Solo Kayak Camping

Updated on June 6, 2018
jimmar profile image

Jim is a retired software/electrical engineer who enjoys the outdoors. He likes to challenge himself with creative projects at home.

You cram all of your camping gear into the hull or hatches of a kayak and paddle off to a distant remote campsite, then unpack, set up camp and enjoy the solitude. Pretty simple!

Of course you can make it more of an adventure by planning a long route that requires you to portage into different lakes and takes several days to complete. In that case you need to figure out a way to carry your kayak and you’ll have unpack and repack your boat at each end of the portage. A kayak is faster on the water than a canoe so you can cover more distance but if your route has several portages you can quickly lose that time from all the packing and unpacking.

I recently finished a one-week solo trip in QueticoProvincalPark with my home made cedar-strip kayak and here are some of my observations.

Gear List: What I Took and Where it Was Packed

Where It Was Packed
4 man tent (smallest I had)
forward hull
Sleeping bag (packed in plastic trash bag and rubberized pack liner bag)
forward hull
Lightweight foam sleeping pad
forward hull
Clothing (packed in waterproof gear bag)
rear hatch
Cook kit
loose in rear hatch
Coleman Dual Fuel 533 camp stove
loose in rear hatch
Small coffee pot
loose in rear hatch
Spare shoes
loose in rear hatch
Food bag
loose in rear hatch
Army surplus duffle bag with shoulder straps –
loose in rear hatch
Katadyn Hiker water filter
loose in rear hatch
Rope for hanging food pack
loose in rear hatch
Portage yoke
strapped on top of hull
Fanny pack emergency survival kit
strapped on top of hull
Paddle float
strapped on top of hull
in deck bag
Camera and mini tripod
in deck bag
in deck bag
Fishing rods (2)
strapped on top of hull
Water bottle for drinking
in cockpit
Compass and maps
in deck bag
Rain gear
in deck bag
in cockpit

How I Portaged

At every portage I took my gear out of the forward hull and rear hatch and unstrapped the gear from the deck. I placed the loose gear in the army duffle and attached the portage yoke to the kayak coaming. I carred the fishing rods and the deck bag by hand and put the duffle on my back as I walked the portage trail. I made a second trip to retrieve the kayak. At the other end of the trail I took the gear out of the duffle and packed it back into the kayak.


Click thumbnail to view full-size

Food and Water

Clean drinking water is essential. For a day trip you can bring along a canteen or a few bottles, but for extended trips bringing your own water is not practical. A water filter with a pore size of no larger than 0.3 micron is needed to remove most common bacteria. I use either a Katadyn Hiker model for individual use, or if more water is required I use the Katadyn Camp model. It works great and requires little effort, since gravity replaces pumping. I usually bring along individual packs of Crystal Lite for the water bottle, which will help mask any residual taste. If you like the stuff, it will encourage fluid consumption, minimizing concerns about dehydration.

Food is a matter of personal preference, but spoilage is a consideration in warm weather. I usually bring dehydrated or dried food in an effort to minimize weight. You can purchase prepared dehydrated meals or MREs made especially for camping, but every thing you need can be purchased from your local grocery for a fraction of the price.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Instant oatmeal
  • Granola bars
  • Homemade trail mix– nuts, dried fruit, M&Ms
  • Powdered milk
  • Folgers Coffee Singles
  • Krustaez pancake mix
  • Any “just add water” muffin or biscuit mix
  • Instant cocoa
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Instant rice or pasta, flavored side dishes
  • Pre-cooked bacon
  • Spam Singles
  • Foil-packed tuna
  • Foil-packed chicken
  • Foil-packed ham
  • Hard cheese, Velveeta, or Cheese Whiz
  • Hard salami or meat sticks
  • Jerky
  • Popcorn for popping on the camp stove
  • Crackers
  • Tortillas
  • Instant soup mix
  • Ramen noodles

You can be creative with meal plans. I usually try to use 1- or 2-gallon Ziplocs and put dinner, lunch, and breakfast foods in separate bags, with a small supply of paper towels and aluminum foil if needed. Any condiments and miscellaneous items go in their own bag. I also divvy up the trail mix into small individual Ziploc bags, which helps to ration this crucial substance and keeps the supply more sanitary.


Clothing can take up a lot of space and the tendency is to over pack. Essentially you need one set of clothing to wear and one dry set to change into if you get wet. Where I camp I need to be prepared for cold weather; once I was in a snowstorm on June 18. I use a fleece jacket that when topped with my rain jacket provides good cool-temperature protection. Cotton clothing should be avoided since it provides no warmth when wet and takes a long time to dry, though it is comfortable when sitting around camp. Synthetic blend materials or wool are the best.

You can anticipate landing your kayak and stepping into the water; wet feet cannot be avoided. Select footwear that drains well and dries quickly. Sandals should be avoided unless your trip plan lets you land only on sandy beaches and walk well-cleared trails. If I am traveling early in the summer and cool weather is expected I might pack a knit hat, gloves and some synthetic long underwear.

For a week-long trip I pack:

  • 3 changes of socks and underwear
  • 2 pairs of zip-off cargo pants
  • 2 cotton t-shirts
  • 1 synthetic t shirt
  • 1 long-sleeve shirt
  • 1 hat (ball cap)
  • 1 extra pair of dry tennis shoes
  • 1 rain suit
  • 1 fleece jacket

Quetico Scenery

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Precautions for Traveling Alone

When you are travelling alone in the wilderness you should slow down and travel at a more relaxed pace. Be overly cautious. Excessive risk and hasty decisions can lead to trouble. Observe your surroundings. Every thing you do should be purposeful and thought out. Take the time you need to make the right decision when you begin to question yourself. For instance, if you find yourself lost, stop and rest and think. Don’t let panic set in, which will cloud your judgement. When the fog in your head clears the correct path will probably be obvious.

Leave contact information and trip details with a responsible person. Where are you going? When will you return? What is the general itinerary? Where will you start and where will you park? What color is your tent? Consider leaving your home phone number, park office phone number, local sheriff, or local outfitters phone number with someone.

Research and plan your route and stick fairly closely to your plan. Resist the urge to drastically alter your plan at the last minute without informing someone who cares about your return.

Plan ahead. What would you do if you are injured? Do you have adequate supplies for a few extra days if needed? Do you have an emergency medical kit? How would you signal for rescue if needed? Is there cell phone service in the area? What would you do if you become lost? These are things you should think about before you are forced to think about them at a time when it may be difficult to use good judgement.

Pay attention to the weather. Weather forecasts are helpful but often times not entirely reliable. When stormy weather starts to approach, take shelter or set up camp before conditions become dangerous. Always keep an eye on the sky.

Solitude and Pace

The solitude you may feel could become a profound experience. The first few nights of being alone, I’ll admit, can make you feel a little distressed. Soon a feeling of calm will fill you due to the relaxed pace and the quiet and the routine of travel and camp life. Traveling at a slower pace will cause more things to explore and investigate to present themselves, things that a normal tripper moving along with deadlines and frantic stroke will surely miss.

My Solo Trip in Quetico

Atikokan, Ontario:
Atikokan, ON P0W, Canada

get directions

Quetico Provincial Park near Atikokan, Ontario


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    • profile image

      Mike H 

      9 years ago

      Wow, very inspiring! Great looking Kayak, well done!


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