But there are a few keys to camping out of a boat, from planning your trip to packing gear and keeping it dry. Following are a few pointers to launch your overnight paddling adventure and get the most out of this memorable (and efficient) way to access wild, waterside campsites.
Guided vs. Private
First, decide whether you’ll need a guide or not. If you’ve never camped out of a paddlecraft before, consider joining a commercial trip to learn the ropes. A guided trip typically takes care of all logistics, including: route knowledge; paddling gear; camping equipment; meal planning, packing and preparation; safety procedures; and transportation. (Hint: Make sure to tip your guide.) The downside, of course, is the cost for these often expensive outings.
Going on your own (private) trip adds a level of responsibility, requiring everything from route knowledge and sound judgment to solid paddling and camping skills. Other factors include your group’s skill level and physical abilities, the weather and route conditions for that time of year, and how that impacts the trip’s difficulty. (Will high flows create any whitewater? Will tidal shifts cause problems with access or currents?). Hint: Research your route and always check the forecast beforehand.
Leading your own trip involves everything from choosing your route and figuring out how long it will take to selecting partners, organizing gear, food and safety equipment, and ensuring you have the necessary permits and reservations if needed. Note: Paddling a loaded boat is heavier than an empty one, so plan your itinerary accordingly. Depending on your ability and fitness, mileage per day on a lake or in calm ocean waters can range from a few miles up to 15 to 20 miles on big days. Hint: Plan your route to avoid big crossings, which can be dangerous if conditions change.
Your trip and dates will determine what type of camping gear and clothing you’ll need. In addition to the necessary paddling equipment and a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type III PFD, you’ll need overnight basics like sleeping bags, pads and tents, plus cookware, food and outerwear. The good news: Canoes and sea kayaks can usually fit it all. (Hint: See if it all fits at home first.) Make a detailed checklist of everything you need, from rainwear to a first aid kit, and triple-check it before leaving. Include a tarp for the kitchen area if it rains. When it comes to loading, split up community gear into different boats.