Campground Guides

Boat Camping Guide

Boat camping is almost in the same category as car camping. The difference is that you are using a boat instead of a car to get around. Many people enjoy camping by boat for extended weekends or longer, and it is probably one of the easiest camping adventures you can experience.

Boat camping by spending a day or more on the water is one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have, especially when combined with a night under the stars. The incredible sound of nature as the sun sets while preparing your camping food on a campground stove with a blazing campfire nearby.

You will be awakened at sunrise with the birds singing and signalling that a new and exciting day has arrived. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and an omelette cooking on the camping stove hastens you to another boating or fishing adventure. How can a combination of boating and tent camping possibly be surpassed?

Boat camping encompasses almost any boat you can imagine; canoes, kayaks, hard shell boats, inflatable boats and rafts. Due to the number of people starting to rough it (ha – ha) outdoors, you need to do a little planning before your camping trip. The majority of the National and State Parks only permit camping in certain areas. Some of these areas might not even be accessible by boat.

Boat camping on the California Delta would be an adventurous experience. The Delta has over 1000-miles of navigable water ways from Sacramento to Manteca. During the spring and fall, rangers and volunteers garner people for canoe camping trips from Brannan Island State Recreation Area on the weekends. Brannan Island is a 336-acre park with a swimming beach and windsurfing coves.

One other place to look for boat camping locations is Boating Life. This author personally called the 48 continental states looking for campgrounds accessible only by boat. His resulting list highlights some pristine untouched areas where you can enjoy camping – and people who don’t own boats cannot.

You do not need the dehydrated lightweight foods, unless you prefer to use it, and there is no need to economize on space like you do when backpacking. After getting the boat loaded and launched, there is not a lot of physical labor involved. It requires just a little more effort then driving to a campsite, but you do not have all the traffic to contend while getting to the campground site.

Boat Camping
Some Common Mistakes

Some individuals experienced with camping by boat have made some observations about the mistakes you want to avoid: (1) failing to pitch your tent above the midnight high tide mark. It is not very pleasant to be awaken with water flooding your tent;(2) failing to have enough dry bags to keep your gear dry; (3) failing to run your camping food up high enough (and far enough from the tree trunk) that the critters (rats, raccoons, bears) will not be able to get into it. Notice that your camping food is tied in a tree. Never put food inside your tent, and always store it in containers; (4) failing to bring enough fuel for cooking; and (5) failing to bring enough drinking water and/or forgetting the filter needed to produce safe water from surface sources.

Boat Camping Gear List
The Absolute Essentials

If you plan on boat camping this year, it will be a good idea to start your camping gear list with the following essentials for your boat: (1) map, chart and compass; (2) first aid kit; (3) a hat and sunscreen; (4) multi-purpose tool with knife; (5) matches, lighters, or other fire starters; (6) a minimum of at least two quarts of water per person each day, and just in case, a water filter and water purification tablets; (7) camping food, camping stove and fuel; (8) at least one device for signaling such as a mirror or whistle; (9) a flashlight or headlight with extra batteries and bulb, one for each person in your party; (10) always bring your rain gear and extra clothes, as well as your swim gear. Boat camping obviously means you are playing around water, and at some point you will get wet; (11) 50 to 75 feet of nylon cord; (12) some form of insect repellent for those annoying bugs; (13) portable toilet with the essentials that go with it; (14) a paddle and flotation device for each person; and (15) duck tape for everything else. You will probably be able to add to the list of uses for duck tape after your boat camping trip.

It is also suggested that you take the following camping gear: (16) a radio to check on weather reports; (17) an additional paddle just in case someone loses his; (18) a line to tie-down your boat; (19) chairs or back rests; (20) a boat repair kit; (21) some kind of bailer and a sponge – a one gallon plastic container that is cut-out works just great; (22) float bags; and (23) some rope for the front and back of your boat that is around 20 feet long.

Expanded Boat Camping Gear List


This type of camping obviously requires a boat, and what kind of boat to take on your camping trip is the question. There are basically only two choices: an inflatable boat or a traditional boat. First, clear your mind of any ideas about an inflatable boat if you have not seen the ones built today. You can find extremely high quality inflatable boats for boat camping, sailing, fishing, canoeing and kayaking.

There are many excellent and compelling reasons why an inflatable boat might be the right answer for you and your family, rather than the rigid hulled boats