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Kayak Camping Checklist (by Sharkchow)


Last updated on July 5th, 2024 at 05:45 pm

On a kayak camping trip into Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands with my friend Warren Richey, I couldn’t help but be amazed at all the gear he packed into his little kayak.

Well, as kayak’s go, it’s not really little. Warren paddles a 17.5-foot fiberglass Current Designs Solstice GT, weighing 56 pounds empty. By comparison, my 12-foot Hobie weighs about the same.

Warren does overnight trips often and has even circumnavigated the Florida peninsula. He wrote about a book about it.

His handle in the world of Florida kayaking is “Sharkchow.”

kayak camping warren richey kayaking Kayak Camping Checklist (by Sharkchow)
Sharkchow and his kayak in the Ten Thousand Islands. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

Sharkchow doesn’t waste a centimeter of space in his kayak and is totally self-contained. During the Ultimate Florida Challenge, he carried a dolly for a 40-mile overland portage from the St. Mary’s River to the Suwannee.

On less-demanding expeditions, he carries a small, handmade dolly to pull his yak up on the beach, portage shoals and coral outcroppings.

You won’t need all of this gear, but you’ll want to look it over for ideas.

Sharkchow’s Kayak Camping Checklist

Kayak Gear

  • 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 dolly
  • Nautical charts
  • Extra batteries
  • FM/Weather Radio with earpods
  • 3 bandanas
  • Reading glasses
warren-richey-panther-key kayak camping checklist
Warren hangs out his quick-dry paddle shirt at our campsite on Panther Key. Behind him is his jungle hammock. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

Kayak Camping Gear

  • Jungle hammock
  • Inflatable air mattress
  • Sleeping bag
  • Assorted lengths of parachute cord
  • 8×10-foot tarp
  • Bug repellant with DEET
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Biodegradable toilet paper
  • Fishing rod and lures

Clothing for kayak camping in Florida

  • Fleece sweatshirt
  • T-shirt
  • Long sleeve front-button shirt
  • Nylon running shorts
  • Nylon wind pants
  • SmartWool socks
  • Mosquito head net
  • Fleece hat
  • Broad-brimmed hat and baseball hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Fast-drying shorts
  • Diving booties
  • Water shoes
  • Paddle gloves
  • Waterproof paddle jacket

Cooking Gear

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

Warren carries 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.  (Warren likes the freeze-dried turkey tetrazzini best.)

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

Personally, I find that a handheld waterproof eTrex GPS device is essential when paddling open water or a complex environment, such as the Ten Thousand Islands. Track your path and return to the trail if you get lost.

Should you have an escort boat?

Purists will mock me, but it’s comforting to have an escort boat with a motor when kayaking distances with a group. Anything can happen out there, and sometimes you might want to lug coolers and tents, items too large for most kayaks.

If your kayak trail is a shallow creek or a river with lots of shoals, invite somebody with a canoe or jon boat with a small motor.

Purchase Warren Richie’s book Without a Paddle: Racing Twelve Hundred Miles Around Florida by Sea Kayakkayak camping ir?t=fc090a 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B004NSVF40 Kayak Camping Checklist (by Sharkchow),kayak camping ir?t=fc090a 20&l=as2&o=1&a=031263076X Kayak Camping Checklist (by Sharkchow) published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Press, from Amazon.kayak camping ir?t=fc090a 20&l=as2&o=1&a=031263076X Kayak Camping Checklist (by Sharkchow)

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  • Martin says:

    Hi Bob,
    Thanks for sharing your advice and tips. I love kayaking and camping, and although I know both activities, is really different to them together. Great read.

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