Best Kayak For Camping
Camping can be a fun and relaxing activity and a great way of getting back to nature and resetting your natural pattern. Kayak camping can be even more enjoyable and can get you closer to nature and into more remote and peaceful spots.
When you’re looking for the best kayak for camping there are a few things you might want to think about. To help you get out there, we’ve put together some information on what to look for, as well as a guide to some of our favorite boats for the job.
Top Choices: At a Glance
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7 Best Camping Kayaks
1: Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 Kayak (best overall)
The Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 is a more compact touring kayak which could offer more stability than some of the longer touring vessels. This could make it easier to maneuver, particularly in rivers.
The roomy cockpit features a Phase 3 AirPro seat that has multiple points of adjustability, including leg lifters, allowing you to customize the seat for your trip.
Video: Wilderness Systems | Phase 3 Air Pro Seat
There are plenty of places to store your gear on the Tsunami, including two mesh gear pockets that are located on the deck in front of the cockpit. These pockets can be ideal for storing smaller essentials within easy reach.
There are also two storage hatches, including a large stern hatch. You can even keep your water bottle handy in the bottle holder that’s underneath the deck in the cockpit.
2: Ocean Kayak Zest Two Expedition Tandem Sit-On-Top (best tandem)
The Ocean Kayak Zest Two Expedition Kayak is a tandem sit-on-top kayak that can be ideal for warmer weather paddling trips. It has a high weight capacity of 600 pounds, which should allow you to bring along plenty of gear for a few nights under the stars.
This yak comes with two Comfort Plus seats that are designed to offer padding and back support. There is a cup holder for each paddler and molded-in foot rests for added stability and comfort.
The Zest Two has plenty of space for all your camping gear with a large rear tank well with added bungee rigging at the stern. There is also a cargo area at the bow with bungee rigging to keep your gear safe. However, there is no dry storage available on this craft.
3: Delta 17 Kayak
This Delta 17 Kayak is a 17 foot touring kayak with a high weight capacity. It’s crafted for speed and performance and benefits from having a rudder system to help with tracking and maneuvering. It also features a retractable skeg.
The cockpit is designed to offer a close fitted feel and features an indexing system that can allow you to slide the seat forwards and backwards for a more comfortable and secure fit. There are padded thigh braces for added comfort and control, as well as a multi-position seat that is designed to offer lumbar support and all-day comfort.
There are two large watertight hatches for your camping gear, as well as a low profile day hatch conveniently located in front of the cockpit. You’ll also find bungee rigging at the bow and stern for extra dry bags.
4: Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV Day Touring Kayak (best runner-up)
This Riot Edge 14.5 Day Touring Kayak can be a great choice for a weekend camping trip. It is a sit-inside kayak that is built for speed and paddling efficiency and could be a good choice for open water or moving water because of the added rudder that can help with tracking.
This brightly colored yak with reflective deck lines can improve your visibility out on the water and the self rescue straps on the deck can make it easier for you to re-enter the cockpit.
There are two 15 inch rubber hatches, one at the bow and one at the stern, which can be ideal for holding your camping equipment. There is bungee rigging on the deck for additional dry bags and jackets.
The cockpit is designed for comfort, with an adjustable padded seat with supportive backrest. There are adjustable sliding foot braces as well as built-in thigh braces.
5: Dagger Stratos 14.5 S Kayak
The Dagger Stratos 14.5 S can be a great choice of sit-inside yak for both beginners and experienced paddlers as it offers a combination of speed, maneuverability and stability. It can also be a pretty versatile boat, built for surf, rivers and open water.
One useful feature of the Stratos is the retractable skeg, as this can help with tracking in open water and in current, making paddling to your destination a little easier.
You’ll also find storage hatches at the bow and stern that are designed to keep your belongings safe and dry till you reach your camping spot. You can store extra gear, such as dry bags, on the deck using the bungee rigging at the bow and stern.
The cockpit features a Contour CFS seating system. This features an adjustable foam padded seat with leg lifters for optimal comfort and leg support. It also has an ergonomically designed floating back band for increased paddling comfort and lumbar support.
6: Eddyline Fathom Kayak
This Eddyline Fathom Kayak is built for efficiency and speed. It features a retractable skeg that can be set at various increments for optimized boat control and improved tracking in currents.
The craft is designed to suit a wide range of paddler sizes, both short and tall, with plenty of room for your legs. There are adjustable foot braces with large pedals for improved comfort and grip. And the Infinity seat means you can slide it and adjust it until you find the right fit.
There are two large hatches, one at the bow and one at the stern. These are designed to offer watertight storage and can be ideal for holding camping equipment. There’s also a separate watertight day hatch.
You can also load extra gear onto the deck where you’ll find bungee rigging to help tie it down.
7: Old Town Castine 140 Kayak
This Old Town Castine 140 Kayak is a 14 foot brightly colored touring kayak that can be ideal for multi-day trips.
It has a spacious 38 by 20 inch cockpit, with a low profile ACS2 seat that can be easily adjusted for comfort and features a padded backrest for support. The cockpit also features thigh braces and adjustable foot braces.
Video: ACS2 Seat Adjustments Overview
The Castine 140 has plenty of space for camping gear, with two Quick Seal hatches that both have Cross Lock buckle closures for added security. These bow and stern hatches are designed to keep your gear dry.
There is also additional storage on the deck, with bungee rigging at the bow and the stern for securing dry bags or jackets. For your smaller items and valuables, there’s a handy storage compartment in the cockpit which you can slide under the rim for safety. There’s even a holder for your phone.
Why Camp And Paddle?
Camping can be a fun experience even without a kayak. But when you add a kayak, you can explore areas that may not otherwise be accessible to you, such as secluded beaches and peaceful forests that have limited road access.
There are many rivers and coastlines that can be explored, giving you a chance to see the surrounding land from a different perspective. Kayak camping can also mean you get to see more of a particular area, as you can continue to paddle to your next stop instead of turning around to go home after a day trip.
Features You Need For Kayak Camping
Tracking can be important on a touring kayak because this is what helps it to paddle straight. Features such as skegs and rudders can help improve the tracking of a craft by helping to counter the effects of current or wind so that you can stay on course.
Improved tracking can mean you paddle more efficiently, as you tend to use less effort, which can minimize fatigue and be helpful on a long trip.
Even though your kayak may have a high weight capacity that doesn’t always mean it will have sufficient room for all your gear. Think about the type and amount of camping gear you plan to take to make sure you will have enough storage space on board your boat.
If you’re heading off for several days, remember to factor in food and water as well as your camping equipment.
A dry storage hatch can be useful for keeping your gear water-free. But dry bags secured with the bungees on your deck can also be a good idea.
Weight capacity can be one of the most important features to look for on a camping kayak. The weight capacity of a kayak usually refers to the maximum load it can carry before the performance is affected. This will include your own body weight.
It can be a good idea to think about the total weight of your camping equipment before choosing your kayak, as this could limit the amount of vessels available to you.
If you haven’t already got your camping gear, it can be helpful to choose equipment that’s lightweight, so that it doesn’t negatively affect your load limit.
When you’re planning to be on the water for hours at a time over the course of a few days, comfort can be important. It can be a good idea to look for adjustable seats and seats with sufficient support for your back.
Padded thigh braces and adjustable foot braces can also help to improve your comfort, as well as helping to stabilize your craft.
Maneuverability will likely be more important if you plan to paddle in rivers, as you will often find you have to navigate around rocks or sandbars, or even just bends in the river.
Shorter vessels can be easier to maneuver, especially for beginners. Usually shorter vessels have a little more stability because of their length to width ratio, which could also make paddling easier if you’re a beginner.
If you’re paddling in open water, maneuverability may not be as much of a benefit, as you may prefer a longer vessel for increased speed to cover large areas of water more efficiently.
Essential Items To Bring When Camping
Unless you want to sleep out directly under the stars, you’ll probably want to bring a tent or shelter of some kind. It might be easier to opt for a more compact tent rather than a larger one if you’re limited for space on your kayak.
Remember to pack enough food and water for the duration of your trip, as well as some extra for emergencies.
Think about what and how you’re going to eat so that you can bring along plates, cutlery and a pot for cooking.
A little camping gas stove can be ideal if you have enough room on your yak. Otherwise, you could bring along supplies to make a fire for cooking. Remember to check the local regulations to make sure fires or portable barbecues are allowed, as this could pose a serious forest fire risk in some areas.
Extra care should always be taken when cooking outdoors.
A sleeping bag is one of the key items to pack on any camping trip. Sleeping bags are generally lightweight and shouldn’t take up a lot of room on your vessel.
First Aid Kit
Having a first aid kit on board can be useful whether you’re on a camping trip or not. This can come in handy in the event of minor injuries. Compact kits can usually be found in outdoor stores.
Cleaning supplies for washing your plates and cutlery can be useful to have, so that you don’t have to take home dirty gear. You may also want to consider how you plan to wash yourself and whether or not you’ll have access to running water.
What A Camping Kayak Isn’t Great For
Camping kayaks tend to have lots of storage, a high weight capacity and features that can improve paddling efficiency and speed. This means they aren't made for whitewater paddling or performing tricks.
Some longer camping kayaks may also be unsuitable for narrow rivers where maneuverability is key. You may also find they’re not ideal for fishing as they tend to be narrower and may not have the stability of a dedicated fishing yak.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where Should I Go Kayak Camping?
There are many places across the United States where you can go kayak camping. National Forests offer free camping and many of them have river trails where you can camp along the route.
How Do You Pack A Kayak For A Trip?
Make use of all your storage areas and make sure you balance the weight across the boat. It can be a good idea to pack your gear into dry bags and remember to keep essential items within easy reach.
Video: Kayak 101 - Kayak Camping: How To Pack A Kayak
What’s The Minimum Length Of Kayak To Use?
Most touring kayaks tend to be over 12 foot long. The shorter the yak the easier it is to maneuver (for example in rivers) but the longer it is, the more space you might have for gear.
We think the best camping kayak is the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125. This boat has plenty of storage, is compact, and is designed to be stable and easy to maneuver, making it an ideal choice for river trips.
A close runner-up is the Riot Edge 14.5 LV because of its excellent storage options, good stability and performance. It also has the benefit of a rudder and the boat is highly visible in the water.
Remember to choose a kayak that suits your own individual needs and has enough storage and capacity for the amount of camping gear you plan to take. It can also be helpful to think about where you plan to paddle, so that you can choose an appropriate length of vessel.