How to Plan a Long-Distance Kayaking Trip

Preparing for a long trip kayak can be a daunting task if it’s your first time. There is so much to plan and prepare for when embarking on such a journey. You are not only planning for your safety, food, or boat. You also have to plan for the weather conditions and water route. Proper planning and preparation are critical factors contributing to successful kayaking.

You wouldn’t want your long-distance kayaking to be boring and filled with several obstacles – obstacles that should have been taken care of if you prepared adequately. Whatever the situation, this write-up will provide a comprehensive guide to plan and prepare for that long trip kayak you have always fantasized about. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Man on a long kayaking trip

Preparing for a Long-Distance Kayaking Trip

Whether it’s a short or long trip, safety is critical. There are several things that you can do to prepare for that journey. Let’s look at some things you need to prepare for this adventurous journey.

Keep yourself fit

Nobody who is ill will feel comfortable riding a kayak. You need to be in a good health condition to start your journey. You must be in good shape because kayaking long-distance is tasking and energy-consuming. The last thing you want to avoid is stopping paddling when you go for a long trip kayak.

Ensure you are in your best physical condition to enable you to navigate the water under adverse conditions. Therefore, if you are contemplating going for long-distance kayaking, it’s best to start preparing physically beforehand. Perform exercises that focus on your upper body.

Alternatively, you can kayak short distances, prepping yourself for the long distance. It is a good way to stay fit and motivate yourself for the long journey. In the end, this will help you stay mentally and physically alert for the journey.

Schedule and plan your route

Besides preparing yourself physically, you have to prepare yourself emotionally as you schedule when to start your long trip. You need to choose a particular date to start the journey. However, the timing will depend on the tides and currents.

Understanding the way the tide and current flow gives you an edge. In addition, you can decide the best time to paddle through certain areas. One of the worst things to experience when kayaking a long distance is getting lost in an unfamiliar area.

Along with planning your route, you should have a map to prevent any mishap. With the advancement in technology, you can place a tracker on your boat for family and friends to track your movement. Furthermore, there are several apps available to check the strength of a tide or current.

Select your package and Gears

When selecting your package, you have to decide if you want a professional or self-guided option. If you opt for a professional guide, most of the planning will be handled, including your outfit, camping equipment, kayak renting, etc.

However, if you are preparing independently, you have to plan for everything you need. In the latter part of this article, we will explain the items you need for a long kayak trip. Taking the right gear for your long-distance kayaking is very important as it can save you a lot of stress. You would need items such as walking shoes, a first aid kit, bug spray, water purifier, a satellite phone, clean clothes, and a rain jacket.

Types of Destination for a Long trip Kayak

While anyone can decide on a particular destination to plan a long trip, you should know that some destinations are not suitable. Whatever your experience level might be, you can take a trip on these waters. To help you, let’s look at some things to consider when choosing a destination.

Flat Water

Gentle rivers and lakes represent flat water. It is the best place to start for beginners as it offers lower difficulty and risk. You hardly find any current as it concerns lakes, which enable you to travel more than a day.

However, you have to be careful when choosing a lake because it can be dangerous and turbulent during windy days. Even professional paddlers find it hard to kayak in open spaces. Therefore, it is preferable to stick to the seashore.


For beginners, rivers with a good flow rate are difficult to navigate. It is dangerous to kayak in whitewater. Therefore, if you don’t have the experience, you should look for a way to develop your confidence and skill before embarking on such a risky adventure.

Open Water

These include oceans, lakes, and moderate-sized rivers. Because of risky water conditions, it can be dangerous paddling on such water. When you want to go on a long trip, it is better to avoid open water if you have not undergone advanced level training.

Tips when going for a long kayaking Trip

Long-distance trips can be a battle. It is challenging to navigate through the high tides and currents. While physically, it is not hard, it is mentally and psychologically tasking to navigate through several circumstances.

Nevertheless, for any paddler ready for this adventure, you’ve got to be prepared for the unexpected. To help you enjoy your long trip kayak, here are essential tips that can come in handy.

Be flexible

There is never a guarantee that your trip will go as you planned. Even the weather can change course or your gear malfunction. You might move out strong only to start feeling unwell in certain situations.

Therefore, you have to be flexible when planning for a long kayak trip. If unexpected things happen, you need to take a drastic decision like cutting short your trip. Adaptability is vital for an activity like kayaking.

Understand your canoe or kayak

Based on your personal preference and route, you can decide to use a canoe or kayak. You need to understand the kayak you are using, especially if it’s new. The experience you have won’t be the same when going for a short trip. Besides this, the type and size of the kayak play a key role in your trip.

Is your boat durable to withstand rocky water? What is its level of stability when loaded with several items? These and other things should be considered before embarking on such a trip. You don’t want to be caught on the wrong side.

Pack light items

You don’t have to fill your kayak with much gear. You can pick up sleep equipment, lightweight tents, and cooking items. For a long-distance trip, you can opt to use gear for backpacking but ensure the bag is of high quality. Depending on the weather, you can carry clothes for cold weather. It’s a general rule to dress for the water instead of the weather.

Work on your navigation skills

Kayaking long-distance can be intimidating because it requires a lot of skills. However, most long-distance rivers have preexisting trails that enable riders to navigate easily. However, you can use kayaking apps to navigate your way through the waterways. You don’t have to rely on an electronic device because they can fail and keep you lost.

Therefore, it’s important to understand the area and terrain you want to ride along. Pay attention to the route and recognize the best area to set your sail.

Plan for resupply

You might finish your stock while on a long paddle. So, when planning a long kayak trip, put this into consideration. If you are traveling through cities, it’s easier to route your trip to restock your items.

Watch the water levels

Whether you are kayaking through the ocean, lake, or a large body of water, be conscious of the water level. You can take advantage of the USGS Water Data to know the current water levels. Focus on the CFS flow measurement and gauge height when looking at the data. For instance, after a heavy downpour, the water level rises.

Buy a good kayak

You have to be technical here because kayaks are available in different styles. You need to decide on the best kayak that is suitable for your trip and can withstand any harsh weather conditions. Though cheap kayaks allow for anyone to begin kayaking, they aren’t always a good idea. Check out this guide I recently wrote on why buying an inexpensive kayak can be a bad investment.

How to pack for your long-distance night kayaking trip

At times, your long-distance trip might stretch overnight. In such a case, your preparation is very critical. There are several gears you need to take along as you spend the night away from the comfort of your home. Normally, you would go with the basic item, including a survival kit, emergency shelter, paddle, and navigation aids.

Let’s look at some important things to include when packing for night long-distance kayaking.

High-quality tent

You don’t want to hold back on your tent and sleeping system. It doesn’t matter if you have a nicer tent; you should ensure it doesn’t occupy much space. Ideally, the tent shouldn’t exceed 1.5 kilos. Interestingly, there are several lightweight single personal tents you can select from when buying a high-quality tent.

Sleeping bag

It would be best if you had a dry sleeping bag because when it is wet, it is useless. You can opt for a synthetic bag as they can keep you warm even in damp situations. In addition, they are lighter and smaller when packed. When going for a long kayak trip, space and weight are paramount. Furthermore, you can go with a lightweight matt to stay comfortable.


You can’t count on having clear nights when kayaking. Therefore, taking a headlamp or torch with spare batteries can come in handy.

Food and energy

When going for an extended kayaking trip, the current can run against you. So you need every energy possible. If you kayak for more than eight hours, you will need about 10,000 calories. You can opt for high calories food. Freeze-dried meat is a good option to consider, especially if you have access to fresh water. In addition, you can take food that won’t require any refrigerating.


You need a stove to prepare a hot meal if you will kayak for days. While you can eat cold food at times, there are lightweight camp stoves to hot your food. Ensure you include matches, a lighter, or an emergency flint spark lighter.


When packing for your long trip, one important thing is to park different clothes. Get your land outfit before you look for your camp clothes. You need to change clothes after riding for the day. It doesn’t help using the same damp cloth all day. You need to relax, and a good relaxation cloth is significant. With the proper cloth arrangement, you can get yourself prepared for the next day.

Places for your Long Trip Kayaking in the United States

There are several places you can go for a long trip kayaking. While we don’t recommend any particular area, you can include Canada, Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii in your list. You need to carry out your research about these areas. Importantly, you can take advantage of magazine articles, guidebooks, charts, or tourist bureaus to determine the best place for your trip.

Eastern Penobscot Bay

This area offers protected water for your kayaking. It’s the perfect touring spot for adventurous kayakers as it contains several accessible islands and pink granite beaches. According to history, granite was used to build major cities, including Washington, D.C., and New York. Today, you will still find quarries mined around the area. It doesn’t restrict anyone from having a good ride as it has small islands, which are reachable from the Muscle Ridge Channel.

Casey Key

If you are in Florida, you might want to check the Casey Key as it is another spot that attracts kayakers. Casey Key is situated in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway between Fort Myers and Sarasota. The waterway is a famous area where dolphins reside. You can see dolphins circling your boat as you ride during the day. If you pass early, you stand the chance of seeing their tricks.

Wilderness Waterway

Another area to tour is the Wilderness Waterway in Florida. It is a hundred-mile route that passes via the Ten thousand Islands. Remarkably, it is well marked out for small boats. You can navigate your way through several mazes. According to kayakers, the route, which is part of the Everglades National Park, also leads to mangrove jungles. As you take this route, you can hear the birds chirping, and alligator’s shunning the salty water.

Long-distance Kayaking in the winter

group kayaking in the winter

Not everyone will wait for the winter period to be over before going for a long kayak trip. If you find yourself preparing for a long trip during winter, you need to prepare. To help you, here are a few things to get ready as you advance in your kayaking.

Get Booties

Your feet are the first place that usually gets cold during winter. Therefore, it is vital to protect your feet. Booties come in handy here because of their thickness. When shopping for a kayaking boat, ensure the thickness is between five to seven millimeters.

Stay warm

Besides protecting your feet as it is the primary area where you get cold, you also need to keep your head warm. You have several gears at your disposal to wear during the colder period of the year.

Stay close to the shore

It’s a general rule whether kayaking in the winter or summer. However, special attention is needed to stay close to the seashore. In addition, you need to stay visible to others if you are kayaking in the group. At times, it is hard to understand the area, which is why you should stick to the shore areas.

A word of advice; avoid rivers bends because the wind might not move towards your favor. It can be a massive blow, especially when you don’t have the energy to paddle your way.

Dress in layers

Another way to avoid the weather is to dress in layers. It’s not only suitable for kayaking; it also applies for snow skiing, skiing, and cross-country skiing in winter. Get good clothes that will protect and keep you warm during kayaking. You don’t have to go overboard here as there are low-budget dresses for your winter kayaking.

Never forget your floating device

Notwithstanding how short or long the trip might be, always wear your floating device for your safety. If an accident happens when kayaking, your floating device can keep you safe. Peradventure, the kayak capsize, if you wore a life jacket, you might be lucky to remain safe.


Going for a long kayak trip, you need to be fully prepared. You don’t want to leave anything with a chance as it might disrupt your journey. Ensure all your items are lightweight; so much pressure isn’t on the boat.

It’s essential to take all the necessary items, including garbage bags, heating devices, personal floatation devices, and food. Kayak camping offers a unique way to enjoy life and avoid the hectic lifestyle. Get your bag ready and start that long kayaking trip you have always fantasized about.

We would like to hear from you about how you planned your kayak. Whatever works for you can help someone plan and enjoy that long-distance kayaking adventure.

Vanessa Hopkins

Hi, I'm Vanessa. Long-time kayaker who's proud to be part of this community. I strive to provide our visitors with insightful guides with the aim to improve their kayaking experience. I've been working with SunshineKayaking for over 5 years, providing world-class services.

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