When it comes to kayak camping, space is a precious commodity. Ensure you’re making the best use of it by packing gear that’s not only compact, but is going to make your trip as good as it can possibly be.

Whether it’s your first time out, or you’re in need of an upgrade in equipment, this selection of kayak camping gear will make the backcountry feel just like home.

Nite Ize: Radiant 100 Mini Lantern

Mini dome lantern sitting on sleeping bag.
Stay up past dark with this mini lantern. | Photo: Matt Stetson

This palm-sized lantern packs a diffused 100-lumen glow, perfect for evenings reading in the tent or playing cards by the campfire. Thanks to its soft silicone dome, it can squish down for extra compact stowing. The Radiant features high, low and red LED modes, and we love the folding carabiner hook for easy attachment anywhere. Powered by three AAA batteries.


Exped: MegaMat Lite 12

tent with gear inside
A sleeping pad that might be more comfortable than your mattress at home. | Photo: Matt Stetson

A word of warning—this pad may be more comfortable than your mattress at home. Exped’s MegaMat Lite 12 offers an opulent four inches of cushion between sleeper and the cold, hard ground. Though it’s heavier than the average ultralight sleeping pad, and more comparable to the size of a Nalgene bottle rather than a can of Coke, the MegaMat is without question absolutely worth it. We love its velvety soft fabric and the super easy Schnozzel Pumpbag for fast inflation. Never mind kayak camping, we’d carry this backpacking too.


Therm-a-Rest: Space Cowboy

purple sleeping bag
Stay warm without the added weight with this sleeping bag. | Photo: Matt Stetson

The ultralight Space Cowboy weighs just a pound and packs down to the size of a small melon. Reflective ThermaCapture lining harnesses body heat to keep campers warm without adding weight. Designed with cowboy camping in mind, the Space Cowboy features water-resistant synthetic insulation and an exterior to repel morning dew. This makes it extra suited to water-based adventuring. Rated to 45°F.


Eureka: Midori 3

opening of a tent
Have it all with this feature-packed tent. | Photo: Matt Stetson

For six pounds the Midori 3 offers stately volume, with expansive shoulder room and 45 square feet of floor space. Compared side-by-side with some other so-called three-person tents, the Midori feels comparatively palatial.The body of the tent is mostly mesh, maximizing airflow and offering great stargazing opportunities when pitched without the fly. It features two large doors, and its roomy vestibules are complemented by a large loft-style cargo net for storage. A full-coverage fly protects in rainy weather.


Therm-a-Rest: Honcho Poncho

black jacket
Northern nights are no match for this jacket. | Photo: Matt Stetson

Be crowned king or queen of the campfire with Therm-a-Rest’s versatile Honcho Poncho. This unisex design might not win any fashion contests, but this insulated and breathable layer offers extra warmth and water resistance for northern nights, and it can even double as a blanket. Features a cinchable hood, kangaroo pocket for toasty hands and a top zip pocket for stowing a headlamp and snacks.


Pine Mountain: ExtremeStart Fire Starter

fire starter sticks
Starting a fire is easy with these sticks. | Photo: Matt Stetson

Did you know it takes the average American six minutes or more to start a charcoal or wood fire? Struggle no more. Just like a fire log, light the wrapper on an ExtremeStart Fire Starter and your blaze will be hot in minutes, without needing to find and chop kindling. Your bushcraft instructor would disapprove, but these sticks offer the luxury of a good fire with a simple match strike—anytime, anywhere.


Nemo Equipment: Fillo Elite Lux

blue striped pillow
A compact pillow filled with lots of wow-factor. |Photo: Matt Stetson

This pillow got an out-loud “wow!” during unboxing. The Fillo Elite Luxury backpacking pillow is the ultralight version of Nemo’s award-winning Fillo. At just four ounces, it offers impressive height and cushion despite its ethereal weight. It’s the size of a perfect lime when packed in its stuff sack. Three-inch baffled air cells provide impressive loft and avoid the beach ball experience of non-baffled pillows.


Smartwool: Crew Socks

blue socks
Cozy socks are non-negotiable. | Photo: Matt Stetson

No matter the time of year, we’re of the opinion no one is truly cozy without a plush pair of socks. The heavy cushioning and the wicking power of Smartwool’s merino wool socks keep feet warm, dry and comfortable around camp.


3M: Foam Ear Plugs

yellow ear plugs
The secret to a sound sleep in the backcountry. | Photo: Matt Stetson

Romantic notions about sleeping under the stars die a quick death for light sleepers kept awake by hooting owls and peeping frogs. Foam ear plugs work by stopping sound vibrations from entering the ear canal. You won’t hear little noises—like mice sounding like bears scurrying by your tent—but for better or worse, you can rest assured loud noises—like a real bear rummaging through camp or the 200-pound man snoring next to you—won’t go unnoticed.




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