Below are the contents of a presentation that we shared last fall at the BC Marine Trails grand opening event for the Salish Sea Marine Trail. There are a number of tips and tricks that we picked up throughout our month-long coastal kayak. For context, we paddled south from the Khutzeymateen Inlet near the BC/Alaska border down to Vancouver Island. Admittedly, we were disorganized in the early days, but with enough time and practice, our group evolved into a well-oiled machine.If you’re considering a long distance paddle anytime soon, there should be some helpful info below.

Content Breakdown: 

  1. Preparation
    • Pre-Trip
    • Packing the Kayaks
  2. Kayak Camping
    • Kayak to Camp Process
    • Camp Set-Up
    • Camp Tear-Down


Pre-Trip (Dry Bag Optimization)


  • A greater number of smaller bags makes life much easier
    • Sifting through large bags takes time and mixes around gear
  • Having a colour-coordinated and/or labelling system for all bags is a dream

Strategic Access

  • Take advantage of long-term bags that contain infrequently used gear
    • Examples:
      • Emergency gear that doesn’t require quick access
      • ‘Nice-to-have’ gear aka. non-essential to kayak camping
        • (ideally try and minimize, if not eliminate)
      • Food that won’t be consumed in the short term
        • (for trips spanning multiple weeks)
  • Short-term bags for daily use
    • Examples:
      • Snacks, camera gear, safety equipment, paddling layers etc.
  • Dry clothes camp bag
    • This is a vital bag for preserving overall happiness because this is your salvation from the wet and the cold
    • Nothing damp goes in this bag
    • Clothing only to be used it when you’re set up to be protected from the elements (ie. finished camp set up)

Kayak Optimization

Assigning kayak compartments

  • Delegate a section of the kayak to each person, who will be responsible for packing that section throughout the trip
  • Allocate specific gear to each section. This builds familiarity with each unique Tetris game that is repacking kayak hatches and leads to a much faster kayak assembly
    • Also eliminates uncertainty in camp tear down because each member knows exactly what needs to go in their respective hatches

Kayak Camping:

Kayak to Camp Process

Pro-Tip #1: Leave and arrive at high tide if possible

  • This is often times not in your control but it can save a ton of beach walking
    • Especially on gradually sloped beaches, this can be a life-saver

Landing Plan

  • Process is pivotal when landing in poor weather
    • Don’t take good weather for granted (this can get you in trouble)
    • Assume poor weather is coming at all times along the coast
      • Much better to be safe then sorry

Landing Destination

  • This goes without saying, but just in case, make sure you’re in the right spot
  • Especially along more rugged regions of the coastline, make sure:
    • Landing is safe/possible
    • Projected site is actually campable
    • You’re allowed to camp there

Defining Tasks

  • Much like ‘Kayak Optimization’ each person takes ownership of specific kayak compartments
    • ‘Ownership’ means removing and transporting all gear to camp location/designated area
  • Each person has camp set-up tasks (directly linked with next section)

Pro-Tip #2: Bring large tote bags that can fit many small dry bags

  • We stumbled into this one, and it turned out to be incredibly helpful
  • Being able to throw 4 or 5 bags into a bigger one with one, strong handle is amazing
    • Dramatically reduced stressful/difficult beach travel
    • Reduced likelihood of wet/sandy bags

Deal with Kayaks early

  • Right after all gear is removed, identify and stash kayaks
    • Conscious of environment (time, tides, weather etc.)

Camp Set-Up

Pro-Tip #3: The Trucker’s Hitch Knot

  • Highly recommend learning this one
  • Great for hanging food, setting up tarps etc.

Primary Tasks

  • Assign responsibilities (linked with ‘kayak to camp’ process)
    • Kayak: find final stash point
    • Tent: identify tent spot and set-up
    • Tarp: identify cooking area
      • considering wind, weather, fire etc.

Secondary Tasks

  • Cooking, fire, relaxing, route planning etc.
  • Getting warm/dry
    • If you are feeling dangerously cold/wet, this is a primary task
    • With that said, getting the primary tasks completed before getting into warm/dry camp gear means that the warm/dry gear will stay warm and dry, and as such, you will as well
      • Keep in mind this is for those who don’t have full kayak dry suits or comparable gear
    • This is the designated dry clothes mentioned in Pre-Trip Planning
    • Highly recommend not risking getting these wet

Other Considerations

  • Bear hanging/stashing
    • Can pack and latch food in the kayaks
      • We heard good and bad stories about this… but we kayak-stashed for the whole month and didn’t have any issues ourselves (surely luck of the draw to some extent)
    • Stashing saves time and energy
      • We began initially with plans to hang, but found that it was quite tough/burdensome to find worthwhile hanging spaces along the coast
        • No point in hanging food that wouldn’t even qualify as hard to get for a bear

Pro-Tip #4: Camp Chairs

  • We purchased the Helinox Camp Chair and it was absolutely the best trip purchase we made
    • They are light, comfy, sturdy, and pack very small
    • On wet, soggy, gravelly coastal beaches, the chairs held up fantastically

Camp Take-Down

Eliminate Decision Making Time

  • Have (at least) 1st and 2nd options for following day plans decided each night
  • Assign a ring leader for each morning
    • Solely responsible for waking the group up at the decided upon time
    • Eliminates a collective action problem (for those prone to laziness)
      • For us, it was easy to wake up, hear rain on the tent, and roll right back over..

Quick Breakfast

  • Obviously, the time/energy you’re willing to allocate to breakfast is up to you
    • We ended up going with quick/dry/easy/filling (get up and go) style breakfasts in order to get on the calm morning waters as fast as possible

Reverse the Process!

  • With the same familiarity/task delegation, perfectly mirror the ‘Camp Set-Up’ process to get bak on the water

And thats what we’ve got! Hopefully there are a few tips in here that will go a long way to making your kayak journey all that better. If you have any thoughts/alternative/questions or tips of your own, or would like a copy of the Google Slides presentation, shoot us an email or comment on the post.

2 replies added

  1. Bryce Lamont July 20, 2018 Reply

    Great information here! I am curious about one of your trips to Louise Island on Haida Gwaii. A friend and I are planning on visiting that area but on Stand Up Paddle Boards. I am curious what you remember of the east coast of Louise Island? Our plan is to do a lap of the whole island but the open east coast is a bit daunting having never seen it. Thanks for any info…also did you park at Morseby Camp and were the any issue or permissions needed for that? Thanks again!

    • Phil Climie July 24, 2018 Reply

      Hey Bryce,

      Thanks for for the inquiry! And apologies for the he slight delay.

      Truth be told we ended up getting quite lucky with the weather on the east coast of the island. That said, landing the kayak she was still a little spicy with even minor chop. I’d say certainly mananageable in decent weather, but may wait for a weather window if the Hecate Strait is blowing.

      We did park at Moresby and as far as I can remember didn’t need any permissions. We had a VHF radio on us to communicate with the logging trucks ripping along the road on the way down. Hope it goes well! It’s an incredible area.

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