for around the camp to that which you paddle in. Swap into your land outfit before sorting your camp out, getting food and hot drinks down your neck.

As it’s not the end of the trip, you need to be well-rested to get up the next day and do it again. A big part of that is being relaxed and initiating a bedtime routine. Being sat around in damp clothing doesn’t help!

Hopefully you’ll get to put on dry paddling gear the next day. But unfortunately it is often still damp.

Creature Comforts

One of the best packing tips for overnight kayak trips took me a long time learn. Take some treats and comfort items. It all depends how much space you have but they will pick you up when feeling tired or lonely if you are paddling solo.

Long distance kayaking & canoeing Packing tips for overnight kayak trips Wikimedia CC image by Lrdriver

On long distance kayak and canoe trips a small folding seat makes a huge difference. It means you don’t have to look for somewhere to sit, or have to plonk on the floor whilst sorting out your meal. It also gives you the chance to sit without having your hips in an inverted position.

Take plenty of treats. I’ve paddled with people who take all sorts on longer trips, from strawberries and cream to chocolate brownies and cupcakes. Having mints or sweets to suck on while on the water is a refreshing treat especially if there is lots of salt water spray.

When kayaking solo I like to take a book. For me relaxing with a read after a hard day paddling is bliss. But each to their own!

Other long distance kayaking & canoeing tips

Always try and take things that have two or more uses. Have spares where you think you might need them, and use common sense whilst you’re packing. If in doubt, ask yourself: “Will I really need this”?

And last, and definitely not least, waterproof everything! Might sound patronising, but you need to be on the case here. Take a read of this article on bin bags vs pack liners for some great pointers that apply to most adventure sports.

We home you found these packing tips for overnight kayak trips useful. If you want to plan long distance kayaking & canoeing check out our kayak holiday discounts as you could save a fortune.


Camping, Canoeing, Kayaking, Sea Kayaking
Expedition, Long Distance, Overnight, packing

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