Camping / Kayak & Canoe

Packing for kayak camping: Sharkchow’s checklist

Warren Richey paddles in the gulf off Picnic Key

Warren Richey paddles in the gulf off Picnic Key

On a recent wilderness kayak expedition into Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands with paddle expert and author Warren Richey, I marveled at all the gear he packed into his “tiny” kayak, a 17.5-foot Current Designs Solstice GT sea kayak. It is fiberglass and weighs 56 pounds empty.

Warren does these overnight trips often, and he recently wrote a book – Without a Paddle: Racing Twelve Hundred Miles Around Florida by Sea Kayak — about his month-long adventure in the Ultimate Florida Challenge, where he acquired the handle “Sharkchow.”

As you can imagine, Warren doesn’t waste a centimeter of space. He is totally self-contained. During the Ultimate Florida Challenge, he had to carry a dolly that would hold up for a 40-mile portage from the St. Mary’s River to the Suwannee.  On less-demanding adventures, he carries a very small, handmade dolly, just enough to pull his kayak up on the beach or portage sandbars, mud flats and coral outrcroppings.

I asked Warren to share his camping packing checklist with our Florida Rambler readers:


  • Kayak
  • Two paddles, one primary, one spare
  • Spray skirt
  • Life vest
  • Hand pump
  • Sponge
  • Inflatable paddle float
  • Compass, watch, and whistle
  • Duct tape
  • Cell phone
  • Hypothermia survival kit – including space blanket and fast fire starters
  • First aid kit
  • Safety knife
  • One headlamp, one flashlight
  • Small, lightweight wheels to pull kayak over rocks or tidal flats
  • Nautical charts
  • Extra batteries
  • FM Radio with earphones
  • 3 bandanas
  • Reading glasses

Warren hangs out his quick-dry paddle shirt


  • Broad-brimmed hat and baseball hat
  • Sun glasses
  • Sun screen
  • Fast-drying shorts
  • Diving booties
  • Paddle gloves
  • Waterproof paddle jacket


  • Jungle hammock or tent
  • Inflatable air mattress
  • Sleeping bag
  • Assorted lengths of parachute cord
  • Eight by ten foot tarp
  • Bug repellant
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Crocs – rubbery plastic shoes
  • Fishing rod and lures


  • Fleece sweatshirt
  • Tee shirt
  • Long sleeve front-button shirt
  • Nylon running shorts
  • Nylon wind pants
  • Smart Wool socks
  • Mosquito head net
  • Fleece hat


  • Food and water
  • Backpacker’s propane stove
  • Titanium pot
  • Three cigarette lighters
  • Matches
  • Plastic containers to carry roughly a gallon of water a day in hot weather
  • Plastic knife and spoon
  • Pocketknife with can opener

For food on our trip, Warren carried freeze-dried backpacker dinners from Campmor, along with daily rations of fresh carrots and snow peas measured into plastic sandwich bags (his daily “salad”), plus a few apples and bananas.  (Hot tip: Warren likes the freeze-dried turkey tetrazzini best.)

Your list may vary, depending on your trip, as it does for Warren. For example, when he does a major kayak race or expedition, he also carries a handheld VHF radio, a GPS and an iPirb life-saving beacon, expensive gear that is not essential for the recreational kayak camper.

If you have any questions about this list, or seek further advice, leave a comment here and we’ll ask Warren to respond.

Warren heads out to explore Hog Key

Warren heads out to explore Hog Key

Warren Richey is a part-time Florida resident and journalist whose assignments have taken him around the world, primarily the Middle East. Currently, he covers the U.S. Supreme Court for the Christian Science Monitor. His book, “Without A Paddle,” was published by St. Martin’s Press.

You can purchase Warren’s book Without a Paddle: Racing Twelve Hundred Miles Around Florida by Sea Kayak, published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Press, from Amazon.

Here’s a YouTube video about Richey’s participation in the 2013 Everglades Challenge. The event is a 300-mile, round-the-clock small-boat adventure race in Florida from Tampa Bay to Key Largo.  And here’s more about Richey and his work as a journalist.

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