Best Kayak For Camping – Carry All Your Gear Easily!
Camping trips can be a fun and relaxing activity. A kayak camping trip 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 trips there are a few things to think about. We’ve put together some information on what to look for, as well as a buying guide to some of the best kayaks for camping.
Top Choices: At a Glance
Best Camping Kayak Reviews
1: Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 (best overall)
The Tsunami 145 is a compact kayak for camping trips with plenty of storage capacity. However, this sit-inside kayak doesn’t come cheap.
With its efficient hull, it’s built for improved speeds. This can make it one of the best kayaks for camping if you plan to paddle longer distances between your camping spots. It also has a built-in rudder, which is foot-controlled, to help with tracking in windy conditions and strong currents.
There are two hatches for storage below deck. You’ll also find mesh deck storage bags, deck bungees and an under-deck storage area. This can offer a lot more storage options than most kayaks, and it can be easy to keep smaller items stored within reach of the cockpit.
The seat is also great for long journeys, with multiple points of adjustability.
2: Old Town Loon 126 (runner-up)
The Old Town Loon 126 can be an excellent kayak for a camping trip, as it has a huge 450-pound capacity - something that you don’t often get with sit-inside kayaks at this length.
The hull is designed for performance for long trips. Its shorter hull length can make it easier for navigating rivers and smaller bodies of water.
The ACS2 seating system is fully adjustable. There’s even under-leg support for long distances.
It’s not the easiest to carry, as it only has toggle carry handles, which you might find aren’t great.
There are some excellent storage options, including a removable work deck with a USB port, so you can keep your GPS plugged in (battery not included). There’s also deck bungees and a dry hatch.
3: Sea Eagle Explorer 420X (best inflatable)
The Sea Eagle 420X is a three-person recreational kayak for camping trips with a significant amount of capacity. It can be ideal for overnight trips for two adults or a solo paddler for an extended expedition and extra storage space. But it doesn't have kayak hatches.
This highly durable inflatable kayak, with separate air chambers and tough hull material, can be an ideal kayak that’s easy to transport. It can be loaded into the trunk of a small car and easily stored in a closet at home. And the paddle folds in two.
One of the best things about this 14 foot kayak is that it can handle up to Class IV whitewater and flat water, so it can be excellent for river camping. It's stable (with secondary stability), features a drop-stitch floor for rigidity, and there’s a skeg for better tracking.
However, it's not the fastest kayak, so it may not be one of the best kayaks for camping if you're after speed.
4: Jackson Kayak Tripper
The Jackson Tripper is a spacious sit-on-top kayak for camping. It can be a good, stable kayak for beginners on flat water. You could even stand up if you have good balance.
This recreational kayak has a flat deck, ideal for long legs. It has a comfortable seat that lets you sit in an elevated position for better visibility and a drier ride.
There’s ample storage space for camping gear, with a large rear cargo deck plus a second, smaller cargo deck at the bow for extra storage. There's also accessory tracks if you want to add rod holders
There are paddle holders at the sides, as well as side carrying handles and molded carry handles at both the bow and stern. However, this is a pretty heavy kayak. And there are no dry hatches.
5: Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 Kayak
This is a more compact kayak for camping which could offer greater stability. This could make it easier to maneuver 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. This makes it one of the best kayaks in terms of comfort.
Video: Phase 3 Air Pro Seat
There are plenty of places to store your gear, 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 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.
However, it may not be the best kayak for camping for larger paddlers with a lot of gear.
6: Ocean Kayak Zest Two Expedition Tandem Sit-On-Top
The Zest Two is a tandem sit-on-top kayak that can be ideal for warmer weather paddling trips.
It comes with two 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.
There's plenty of space for all your camping gear with a large rear tank well with added bungees at the stern. There is also a cargo area at the bow with bungees to keep your gear safe.
However, there's no dry storage available and it doesn't feature lightweight hull material.
7: Delta 17 Kayak
This is made with lightweight hull material and has a long length. It’s crafted for speed and performance with increased water length and benefits from having a rudder system to help with tracking and maneuvering. It also has a decent amount of secondary stability for coastal waters.
However, it may be more difficult to transport or maneuver on land because of its longer length.
The cockpit is designed to offer a close fitted feel on your lower body and features an indexing system that can allow you to slide the seat forwards and backwards for a more comfortable and secure fit. There's a comfortable multi-position seat that's designed to offer lumbar support for experienced kayakers.
There are two large watertight hatches for your camping gear, and a day hatch. You’ll find bungees at the bow and stern.
8: Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV Day Touring Kayak
This Riot Edge 14.5 can be a great choice for a weekend camping trip with a more affordable price tag , offering the best value. It is a sit-inside kayak that is built for speed and paddling efficiency and could be a good choice for moving water, with added rudder that can help with tracking.
This brightly colored kayak 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. There's bungee rigging on the deck.
The cockpit is designed for comfort, with an adjustable seat with supportive backrest. There are adjustable sliding foot braces as well as built-in thigh braces. But if you have large feet, you may find the cockpit too small.
9: Dagger Stratos 14.5 S Kayak
This can be a fantastic choice of sit-inside yak for both beginners and experienced paddlers as it offers a combination of speed, maneuverability and stability. It's also versatile, built for surf, rivers and lakes.
A great feature is the retractable skeg, as this can help with tracking in current, making paddling in the great outdoors 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 campsite. You can store extra gear on the deck using the bungee rigging at the bow and stern. However, the capacity isn't the highest.
The wider cockpit features a Contour CFS seating system. This features an adjustable seat with leg lifters for optimal comfort and leg support. It also has an ergonomically designed floating back band for increased lumbar support.
10: 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 better tracking in currents and high winds. But it might not be the best length for navigating tighter waterways.
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 for watertight storage. There’s also a separate watertight day hatch.
You can also load extra gear onto the deck with bungees.
11: Old Town Castine 140 Kayak
This Old Town Castine 140 can be ideal for multi-day trips but there's no skeg or rudder system.
It has a spacious 38 by 20 inch wide 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 pads 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. For your 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 Kayak Together?
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. A kayak camping trip can also mean you get to see more of a particular area, as you can continue to paddle to your next stop instead of going home after day trips.
Features You Need For Kayak Camping
Tracking can be important because this is what helps you paddle straight. Features such as skegs and rudders can help improve tracking by helping to counter the effects of current or wind so you can stay on course - particularly helpful for lightweight inflatable kayaks to move in a straight line.
Improved tracking can mean you paddle more efficiently in a straight line, minimizing fatigue.
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 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.
Inflatable kayaks usually won't have storage compartments but some recreational kayaks will. A portable accessory carrier could also be useful. Both sit-on-top kayaks and sit-in kayaks can have hatches but often sit-in kayaks will have larger hatches than sit-on kayaks.
Rod holders might be useful if you also plan to fish.
Capacity can be one of the most important features to look for on a good camping kayak. The 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.
Inflatable kayaks will often have a higher capacity than hard shells. Tandem kayaks will generally have higher load capacity than a solo kayak.
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 for a few days, comfort can be important. It can be a good idea to look for adjustable seats and sufficient support for your back in a new kayak.
Padded thigh braces and adjustable foot braces can also help to improve your comfort, as well as helping to stabilize your craft. Inflatable kayaks may not have the most comfortable seats despite being great kayaks for camping.
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 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 for kayak campers.
Remember to pack enough food and water for the duration of your trip, plus extra for emergencies.
Think about what and how you’re going to eat on your camping adventure 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. Otherwise, you could bring along supplies to make a fire for cooking. Check 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 should be stored in a dry bag or dry hatch.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit can be useful for all outdoor adventures. This can be handy for minor injuries. Compact kits can usually be found in outdoor stores.
Cleaning supplies for washing your dishes can be useful. 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 and features that can improve paddling efficiency and speed on calm waters. This means they're not great kayaks for whitewater paddling or performing tricks. There are different categories of kayaks for this.
Some longer 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?
National Forests offer free camping and many of them have river trails for a kayak camping trip 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 and storage compartments. A dry bag can be useful but travel light.
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 but the longer it is, the more space you might have for gear.
We think the best kayak for camping is the Tsunami 145. It's designed to be quick and comfortable to paddle.
A close runner-up and one of the best kayaks for camping is the Old Town Loon 126 because of its excellent storage options and its handy USB port.
Another fantastic option from our buying guide is the Sea Eagle 420X. This can be loaded up with lots of gear and can even handle whitewater, making it one of the best kayaks for camping on rivers.
Remember to choose a kayak that has enough space. Also, think about where you plan to paddle, so that you can choose the right kayak length.