I poked my head out of the tent and was greeted by a perfect morning, the air was still, the water glassy and I could hear barra boofing unsuspecting creatures from the water surface. I picked up a rod that was already rigged with a popper from the previous afternoon’s fishing and cast it out toward the edge of the lilies. Plop, the lure landed and I allowed it to settle for a few seconds, bloop, bloop and hang on! The mirror like surface erupted under the force of a striking barra, the popper was engulfed, the rod buckled over and a beautiful, tannin stained barra leaped from the water.
What followed was a red hot morning barra session and the only reason we were there when all this action occurred was because we made the effort to get to this location and camp overnight. Camping allows you to spend time in more remote and unpressured waters, more time fishing the right tides, the peak bite times of dawn and dusk and generally more productive time on the water.
Camp from the kayak has been made much easier with developments in both the range and quality of ultralight camping equipment that is available. I frequently kayak camp with a few mates and each of us have put together a kit of gear for kayak camping that packs up neatly into a couple of dry bags. Like most equipment you can spend a fortune on gear, but most of the time you can get away with the midrange priced gear unless you are venturing into extreme environments or extreme weather conditions.
It is always much safer to travel and camp in a group and this also enables you to share the load among your crew. One of you may carry the bulk of the water, another your cooking equipment and food, and although you all carry a headlamp, one of your crew may carry an ultralight lantern for around the campsite at night and also a first aid kit. Among the group you can carry everything you need to be warm, comfortable and most importantly safe. Let’s have a quick look at the key equipment that we carry when we camp from the yaks.
There are 5 main storage options that we utilize, dry bags, waterproof boxes, drums, crates and iceboxes.
Even though some yaks come with large waterproof hatches I still prefer to load my gear into dry bags, just in case you take on any water. Dry bags are inexpensive, come in a wide range of sizes and because they are not rigid like a crate they can often be stuffed into the nooks and crannies inside your yak. Dry bags can also be strapped to your deck if required.
Water drums are also a popular storage option because they are durable, have a large screw off lid that allows gear to be easily loaded in and out and they often fit perfectly either standing up or laying down in the kayak’s rear well. I have seen paddlers carry their tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, cooking gear, lighting and food for an overnighter all in the one drum, giving you an idea of how ultralight this gear is. If you don’t trust the seal on your drum you can always place a dry bag inside the drum and load into the dry bag.
I often also carry an Evakool Icemate IM026, 25L icebox on my kayak. It fits neatly into the rear well, is extremely durable, well insulated and is fitted with latches that make access easy when on the water. This can be used as an icebox to transport vacuum packed meats and other food and drinks, or used as a solid storage box for carrying other equipment.
Crates, including milk crates, are another popular storage option that fit neatly in the rear well of many yaks. These are excellent for carrying fishing and camping gear that can be exposed to the environment and also for strapping down to hold dry bags and waterproof boxes.
There are a myriad of hiking tents available and in the ‘Kayak Camping Gear Guide’ section in this issue of BLADE we review some of the tent options available. Tent selection often comes down to size, weight and then features such as vestibules, windows, configuration and storage. Some groups prefer to carry a 3 person dome tent for their group, while our group prefers to carry a single person tent each to cater for the snorers, there’s nothing worse than a multiday paddle and no sleep.
Ultralight bedding serves a couple of purposes, it provides comfort by providing a level of padding from rough terrain and more importantly it provides insulation against the cold rising from the ground. The most popular bedding solution for kayak camping is the self inflating mattress. No pumps are required as they have built-in foam that expands when the valve is opened and they are available in a range of thicknesses as well as variety of sizes including single and ¾ length which packs up much smaller but is designed so that your legs are not supported.
Sleeping bag selection will come down to fit and pack size, make sure it fits you and fits in your kit, and temperature rating, make sure the temperature rating of the bag suits your adventure. Down, feather, filling in sleeping bags provides the best warmth for weight ratio and is also extremely compressible, but I would recommend that you avoid down filling when kayak camping. The main reason for this is that when wet down sleeping bags lose their warming qualities and they also take a long time to dry. A synthetic sleeping bag filling has the ability to keep you warm even when wet and I have tested this, the result a warm but wet night sleep. Spend a little more on a quality sleeping bag and it will keep you warm and provide you with years of service.
Cooking & Food
There are a wide range of camp cooking options available to the yak angler that are compact, lightweight, reliable and efficient. We often carry a Light My Fire Swedish Fire Steel to light a small camp fire, if this is legal in the area you are in. Remember if you are having a fire to ensure that you flood it with water and make sure it is completely extinguished before you move on.
Some of the most popular lightweight cooking options include, grill for camping ,basic hexamine stoves, compact butane cookers such as the world renowned Jet Boil and methylated spirit burners such as the versatile and extremely economical Trangia.
In terms of food you can carry a range of tins, packets and even vacuum sealed meats, but don’t discount the freeze dried and dehydrated meals. These meals have come a long way over the years and you can now get tasty, quality meals such as Pad Thai, Wild West Chilli and Beans, Lasagne, Beef Stroganoff with Wild Mushrooms, as well as sides and desserts. Simply boil water, add it to the pack, allow it to sit for a while and then eat it straight out of the packet. Some brands to check out include Backpacker’s Pantry, Back Country and Chefsway.
Crockery & Cutlery
You can even save space and weight by selecting the right crockery and cutlery. There are a range of businesses out there that specialize in ultralight products that are super technical for Everest Climbs and other extreme adventures. These products are also great for the yak angler as they are practical, lightweight and tested in extremely harsh conditions.
For example check out the AlphaSet Cutlery from Sea to Summit. This is knife, fork and spoon set, clipped together with a carabiner, constructed from ultralight aircraft grade alloy, that weighs in at only 36g and features hex tools built into the handles for maintenance on the run. Other cool products include Orikaso and the X-bowl, X-plate and X-mug series that are designed to pack flat in your pack for transport.
Get yourself a quality waterproof LED headlamp and you have hands free lighting wherever you travel. We are surrounded by water so waterproof is the way to go and modern LED headlamps offer low power draw meaning long run times, they are more resistant to shock and vibration and provide clean, consistent light. I have been using a Princeton Tec EOS for the last few years and rate it highly, but there are plenty of waterproof LED headlamps on the market.
A first aid kit is a must and between us we carry a couple from St Johns and Equip. There are a few things to consider when selecting a first aid kit, how many of you are on the mission, how long are you going for and how far away from assistance are you. This will dictate the size and contents of your kit. Depending on location you may also include other components such as snake bite kit and reef rash kit.
I also keep a kit of other safety gear in a dry bag and this includes a survival blanket, emergency poncho, stainless steel signal mirror, large chemical lights, electrical tape, zip ties, backup compact waterproof LED headlamp, multi tool and fire steel.
Sun protection clothing is a big part of kayak fishing, including shirt, pants, hat, gloves and sunglasses. I also use a Headsox to keep the sun off and insulate against the cold in winter. When kayak camping in cold climates I also include thermals as they are lightweight and compact, but ensure a warm night’s sleep. Merino wool thermals are softer against the skin, more durable and don’t retain odours, but I normally stick with polypropylene thermals as they are less costly and dry quicker if they do get wet. Kayak appropriate footwear is also important if you may be required to carry or drag the yak, or intend to walk the bank or wade the flats.
Kayak camping allows you to access some breathtaking environments and unpressured fisheries, it also allows you to spend more time on the water fishing the peak bite times and tides. Once you set up your camp kit your options are endless and to minimise initial costs you can each buy part of the kit, for example cooking, lighting, icebox, tent, GPS and share the load. Remember to always consider your safety and let someone know where you are going and when you are due home. Now fire up the computer, check out Google Maps, rally some friends and choose your own adventure.
Author: Justin Willmer