Next up in our series of specialized camping articles is camping with a boat. Do not think of a large yacht or anything of this sort, camping with a boat is best done with a canoe or a kayak or another small sized vessel that you could fit on top of your car or on a trailer. Boat camping allows you to access seldom discovered territories through canals, waterways and lakes. In this article, we will introduce the basics of boat camping and we hope that we can spark your interest to try it out yourself.

How to choose a boat?

Choosing the right boat is the foundation of a successful boat camping trip, regardless whether it is a rental or a purchase. Do try to rely on the expertise of the store assistant and tell him or her exactly how you plan to use the boat. How many people will sit in it, how much weight do you want it to be able to carry, how long and how wide can it be in order to fit on top of your car or onto your trailer. After you have said your own conditions, the assistant may suggest a few options. Now it is time for you to consider some of the following factors. A shorter boat is better for navigation on narrow and curvaceous rivers while a longer boat is easier to turn with on a larger body of water. Be sure to have life vests available (one for each passenger) along with an extra paddle in case the original one falls into the water. As you gain more and more experience with each trip, you will be able to appreciate the difference of using different boats. For this reason, rental may be a better choice in the beginnings.

How to prepare for using the boat?

A kayak, a canoe and a vessel all have their own special techniques by which it is possible to move and navigate. A kayak for instance will usually require you to use a double-ended paddle, propelling its alternating left and right sides through the water to move forward. A canoe on the other hand is usually stirred by a shorter, single-ended paddle. Most smaller vessels will have a paddle on each side, requiring you to perform a rowing motion. Consider which movement you are most comfortable with. If you plan to start with a big adventure straight away, you may want to hit the gym and have a go at the rowing machine. Some gyms now even have machines that replicate the exercise that paddling a canoe would require you to do. Alternatively, start off with smaller trips so that you can get an appreciation of the difficulty or ease of the movement sequence. Needless to say, never ever go on a boat trip if you do not know how to swim!


By planning, we mean specifically considering the various steps of the camping trip. How long is the river you plan to travel on? How strong is the current? How wide or narrow can the canals get? Will you be able to stop somewhere even if you do not reach your target campsite? Please consider these details very carefully, as there will be little chance for you to do research once you are out in nature. From then on, you will just have to rely on your own good judgment, and hopefully the plan, which you have made in advance.


Preparation makes for the perfect camping trip, and a boat camping trip is no different! Think of the fact that you will be sitting for hours in a boat. What would you want to have in there with you? Our personal suggestion of a list of must have items can be seen below:

  • Waterproof cushions to sit on
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hats
  • Insect repellent
  • Rain coat
  • First aid kit
  • A whistle / horn
  • A small bucket / bailer
  • A large sponge

Now…it is unlikely that the first couple of items need any explaining. Maybe, you are a little more puzzled about the last three. Having a whistle is a good idea in order to have something at hand that you can use to alert other water vehicles about your presence. This is something that several states require by law (please do check the laws for water navigation in the state you plan to visit). The bucket or, using boating terminology, a bailer will be handy to scoop out some of the water that fill fall into the body of the boat while you pedal. And water will fall inside. The sponge is great to dry up the small puddles of water that you can no longer scoop up.

Consider that an accident can always occur and the boat may capsize. If possible, leave the smartphones, laptops, tablets and other valuable gadgets where they belong as far as camping is concerned: at home. This will allow you to be able to focus on enjoying yourself without having to worry about losing a valuable personal possession.

What to do on a boat camping trip?

First of all, enjoy the fact that you can get away from civilization and just enjoy having a peace of mind in the middle of a large, beautiful lake. If you are confident about your boating skills or if you own a waterproof camera, take the opportunity to snap some shots from an unusual perspective. Usually, people make photos of a lake, from the edge. Be the one who makes pictures of the edge…from the middle.

Perhaps, using a boat, you can have access to land such as a tiny island that you could not have otherwise visited. Minding the local flora and fauna at all times, you may take this special opportunity to discover this unchartered territory. However, keep in mind that unchartered territories often hold unexpected surprises, so be very careful, especially if the ground is covered by thick and high grass. You can never know where a marsh, quicksand or an intimidated animal may hide!

Games, musical instruments, good food, plenty of drinkable water and a set of clothes for all climate conditions should allow you to enjoy the trip tremendously.

When it comes to setting up camp, consider that since you will be traveling with a small, light boat, there should be no reason why you could not take it out of the water for the night. Turn it upside down to let all the water drip out. A dry interior will be much better to sit in the next morning than a clammy one.


We sincerely hope that we could whet your appetite for some exciting boat camping. It is an adventure every camper should try out one day, as it allows access to areas that may otherwise be hard to get to. These will tend to be less impacted by humans and thus you may have an opportunity to discover a little piece of intact paradise!

We are interested in your input. Have you ever gone boat camping? Do you have some tips, fun stories, anecdotes or questions? Share them with us in the comment box below!