Sea kayak camping – what not to forget!

Posted By: Doug Cooper Published: 22/04/2022

You’ve been working hard all week, yet all the time keeping half an eye on the fantastic forecast evolving for the weekend. Those magical two days where you can escape from it all, finding peace and solitude on a remote section of coastline with only close friends and the surrounding wildlife for company. The sea kayak is designed for carrying kit and therefore is perfect for spending a weekend away camping, for many it is what life is all about. With a perfect forecast and a weekend away from it all camping on a remote beach just around the corner, then ensuring you have everything you need with you is essential – this is not the magical weekend to forget anything important!

I’d love to say I never forget anything, but that’s just not true. I remember the first night of a month-long self-support trip in the middle of nowhere realising I had forgotten my spoon – my sole eating implement! Try eating soup, porridge & pasta using a tent peg for a month and you’ll get the picture; knowing ‘what not to forget’ when going camping is critical to an enjoyable trip! So based on many years of forgetting things, being envious of what others have remembered or having things but packed in the wrong place – here’s some hard-earned words of wisdom for your next weekend away…

What not to forget

There are some things that can pretty much end a trip before it has started if you forget them. A chance meeting of a couple of friends on a remote Scottish island, them just realised they’d forgotten all lighters/matches for the stove and us having spares is testament to this. With our weekends away being so valuable, we can’t afford to leave their success hanging in the balance of a chance meeting. Once the summer arrives and sea kayak trips away become the norm, we have our ‘grab and go’ camping box in the garage with all those camping essentials. We know if we have that we’ll be all good – it is just a matter of what additional luxuries we want to add to it depending on weather & ‘style’ of trip. So, what’s in or magical ‘what not to forget box’ – well here you go:

  • Tent (ensuring poles & pegs are with it)
  • Stove & fuel (light before you go & take plenty of fuel)
  • Lighters & matches (2 or 3 & packed in waterproof bags/containers)
  • Sleeping bag (double dry bagged)
  • Sleeping mat (with puncture repair if inflatable)
  • Food (we keep camping staples in our box with a weekend food list to make shopping easy on route – no need to think!)
  • Mug, bowl, spoon & knife (I always take a spare spoon now!)
  • Toothbrush, paste, washkit
  • Midge net & repellent (a Scottish essential!)
  • Torch
  • Toilet paper & trowel
  • Camp dry clothes & shoes
  • Sea kayak safety/repair/first aid kit

Have the above at the ready and the trip will always happen and be comfortable enough, so now it’s just deciding how comfortable you really want to be…

Campsite ‘envy’ kit

We’ve all been there; arrive at camp, settle down for the evening and then someone pulls out a bit of kit that makes life twice as comfortable for them and is then smug for the rest of the trip – it’s that classic case of ‘campsite envy’. I remember a six-week trip where I’d gone lightweight with a quarter pint mug, only to find my tent mate had ‘gone large’ with a pint mug – every time we had a brew it was envy o’clock! I now aspire to be that ‘smug camper’, some have even referred to me as ‘smug Doug’ in the past! So, what can make the difference between being comfortable and being really comfortable, or more importantly avoiding any campsite envy. Here’s a few things to consider:

  • Coffee (find room for a cafetiere or similar, fresh coffee in the morning is the only way to start)
  • Camp chair (these are getting lighter & more luxurious all the time, don’t hold back on the luxury for this item)
  • Sleeping mat (again luxury yet light is the way forward)
  • Camp duvet jacket (extra warmth for hanging out in the evening)
  • Tarp (a chance to create a dry communal space)
  • Good size mug!
  • A bottle of something (wine, whisky, beer, gin all fit perfectly into bow/stern ends of the boat)
  • That ‘bit of luxury’ food treat
  • Book/kindle
  • Dry kit! (do everything you can to keep dry, think about your feet – campsite wellies?)

Packed but in the wrong place kit

So, you arrive at camp and it is raining, all you want to do is grab the tent and get it pitched so you can get in the dry and warm. However; the pegs & poles are packed in the nose of the boat and the tent behind the skeg in the stern, time for a complete unpack just to get the tent! How many times have you been away and know you’ve got the piece of kit but either can’t find it or have to have an entire boat kit explosion just to get it? It’s all well and good taking the right kit, but packing it well is just as important, here’s a few thoughts to help out:

  • Evolve a system that works & then always pack the same (that way you always know where everything is!)
  • Ensure the weight is spread evenly, or slightly stern heavy, when loading a sea kayak (it ensures it handles well in any wind)
  • Keep ‘day use’ kit packed separately and easy to access
  • Have ‘camp kit’ packed in bow/stern hatches
  • If you have a ‘drier hatch’ (usually front), then put sleeping bag, clothes in that one
  • Pack ‘groups’ of similar kit (cooking, breakfast, tent, sleeping) together
  • Consider labelling your dry bags (they often look very similar)
  • Look at the weather forecast, pack knowing that first in will be last out and consider this if it is forecast to be raining

Now you just need to get out and put the above into practice – happy camping! If looking for information & inspiration of where to go in Scotland check out