5 Faves – Jay’s Picks for Camping Gear

5 Faves – Jay’s Picks for Camping Gear

Here are just a few quick notes on camping gear I’ve found that I really like. Everybody has a few items they love. Tell us what yours are in the comments.


Perfect gear at a low price

All the function at 1/3 the price.

Coleman headlamp
I have 2 headlamps: a $39 headlamp from Petzl and a $13 headlamp that I bought at Walmart when I forgot to bring my expensive one on a camping trip. I haven’t used the expensive one since. The Coleman works exactly the same, except that it runs on AAA batteries that I can get anywhere instead of harder-to-find coin batteries.




Roll it up and stick it in a hatch.

Packs small, sleeps comfortably


Air sleeping pad
This item packs down really well, is very cheap, and is comfortable. The link is to a larger size than I have and it costs more; I got mine for about $20. It has an interior pump based on, I don’t know, the laws of physics? You just press it a few dozen times and the pad fills up. It takes about 5 minutes.




Bug suits beat bug spray every time. Cheap, effective, & easy to pack.

Bug suits beat bug spray every time. Cheap, effective, & easy to pack.

Mesh bug suit
Oh, this thing is crazy. You’ll look like a serial killer, but you won’t get bitten. I have the Coghlan’s brand, which you can get at any outdoor store. This item is inexpensive, and saves you from having to saturate your flesh in sticky poison.





Hot chocolate on demand

Hot water in 60 seconds


This was *not* cheap, but it boils water in 60 seconds. When you want your hot chocolate, every second counts.






Keep your head warm and dry

Be a hot head

This hat
Or a hat like this. It’s rain-proof and fleece-lined. You can tuck the neck covering up into the hat so you can control your body temperature. Plus, it stays on when paddling in the wind. With this hat, you won’t mind camping in the rain.





Bugs, rain, and sleeping on a tiny air pad–is this list getting you excited about camping? You know it is! What’s your most beloved piece of gear? Let us know in the comments. 

— Jay Gitomer

12 Tips to Pack for Kayak Camping

Many small dry bags are better than a few big ones.

You’ll want lots of these.

So much stuff… such small hatches.

The ice has melted and the daffodils have blossomed. It’s time to think about getting back outside. And getting outside means carrying around a lot of stuff. Here are a few quick tips on how to pack your boat for kayak camping.

The heavy stuff goes near your body; otherwise, your bow or stern will sit too low and you’ll have trouble controlling your boat in wind or waves. Your water is probably your heaviest stuff. If you have dromedaries, tie one behind your seat, and if you need two of them, place the other in the front of your cockpit between your foot pegs and forward bulkhead. If there’s any more water or liquid, place it against the rear bulkhead so it’s as close to your body as possible. If you don’t have dromedaries and are taking plastic bottles, tuck them in around your gear as close to your body as possible.

If you have a compass on your deck, remember that metal stuff should not be stored near it. Compasses have magnets in their pointers, so they can’t function properly if nearby metal attracts the pointer.

The back and front hatches should be filled about equally. If one end of your boat is heavier than the other, the boat will weathercock or leecock. That means it will want to point upwind or downwind, and you’ll have to work a lot harder to control your direction. An easy way to figure out if your gear is divided into two equal loads is to place it in two Ikea bags and lift them to see if they weigh about the same. If not—reorganize.

Then bring at least one of those Ikea bags with you (or, better yet, a big mesh bag), and make sure it’s the last thing that you pack. That way, when you get to your campsite, you can just stuff the big bag with your necessary gear and easily carry it to your site.

A lot of new campers think that a few big dry bags will be easier to manage than a lot of small bags. Not so! It’s hard to fit big bags into small hatches and a lot of space is wasted because the crevices around the big bags are empty. It’s much better to place your stuff into a lot of small bags. That way, every crevice can be filled with stuff.

If you’re an organized type or aspiring to become one, color-code your bags. Use the brightest bags to store the items you want to be able to find most easily. That might include contact lens stuff, toilet paper, or your wallet. Or do whatever works for you; red for first aid, green for wallet, etc.

Not all dry bags are created equally. Choose thick ones. Sea to Summit has thick ones that have a woven texture; these are good. They have less expensive slick ones that are not so good. You can get inexpensive dry bags at West Marine; they carry a good store brand and a brand called Gill; both are waterproof. Dry bags come in plastic or treated cloth. Treated cloth is better; the plastic ones are hard to shove into small spaces because the plastic grips rather than slides.  West Marine’s store brand is plastic and Gill is treated cloth with a translucent plastic window.

If you’re camping someplace buggy (and if there’s someplace to camp that isn’t buggy, please do share), be sure to pack your bug stuff (bug spray,

Bug suits beat bug spray every time. Cheap, effective, & easy to pack.

Bug suits beat bug spray every time. Cheap, effective, & easy to pack.

mesh suit, etc.) near the top of your hatches. You’ll also want your headlamp to be easily accessible. A night without a headlamp is difficult.

If you’re carrying your phone or other items that absolutely cannot get wet, don’t trust one dry bag; double- or triple-bag it.

If you paddle a smaller boat, as a lot of women do, consider an inflatable sleeping pad like this one. It’s manually inflated, so it takes up almost no room. It won’t last forever, but this brand is inexpensive enough to be worth replacing every year or two. And they have a worthy second life; keep a leaky one under your car seat and use it to stand one when changing clothes after your regular day paddles.

Pack your tent frame, stakes, and other light cylindrical stuff way up alongside your skeg box. Otherwise, that’s wasted space.

Don’t waste the space in the bow of your boat. Cram a small bag filled with stuff you have to have ‘just in case’ but probably won’t need. But before you shove it in there, tie a line to its handle and make sure the line stays within reach as you fill the rest of the hatch. That way, you’ll be able to retrieve the bag when you want it.

If you have any tips of your own for packing a kayak, please leave a comment!

— Jay Gitomer

4 Necessities for Kayak Navigation

Essential kayak navigation tools

Part 1 of 3 in our series on journeying

We’ve tried a lot of gear and found that most of it was just more useless stuff to carry around. Just a few basics are needed to get started, and here’s a short list of some must-have’s for kayak navigation:

  1. Compass
    This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but here’s the thing: a cheap one works just as well as a costly one for kayak navigation. They’re easy to lose, so why throw money into the water? We give enough sunglasses to Neptune already, he doesn’t need our compasses too. Pick up a small one that you can tie onto your PFD.
  2. String
    Any old string will do. Use this to plot a course from Point A to Point B underway, when you don’t have access to a parallel ruler. Really, kayakers go such short distances that you’ll never need a parallel ruler unless your name is Frieda.A string will work fine.
  3. Grease pencils
    You can’ have too many of these since they’re so easy to lose. Use a grease pencil to make notes on a waterproof

    Waterproof charts are best for kayak navigation

    Kayak charts have to be large-scale

    chart or on the deck of your boat. Buy them online or find them at Staples, Joann’s, or Michael’s.

  4. Charts
    There are lots of choices here. Pick up a Pocket Chart at your local boating store, buy a chart kit for your area and copy the pages you need as you need them, or download free charts from NOAA using a navigation software.(For those of you who are joining us for the Paddle Through Time navigation trip to False Cape, you’ll need NOAA Chart 12207). If you’re going to download free charts, consider picking up a laminator so you don’t end up with a useless, sodden mess on your deck.

Which nav tools do you find indispensable?

— Jay Gitomer

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