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Packing your Sea Kayak

Packing a touring kayak may seem like a frustrating and never ending game of Tetris, and to some degree it is.  Rather than getting discouraged when looking at that huge pile of gear on the beach, think of it as a game best played with patience and strategy. He are a few tips to help you build a strategy, and pack your craft appropriately and safely on your next expedition.

  • Accessibility: 
    Don’t put your sunblock in the drybag that fits nicely in the stern. Have items needed during the day go in the boat last, so as to be retrieved as easy as possible. Same goes for first aid kits, lunch, extra warm clothes, tarps, field guides, etc. Day hatches and deck bags are great way to stay organized and be quick on the draw with the camera and binoculars.
  • Stability:
    The heaviest objects travel best, closest to the lowest center of gravity in the kayak. This is near our body in a solo, and between the paddlers in a tandem. Ideally heavy objects (water bags, bear cans, etc.) travel in hatches closest to a bulk head, and the lighter stuff (drybags, tents, etc) can utilize the space at the bow and stern.  Always balance a heavy object with equal weight across the center line of the kayak, or else you may wonder why you keep veering in one direction all day! You may choose to have a heavy stern in following seas, or weight the bow in a crosswind, but always experiment trimming your boat in mild conditions.
  • Avoid the Voids:
    Everything must go somewhere. Everything must go somewhere. This is your mantra! Every little shape has a particularly great place it will fit in a hatch amongst all your other gear. You just need to find that special place. Tent poles lay well in the keel line of the boat, pushed way towards the bow or stern. Fuel bottles (or wine bottles) nest well next to a skeg box in a rear hatch. The only place that bear can may fit is directly under a hatch cover. Visually seeking out the nooks and crannies that will swallow all the little items you have is the key to getting it all in. One strategy for packing the first day is to lay out all your gear in the shape of a kayak, next to your boat. This promotes the visual organization, and inventories every shape. Get in the habit of packing your boat the exact same way, every day, and it will become second nature. Make SURE you compress as much air out of items like drybags and sleeping bags as you can, and invest in some good drybags and compression sacs. If you have particularly small hatches, consider repacking that drybag AFTER you get it into the hatch.

Some Kelty items that are ideal for paddlers

Corrie Tent

Light Year XP 20 Sleeping Bag




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