skip to Main Content
Live now – dream later stays online but isn't updating anymore. Saana currently works as the editor-in-chief and writes exclusively for responsible travel media Valpas at

Kayaking Checklist: How to Pack Kayak for an Overnight Camping Trip

  • Suomeksi
  • In English
Packing a kayak isn’t exactly rocket science, but there are a few tricks that will make your life a lot easier (and safer). Besides top tips for how to pack kayak, this post includes a packing checklist – please feel free to steal it, if you like.


Last weekend, I was finally supposed to take the first overnight kayaking trip of summer 2018. A fellow blogger Milja from ‘Pipo silmillä’ adventure blog had arrived in Rauma with her friends for a camping weekend at the archipelago. I planned to join them on the old military island Kuuskajaskari for a few hours and continue with my kayak to another island called Nurmes for the night.

I had spent all week desperately glancing through all weather forecasts I could possibly find. The weather was sunny and also warm, but strong and gusty north wind haunted the predictions.

In the morning of the trip, the wind forecast varied between 7 and 14 m/s. I was just about to drive on the shore to check how it actually looks like at the sea while I received a message from Milja: “Are you somewhere nearby by a car right now? Our battery died in the middle of Old Rauma, and our waterbus to the archipelago is about to take off.”

Saana to the rescue! In a split second, I jumped into the car, drove up to the old town and found the girls struggling with theirs. If you start your day with booster cables, I guess you can’t expect for your day to end too well, either.


How to pack kayak for an overnight camping tripDo you believe in omens?


Every kayaking trip teaches you something – this is what I learned from mine

Once the car was happily running, I escorted the girls to the waterbus. I drove along the shore and stopped at a few different locations to feel the weather.

‘It’s gonna be fine’, I thought. Yes, it was windy, but I’ve fought bigger waves than this before.

In a few hours, I already stood at the beach with my camping gear. I kept feeling the wind for a little more while before packing the kayak. Going to Kuuskajaskari Island should be fine. Going to Nurmes afterwards might be impossible; I’d need to paddle headwind with gusts blowing 14 m/s.

Wanna know what happened?

I packed my kayak. After a little struggle, I had to admit the spray skirt I blindly borrowed from my neighbour was way too small for my kayak. I took a moment to ponder whether I call Daniel and ask him to bring me another one or would I try to manage with this one. I decided to give it a shot.

I paddled out of the bay. Then, the gusts hit me. I had almost zero control over the kayak. The wind was fast pushing me towards an island entirely in the opposite direction I wanted to go to. I paddled back to the shore and gave my camping trip one more thought.

According to the forecast, the wind wouldn’t calm one bit before 9 pm. Suddenly, the spray skirt was the least of my problems.


How to plan an overnight kayaking trip? Checklist for packing a kayak.Sun was shining, and yet I was left on the shore whining.


The shortest kayaking trip of my life taught me 3 things:
1 – If you need to borrow any kayaking gear, make sure you test they fit BEFORE the trip.
2 – Sometimes even Finnish weather forecasts are accurate.
3 – No matter how much you long for an adventure, it’s not worth risking your life. At times, it’s better to give up. Know when the time is right.


I felt pretty beaten while I was unpacking my kayak after only 10 minutes of paddling. Once I got home, I decided to take all benefits possible out of the situation. So I spread all my camping gear on the terrace and took a shot to tell you how to pack kayak for an overnight camping trip with a packing checklist for you to steal.


What to pack for an overnight kayaking trip

I guess it goes without saying that you pack according to the weather, destination and purpose of the trip. I aimed to spend my time at the archipelago trekking, eating well, perhaps swimming and spend my night in a hammock. It’s quite obvious that the clothing varies a lot depending on where you’re kayaking; you most likely wouldn’t manage a camping trip in Finland and Thailand with exactly same clothing. Therefore, instead of detailed clothing lists, I concentrate on other gear needed during an overnight kayaking trip.

I’ve used Evernote app to create checklists for what to pack for different journeys; a kayaking trip, hiking adventure and long cycling journeys. These checklists are really handy for a few specific reasons. Firstly, they stay synced between your laptop and phone and are therefore always up to date in your pocket. Secondly, modifying the list is easy whenever and wherever. While packing, all you need to do is to tick the item you’ve packed. After the trip, you just empty your ticks, and your list is ready for your next adventure.

Here’s my checklist for what to pack for an overnight kayaking trip (in Finland) for you to steal:


What and how to pack kayak for an overnight camping trip


Kayaking Checklist; What to Pack

Kayaking gear
[ ] kayak
[ ] paddle
[ ] spray skirt
[ ] life vest
[ ] seat
[ ] sunglasses (+hat if needed)
[ ] shoes that can get wet
[ ] lock for the kayak
[ ] waterproof pouch for phone etc.
[ ] map and compass
[ ] water bottle
[ ] gloves
[ ] sunlotion
[ ] bail + towel/sponge to dry your kayak
[ ] (smart people also have paddle float and paddle leash, I don’t)
[ ] a whistle (preferably attached to vest or spray skirt)
[ ] reflective vest in case kayaking at dusk

Stuff for cooking
[ ] campstove + gas
[ ] pots and kettles needed
[ ] plate, cup, cutlery
[ ] matches, kindling if needed
[ ] knife
[ ] water for drinking + cooking (does your destination feature a well?)
[ ] food and snacks to your preferences

Camping gear
[ ] hammock (or tent if you prefer)
[ ] mosquito net
[ ] tarp if needed
[ ] string and pegs
[ ] travel pillow, earplugs and sleepmask (seriously – summer nights in Finland are LIGHT)
[ ] sleeping bag and camping mat
[ ] merino layer + socks, gloves, hat and scarf if cold

[ ] always according to the weather
[ ] sneakers for hiking
[ ] warm and windproof clothes for the evening
[ ] socks + underwear
[ ] pants for kayaking and pants for hiking (either pair might get wet)
-> make sure you’ll always have a dry layer of clothes in case of an accident

Other stuff
[ ] mosquito spray
[ ] swimsuit + towel
[ ] personal hygiene stuff
[ ] camera + batteries
[ ] power banks + cables
[ ] something to read (if you like reading)
[ ] don’t forget your knife and matches!
[ ] pen and paper (for notes and amazing ideas, you know)
[ ] first aid kit (at least plasters, wound wipes, blister plasters, painkillers, bandage, snakebite kit)
[ ] phone (fully charged!)
[ ] wallet and keys if you need them
[ ] headlamp
[ ] sit pad
[ ] hand sanitiser
[ ] toilet paper
[ ] bin bags
[ ] backpack for hiking


How to pack kayak properly

As said, packing a kayak isn’t exactly rocket science, but there are a few rules to follow. By packing kayak correctly, you avoid taking any vain risks and make your paddling adventure safer and smoother.

Anything that can’t handle water should be packed in waterproof bags. At least in Finland, you can find these dry bags in most supermarkets in different sizes. Don’t waste your money on too big bags as the kayak hatches are small. Having your gear in medium-sized pouches will make packing a kayak a lot easier.

When packing your kayak, you want to focus the centre of gravity as low and as middle as possible. That said, pack the smallest and lightest gear in the peaks and the heaviest items on the bottom as near you as possible. Make sure to prevent any objects from moving and tipping your balance when paddling. If you have food that you’d like to keep cold, place them on the bottom of the kayak; the water will help to keep them cool.

In the photo below you’ll see what I packed for my overnight kayaking trip (even if it ended after 10 minutes). The picture is missing all kayaking gears a.k.a the paddle, life vest, spray skirt and the clothing I wore. All this can easily fit in the compartments of my sea kayak (and I would have fit a lot more).


What to pack for an overnight kayaking trip and how to pack them


Keep your kayaking gear in order with these tips

Over time I’ve managed to create some packing habits that help me keep my kayaking and camping gear in one piece and somewhat in order. Now I want to share them with you in case you’ll find them helpful, too:

× Wrap fragile items (like camera, lenses and spare batteries) inside your towel before placing them in the dry bag. This way they’re more likely to stay intact even if they’d move inside the compartment when crossing waves.

× Learn to pack similar items in the same bag (or create another logical system for packing that helps you find them fast when needed). If you look at the picture above, I have warm and windproof clothes in the blue pouch, electronics wrapped in a towel in the orange one, clean underwear and swimsuit in the green one, first aid kit and matches in the red one, etc.

× You know those small and round plastic capsules that hide the toy inside chocolate eggs, right? Save them! They’re an excellent way to pack small stuff like painkillers, spices (salt, pepper, ketchup… whatever you prefer) or even rings if you wear some. The capsules are tight, reliable and best of all, waterproof.

× Make sure you’ll always have reclosable plastic bags with a handy clip in storage; they’re great for packing small items. You can buy them in almost any supermarket (they’re very cheap in Lidl, for example). They’re better quality and a lot easier to close than regular zip bags (and the 1-litre version is pretty convenient for liquids when flying with hand luggage, too).

× Do you know these tiny silica pouches you get whenever you buy a new pair of shoes or a bag? Don’t throw them away, they suck humidity efficiently and are perfect to go inside a small reclosable plastic bag where you store your spare camera batteries.
This is how I pack my kayak and what I normally take along for my overnight kayaking adventures. Can you think of any other tips and tricks to share? Got a question? The comment section is open for discussion, as always.


How to pack kayak for an overnight camping trip? Pin these packing tips for later:

How to pack kayak for an overnight camping trip? Tips and tricks for packing a kayak with a free checklist


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Great post! Totally stealing the packing list for an overnight canoe trip this summer!

Make me happy; let's get chatty! :)

Back To Top