What to Pack
Packing a kayak is an art form in itself, and covers everything from what you need to bring on a kayak trip to how to get it all inside the kayak.
Sea kayaks have ample room for almost all recreational sea kayak trips. Our single kayaks are from 16-18.5 feet long with two storage hatches, while our doubles are around 22 feet long and have three storage hatches included a large central hatch for bulkier items. You will quickly find that you can bring far more luxury items on a sea kayak expedition than you would ever dream of bringing on a backpacking trip of the same length of time.
That said, there are still limitations. As for what to pack, this link will take you to the page to download a recommended packing list for guides as set out by the Sea Kayak Guides’ Alliance of BC. While more extensive than you will need for a recreational trip, it gives a great framework for you to plan your own personal packing list.
With regards to clothing, the two key considerations are to pack layers for warmth, and to plan to have at least one dry pair of clothes at all times. Cotton is a poor choice in the PNW as it draws heat from the body when it gets wet, so always plan to have at least two changes of synthetic/nylon or wool clothing for both on and off water activities. After this, with the possible exception of underwear, you certainly don’t need a change of outfit every day, and for longer trips planning to bring this much clothing is impractical.
How to Pack
Packing the boat itself is often compared to a game of Tetris. The bow and stern hatches taper at the ends and are therefore the best places to stuff long and thin objects like tents, sleeping pads, etc to make the most of the shape of the space. Dry bags that taper at the ends are available that are designed to fit snugly in the nose of a kayak for this very reason.
You should also plan to pack the heaviest items towards the centre of the kayak – either in the centre hatch in a double or behind the seat in the back hatch of a single – so that the kayak is not carrying all it’s weight in the front or rear. Things like pots and pans and other kitchen items, or heavy food, should be placed here.
Finally, you have limited space under the bungees on the deck of the kayak and between your legs in the cockpit is you need more space to pack waterproof items. This should be limited however, especially on the deck, as it can destabilize the kayak greatly.
Where to Pack
Finally, thought has be to given to where you pack the kayak.
Packing a kayak up above the waterline and carrying it down to the water seems obvious, but stuff a double kayak with food, beer and equipment and then try to lift it down to the ocean once, and you quickly realize how damaging such an activity can be to yourself – and if you drop the kayak – our equipment.
A far more practical solution is to pack down at the waters edge … but the tides going out, and an hour after you begin as you’re ready to launch, the water has retreated 30 or 40 metres down the shallow beach.
So what to do? Drag the kayak and damage the hull? Absolutely not. Carry the loaded kayak and damage your back? We don’t recommend it.
Whether the tide is coming in or out, we always recommend packing floating kayaks. This reduces the risk of scrapes and damage as you stuff items deep into the hatch. Aim to have one or more people at the boats, and others passing gear to them from the shore for them to pack. This way, no matter which direction the tide is moving, you can simply walk the boats out or in with the tide, the kayaks don’t get damaged, and you are ready to leave as soon as you have finished packing!