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Sleeping On A Kayak Or Canoe Trip – Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep

Mark Armstrong
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Sleeping outdoors can be a fun experience but it can also be pretty uncomfortable if you don’t have the right gear.

Compared to a camping trip where you can load everything you need into your car, kayak and canoe camping can often mean you’re limited to what you can bring.

But there are a few things that can help you sleep well on your multi-day paddling trip, whether you want to sleep directly under the stars or under canvas. 

Check out some of our tips to help you stay well-rested for the duration of your trip.


Tips On How To Sleep Well On An Overnight Kayak Canoe Trip

Find A Comfy Sleeping Surface

One of the most important things to have on a kayak camping trip is something comfortable to sleep on. A hammock can be useful, as this can let you sleep above the ground, which can be beneficial if the ground is damp, rocky, or generally unsuitable.

Hammocks can often take up less space than some sleeping pads. This ENO SingleNest one, for example, packs down to the size of a softball so it shouldn’t take up much room on your boat.

However, you might want to consider some kind of shelter if it’s raining or if there are lots of bugs around. A hammock tent, like this, can be useful for keeping the rain off.

Remember Your Pillow

A good pillow can help to support your head and neck, which can be important if you want to prevent stiffness for your next day of paddling. It’s probably not convenient to haul your standard bedroom pillow but a lightweight camping pillow like this one can be ideal. 

Create A Shelter

If it’s windy or rainy, or you just don’t feel like being completely exposed to the wilderness, a tent can be a good idea. A lightweight backpacking tent, such as this NEMO one, can usually do the trick. 

Make A Cozy Campsite

Having a campfire at your camp can make you feel more relaxed, and even reduces blood pressure. Sitting beside the fire can be useful for aiding a good night’s sleep, especially after your day of paddling.

You can also make hot drinks and cook food using the fire. Another benefit is that it can help to keep bugs and animals away. Just make sure it’s safe and legal to light a campfire, as some areas may forbid it due to the heightened risk of wildfires. 

Eat Sufficient Food

Eating a decent evening meal can help you rest and recuperate from your long day on the water. As well as replenishing lost energy from paddling, some snacks can also help you sleep, if they’re high in carbohydrates. Snacks that are high in protein or caffeine are best eaten a few hours before you hit the sack.

It can be good to eat a carbohydrate-rich meal in the evening, as this can help to fuel you for your next day of paddling.

Here’s a handy little camping meal planner kit

Sleeping In A Canoe: Is It Possible?

While it may not be possible to sleep comfortably inside your kayak – unless it’s inflatable and has sufficient space – you might be able to sleep in your canoe.

downside to sleeping in your canoe is that it might not be too comfortable and could be a bit of a squeeze, depending on the size of your canoe and the size of you plus all your gear. It also might not be ideal if it’s raining.

One of the benefits of sleeping in your canoe is that you don’t specifically need to find dry or soft ground, as your canoe can provide your flat sleeping base. This means you can haul your canoe onto a rocky shoreline and still have a smooth sleeping surface inside your canoe. It can also give you great views of the stars above.

Canoes for the family

You could potentially also anchor your canoe in the water close to shore if you want to float yourself to sleep. This is not recommended for all circumstances and locations, as the water will generally need to be calm and flat so that you won’t drift away, with enough moonlight that you’ll be seen by any passing boats.

Video: Sleeping In A Canoe On The Water!

Remember, if you’re planning to sleep in your floating canoe, keep your PFD on for safety.

However, you will probably need to customize your canoe before you can use it to sleep in, as the thwarts will likely prevent you from sleeping comfortably unless you can easily slide under them. This means you will probably need to remove the thwarts to sleep and then put them back in the morning before you set off.

To remove the thwarts, you will first need to remove the original hardware that secures the thwarts to the gunwales. You can then reattach them using wire lock pins.

You’ll need wire lock pins, such as these, and a right-angled aluminum bracket, similar to this. You’ll also need bolts to connect the brackets to the gunwales, as well as a drill to drill suitable holes.

  • Step 1: Bolt the aluminum angled brackets under the gunwales.
  • Step 2: Drill a hole through the side of your thwart (5/16”) as well as through the side of the brackets.
  • Step 3: Insert the wire lock pin through the brackets and thwart.

Once you’ve done this, you can use the pin to lock and unlock the thwarts, making them easy to remove for sleeping and quick to re-install for continuing on your trip.

Night Night! – Conclusion

Heading off on a multi-day kayaking trip or canoe camping trip can be quite an adventure but if you can’t sleep well, the rest of your trip can be pretty hard-going.

But as you can see, there are several ways you can have a comfortable sleep while you’re enjoying the great outdoors. 

Let us know your thoughts on sleeping on a kayak trip. Maybe you have some of your own tips you’d like to share? If you want to help other paddlers buckle down for the night, share this guide.

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