Overnight on an Island: Packing Tips and Tricks for a from Registered Maine Guide Alicia Heyburn

Magic happens between dusk and dawn on Maine’s islands, and there is little better than nodding off to the sounds of waves lapping at the shore (assuming that your boat is secured well above the tide line). In March, I gave some tips for what to pack for a day paddle out on the Trail. For April, let’s focus on an overnight.

Kayak campers get to bring more gear than backpackers, but don’t go crazy. If roughing it means burgers on a charcoal grill and a queen size air mattress, you should stick to car camping. But paddlers have plenty of room to bring along the necessities of life, plus a few luxuries. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Keep it Inside: You will have the best stability and chance of keeping your gear dry if you stow your items inside your boat, not strapped to the deck, so measure your hatch openings and pack based on what will fit in your boat. Larger items, like tents, may need to be separated so poles slide into your rear hatch, and the tent and fly are in smaller bags in the front hatch. Your cockpit has space for more than just your body. Water bladders fit well behind your seat or under your knees. Sleeping pads can be wedged behind foot pegs.

Waterproof: There are some items that must stay dry (sleeping bag, clothes, food), and others can risk a little water (sleeping pad, cook pots). Don’t assume that your storage hatches will be watertight. Use well sealing dry bags or heavy-duty trash bags to protect your important stuff.

Make it small: Small bundles help keep your gear organized and allow you to use every inch inside the boat. Repackage food items to save space. Have a bag for breakfast items, and another for lunch and dinner. Remember, all waste (including human waste) needs to come off the island – another reason to bring a trash bag.

Ease of access: Items that you will need over the course of the day should be easy to access, either in a day hatch, in the cockpit or just under a hatch cover (lunch, first aid, rain gear). Items that you only need in camp can be tucked way up in the pointy space of bow or stern (wine, pjs, oatmeal).

Light, but not hyperlight: Even though you will not be lugging your gear on your back, your kayak does have a maximum carrying capacity. Factor your own body weight when selecting your gear. The cast iron fry pan, even if it fits in your hatch, may need to be swapped for an aluminum nesting pot set. A mesh tote bag makes it easy to transport your assortment of small bundles to/from the boat.

Balance: Your heaviest items, including your body, should be packed low and centered (food, extra water). That’s where buoyancy is strongest. The need for balance is important bow to stern and port to starboard. A well-loaded boat floats level and even in the water. Paddle a few strokes to test how well your boat is balanced and adjust as needed.

Tech Tip: Where is your deck compass? A magnetic steering compass is a sensitive mechanism. Don’t pack your cook set or binoculars right under it, ferrous metals will impact the needle and throw you off course.

-Alicia Pulsifer Heyburn RMG, MITA trustee, co-leader of The Ladies Adventure Club