Loading up a kayak with your camping gear and setting off with a few days worth of supplies can make for a great adventure. But it’s not always easy to tell if a kayak is well suited to camping.

This buyers guide will offer you some advice on what to look for in a kayak and round up some of the best kayaks for camping currently available on the market.

best kayak for camping

The first part of this buyer’s guide will offer you tips and advice on how to choose a good camping kayak. The reviews section will round up some of the best kayaks for camping. 

How to Choose

How to Choose a Kayak for Camping

Finding the right kayak for camping isn’t a one size fits all kind of a thing. Here are a few key points to think about that will help you hone in on the right type of kayak.

Where will you be paddling?

Whether or not you’re camping, the most important thing to consider is to make sure your kayak is suited to the conditions you’ll be paddling in.

Rivers – Unless you’re on a very wide river, you’ll usually find that a shorter, more maneuverable kayak is better suited to river paddling. While wider kayaks are typically slower than narrower ones, this isn’t as important on a river because much of your propulsion comes from the river itself. A wider kayak will give you better stability and a bit more storage space for your camping gear.

Coastal – Coastal paddling has the potential for rougher conditions due to wind exposure and currents. Longer touring kayaks are better able to handle these conditions than shorter recreational kayaks. Bonus points if it comes with a rudder or skeg. Many touring kayaks also have multiple storage hatches giving you additonal space for stashing away gear.

Rudders & Skegs

The primary purpose of a rudder or skeg is to help a kayak move straight through the water. This is especially helpful in the windy or choppy conditions you can find in exposed coastal waters.

Rudder – Sits on the back of the kayak and keeps the kayak on course. The one big advantage a rudder has over a skeg is that it can be controlled with foot pedals so it can provide some additional maneuverability.
Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV Flatwater Day Touring Kayak (Yellow/Orange, 14.5-Feet)
Skeg – Sticks out from the bottom of the boat and acts like the fin on a surfboard to keep the kayak moving straight ahead.
Riot Kayaks Edge 11 LV Flatwater Day Touring Kayak (Yellow/Orange, 11-Feet)

 

How long do you plan to camp for?

This almost goes without saying, but it’s still worth mentioning; Packing for a week-long expedition is different from packing for an overnight trip.

Not only will you need to bring additional food and clothing, it’s also a good idea to be extra prepared with additional emergency gear.

If you think you’ll be out for more than a night or two at a time, aim for a larger kayak with enough storage space for the extra gear you’ll need to bring.

Storage Space

A kayak’s onboard storage space is typically a combination of storage hatches and deck bungees.

Deck bungees are convenient for storing gear that you need quick access to while you’re paddling. Storage hatches are a better place to stash gear that you won’t need until you’re ready to setup camp.

Just keep in mind that when you pack your kayak it’s best to have most of your gear low in the kayak, so you’re better off with more storage hatches than deck bungees.

Kayak camping tips to keep in mind

  1. Pack light – Kayak camping is similar to backpacking in that you want to pack as light as you can. Apart from the limited storage space, kayaks that are loaded down to their maximum weight capacity don’t perform as well.
  2. Balance your load – Stash heavy items as low and as close to the middle of the kayak as you can. Loading heavy items higher up can destabilize your kayak and make it more prone to tipping.
  3. More is better – Packing your gear in lots of little bags is better than one big bag. Not only will you be more organized, smaller bags are better able to fit into the oddly-shaped storage compartments found in most kayaks.
  4. Use dry bags – Even the best sealed storage hatches can get water in them. Keep your water-sensitive gear in dry bags for added protection.
  5. Practice packing – It’s a good idea to practice packing your kayak before you leave the house to make sure you’ve got enough space for all your gear.

Camping Kayak Reviews

Best Kayaks for Camping – Top Picks

Riot Edge 14.5 LV

Overall Score: (4.6/5)

Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV Flatwater Day Touring Kayak (Yellow/Orange, 14.5-Feet)

Specifications:

Length: 14’ 6”

Width: 22.5”

Weight: 60 lbs

Weight capacity: 325 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Adjustable seat, adjustable footrests, rudder, dual storage hatches, deck bungees, deck perimeter lines, thigh braces

Ideal for: Weekend camping trips along coastal waters.

 $918.75

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-29 at 23:31 – Details)

Review

The Riot Edge 14.5 is a smaller touring kayak with storage space that makes it ideal for weekend camping trips. It’s sleek shape means it’s efficient to paddle and is well suited to covering longer distances.

It has two large storage hatches and both front and rear deck bungees, which gives you plenty of options for stowing gear.

The just over 14-foot hull means that it’s at home in both coastal waters as well as wider rivers. And the included rudder system allows for better tracking and maneuverability in rougher conditions.

The Edge 14.5 does have a slightly narrower hull, so it’s not quite as stable as some of the other options. Though, Riot uses a hard chine along the hull to help improve stability and keep the Edge 14.5 from feeling ‘tippy’ despite its narrower width.

 

The Edge 14.5 offers some serious value and manages to pack in some features that are normally reserved for high end sea kayaks but at an entry-level price.

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165

Overall Score: (4.5/5)

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 Touring Kayak with Rudder

Specifications:

Length: 16’ 6”

Width: 23.75”

Weight: 66 lbs

Weight capacity: 350 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Fully adjustable seat, adjustable padded thigh braces, adjustable foot braces, rudder, two large storage hatches, small day hatch, deck bungees, perimeter deck lines

Ideal for: Weekend or longer camping expeditions along coastal waters.

 $1,696.30

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-29 at 23:31 – Details)

Review

If you’re planning on heading out on multi-day excursions along coastal waters, the Tsunami 165 could be a great option.

It’s over 16-foot hull and included rudder means it’s very efficient to paddle and tracks well through the water, even in the presence of wind and waves.

It has two larger storage hatches for stashing away your camping gear as well as a smaller day hatch and deck bungees to give you easy access to gear you need while paddling.

One of the Tsunami’s distinguishing features is its seat. It’s a combination of mesh stretched over contoured foam, which allows for ventilation while still offering support and is arguably one of the most comfortable seats you’ll find for a kayak in its price range. The multiple adjustment points means you can customize the fit so it’s just right for your body – ideal for spending several days on the water.

While it’s a bit more expensive than some of the other options, the Tsunami 165 is a capable and comfortable option that’ll allow you to get out and explore some new areas.

Wilderness Systems Pungo 140

Overall Score: (4.3/5)

Wilderness Systems 9730545110 PUNGO 140 Kayaks, Midnight, 14'

Specifications:

Length: 14’

Width: 28”

Weight: 58 lbs

Weight capacity: 350 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Fully adjustable seat, adjustable foot braces, thigh pads, two storage hatches, deck bungees, removable storage console

Ideal for: Paddlers that want a balance between performance and stability for their weekend camping trips.

 from $1,029.00

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-29 at 23:31 – Details)

Review

The Pungo series of kayaks from Wilderness Systems is one of their most popular kayak lines and strikes a solid balance between performance, stability, and comfort.

The Pungo 140 has two secure storage hatches and some extra space behind the seat for stashing away camping gear. It also has fore and aft deck bungees but they don’t offer a ton of extra space. All in all, it’s got plenty of space for weekend trips but may be a bit tight for longer excursions.

The Pungo 140’s wider hull and lack of a rudder means that it’s not quite as capable as the Edge 14.5 or Tsunami 165 when it comes to coastal paddling, though it should be fine on calm days.

Like the Tsunami, the Pungo includes the highly regarded Phase 3 AirPro seat, which offers an exceptional level of adjustment and comfort.

The Pungo 140 isn’t quite as efficient as the Edge 14.5, but its wider hull makes it a better choice if you want the extra stability or a roomier cockpit.

If you’re mostly planning on river camping with the occasional coastal paddling trip, the Pungo 140 is definitely worth checking out.

Sun Dolphin Aruba 12 SS

Overall Score: (4.1/5)

SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Aruba SS Sit-in Kayak (Blue, 12-Feet)

Specifications:

Length: 12’

Width: 29”

Weight: 47 lbs

Weight capacity: 395 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Adjustable backrest, storage hatch, removable storage console, deck bungees, water bottle holder, padded knee braces, adjustable footrests

Ideal for: Paddlers on a budget that are looking for excellent value for their money.

 from $455.03

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-29 at 23:31 – Details)

Review

The Aruba 12 SS isn’t quite at the same level as some of the other picks but offers some great value and will allow you to get out and do some kayak camping without breaking the bank.

The storage space is a bit tight, so you’re probably limited to single overnight trips unless you can really cut down on the gear you bring.

It has a smallish front storage hatch and a removable storage console behind the seat. You may be better off leaving the storage console at home and stashing a large drybag in the tank well the console normally sits in rather than trying to squeeze gear into the small opening of the storage console.

The Aruba’s width means it’s nice and stable but not the best option for covering very long distances under your own power. The exception here is if you’re heading down river and the current is doing most of the work. Its shorter 12-foot length also means it’s better suited to lakes and rivers than coastal paddling.

Despite its lower build quality, it’s hard to fault the Aruba 12 SS. It manages to pack in some decent features and is a bargain at its price point.

Perception Pescador Pro 12.0

Overall Score: (4.3/5)

Perception Kayak Pescador Pro Sit On Top for Fishing

Specifications:

Length: 12’

Width: 32.5”

Weight: 64 lbs

Weight capacity: 375 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Adjustable and removable camping seat, two large tank wells, deck bungees adjustable footrests

Ideal for: Paddlers on a budget that are looking for excellent value for their money.

 from $703.20

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-11-29 at 23:31 – Details)

Review

If you want the flexibility to do a bit of fishing while you’re out camping, the Pescador Pro 12.0 could be a great fit.

It’s marketed as a fishing kayak but the large front and rear tank wells means there’s plenty of space for camping gear. Just make sure to go for the 12-foot model rather than the 10-foot.

Because it’s a sit on top kayak, the Pescador Pro is very easy to get on and off of. It’s also self bailing so you won’t have to manually pump out any water that gets inside. The only downside is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to get at least a little wet so it’s best suited to warmer water.

The included seat is removable and serves double duty as a camping chair – a nice touch when you’re sitting around the campfire at night.

The 32.5” hull is fairly wide, so the Pescador Pro isn’t the most efficient boat for longer distances but makes a solid river camping kayak.

There are two built-in rod holders and if you want to get serious about your fishing, there is an accessory track system that you can use to customize your setup with additional rod holders or a fish finder.

the Pescador Pro 12.0 could be an ideal fit if you want to mix it up a bit and do bit of fishing while you’re out camping.

Wrapping Up

It’s tough to beat the Riot Edge 14.5 in terms of performance, versatility, and value. It earns the title for best overall camping kayak.

The large amount of storage space, included rudder, and sleek hull means it’s at home in rivers as well as along coastlines. If you’re looking for a kayak that’ll get you out camping for a weekend, you’ll have a hard time finding something that is as capable and offers as much value as the Riot Edge 14.5 LV.

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