Ultimate Kayak Camping Checklist + FREE Downloadable Gear Lists

Anytime you’re getting ready for a new adventure–like kayak camping–checklists can be a lifesaver, literally! It’s sooooo frustrating to spend so much time packing only to find out (once you’re in the middle of nowhere) that you forgot one or two essential items.  

No big deal if all you forgot was your salt or camp pillow. But a kayak camping trip can go downhill (or downstream) real fast if you forget something important–like a lighter, water filter, or toilet paper!

So to help you avoid those sticky situations, here are complete kayak camping checklists you can use while planning your next trip.

P.S., don’t worry, you can download the PDF with the kayaking checklists (they’re at the bottom of the article!) so you don’t forget it later!

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How to Use These Checklists

So here are some kayak camping gear checklists that can help you as you’re packing. Keep in mind that each checklist will need to be adapted to the specific needs of your kayaking trip. 

If you’re on a week-long ocean kayaking trip in cool weather, you’re going to need more gear and backups. If you’re just on an overnight trip around a local lake, then there are a lot of things you may not need to take.

That’s why I left some blank spaces on each of the checklists so that you can add extra items that you’ll need. 

Pre-Trip To-Do Checklist

Here are a few things you should do in the 24 hours leading up to your trip.

  • Send float plan to loved ones (here’s how to plan your float)
  • Print a copy of the float plan to take with you (the one we use and that is in the free pack is right below!)
  • Make sure your vehicle is gassed up and ready to go.
  • Give your kayaks a final check. It’s better to catch a problem now than once you’re already in the water.
  • Review checklists to make sure you didn’t forget anything. This is especially true for your safety gear. 
  • Make any final store runs to get last-minute items. It’s best to do this the day before. You don’t want to be riding around from store to store with kayaks on your car trying to find that one item you left until the last minute.
  • Check the weather. Based on any changes you can make some final adjustments to what gear you’re packing. 

Kayak Equipment Checklist

While a lot of the gear on these kayaking checklists is similar to other camping or backpacking gear, here’s a list of items that are specific to kayaking camping. 

  • PFD (personal flotation device) It’s worth it to invest in a comfortable PFD that’s not a chore to wear.
  • Paddle
  • Paddle leash
  • Spare paddle. If you’re kayaking with a group, check to see if someone else is already bringing a spare paddle. If you’re kayaking in a group, each kayaker doesn’t always have to bring their own spare paddle. One or two is usually enough depending on the group.
  • Kayak seat
  • Rope. This will come in handy if you have to tie off your kayak, tow a friend who’s hurt, or strap extra camping gear to your boat.
  • Paddle Float. Practice using it to help you get back in your kayak. Here’s a video that shows how.
  • Bilge Pump and/or Bilge Sponge
  • Spray Skirt
  • Kayak repair kit to fix small cracks or punctures in the hull. 

West System Plastic Boat Repair Kit

JB Weld Repair Epoxy Putty

Gorilla Waterproof Patch and Seal Tape

  • LED Deck Light
  • Kayak cockpit cover. This is handy for making sure no curious critters find their way into your kayak in the middle of the night. 
  • Dry bags. Assorted sizes depending on what you’re going to pack.
  • A few extra bungee cords, parachute cords, carabiners and other things to secure gear to your kayak or at the campsite.
  • Walkie-Talkies. These are especially useful when traveling in groups that might get spread out.

Food and Kitchen Packing List

Learn more about what to pack for your kayak camping kitchen in my KAYAK CAMPING KITCHEN GUIDE. 

TIP: Compare your menu to gear like your camp cookset and make sure you have all the pieces you need to cook your meals. If there’s any part of your cookware you don’t need, you can leave it at home to save on space and weight.

  • Camp utensils. At the very least you should have a long-handled spoon or spork and a knife. You can also opt for a compact set of camp utensils
  • A can opener, corkscrew or any other tool/utensil you might need based on the food (or drink) you’re planning.
  • Coffee
  • A way to brew coffee.
  • Collapsible sink. These are really handy for cleaning up after a meal or just transporting water in general. 
  • Biodegradable soap and dishcloth or sponge
  • Compact camp towel
  • Bear canisters. If you’re kayaking in bear country.
  • Water containers. Collapsible water bottles or bladders are nice since they don’t take up any space when empty.
  • Food. Check out my KAYAK CAMPING KITCHEN GUIDE for ideas on what to cook.
  • Salt and pepper (+other basic seasonings you might need based on your menu)
  • Soft cooler
  • Water. Figure at least a gallon per person per day–for both drinking and cooking. 
  • Water filter. Carrying all the water you need gets real heavy, real fast. It’s worth it to bring along a good water filter.

If you’re planning on cooking over the fire:

  • Tongs
  • Grill grate
  • Hot dog sticks

Camping Gear List

These are basically the same items you would take on a normal hiking trip. Look for items that are lightweight, compact, and easy to pack.

TIP: Make sure these items can fit in your kayak’s hatches. Even some backpacking tents and sleeping bags may be too bulky to fit through the hatch opening. That’s why it’s always a good idea to do a dry-run and fully pack your kayak a few days before your trip to see how everything will fit.

  • Tent
  • Tent Poles
  • Tent Stakes
  • Rain Fly
  • Footprint or extra tarp
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp pillow
  • Folding knife
  • Multi-tool
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Trash bags

Personal Item List

  • Insect Repellent
  • Insect Headnet (It’s really hard to paddle and swat mosquitos at the same time.)
  • Lip Balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Neck gaiter
  • Bandana
  • Sunglasses
  • Toilet Paper (or leaf identification pamphlet–avoid poison ivy)
  • Small shovel or trowel
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss (Because we all take the time to floss in the woods right?)
  • Deodorant
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Biodegradable Pre-Moistened Wash Towel (Basically, huge biodegradable wet wipes. The easiest way to feel clean in the wild.)
  • Compact camp towel
  • Medicine
  • Cell phone
  • Power bank
  • Small notebook and pen/pencil
  • Waterproof case or dry bag to keep essentials like keys, phone, and medicine safe and secure. It’s good to keep this easily accessible while paddling.
  • Assorted gear ties, rubber bands, ziplock bags, or small dry bags.

Clothing Checklist

Here’s a list of basic items you might need to pack depending on the conditions. Since you’ll most likely get wet at some point, look for performance fabrics that dry quickly. 

  • Paddling long sleeve shirt
  • Short sleeve shirt
  • Bathing suit
  • Convertible long pants. The kind that has zip-off bottoms to turn them into shorts.
  • Underwear
  • Sandals
  • Shoes and/or Water Shoes
  • Socks
  • Light jacket
  • Raincoat
  • Rain pants
  • Gloves
  • Bag for dirty clothes

Kayaking Safety Gear Checklist

  • First Aid Kit
  • Paper map of the area. You never know when your phone will die or get dunked in the river. You should always have a good ‘ole paper map and compass.
  • Whistle
  • Signal flare
  • Flint and steel. It’s always good to have a backup just in case something happens to your matches or lighter.
  • Compass. A deck compass is nice too since you can strap it to the deck of your kayak and keep a constant eye on your bearing.
  • Survival knife
  • GPS and/or satellite communication device. One like the Garmin inReach Mini pairs to your phone to let you send text messages. Plus you can use it to trigger an SOS.
  • Bear spray. If you’re traveling in bear country. 
  • Duct tape. I mean… we should really be carrying some of this at ALL times. 😀
printable checklist with things needed to go on kayak camp trip

For the Drive Home Checklist

  • Plastic bags for wet stuff. Keep the stink out of your car.
  • Change of clothes
  • Phone charger
  • Bottle of water
  • Energy drink (You’ll thank me later)

It’s Time to Start Packing (so download your free checklists + float plan PDF!)

I created a simplified, printable checklist version of the in depth list I provided here so that you can print it out for later! Let me know the email (and as a bonus you get access to ALOT of other helpful outdoor printables!)

Don’t miss your Kayak Camping Checklists + Float Plan PDF – Download them now!

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Whether you’re kayak camping for the first time or a pro who is bad at organization (I am too =P) these checklists will give you peace of mind!

    Don’t worry… I hate spam too. (Unless it’s like real spam cooked over a campfire)

    Armed with your kayak camping checklists, you’re ready to start stuffing your boat full of all this gear. Well… almost. 

    Don’t miss my other kayak camping articles that’ll help you plan your kayaking trip. 

    Want a general overview of how to plan a kayak camping trip?

    Check out: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO YOUR FIRST KAYAK CAMPING TRIP

    Wanna know how you’re going to fit all this stuff in your kayak? 

    Check out: HOW TO PACK YOUR KAYAK FOR A CAMPING TRIP – COMPLETE GUIDE + BONUS PACKING LIST

    Not sure what food to pack?

    Check out: CAMP COOKING FOR KAYAKERS | YOUR KAYAK CAMPING KITCHEN GUIDE

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