The freedom you get camping in the wilderness is only matched by the excitement you can find on a kayak. The two hobbies go together perfectly, with kayaking and camping both working to bring out the best in each other.
Travelling in a kayak can help you to discover new places, experience new things, and see the world from a different perspective.
But finding the right kayak for a camping trip can be tricky. It needs to be sturdy and strong, but it can’t be so unwieldy that it slows you down. Getting that mixture of “camping” and “kayak” isn’t always easy.
By choosing the right kayak, you can have a fantastic day on the water, and a wonderful night on land. The best camping kayak combines storage with strength, and an ease of movement.
Sounds difficult? We’ve rounded up 5 of the best camping kayaks available, so you can have the trip of a lifetime.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
The Oru Inlet stands out from the crowd due to the innovative technology that makes this large kayak foldable. Yes, foldable. An origami style kayak, the Oru simply needs to be folded up at the end of the day, and carried home.
The space-saving this provides is incredible. Without a hard shell, the kayak can be packed up when not in use. And unlike inflatable kayaks, you don’t need to carry a pump. In five minutes, the kayak can be on the water.
Five minutes later, it’s folded away into a bag. (If you don’t want to fold it, the lightweight kayak is easy to carry, even assembled).
Storage on the kayak is impressive, with a sizable bulkhead that can be used to hold your gear. There’s also a larger cockpit, for easy movement and some extra space. There’s no waterproof area, however, so make sure to dry bag anything valuable.
We like the Inlet design, which is small and compact for single person usage. If you want something a little more spacious, the Beach LT has all the same great features, and room for a child.
- Foldable - Assembly and disassembly is quick, packs down to the size of a carry bag.
- Stable - On calm waters like lakes and streams, the Oru is easy to steer and comfortable in the water.
- Large cockpit - Plenty of room for storage.
- Lightweight - The speed is lacking, and tracking can suffer.
For the camper on a tight budget, the Intex Challenger is a fantastic choice. This small inflatable kayak is stable in the water, comfortable, and with a decent speed for a bulky design.
Serious kayak enthusiasts may find the Intex Challenger isn’t up to standard, but for camping it has some real benefits.
The lightweight frame can be transported from campsite to campsite, and won’t take up room if you decide to spend a few days confined to land.
There are a few features that give this kayak a boost, and make it more than just an inflatable novelty. The removable skeg helps with guidance, improving tracking and maneuverability.
An inflatable I beam provides stability to the lightweight vessel. And aluminum oars are included, even at the bargain price.
Storage is slightly limited, but the attached cargo net does give a place to stack essentials. There’s also ample space in the cockpit, allowing you to keep valuables close. Just be sure to bag everything, and the minimal packer will be more than happy.
- Welded vinyl material - Welded seams improve durability, and eliminate weak points.
- Inclusive kit - With a hand pump and oars included, this is a complete kit for those new to kayaks.
- Boston valves - Inflation and deflation goes quicker thanks to the Boston valves.
- Less storage space - The cargo net is helpful, and a larger cockpit aids storage, but there’s still limited space for camping gear.
Even speed lovers will appreciate the splendor of a long and lazy river trip on the Perception Pescador. This sit-on-top kayak is designed for fishing trips, but the stability in the water and ample weight limit make it great for camping as well.
Many of the features aimed at fishers have surprising benefits for the camper. The lawn chair seating uses breathable mesh to increase comfort throughout a long day.
The seat can be moved into two seating positions, helping you sit without aches. And despite being a sit-on-top kayak, the added buoyancy means you never feel too close to the water.
If you like fishing as well, then this kayak just gets better. Integrated rod holders and spacious storage areas aid any fishing trip.
The storage is another bonus for campers. Perception Pescador can hold up to 375 lbs, with ample room for all your equipment.
For campers who like lazy excursions and comfortable days, the Perception Pescador is unbeatable.
- 375 pound weight capacity - Can easily hold all your equipment, and store it safely in the large compartments.
- Removable Pro Seat - Breathable fabric, adjustable positioning, and the seat can be taken out.
- One-piece rotomolded construction - A durable build with limited weak points for increased safety.
- Slow - The heavy Perception Pescador ambles in the water.
One of the greatest things about camping is that you never know what it’s going to throw at you. For that, you need a kayak that can react to all circumstances. Both durable and inflatable, the strong Intex excursion could be that kayak.
When deflated, the Intex Excursion is small enough to fit in the back of any car. Even if you’re travelling by bike, the Excursion is still portable.
When inflated, the Intex Excursion becomes a tandem kayak with room to spare. Made from a laminate PVC with a polyester core, this tough kayak can resist damage from the sun, abrasion, and even impact.
High-pressure inflation aids stability, and spring-loaded valves mean inflating this over 12 foot kayak takes minutes.
The Intex Excursion is full of compelling extras. Two skegs help with tracking, adjustable footrests increase comfort, and the moveable seats are ideal for all body shapes.
There’s plenty of room for storage when used as a tandem, but this kayak can also be steered alone if you have too much gear.
- 3-ply high impact and abrasion resistant material - Strong and durable construction.
- 2 fishing rod handles - Use this kayak for lazy days fishing.
- Inclusive kit - Paddles and pump are included.
- Slow - As you might expect from an inflatable kayak of this size, it cuts through the water slowly.
The Pungo kayak from Wilderness Symptoms has proven to be an extremely popular recreational kayak. With a blend of speed, stability, and comfort, it’s hard to go wrong with this intelligent design.
The first thing to mention has to be the Air Pro seat. There aren’t many kayak seats out there which can match it for comfort. Even if comfort isn’t your top priority, the ergonomic support and increased air flow are hard to resist.
But of course, it isn’t all about comfort. The shaped hull provides stability for the larger craft, while improving the speed. A kayak of this size is never going to fly through the water, but the Wilderness Systems Pungo can reach a decent speed.
For campers, the Pungo offers a dry box and bungee cords for storage. There’s also two cup holders, which are particularly handy during a long day. The dashboard has room to keep your valuables close.
- Air Pro seat - Unmatched kayak comfort.
- Easy paddling - The shaped hull and smart design increases speed and makes paddling easier.
- Adjustable foot rest - Improved comfort for those with different leg lengths.
- Smaller cockpit - A sit-inside kayak which is only designed for small to medium-sized bodies.
Best Camping Kayaks Buying Guide
How you choose the perfect kayak for you will depend largely on what kind of trip you're planning. That said, there are still some basic features to be aware of.
If you intend to take your kayak camping, it’s essential that it has storage space. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself leaving things behind after your first stop. Waterproof storage is best, or you need to buy dry bags to hold your valuables.
Look for storage within the kayak, such as storage compartments. Also look for areas of storage on the kayak, such as bungee cords and cargo bags.
Although storage is important, it’s also necessary to cut down your packing. If you’re a camper who likes to bring everything but the kitchen sink, camping with a kayak probably isn’t for you.
Even if you can find a kayak with plenty of storage room, it has to have a matching load capacity. Otherwise, it just won’t float. Load capacity is easy to ignore for day trips, but essential for longer camping vacations.
Don’t forget to factor yourself into the load capacity!
You’ll be spending a lot of time in the kayak, so it has to be comfortable. The chair should be your main focus.
A padded seat will feel better after a long time spent sitting, and mesh fabric improves breathability (it can get sweaty in a kayak cockpit). An adjustable seat is best, as it can be moved to accommodate your specific build.
Adjustable footrests are another useful feature. For a sit-in kayak, be sure to check the size of the cockpit, or it can get uncomfortably tight.
Durability is an important factor for all kayaks, but it’s particularly useful for kayak camping, where you’re likely to be further away from help.
Hard shell kayaks have the best durability, but a good inflatable can handle difficult conditions. If you plan on taking an inflatable, make sure to pack a repair kit.
The performance of the kayak is closely linked to how and where it will be used. Make sure to look for kayaks specifically suited for the environment you prefer - so, don’t get a small inflatable if you’re heading out to sea.
Performance is difficult to rank without having tried the kayak, so make sure to read reviews. If you can, try renting the same model ahead of purchase, to really get a feel for it.
What Sort Of Trip Are You Planning?
Obviously, you intend to take your kayak out more than once. But having a good idea of where you intend to go, how long you’ll be away for, and the kind of water you’ll encounter, is an important consideration.
Best Camping Kayaks - FAQ's
What Is Kayak Camping?
Kayak camping is sort of like backpacking. You move around, find a new place that catches your eye, and set up camp for the night. The next morning, you pack up and do it all again. The main difference is that when you go kayak camping, you travel by water.
With kayak camping, you discover areas close to streams, rivers, and even the coastline. The water acts as your road, and you keep your belongings with you at all times. It’s an exhilarating adventure.
What Features Does A Camping Kayak Need?
A camping kayak needs to be comfortable, have plenty of storage, and be stable in the water. These are the main features to look for. It’s important to choose a kayak that’s suitable for the area you intend to visit, and safe in that type of water.
How Do You Prepare For A Kayak Camping Trip?
Prepare for a kayak camping trip by being organized in advance. Check out the area you’re visiting beforehand (reading accounts online will help), and take care when packing. And don’t forget your safety equipment.
Everything you pack for a kayak camping trip needs to be useful and lightweight. Pack things into small bags, so the weight can be distributed easily across the kayak.
Avoid putting too much weight in one spot. Purchase dry bags to either hold all your gear, or to give extra protection to electricals in dry storage.
Kayak camping is safe, but only if you’re sensible and prepared.