Long Distance Kayaking: How to Plan and Prepare for an Epic Journey

Planning a long-distance kayaking trip can be very difficult, especially if you are new to the sport. It is hard to get started if you don’t know where to look for information or what resources and equipment will be needed.

It can also be easy to become overwhelmed by all the planning that needs to go into this type of adventure.

You have so many aspects that need attention; food, weather forecast, route planning, etc., and it is not always straightforward which resources will help with each aspect of your trip.

Use our guide on how to plan a long-distance kayaking trip! We cover everything from packing to preparing yourself for this type of journey in the wilderness.

What is long-distance kayaking?

Long-distance kayaking means different things to different people. It all depends on how far you plan on going and what type of water you plan to paddle. A long-distance paddle could be three miles for someone or 25 miles for someone else.

Person paddling a yellow kayakPin

For purposes of this article, we will say there is at least one overnighter in there. Given that, there are a lot of factors to consider for a long paddle.

You need to account for things like the type of kayak and the amount of weight needed for your gear. This depends on how far you are going and what type of trip it is. You will need to pack food and water, as well as safety equipment.

How to prepare for long-distance kayaking

When preparing for an extended time on the water, safety is vital. You also need to be physically fit to handle the rigors of paddling for a long time. Next, we will get into some tips for being prepared for your paddling adventure.

Shape up

As you prepare for your expedition, you need to exercise and be in good shape before hitting the water. The last thing you need when paddling a long way is to get tired.

Weight room to exercise for a long distance kayak tripPin

Making sure you are in good physical condition will help increase the distance you can cover in one day or multiple days. Having the strength to paddle in adverse conditions is also key to staying safe on the water.

A great way to do get your body ready is by exercising, especially upper body and core exercise. For example, exercises that involve rowing (cable rows or a rowing machine) or pulling (lat pulldowns) are great ways to prime your body.

This will help your body get used to paddling for long periods.

Some people find that kayaking with a partner on shorter trips is an excellent way to help them stay fit and motivated for longer journeys. This can be especially useful if you are planning a more extended expedition.

Plan your route

It’s important to know your route before heading out on the water. Scout your area and decide if you will need to travel across the land before leaving from a launch point.

Know which way the current flows so you can time your paddle across certain areas once again, depending on when it best suits your schedule.

Getting lost in unfamiliar territory may be one of the worst things that could happen to you. Having a detailed map of your planned route will help prevent this from happening.

Coordinate with someone, such as a friend or family member, to track where you are going. They should know the general location or direction you are heading.

Know your tides and currents

Before you go out on the water, it’s a good idea to know what the tide schedule looks like for your route. This will give you an idea of when the best time is to paddle over certain areas.

You also need to be aware of any strong currents running at different times of the year. There are plenty of apps that can help you out before and during your trip.

Preparing your gear for long-distance paddling

If you plan a longer trip out on the water, you need to be prepared with food and water and all your other gear. Your kayak will be your home when exploring the great outdoors. Therefore, you need to have everything packed in a way that is easy to access when needed.

Keeping your kayak balanced is essential because it is more challenging to paddle if you have too much weight on one side of the kayak.

The other primary consideration is safety. You need to make sure that your gear is accessible quickly in case of an emergency.

Test all of your equipment

Before you head out on a long paddle, it’s essential to test all of your equipment. You want to make sure that it is in good shape and will not fail you when you need it the most.

Make sure your life jacket is in good shape, and your paddles are not damaged. Also, make sure your kayak is up to the challenge.

It’s a good idea to load your kayak with all your gear before heading out on an expedition. This will help you have an idea of what everything weighs. In addition, this will give you a good start if you are trying to pack weight correctly for safe paddling conditions.

Tips for long-distance kayaking

First and foremost, you need to pack a life jacket that will fit properly. You never know what the weather will be like when you are on the water, so being prepared with warm clothes and rain gear is essential.

Food and water

Make sure you have enough water for the journey. It’s imperative to stay hydrated when paddling, so you need to have a plan for drinking enough water and staying healthy on your trip.

Man in a black shirt drinking waterPin

You also need food on hand that can keep easily and is ready to eat if needed. So keep some snacks in your bag or pocket, as well as things like granola bars.


Depending on how long your paddling trip is, you might need to heat up some food when you are on the water. A small camp stove makes the process much easier.

It’s a good idea to have a cooking pot that can hold water and food for easy heating while on your trip. You also need something to mix your food in or eat directly from, like a plate or bowl.

Keep in touch

You should let someone know where you are headed whenever you head out on an excursion like kayaking a long distance. This will help make sure your friends or family always knows where you are going, and if something happens, they can notify the proper authorities.

Before heading out on a trip like this, you should also tell people when you will return. Keep in touch with an emergency contact or someone who may need to track down your location throughout the day while paddling.

Take a breath

They always say “stop and smell the flowers,” so remember to take a breath and enjoy your long-distance kayaking journey. When you are on the water, it’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of being out there that you forget about everything else.

Take some pictures along the way and write down your thoughts about the trip while it’s still fresh in your mind.

Keep your gear safe (waterproof)

Whenever you take a long trip with your kayak, make sure to have it properly stored and secured. You need to protect your gear so that nothing can get wet or damaged while out on the water.

Dry bags or a waterproof backpack are great for keeping your clothing and other supplies from getting soaked.

You also want to store things in a way that is easily accessible if needed. For example, packing your bag that allows you to pull things out quickly is a good idea.

Leave some extra space in your kayak or your dry bag so that if you get caught in the rain, everything will be able to fit inside without causing damage.


When planning a long kayaking trip, you should wear clothing that is appropriate for the weather. You will want to dress in layers so you can peel off or put on clothes as it warms up or cools down.

You also need clothing that is comfortable and will dry quickly if it gets wet.

A good pair of wading boots that will keep your feet dry and warm is a good idea. If you are going to be paddling in colder weather, you should think about wearing a few extra layers of clothing as well.

Sleeping, tent, etc.

Depending on how long your trip is, you may need to sleep somewhere. A good idea is to carry a tent or tarp that you can pitch up if needed.

A small sleeping bag will be necessary to keep you warm at night, and it’s best to get something that packs small. The last thing you want is for your kayak to be overloaded with extra supplies. So make sure everything has its own place in your boat.


If a tarp isn’t your idea of camping, you might consider a tent. There are many different tents available, but make sure you choose a compact option. There is not much room on a kayak, so keep that in mind.

A tent that contains a rain fly will be best because it may come in handy during the night if you get caught in a storm.

Selecting a kayak for long-distance paddling

When you are prepping for your trip, one of the first specs to consider is what type of kayak is best for your journey. There are many different types of kayaks on the market today.

Before selecting a kayak for this type of trip, make sure your kayak is the right size for you and all your gear. If you have to cram things into the kayak, it will be uncomfortable and unbalanced.

Touring kayaks are good for long-distance paddling. They are designed to be stable and will keep you comfortable while out on the water. A longer, more narrow kayak will travel faster than other models, and these types of kayaks often have large watertight storage hatches.

A sit-on-top (SOT) kayak is another good option for a long-distance trip. You can store a lot of gear on a SOT kayak. But, again, the open nature means that you are more exposed to the elements.


It’s tough to plan a long-distance kayaking trip, but you can make sure it goes smoothly with some preparation and the correct information.

You’ll need to plan appropriately for your journey, such as where you are going, food, weather forecast, equipment needed, etc., but all of this is worth it once you are out there on the water.

Hopefully, this article has given you some information on how to plan a long kayaking trip. Good luck and happy paddling.

Photo of author
About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.