Unlike with car camping or backpacking, those who kayak camp have more options available to them than their land-based brethren. Much of the property lining a river, lake, or coastal region is public access and this opens up many possibilities for camping.
The key is knowing what is open to the public and what is posted as private property. Sometimes it's as simple as signs indicating "No Trespassing." In other cases, there may not be any clear indicators that the property is privately owned. A road leading down to, or near the water's edge is a good indication the land is not open for public use.
Another consideration, even if you know the land is open for camping, is who might drive down that road at some point. Beaches or open space lined with wilderness are usually a good pick for camping. Not only do you have a ready supply of fuel for camping, the odds of surprise visitors showing up are slim. Flat, high ground set back 20 or 30 feet from the water is ideal. Some rivers or lakes are rain-dependent, so give yourself a bit of a buffer from the possibility of rising water.
Also consider tides when picking a camping spot. Tides fluctuate from low to high along a six-hour cycle, so having some idea of the tide level when you pull off to camp will affect where you pitch your tent.
While an area may look particularly attractive, there may be pre-existing conditions that make it less than ideal for camping. Fire bans, wild life habitat, and environmentally-sensitive areas are some of the more common conditions that make an area ill-suited for camping. In most cases, there will be signage indicating the usability of a site, but not always. When in doubt, the best choice is to move until you find an area in which you feel more secure.
A little bit of knowledge goes a long way in ensuring a safe and fun kayak camping experience.
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Charlotte Kayaking Examiner Scott Schmolesky has been kayaking for over 20 years and has been an instructor the last ten. Most recently he started the outfitter and guide service, The Expedition Organization.
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