Every serious kayak fishing adventurer knows the importance of a well-packed yak. Packing too much gear can take a toll on you physically and mentally, and it can also make your trip far more difficult than it should be. Over packing is one of the traps that people new to any type of adventure can fall into quickly.
Camping is an easy one to fall into the trap of taking too much gear with you, for the sake of comfort, but you soon learn that comfort can be achieved by packing light; as long as you know what gear to buy. The same goes with fishing; you can get all the best gear to help make your catch a bit better, but if it’s a pain to lug around, you will soon come to realise it isn’t worth it.
So, when it comes to kayaking adventures that requires you camp out of your yak for a few days (or longer) the importance of packing light simply cannot be stressed enough. Most of your favourite camping gear will easily fill your yak, so you will need to be very strictly disciplined to make sure even the essentials make the cut.
Some of the best tips on packing light are below, but before you read on, you might as well take a minute to remember all the great camping trips you had with those awesome things that make a camping trip relaxing, like an ice-filled esky, a fold out lounge, or a cast iron frypan with 10 years of camping grease attached; then move them all to the side, and start your packing again.
This time when you pack though, you need to base it on the absolute essentials for safety and personal well-being, rather than comfort. Kayak camping is not the most pleasant way to relax, but if you love kayaking as much as the next person reading this, camping comfortably won’t be the first priority, catching great fish will be. And if you can do that for a few days on end without losing too much sleep, then you’re onto a winner.
Some of the simplest tips to follow are this: Assume almost everything will get wet at some point, so try and counter that with choosing the right gear to protect the important stuff. Dry bags are your best friend, however doing get too eager and just buy a couple of large ones, you will end up being very disappointed. Use a bunch of smaller bags, and you’ll find things pack into your yak far easier.
Think of it like packing a carton of beer into a fridge… it’s not that easy because of the bulky size, but if you take all the beer out of the box, it will all fit with ease. (This theory works for fitting beer in your yak as well).
Follow the guide in the image below on how to pack by weight. Pack the heaviest of your gear near the cockpit, keep your weight distribution even from stern to bow, pack light stuff in the ends of the bow and stern, and keep your deck free from heavy or bulky gear. It’s really important to have a stable yak on the water, and when filling with gear it is really easy to put it off balance. Having a balanced, evenly weight-distributed yak will also make paddling far easier.
Most experienced paddlers can easily yak-pack for several days on the water, but packing for the first time is stressful, and certainly shouldn’t be left to the last minute. Here are some of the best tips for planning your next multi-day paddling trip on your favourite creek, river, lake, or ocean.
Choosing Your Gear & Supplies
I think the most important way to look at becoming a great Yakpacker, is to think like a backpacker. The longer the trip, the more gear you will be tempted to take, however the short trips can be very simple to pack for if you can get your head around it all.
Like backpacking, the weather, the distance, trip extent, and group size will affect the type of supplies, and the type of gear you’ll need to take along.
The longer you are planning to be away, the more supplies you need. If the4 weather isn’t looking so good, you will need to pack to make sure you are wisely protected from the elements. If you are travelling as a group, you can spread the heavy gear around, so everyone has an even load, leaving no stragglers.
A comprehensive plan is essential when formulating multi-day trips, and it will help to choose what you need to pack. The type of water will of course affect the type of gear you should carry, and how you carry it. River fishing requires different gear to deep sea fishing, and you should have a good idea what you need to take for your specific trip based on the hours and hours of research you have been putting in for the last few months, to build your confidence.
If you have different yaks you like to use for estuaries and ocean, you will know the storage spaces are very different, and you will need to be able to alter your gear and supplies based on your kayak size.
Picking the best gear
Rods: Take as many as you can cater for with your yak. Rig up different lures for the different situations you expect to be in. Try some yakking specific rods like the Reborn Raider graphite blanks, or the Aquatip range from Shimano.
Reels: Depending on where you are trekking to, you might want to use some standard spinners or saltwater spinners, or if you’re feeling optimistic, maybe a game reel wouldn’t hurt.
Tackle: One of the biggest challenges when it comes to kayak fishing is choosing what you can fit on your boat out on the water. Trolling with a variety of lures, is a great way of hooking snapper on soft baits trailing behind your kayak, as you head to your destination.
7 essential lures in your kit if you’re out for bass should be: Lucky Craft Sammy 65, Tiemco Soft Shell Cicada, ZMan ChatterBait, Jig Spinners (TT Lures), Snake Head (TT Lures), Basstad and a ZMan 3” MinnowZ.
The rest: Some other essential items to add to your list should be glow sticks, torch or lantern, headlamp, bait box or belt, bait traps or pump and of course a life jacket. Safety is as important as your rods, reels and lures, so make sure you cover all bases when it comes to looking out for you, especially if you are travelling alone. Make sure you have a proper PFD, safety whistle, sun protection, visibility flag, and flares if you are out at sea. Take a GPS if you can, if not your mobile phone can be a lifesaver so keep it charged and bagged up.
A good paddle is lighter, more flexible, and has durable blades, which will help you avoid fatigue. Some form of anchor, drag chain, or drift chute will come in handy if you are fishing in current. Oh, and don’t forget a camera to take shots of your catch. It’s not a brag if you can’t prove it.
The Type of Boat Makes the Difference
Sea yaks and touring yaks are built for comfort, speed, and gear storage. More than a day out on the ocean can require a good deal of gear and supplies, and luckily manufacturers know this, and have created craft with every usable inch utilised. A majority of sea or touring yaks will have watertight bulkheads or hatches to seal the spaces off while still delivering quick access.
White water kayaks are intended for performance first and storage second, so unless you are using a crossover hull, or a creeker storage space is somewhat minimal. Basically, any storage on these types of craft are not usually easily accessible, and very rarely sealed. This leaves your gear very exposed, and if you overturn, it can end up in the murky depths. If this is your mode of travel, best you find a way to waterproof and hold your gear in place, or don’t take any risks that might leave you in the water.
How to Yakpack
Once you know what gear you need to pack, the hardest part is next. Packing your yak requires the organisation techniques of a Tetris world champion, however there are basic rules to follow that will help you along. Rule #1 – document everything, and you will know where everything is.
One simple strategy is to pack all your gear into separate, itemised dry bags; one for clothing, one for sleeping gear, one for safety and first-aid, one for rations, one for cooking, one for fishing gear, and one for weather based events. You can have as many as you want, just make sure you mark them all individually, so you know what is where. Stash your checklist somewhere easy to find, in case you need it…maybe write on the dry bag you fit it in…to remind yourself.
Don’t forget to take spare dry bags, especially something like the IceMule fishing bags for your catch. These are especially good to keep your small perishables in, like milk for your coffee.
Even the most waterproof hatch covers can leak, especially if you tip over, so keep your important camping gear in the most secure dry bag, even going as far as double bagging them to be sure you have dry bedding. If you can’t afford the extra bagging, garbage bags do a really good job with a similar result.
Every bit of space counts when packing, so squeeze as much air from every bag as you can. Do everything possible to utilise every millimetre of space in your hull.
Loading Your Yak
This part is very technical, however if you just follow some basic rules, you shouldn’t have any issues. Two main factors are at play here, and they are weight distribution and easy access. If you follow the rules of these two things, you can’t really go wrong with the packing. Don’t go over your yak’s maximum weight capacity, and make sure you can get the essential items with ease.
Leave any non-essential gear at home. If you can live without it for the trip, don’t take it. Keep luxuries to a minimum. If you are travelling with a group, you can easily spread out the heavy gear across the group, however if you are travelling alone, maybe think about lightening the load.
When packed your yak should be centred, and with all the weight low in the hull. Balance on the open water is imperative, so you must ensure everything is distributed correctly. Lighter items in the front and rear; heavier items nearest to the cockpit. If you get your balance right in your packing, it should feel more stable than if you were in an empty yak.
If you are transporting liquids like water with you, they should be at the lowest possible point. Use water bags rather than solid containers. This will make packing into the confined space far easier. If you are going for a few days, maybe think about whether it would be better to take a water purifier or pump than to take a massive amount of heavy water from home. Limiting your weight in the yak will leave you with more energy for pulling in that big snapper, or bass when you reach your destination.
The key to a great camping kayak fishing adventure is practicality, and safety. If you follow the rules of common sense, using less physical energy and the forces of gravity, you should have a very good time. Although a lot of this article may be set out for beginners, sometimes even the most experienced people can forget the basics when it comes to yakpacking.
Enjoy your next trip.