Gear for Camping Out of Sea Kayaks

sea kayak campingPacking a kayak for a sea journey involves some special gear demands. You’ll be camping on beaches. There will be lots of salt, sand, wind, damp, condensation, and little shelter if it rains.

And packing a sea kayak is trickier than it looks. While a sea kayak can certainly carry more than a backpack, bulk is a killer: just ask anyone who’s tried to shoehorn gear for an extended trip into the small spaces of a sea kayak. But there are some ways to make sea kayak camping a breeze.

The Sleeping BagUntitled-1Let’s start with the piece of kit everyone stresses about the most. In a damp, salty environment, where kayaks and dry bags can leak, many sea kayakers worry about down sleeping bags getting soaked. On the other hand, synthetic bags don’t have the compressibility and warmth per weight of down. To complicate things further, there’s no pleasure greater than sleeping outside on the beach when the sky is clear—which exposes bags to condensation. However, technology is here to solve your dilmena. If you don’t mind the price, you can get down bags with waterproof shells and welded seams rather than stitching, such as the Mountain Hardwear Spectre. Similar coatings are also available from Feathered Friends and other companies. Sierra Designs and Sea to Summit are now offer bags with water-resitant down.

The TentUntitled-2On beaches there is little escape from rain: no trees to set your tent up under. Exoskeleton tents, designed for the treeless, windy and wet landscapes of Scandanavia and Britain translate very well to windy, wet, and exposed beaches the world over. Exoskeleton tents are designed so the poles are attached to the fly, not the tent. The tent body hangs from the fly. This means the tent can be pitched and taken down without ever being exposed to the rain, and can be stored as a unit for lighting-quick setup. Exoskeleton tents can be a bit hard to find in the US, but are made by Hilleberg, Exped, Terra Nova, and other companies with a European heritage.

Cooking TentsUntitled-3The exposed windy environment of rugged beaches is tough on tarps—they’re hard to pitch and keep set up in the wind, and the wind often shifts. Instead of continually fighting with guylines, I opt for a floorless, tepee-style tent with one center pole. (Mine is a Black Diamond Meglite.) A paddle can also double as the pole, and extra guylines allow you to pitch it like a tarp with some creativity.

The One-Person, Portable Tarp
The one tarp I do always bring is a portable, one-person tarp. Folded up, it fits in the tiny spot in my sea kayak’s stern, and I got it at Goodwill for $1. In case you hadn’t guessed, it’s also called an umbrella.

Dual-Purpose ClothingUntitled-4Clothing that doubles as camp wear and paddling wear saves bulk and weight. Kokatat’s Whirlpool bibs—frequently part of my kayaking expedition kit—can double as rain pants in camp if I’m not doing tons of hiking, and have the added benefit of keeping my feet dry. Semi-drytops like the Tec Tour Anorak can double as a camp raincoat. Of course, if you’re paddling in serious conditions that warrant a drysuit, you’ll want less bulky layers for camp.

Wind and StovesUntitled-5Whatever kind of stove you use, make sure you can keep it out of the wind. Moving driftwood often works, but I prefer stoves that have a windscreen. On long trips where space is limited and fuel supplies must last, the old-school repairability and efficiency of a white gas stove like the MSR Dragonfly come into their own. On shorter trips where carrying a few canisters isn’t an obstacle, the WindPro is a good option. The MSR Reactor is great for boiling water fast in windy spots.

Rugged, Compact, and Water-Friendly Shoes
Shoes are also tough to figure out. You want shoes that can get wet, protect your toes from the barnacles, shells, and rocks of the rugged coast, and that also fit in the small places of kayak hatches. Everyone’s feet are different, and my preferences range from surf booties, flip flops, to amphibious shoes with specially designed grippy soles, as the trip warrants.

Keeping Critical Gear Dry and Sand-FreeUntitled-6Kayak hatches often leak. Everything that you want to keep dry should go in a dry bag. Compression dry bags help bulky items like clothes and sleeping bags pack small. I put sensitive electronics—cameras, phones, batteries, and memory cards, in waterproof hard Pelican Cases.

Swedish Furniture, Anyone?
One sea kayak camping essential isn’t even made by an outdoor company. It’s those iconic big blue bags from Ikea. They’re perfect for hauling gear up and down the beach, compress down to nothing, and keep sand off your gear in camp.

Powder Your Feet
Another trick comes from the drugstore: baby powder. Your feet will get damp and clammy, and probably other parts of you will too. You don’t want to bring that clamminess into your tent and sleeping bag. Before climbing in, use some baby powder to defeat the damp.

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