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How to Pack a Kayak

When you roll up for your first expedition, you'll most likely find your kayak sitting on the beach ready to go, your arms already acheing from the weight of your hold-all that's bursting at the seems with gear. You look at your kayak and wonder...

How an earth is all my stuff going to fit in there!

This is a short guide with top tips on how to pack your kayak for a multi-day trip.

Tip 1. You do not need as much stuff as you think.

The most annoying thing you can do is pack too much. You will be reminded twice a day, when you pack, and unpack your kayak, that you have brought too much stuff. With every expedition I still learn what I can live without. That extra dry bag of clothes, the spare towl, the extra tolitories just incase you find a shower. This stuff will just get packed and unpacked but hardly ever used.

So my biggest advice is to whitle it down to the bear essentials.

Tip 2. Everything needs to be in dry bags.

Yes, sea kayak hatches are nearly always dry, but human error, will often let a little of the wet stuff in. That rouge wave that sploshes in whilst your lunching, and you left your hatch cover off. Maybe even the little too tightly packed milk carten disaster. Prerpare for the worst and you will always have a dry cosy sleeping bag to climb into at night.

Which brings me on to...

Tip 3. Double drybag your sleeping bag.

Without a shadow of a doubt, you will always want to climb into a dry sleepingbag at the end of a long day on the water. You can survive soggy shoes, or damp socks, but the saving grace is having a warm cozy nights sleep.

Tip 4. Make the most of your available space.

The tips of your kayak are small and narrow, so pack those narrow spaces with gear that will fit nicely. Shoes, tents, camping chairs, stuff them as far up the bow or stern as you can, that way you are maximising all the space you have availble. Think of it as a real life jigsaw puzzle. You want your stuff to pack neatly together, making the most of the available space.

Tip 5. Once you figure out what works, always pack your kayak the same way.

When you've mastered the jigsaw, why try and solve a new one everyday? No matter what trip I do, my kayak is nearly always packed in exactly the same order. Not only does this save you time packing, but it saves you time when you want to find something. I know roughly where to find each item, so at lunch if I'm cold, I know where to find my warm jacket without emptying my entire boat.

Tip 6. Always pack things you might need in accesible places.

This is exactly why manutfacturers created 'Day Hatches', the small round hatch behind your seat, which you can still reach whilst on the water. In this hatch I store all the bits of gear I may need in an emergency. Flares, 1st aid kit, repair kit, warm layer, hot drink, etc. I also avoid storing any 'must stay dry' kit in this hatch, as it is likely I will be opening it on the water or in an emergency.

Kit that always lives in my day hatch...

Tip 7. Make use of secret storage space.

As a shortie (5.6) I always have ample space infrount of my feet. So I can stuff well waterproofed gear right infrount of my foot rests. There must be NO straps or loops that could get caught on my feet, this would cause a serious hazard in the even of a capsize. Anything packed inside my cockpit is vaulnerable to getting wet or washed away in the even of a capsize so bear that in mind.

I use this space for a group tipi and behind my seat I store extra water.

Tip 8. Pack everything in small dry bags.

It's much easier and more efficient to do the packing jigsaw with lots of little bags than attempting to squeeze one large bag in. Also bear in mind that although the hatches are quite roomy, you have to squeeze everthing through a tiny hole to get it in.

Different coloured drybags or labeled dry bags can make it easier to identify and orgaise where things live inside your kayak.

Tip 9. Try to balance your packing so that either end of your kayak is roughly a similar weight.

Having evenly distributed weight inside your kayak, will help it handle better. Lobsided or frount/back heavy kayaks will behave differently often making it harder work for the paddler. I like to pack heavy things like water closer to my seat position, this helps me balance the boat, keeping weight more central and even.

Tip 10. Pack a few emergency items in your buoyancy aid.

There are a couple of items I want on me at all times. These are usually my PLB (personal location beacon). A small pocket size device that has a button I can press for rescue. A day and night flare, whislte, knife and of course snacks. These items can easily be stored in a sea kayaking specific buoyancy aid, which has ample pockets. I want them on me, because if I ever got separated from my kayak, I can still call for help.

So, there you have it. My 10 top tips on packing your kayak. Remeber, with every day that you pack your kayak, it will become easier. You will also get better as packing less, deciding what you need, and what you can live without. After 8 years of expedition kayaking there are still items, I wish I hadn't packed and items I wish I had. Location, weather and remotness may have an impact on what you choose or need to pack.

I hope these tips help you on your next or first multi-day adventure

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