How to Sleep Comfortably on an Overnight Kayak Trip

How to Pack for an Overnight Kayak Trip

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If you’re going on an overnight kayak trip, you might run into a few problems, and some of those problems could make it super tough to get a good night’s sleep.

For example, lots of overnight kayak trips stay overnight in areas that are only accessible by water. This can make it tough to scout the area beforehand, which might make it difficult to properly prepare for the terrain. And if you can’t properly scout the terrain, it’s easy to end up without the right bedding or proper rain cover.

At this point, you might be thinking, “Well I’ll bring everything—just in case!”

That might be fine on, say, a cross-country RV trip. But remember: we’re kayaking here. Our packing space will be severely limited, so when we’re gearing up for a night in the woods somewhere, we’ve got to make some seriously felicitous choices.

So here are a few hacks to help you get a solid night’s sleep on an overnight kayaking trip.

Go Compact & Lightweight whenever Possible.

This goes without saying, but compact, lightweight sleeping gear is your friend. It’s easier to pack. It’s easier to carry. It’s easier to set up, and it’s easier to take down.

That said, you still have to pack for your climate. If it’s going to be cold-but-not-freezing, a lightweight thermal aluminum blanket (often called an emergency blanket) can sometimes replace an ultra-heavy sleeping bag.

You can also bring a simple hammock instead of a heavy sleeping bag, which keeps you comfortable without having to lug around 20lbs of padding (just remember you probably need at least one blanket to insulated the bottom of your hammock).

Bring Good, Hearty Food.

This has less to do with gear and more to do with recovering from a long day paddling. Science has shown that going to bed with fewer calories than you need encourages restlessness (insomnia while dieting is also a well-documented phenomenon on fitness forums).

So, fill up your stomach with good, hearty, nutritious food before you hit the sack.

What’s this entail? Stuff with lots of calories and a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables (a couple Cliff bars, some beef jerky, and a bag of baby carrots is my go-to dinner, usually).

Also, bring along something warm to drink and a way to heat it up. That can be as easy as building a simple fire pit and starting a fire with a Bic lighter. You don’t need to lug around kitchen gear.

Get the Right Pillow.

Of all the tips here, this may be the most important. Personally, I’ve had sleep apnea for years, and it used to really put a damper on camping. If you have sleep apnea, you know what I’m talking about: we need our pillows or we wake up not being able to breath.

However, you also can’t haul a giant sleep apnea therapy pillow around with you while you’re kayaking.

My solution is two-fold. First, use a hammock instead of a tent. In addition to being light and easier to carry (like we mentioned above), you’ll be sleeping at a slight incline because hammocks sag in the middle, which goes a really long way for snorers.

Second, go for an inflatable pillow. I prefer an inflatable neck pillow—something you’d take on a plane—but the most important thing is that it supports your neck and keeps your head from dropping back.

Wrapping it up…

Here are the takeaways: pack light, eat a good dinner, use a hammock, and don’t skimp on your pillow. Follow those guidelines, and you’ll be snoozing under the stars in no time.

Bonus Video!


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