It’s been said that “Space is the final frontier”, but it’s also a big consideration when packing for an overnight fishing trip in a kayak. Though many paddlers camp year-round, camping is more common during the summer when the weather is more agreeable. Combining an overnight outing with a kayak fishing trip is great fun. The problem is, with limited space, how do you make that happen?
In recent years, a transition has taken place in the camping market that goes hand-in-hand with paddlers. In the old days, camping meant lugging along a four-man tent, complete with poles, stakes and ropes. Add to that a host of bedding materials that included a sleeping bag, pillow, air mattress and a host of other necessities to spend the night in the great outdoors.
All that is fine if you’re planning on driving to your destination and can transport all of your gear in the bed of a truck, but what about those times when your one-man paddle craft has to carry the load?
While the trend in family camping has been providing an outdoors version of every thing including the kitchen sink, the hiking/backpacking crowd was working on the “less is more” philosophy. These folks discovered what Gilligan knew back in the 60s: A hammock makes for a great night’s sleep without all the extra burden of bedding materials. Add a simple rain-fly to shield off morning dew or a passing thunderstorm, and you’ve got a great home-away-from-home that fits in a small, compact bag.
As blueways and multiple-day paddle trails have become more popular, the overnight river float has also grown in popularity. For kayak anglers, a river float typically means putting in at one location, fishing throughout the journey, stopping somewhere along the way to spend one or more nights, then taking out further down the waterway. At dusk, hammock tent cities pop up on islands or inside river banks and vanish without a trace the next morning.
John Auslund, a big fan of both kayak fishing and primitive camping, put the two together a couple of years ago. A sales associate at REI in Greenville, his job allows him to keep up with the latest and greatest gear items in both communities.
“The appeal of a hammock tent for me is that I wanted to be able to know I was going to sleep the same way every time,” said Auslund. “When you planned on camping in a ground tent, you don’t know if the ground was going to be level, rocky, rutty or even if the ground would be dry. With the hammock, I know I’m going to sleep the same way every time, so I know I’m going to be level, and I’m going to be comfortable. That consistency of sleeping in the same position every time was the key for me to try a hammock tent.”
Several outdoor-gear manufacturers have developed products for the hammock-tent market. One local — and very popular in the Carolinas — is ENO, short for Eagle Nest Outfitters, based in Asheville, N.C. (eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com). ENO hammocks are made from lightweight, extremely strong parachute material. ENO hammock systems are available with tree straps and rigging that allow for quick and easy set-up and take-down with no impact to the tree.
Additions to the system include a spacious rainfly to ward off moisture and a bug-fly to keep out insects no matter where you’re camping for the night.
“The ENO Doublenest is one of the most popular hammocks we sell here at the store,” said Auslund. “I like them because they are a local company, and they make a number of accessories to go with the hammock. One of my favorites is an undersling that you can hang right below the hammock and keep all your stuff off the ground but within easy reach from the hammock.”
Weighing in under a pound for just the hammock and around 2 pounds for the an entire system — including straps, hammock, bug fly, rain fly and rigging — the ENO One Link package easily stows in a kayak’s cockpit dry hatch. Hacks alone retail for about $70, and an entire system, marketed as the One Link package, retails for $219.
Along with your accommodations, food, water and fishing tackle, overnighting on the water requires more forethought in the planning than a regular one-day fishing trip. This type of multi-day boating requires you to think more like a backpacker, choosing gear that’s compact and light. You may not have to carry all of your gear on your back, but the available space allowance packing in a kayak isn’t all that different.
“You have to balance out the weight in your kayak. You’ve got food; you’ve got a stove; you’ve still got clothes and all the other things you’re going to need to take with you,” Auslund said. “ I think using the kayaking tent really helps in terms of balancing your load in your kayak. Most of it is pretty self-explanatory. The fact that it packs down so small is one of it’s great advantages.”
With your accommodations in the bag, so to speak, there’s no limit to where you can go, or how long you stay, while out Palmetto Paddling.