River Camping 102

For First timers looking for info on how to set up their kayak and what gear you should have, check out River Camping 101.

Now that the summer heat has arrived, many people will be looking to get out on the water and start their summer camping trips. As an avid kayak-camper, I have been on many overnight trips and picked up some pointers that can help make the trip a little more enjoyable. I will go over a few of these to help you get started on your next adventure. 

One of the most important things that may seem obvious, but many people may forget about, is to bring a strap for the front of the kayak. This will help you through portages to pull or walk the boat downstream. It can also be used to lower the kayak down bigger drops. It is best to have this on the front of the kayak. If you are walking your kayak down through the rapids, do so with the kayak facing backwards, with you up-river. This will help the kayak to cut through the moving water better and allow you to stay out of the way of the kayak if it begins moving down river. A loaded kayak could do a lot of damage against an ankle if it has the current behind it. I tend to use a cam strap for this which makes a big loop. It allows me to throw the strap over my shoulder/across my chest for those long-dragging portages with all your camping gear.


When looking for a campsite on the river, make sure to be looking for places below the first cut in the river. If the first cut is at the water, you will not be able to camp  on that bank. Look for large flat beaches that have the cut up behind them. NEVER CROSS THE CUT! Even if you are just popping up for firewood, it is trespassing and landowners on the rivers will not have much patience for that. If a spot ever seems like it might not be legal, err on the side of caution and find a new spot. Be sure to check up on the local river camping laws in your area. Some rivers can have specific guidelines on camping (i.e. Blanco River in Texas prohibits camping altogether).*


To help keep food and drinks cold while out on multi-day trips, freeze water bottles instead of lugging ice. The thicker blocks of ice will stay cold longer and you are able to drink the water once it has melted. I like to bring a large gallon that has been frozen with smaller water bottles packed around it. The gallon jug will take a good 48-72 hours to freeze all the way through, so make sure you put it in the freezer ahead of time. I will also freeze any meats I’m bringing and thaw them out before cooking. I will have a YETI?utm_source=ackblog&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=blog dedicated to frozen water bottles and meat, pulling out frozen bottles accordingly. Another cooler will hold my drinks and food for that night, along with the frozen water bottles that melt for drinking water. Frozen Gatorades work well too!



It is good to bring some electrolytes, like MIO or the like, to add to your water. This can help keep you hydrated and stop cramping from happening. Also, if you are pumping water from the river, it will give you a little better flavor.

A small anchor is nice to bring on the water in case you are pulling over to stop for a bit or want to fish. Using a retractable dog leash for the anchor line makes it super easy to reel in and keeps your deck free of line. Add a large carabiner to the handle and clip it to your yak.

Be sure to pull your kayak well out of the water and anchor or tie down if possible at night. The flow of the river can change due to many factors; rain up river, dams opening, etc. I have personally had my kayak  well out of the water, or at least I thought, floating down river in the morning. Luckily it didn’t make it too far due to a large slow section of river.



ALWAYS BRING A TRASH BAG! The mesh potato sacks work great as they will let water and liquids drain out of the back. It is also good to help leave campsites better than you found it, so if you find trash on the bank, please pick it up to help keep our waterways clean. Some landowners have it out for kayakers because some have been disrespectful and left trash. Let’s try to change that and keep the river cleaner than we found it.

If you have any questions about kayak camping and looking for some answers, feel free to hit us up on the @Austin_Kayak Instagram page!