Overnight paddling trips can be pure luxury – if you stow your gear right. By T Edward Nickens
A sea kayak can haul a couple of backpacks’ worth of camping gear, fishing tackle and wine boxes – and without a single kilogram weighing down your shoulders. The trick to keeping the boat handling well is to place the heaviest items low and centred. “A correctly loaded kayak can actually be more stable than an empty boat,” says Lamar Hudgens, owner of an adventure guide service that specialises in kayaking. “Just think before you stuff.”
Prep: Arrange your gear in three piles: night-time camp equipment, items you want during rest breaks on the beach, and everything you need to reach from the cockpit.
Pack: Use waterproof dry bags to hold your gear, and think small; any bag wider than a dinner plate probably won’t fit through the hatches.
Load: Pack the boat so it sits at level trim, which means flat in the water. A bow-heavy boat is sluggish and difficult to turn, whereas the bow of a stern-heavy kayak will catch the wind.
1. Light items such as sleeping pads and bags go into the stems of the bow and the stern.
2. Moderately heavy gear – tents, cookware, stoves and clothing – goes here. Keep heaviest items low and centred between the sides of the boat.
3. and 4. Spaces behind and in front of the seat are perfect for the small dry bag of gear you’ll need on the water, plus a bilge pump and a few spare water bottles.
5. Heavy items such as water, food and liquid stove fuel ride in the bottom of the boat and are balanced side to side. “Two-litre cooldrink bottles are great for extra water,” Hudgens says. “You can shove them into nooks and crannies where other gear won’t fit.”
The kayak deck should be kept free of bulky items that could throw off the boat’s balance or catch the wind. Stow a spare paddle and waterproof map case under the deck bungees, but that’s it. “There’s an old saying,” Hudgens says. “Keep your deck clean or the sea will clean it for you”.