Kayaks resting against a wall

The 5 Best Kayaks for Camping

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A day on the open water with the sun shining on you. Kayaking to a hidden destination away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Your kayak packed full of supplies with an overnight adventure in mind, along with those familiar feelings of anticipation and excitement. Who knows where you will end up?

An adventure in the best camping kayak will take you places that are otherwise unreachable, places that a car simply cannot take you. It’s not only the hidden destination that’s memorable, to use an old cliche the adventure is the journey, not the destination.

The only limiting factor in how far you’re willing to go is the endurance of your muscles and the adventure in your spirit. Kayaking is one of lives greatest joys and everyone should give it a try, at least once.

Best Value
Best Choice
Premium Pick
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Tangerine, 10-Feet)
Wilderness Systems 9730315163 Aspire 100 Kayaks, Borealis, 10'
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Tangerine, 10-Feet)
Wilderness Systems 9730315163 Aspire 100 Kayaks, Borealis, 10'
Best Value
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
Best Choice
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Tangerine, 10-Feet)
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Tangerine, 10-Feet)
Premium Pick
Wilderness Systems 9730315163 Aspire 100 Kayaks, Borealis, 10'
Wilderness Systems 9730315163 Aspire 100 Kayaks, Borealis, 10'

Types of kayaks

There are a number of different kayaks on the market today made for all types of water adventures. It’s important to know what type of kayak will fill your needs.

Sit on top kayaks

Sit on Top Kayaks have a similar look as a traditional kayak from the outside, however, the inside is where they differ.

They have hollow plastic hulls that you sit on, not in, like a traditional kayak. Sit on top kayaks are good a starter kayak, as they are safe and easy to roll back over in a rollover situation.

They give you the ability to perform a self-rescue, it’s not difficult to flip it back over and get on by yourself.

Recreational kayaks

Recreational kayaks are best on calm water, they aren’t made for open water with strong currents and heavy winds.

These kayaks are generally affordable, offer stability, and are relatively easy to use. They offer storage compartments in the front, which will be used for packing the kayak with snacks and supplies.

Recreational kayaks range from 8-12 feet long and are often made of durable materials. Being shorter in length makes them easy to haul.

Touring kayaks

Touring kayaks or otherwise referred to as sea kayaks and are fast on the water and seaworthy. These kayaks range from 15 to 19 feet in length and have the remnants of the classical Greenland Style which have been around for 3500 years.

Their design is long and wide making the touring kayak perfect for cutting through small swells.

Touring kayaks contain plenty of room to bring everything your heart desires.

Inflatable kayaks

Inflatable kayaks bring to mind cheap materials and plastics that tear and break easily. That’s just not the case anymore. They have advanced in design and are a decent alternative to your traditional or recreational kayak, and they last a long time with some TLC.

Inflatable kayaks are the ultimate kayak if space is a concern, they deflate and fit in your vehicle easily. They also weigh less than a plastic hull kayak, making them accessible to nearly everyone.

Folding/Modular kayaks

Folding kayaks might as well be called a suitcase kayak, as they are compact and mobile.

A folding kayak won’t fit inside a suitcase per say, however, they will fold down into roughly that size or smaller. They are perfect for the adventurous traveler who likes to explore places you couldn’t otherwise bring a kayak.

A women on a kayak at sunset

Safety tips for kayaking

One of the best parts of getting into kayaking is being able to explore the water as you never have before, it gives you the freedom to find otherwise unreachable places. Kayaking, in general, is a safe activity as long as you have a respect and understanding of the real dangers that accompany kayaks.

1. Don’t drink and paddle

Never drink and paddle! It may sound like a good idea until you realize that you’re hammered. Alcohol decreases your balance and motor function, and tipping over a kayak is easy when you’re not tipsy.

2. Always wear a life jacket

A Life-jacket may feel and look silly, however, a life-jacket is the single most important piece of gear, minus the kayak. When things go bad in a kayak, it happens in the blink of an eye and you won’t have time to put it on before your in the water.

3. Practice rolling over

Train rollover situations in your kayak in calm and safe watersPractice getting back into your kayak from the water before you have to do it in an emergency situation. Becoming familiar with the way your kayak moves and feels will buy you valuable time in a rollover situation.

4. Use the buddy system

Kayak with a little help from your friends. Use the buddy system when kayaking. Another person will give you a much better chance of survival if something goes wrong.

5. Check the weather report

Avoid extreme weather, large swells and kayaks are a ripe combination for a disaster. Tipping over a kayak is the worst case scenario and you need to avoid it at all costs. Following a few simple guidelines will ensure a safe and successful kayaking adventure.

Tips for packing a kayak

If you have just discovered the idea of kayak camping then you might be asking yourself…

How the hell do I fit everything in my kayak?

Making the transition from car camping to kayak camping is going to involve a few sacrifices in terms of what type of gear you pack. There is still plenty of room to bring anything that you need.

Keep it light

Kayak camping is similar to ultralight camping in that you focus on limiting the gear and weight that you pack for a weekend trip. Unlike ultralight backpacking, the gear isn’t carried on your back you carry it inside the kayak. This limits what you bring depending on the amount of storage in the kayak.

Stay organized

In order to get the optimal storage capacity within the hull of your kayak, you need to organize your gear as efficiently as possible.

Considering the shape of the hull, it’s a good practice to individually wrap everything in plastic so you can pack it according to the oblong shape of the kayak. Put the heavier stuff on the bottom and stack it neatly, as opposed to throwing a large bag in the hull that slides around.

Cover everything in plastic

Keeping everything wrapped in plastic and protected from the water is an extremely important step in packing any kayak for camping. Even is the hull is supposed to be waterproof there is always a chance that water can get inside. It’s always a good idea to make sure that everything is completely covered just in case water finds its way inside.

Balance the load

When packing any kayak or boat for that matter, it’s always good practice to pack with balance in mind. One of the most common accidents in kayaking is a rollover. Packing your kayak while paying attention to balance will save you from this situation, especially in choppy waters.

Here are a few other items to remember:

  • Life vest
  • Picnic Blanket
  • Extra tent stakes
  • Waterproof container
  • Picnic blanket
  • Compression bag
  • Rope
  • Plastic bag

The 5 best kayaks for camping awesomeness

Here’s are our choices for the top kayaks for an epic camping adventure.

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

Inflatable kayaks are a great way for families and friends to start kayaking at an affordable rate. Inflatables are going to be on the low end of the price range in terms of kayaks.

They are lightweight and easy to transport making accessible to people that don’t have a rack for their kayaks installed on their cars. It’s small enough when deflated to fit into the back of your car when transporting, making it ultra convenient and accessible for everyone.

It is made of durable welded parts that maintain stability and structure ensuring that you are guaranteed a smooth ride.

It comes with a hand pump for inflation that takes around 15 minutes to fill up from beginning to end. Overall this kayak is a cheap and viable option for the casual kayaker or beginner.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Welded
  • 84 inch oar

Cons

  • Can be unsteady
  • 5 piece oar
  • Removable skeg

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Sit-In Kayak

Sale
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Sit-In Kayak
168 Reviews
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Sit-In Kayak
  • Large open cockpit with adjustable padded seat with high back support
  • Convenient gear storage with shock cord deck rigging
  • Adjustable foot braces;Capacity: 113kg
  • Rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene

As far as recreational kayaks go this one is perfect for an overnight or weekend camping trip with your friends, family, or loved ones. It has a rugged UV-stabilized fortiflex high-density Polyethylene shell that is able to withstand minor bumps and bruises.

The gear storage container has a strong lid on it to prevent anything from getting wet. Weighing around 40 pounds it is fairly easy to load and unload by yourself, you should still always kayak with a buddy.

This kayak is stable even in slightly choppy water, you are going to need to purchase a paddle to go along with it, unfortunately.

Pros

  • Sprat deflector
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Gear storage

Cons

  • Sharp edges
  • No seat padding
  • Not for experienced paddlers

Dagger Zydeco 9.0 Kayak

Dagger Zydeco 9.0 Kayak
10 Reviews
Dagger Zydeco 9.0 Kayak
  • Great for Flat-Water cruising or taking full control in slow-moving water of rivers and inlets
  • The 9.0 is lightweight for easier carrying and cartopping, while the shorter length offers increased control for twisty environments
  • Offers a comfortable but dialed-in Cockpit design that's roomy enough for relaxation without sacrificing the performance capabilities
  • Boat length: 9' 1 inch

The Dagger Recreational 9.0 is a great kayak for a beginner or a seasoned vet, as it handles well and it easy to maneuver. The zydeco design has undergone a complete overhaul to improve both maneuverability and stability.

The cockpit of this recreational kayak is spacious and roomy enough to really enjoy yourself and still have performance ability of smaller cockpit kayaks.

This model does not have any bulkheads so in the instance of a rollover there is a possibility of sinking. Having float bags installed in the front and the tail of the boat is an easy solution.

Weighing in at 36.5 pounds this is on the lighter end of the hard plastic kayaks and car topping this kayak is doable with only one person.

Pros

  • Slide lock foot brace
  • CFS-R seating
  • Paddle park

Cons

  • No skirt
  • Only for lakes and rivers
  • Limited tracking

Old Town Vapor 10

Old Town Vapor 10
47 Reviews
Old Town Vapor 10
  • Single-user kayak great for quiet water paddling on lakes, ponds, and slow moving rivers
  • Made from highly durable single layer linear polyethylene. Built in carry handles
  • Adjustable Comfort Flex padded seat for all day paddling comfort and a cockpit rim paddle-rest
  • Comfortable thigh/knee pads and Glide Track Foot Brace system for good fit and control

The Old Town Vapor 10 has a large open cockpit with plenty of room to have a comfortable ride, you can fit a 50-pound dog in front with no issues.

It has padded thigh braces on the sides of the cockpit, ensuring that your legs don’t get smashed when paddling. There are storage compartments in both the front and tail of the kayak.

The Old Town Vapor 10 has a 325-pound weight limit. The weight limit is on the higher end of the load range making this kayak accessible to more people than other kayaks.

The Vapor 10 also has a nifty little paddle rest that you can use when you need to take a break to take it all in, have a sandwich, or take a photo.

This is a great kayak for flat water and protected bays, it handles well and has good maneuverability.

Pros

  • Skid plate
  • Comfortable seat
  • Lots of storage space

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Carrying handles
  • Poor drain plug location

Wilderness Systems Aspire 105

Sale
Wilderness System Aspire
2 Reviews
Wilderness System Aspire
  • Designed for the paddler who prefers agility over brawn
  • Sized perfectly to fit a female or small-framed paddler comfortably
  • Named "best for beginners" by men's journal, April 2014
  • Fully adjustable, ergonomic Phase 3 AirPro Seat - the most comfortable kayak seat out there

This kayak is built for people of all sizes and is designed for agility and swiftness over brawn and strength. It’ss great for both flat water and lightly moving water, it is not intended to be used on the ocean.

The boat tracks decently with the skeg up, however, once you lower the skeg the boat holds a better line.

With storage in the back and rigging on the kayak, there is plenty of room to pack for a trip. Remember to pack everything in plastic that you don’t want to get wet, and plan on everything getting wet.

Pros

  • Lots of storage
  • Skid plate
  • Thigh and knee padding

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Awkward carry
  • Awkward shouldering

Conclusion

Choosing the best kayak for your camping trip is not going to be a one size fits all solution. A kayak made for flat water will not handle river rapids, therefore, doing your research and due diligence before making the purchase will pay off in the long run.

Kayaks are perfect for packing up on a Friday after work and heading out to your favorite spot for a few days away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Get lost and keep wandering.

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