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Overnight expedition kayaking

Overnight trips are the highlight of the sport. There is something incredibly beautiful about paddling up to a pristine campsite, pulling everything you need out of the back of your boat and enjoying a night under the stars. What follows is a list of recommendations based off of extensive personal experience.

Above and beyond normal paddling kit:

Breakdown Paddle, throw rope and Pin Kit: These never leave my boat anyways, but are not always standard for most people. Extra items in pin kit that are key on overnights: Multi-tool with pliers and screwdriver. Needle + fishing line to patch skirts. A bottle of Ibuprofen and "sleep aid" a light, non prescription sleep aid like Tylenol pm.

Dry bags: Always a toss up between weight and durability. Watershed’s are really nice, durable and significantly heavy but the only truly dry choice. If you have the money, just getting two Watershed Futa bags is a good way to go. If not buy them at REI because most dry bags fall apart like nobodys business. Personally I use one Watershed Futa and one Watershed Chatooga and they can hold all my stuff.

Sleeping Bag: I like down for light weight and compression and long lifetime. I use Feathered Friends 20 degree bag. They are honest about their ratings. If I had an REI or North Face bag it would have to be a 10 degree bag, they rate theirs for survival not sleeping. Of course if you use down you need good shelter to keep it dry. I've been considering switching to drydown, but have yet to find anything as light and warm as Feathered Friends.

Shelter: If weather is good I use an Outdoor Research Bug Bivy or if there is a chance of rain, a Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 FL

Filter: Personally I skip on a water filter other than using a water filter bottle during the day.  I’d bring either iodine, or my personal choice, just a small bottle of bleach. 2 drops per liter treats me well and it tastes like the water in Davis.

Cooking: In California I just plan on using a fire to cook on. If it's stateside and wet, propane/butane canister stoves work well. Internationally I haul around an old Svea 123. It's always a little work to start, but does start every time. Requires much less maintenance than a Whisperlight, but it is loud. It will run on regular unleaded gas which is great while traveling in third world countries. I  use a cheap aluminum cooking pot with a lid that holds at least 4 cups, plus a spoon or spork.

Cloths: Later in the California season I don’t bring any extra cloths and plan to dry mine by a campfire, but earlier that’s not a guarantee. I bring flip-flops for around camp, shorts, a wool base layer for my legs and a light down coat. I also like to throw in a beanie for cold nights.

Random: Headlamp with fresh batteries, mp3 player, camera.


Food is up to the user, but I learned it’s way better to pack too much rather than almost enough. Not having enough food can ruin any trip, no matter how great the river, it’s not fun if you are starving. I’ll plan this as a four night, five day trip. A lot of people are into the freeze dried, which saves weight, but is terribly expensive for how good it tastes, and can be hard on the digestive system when eaten back to back. My suggestions might just sound  a little redneck, but hey that's my roots :)


1. Steak, throw it in some marinade and freeze it. Keep it in a ice chest until it goes in your dry bag. Everyone will be jealous at camp and it’s cheaper than a freeze dried meal! Goes well with instant mashed potatoes.
2. A package of bratwurst of choice. I plan to eat two and night and they come in a six pack. Goes well with mac-n-cheese.
3. Two leftover brats and Instant mashed potatoes
4. The last two brats and either a noodle variety of choice like Lipton Sides or a different flavor of instant potatoes.

Desert: I have a sweet tooth and try to bring something chocolate for after every dinner.

Lunch: This is a tough one because nothing is dehydrated. It’s also less organized because a lot of stuff I bring gets split up.

Two family size boxes of Triscuits. Substitute with cracker of choice.
Block of cheddar cheese, split into two zip-locs: two lunches with crackers
Salami – two lunches with crackers.
1 big packet of good Tuna. Good to eat with the last of the crackers.

Breakfast: I just bring 2 packets of instant oats per day. It’s mediocre food but easy.

Snacks: I like to bring a big bag of trail mix and another treat per day, like two small peanut butter cups per day.

Drinks: Tang or similar. It’s nice to have, especially if it’s cold and dry weather. People never bring it but always beg it off me, it’s liquid gold. I also bring 2 Emergen-C packets per day to keep the electrolytes up on big days.

Other considerations:

I move my seat about 1″ forward to help balance out the extra right in the stern. I take any float bags out of my boat, because the dry bags take up all that space and serve the same purpose. I always clip my dry bags in with a carabiner. 

A great suggestion by Nick Gottlieb: One other thing to include in cold / rainy weather is wax paper — very cheap, very light and small, and great fire starter.