Recipe: Pack a Kayak

Pack a kayak

Prep time needed to pack a kayak: 4 – 6 hours *

Total time to pack a kayak: 5 – 8 hours **

Serves: 1



– Sea kayak, paddle, and spray skirt

– Collapsible spare paddle, sponge, and bailing pump

– Throw bag and carabineers

– Helmet, PFD, whistle, and river knife

– Drysuit or wet suit or splash jacket and pants

– Non-cotton top, bottom, underwear, and paddling shoes

– Hat (cold and warm weather), sunglasses with a strap, sunscreen, and lip balm

– Waterproof watch, headlamp, and matches

– Means of carrying at least 1 liter of water and snacks (FYI: chocolate melts on deck)

– Personal first aid kit

– Kayak repair kit

– Chart bag, charts, pencil, log book, compass, GPS, and write-in-the-rain notebook


– Tent, fly, footprint, and poles

– Sleeping bag (rating dependant on time of year) / sleeping pad

– Base layer top and bottom (light- to mid-weight)

– Insulation layer top and bottom (mid-weight to fleece)

– Quick dry pants or shorts

– Rain gear

– Non-cotton socks and camp shoes or boots

– Personal toiletries (hygiene is key)

– Toilet trowel, camp soap, and hand sanitizer (repeat: hygiene is key)

– Expedition first aid kit


– Tarp and cord

– Water purification system

– Food hanging rope and bag(s)

– Food and spice kit

  • No cans or glass
  • Aim for 2,500 – 4,000 calories per person per day including snacks, when designing your menu
  • Perishables will only keep so long depending on the time of year of your trip

– Stove, repair kit, wind screen, and waterproof lighters

– Fuel bottle and fuel (100ml per person per day)

– Pot set and gripper

– Cooking utensils, personal utensils, plate, bowl, and mug

– Wash kit and strainer


– Dry bags (various sizes; 15L or less – those hatches are TIGHT) and stuff sacks

– Garbage bags

– Ziplock bags

– Parachute cord

If there’s space:

– Camera with extra memory/film and batteries

– Collapsible camp chair

– Book

– Any other little luxury to make your trip comfortable


1. At home, lay out all of the ingredients in organized piles (bags, food, clothes, camp, kitchen, etc.).

2. Line dry bags and stuff sacks with garbage bags to provide some waterproofing redundancy in your packing system.

pack a kayak

3. Tie a length of parachute cord to each dry bag and stuff sack (in case a bag gets shoved into a hatch longer than your arm).

4. Take a deep breath and don’t panic. Keep a pad and pen handy to inventory what’s in each bag.

5. Arrange food into meals by day in Ziplock bags. Label them well and add them to a dry bag.

meal planning pack a kayak

6. Methodically add items to dry bags, keeping the bags relatively small, and noting them in your inventory list. Your sleep system does not need to be all in one bag; nor does your tent. Leave paddling items accessible.

7. Do a happy dance when everything you want to bring fits into its own waterproofed bag. Or re-evaluate the amount of ingredients you want to include and start again with step 6.

pack a kayak

8. Get waterproofed bags into your vehicle. If traveling with your own kayak and paddle, don’t leave them behind.

pack a kayak 4

9. Transport yourself to your put-in location.

10. Unload your kayak, paddle, and remaining waterproofed ingredients.

11. Take a deep breath and don’t panic. Round two of three dimensional Tetris!

12. Open all the hatches of your kayak. Consider the space where your legs will be. Don’t forget the spot behind your seat. Meditate on your kayak’s space. Be your kayak.

13. Consider keeping the weight even throughout your boat. In a deliberate and patient manner start adding bags to your hatches, leaving paddling items accessible. Food you won’t need for a few days can be shoved into the furthest reaches of the kayak. Your well-waterproofed sleeping bag can go between your legs if need be. Keep your deck as clear as possible for the chart bag and other paddling necessities.

14. Do another happy dance if you packed your kayak on the first shot. Remember where you put everything and maintain your system while on trip. Let out a stream of expletives if you feel it necessary if you didn’t quite get it on the first shot, take some bags out, and start again with step 13. Take your time.

15. Congratulations! You can check “pack a kayak successfully” off your bucket list. Pat yourself on the back and take a photo for posterity. (And get in and paddle like the wind before those hatches explode open!)

*Includes time for grocery shopping. Add time if dehydrating all of your own food.

**Add time to get to your put-in.

Want to take a sea kayak trip with us? E-mail us for a nudge when our sea kayak trips are live.