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Planning a Multi-Day Kayaking Trip

Summertime: long days and long weekends might lend themselves to the longing to get away. As summer heats up and you long to get out on the water, you might be considering taking more than a day out on your kayak. How delightful it sounds to launch your kayak, paddle to a remote locale, sleep under the stars, disconnect from the grid, and not come back until duty calls. If you are thinking about a multi-day kayak excursion, be prepared to . . .  well, prepare.

While a day trip might be as spontaneous as grabbing your yak and floating it on the nearest body of water, a multi-day trip is another matter altogether. And preparation and planning for a kayak trip is key.

Kayaker’s Physical Preparation

Kayaking is a physical activity and requires a certain amount of physical fitness and skill. If you know you are planning a multi-day trip, make sure you are trained for it.

  • Exercise - Kayaking itself is great exercise, but honing the muscles and endurance you need - on and off the kayak - is vitally important. Don’t expect to jump on the kayak after a long winter’s nap and paddle for days. Take the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure you are in good physical condition.
  • Practice - Don’t make your first time out on the kayak for the season a marathon session. Make sure you’ve had a few opportunities to paddle before a long(er) trip. Working up to it, practicing your skills, and building endurance (and calluses!) is worth it.

Kayak Route Preparation

A huge part of a multi-day kayaking trip is logistics - who, what, when, where, why - are vitally important questions to ask and answer well BEFORE you set kayak in water. Knowing the route you want to kayak is just the first step.

  • Route - Where will you be going? If you know the route, great! But if it is unfamiliar territory, make sure to do your research - ask locals, take a dry run, etc.
  • Duration - How long will your trip be? At minimum this will impact the amount of food and water. But it can also affect the amount of clothing, waste disposal, hygiene, etc.
  • Timeline - How far will you paddle each day? In addition to the route and how long you want to be gone, you need to consider how many miles you can paddle each day and where there are put-in spots along your path.
  • Size of group - Who will be joining you? It is always best to go with at least one other person, but the size of the group can impact the area of camping spots, how gear is distributed (sharing the load), and time it takes to traverse the route (depending on skill levels involved).
  • Type of water - What kinds of water conditions can you expect? Know if you will encounter white water/challenging rapids, areas to portage, open water, dams, etc.
  • Time of year - What will the weather be like? While you can’t always predict mother nature, you can be as prepared as possible for cold temps, extreme heat, or even heavy current due to snow run-off, etc.
  • Fees and regulations - Will your route require launch permit fees? Are you on waterways that require PFDs, vessel registration, signaling devices, lights for navigation? If you are planning to catch your dinner, do you have a fishing license? Research the requirements for your route so you aren’t caught unaware. (And if you are going with a big group, collect fees ahead of time so you don’t have to play catch up with a tardy payer or no-show.)
  • Shuttle to launch/return - Is your route circuitous or A-to-B? A unique challenge of a multi day trip is getting kayaks to and from the launch point. If you need to get numerous kayaks to the site, you might consider hiring a shuttle equipped to manage your equipment. They can also be requested to pick you at your end point, especially if that is miles away from your put-in point.
  • Float Plan - While it is always wise to let someone on shore know when you are out paddling, that becomes even more imperative when you are out on a multi-day trip. Before you set out, leave your route plan, dates, and times with a trusted friend. They can “send out the calvary” in case you don’t return at the agreed upon range of time. (Just make a note to yourself to let them know you have returned as well. You don’t want them pulling the trigger when you are safely on dry land.)

Kayaking Gear Preparation

Before you set off, you should also do some gear preparation. Take stock of what you have and acquire what you need, so that you aren’t scrambling when it comes time to pack your yak.

  • Type of kayak. Hopefully you don’t need to go out and buy a new kayak but do make sure that your kayak can handle the route you’ve chosen. Most touring, fishing, and recreational kayaks have dry hatches and weight capacities for camping.
  • Safety equipment. Ensure that you have first aid, PFD, signaling devices, and other required safety equipment.
  • Dry bags - If you don’t have them, invest in a few different size dry bags. Particularly on a multi-day trip, you want to ensure that you have access to dry clothes and bedding. Beyond being miserable, wet clothing can also be dangerous.
  • Extra paddle - This is a wise addition to any trip. Like a spare tire on your car, you hope you never have to use it, but you are grateful to have it when you do.
  • Appropriate clothing - Make sure you have quick drying clothing, layers, or even dry/wet suits depending on the needs of the trip.
  • Waste bags - Dealing with human waste isn’t always the sexiest discussion but it is important. There are a number of ways to deal with waste on a kayak trip, but make sure you have a plan: a tool for digging, waste disposal bags, etc.
  • Food - Consider freeze-dried meals if you really want to save on space.
  • Water - a water-filtration system is often a great option for kayakers because it doesn’t require you to schlep heavy, unwieldy bottles. Also, you can make as much as you need and you won’t run out.

Kayaking is a great way to be ‘offline’, but if you’re open to using technology for your multi-day kayak travel, there are kayaking apps for tracking exercise, routes, fishing, and more! But starting your preparation early can lead to smooth sailing, ahem, paddling. The great outdoors is calling. Happy paddling!





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