BEGINNER GUIDE TO CANOE AND KAYAK CAMPING
When it comes to camping, there are few forms purer than canoe and kayak camping. No cars, no mod cons, just you, your paddle and the peace and tranquillity of the Australian backcountry. Spend your days fishing or paddling in pure bliss, then park yourself up, start your fire and cook yourself a gourmet backcountry meal before hitting the hay under the stars.
For beginners looking to sink their teeth into something different, here is everything you need to know before you launch off onto your own canoe or kayak camping trip.
THINK CAR CAMPING, BUT ON THE WATER
What is canoe and kayak camping? Simply put, it’s like car camping, but on the water. You load up your campsite each morning, but instead of driving to your next camping location, you paddle there.
In terms of space, you would be surprised how much space kayaks have for storing supplies. I find that my packing list varies very little from my car-camping list.
For beginners, choose a small, flatwater water source that is easily navigable. Plan for a one or two-night trip on your first go. Don’t try to run before you can walk. There will be plenty of time for that month-long excursion in the future once you have a few trips under your belt. Start off slow and build on it.
Do your research thoroughly. Guidebooks and maps can become dated, and any old idiot can write information on the internet. For the most up to date information, contact the local government authority responsible for the waterways in the area you are visiting. Find out where you can launch, where you can exit and places they recommend stopping to camp. If you want to fish, ask about the fishing, if you prefer to be alone, ask about numbers of visitors, you know the drill.
Gather all the waterproof bags you can get your hands on. It will be wet. Most kayaks have plenty of space, but it is in small hatches. 20, 30 and 40-litre dry-bags will be ideal. If you don’t have any you can use black plastic sacks, but they split easily so it is worth getting your hands on some dry-bags if you can. You don’t want to roll your sleeping bag out at night, only to find there was a nick in the sack and you have to sleep in a wet patch all night.
DO SOME TRAINING
The better shape you are in before you set off, the more rewarding the experience will be. Go on plenty of day trips and get used to handling your kayak or canoe when it is loaded with gear. A heavier kayak or canoe handles very differently.
If you have the resources and the time, doing a kayaking course is a good way of getting some experience quickly. For me, it also really ignited my desire to do more kayaking and motivated me into buying my first kayak and getting more involved with the sport.
ALWAYS WEAR YOUR PERSONAL FLOATATION DEVICE (PFD)
Yes, they leave horrendous tan lines, but always wear your PFD. Too many people don’t wear them but ask any experienced kayak or canoe enthusiast and they will tell you a few stories that will have you rushing to get it on.
Enjoy your trip. You will have done all your preparation so there is no reason to be nervous or apprehensive now. Launch your canoe or kayak and set off on your first adventure. Be sure to take photos and share your experience with us all at OnDECK.