There are few greater feelings than shoving off from shore with everything you need to survive a few nights in the great wide open. Kayak camping is a fun and easy way to get outside, explore new places and sleep under the stars. There are countless camping spots in the U.S. that are most easily accessed by boat. Unlike backpacking, hauling a load of gear on a kayak is almost effortless. Here are a few tips that will help your trip go smoothly and keep your gear dry.

Consider the Destination
Different trips call for different packing lists. If you’re heading to an established boat-in campground like Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay State Park for a single night, you might consider bringing an air mattress and a larger, more comfortable tent. If you’re kayaking through the Everglades or the Black Canyon for a week, you probably want to pack lighter and leave more room for food. Avoid overloading your boat. It’ll take less effort to move and it will be safer.

*Lighten the Load *Planning and packing for any trip should be done methodically. Make a list of things you’re considering bringing, lay out all the gear and narrow it down from there. Put the essentials aside and add comforts by order of necessity. The solar-powered Christmas lights or the inflatable cow suit should probably be last. If your boat is full and the list is pared down to only what you need, consider a bigger kayak.

Staying Dry
Keeping gear dry is kind of an art form. There are some basic rules, though. The first is don’t assume the hatches in your kayak will stay dry. The best option are dry bags. Rather than a single big bag, usually several small and medium sizes will fit better in your hull. It’s often worth double-bagging the most important items like your sleeping bag. Try using thick garbage bags, if you don’t have enough dry bags.

Steve the Cargo
Organizing your boat is pretty crucial. Most importantly, you’ll need the room to paddle (or kick if you’re using MirageDrive). Make sure your gear is strapped down, even if you think you’ll be in calm conditions. Try to organize gear so you know what’s in each bag. Some paddlers recommend using different colored bags to differentiate. Put the gear like coolers or sleeping pads that can acceptably get wet lowest in the boat. Push the things you won’t need during your trip toward the tips of the bow or stern. Fumbling around to get your camera from some deep crevice can be dangerous or may end in a splash.