long distance kayaking trip

How to Plan a Long Distance Kayaking Trip?

How to plan a long distance kayaking trip? Every trip requires preparation and planning. Whether you’re traveling by plane, foot, car, or kayak, there are many things you will need to consider.  Proper preparation and planning are essential to making your trip an enjoyable adventure. In this article, I will try my best to help you with this process.


Definition of a Long Distance Kayaking Trip

Speed and distance of course are relative on the water.  To a fisherman, wandering 5 miles in a day would be considered a long distance.  For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume at least an overnight trip which means you’ll most likely be camping and carrying everything you need with you.

This means you’ll need a touring kayak. If you’ve never done this before, I would strongly recommend you take your first trip with a tour group or at least another experienced paddler.


Flatwater paddling is much like walking. You can figure your average speed on the water will be around 3-4 miles per hour.  This will be influenced by rest stops, picture taking, and portages if you have to carry your kayak across the land. Like hiking, figure 15 miles would be a good distance on a good day.

Moving water and open ocean routes are different since the current can either work with or against you.  The wind and tides can also be a factors

The composition of your group will also be a major factor in how far and fast you go. Is the group younger and more energetic, or older and more seasoned? The more in shape you are, the further and faster you’ll be comfortable paddling.  Whatever the ages, the goal is to get away from civilization and enjoy nature to the max. No need to be in a hurry to get anywhere.



Where Can I Find Good Paddling Locations?  

You might want to get some experience, find like-minded friends, and begin your search nearby.  Hardly anyone is far from a local river or kayak club. Begin with a google search of “kayak clubs near me”.

An excellent resource is Paddling.com’s Paddling Locations Map where you can browse of 22,000 paddling locations in North America.  Directions, GPS coordinates, parking, fees, and a description of the body of water are given along with notes from the paddling community.

American Whitewater provides a state by state list of navigable rivers with current water levels, flow rates,  and river conditions, along with directions and recommended put-ins and take-outs.

If you don’t have your equipment yet or want to paddle a distant location without having to haul all your gear, you may want to consider a package trip with an outfitter or an adventure company.

Outward Bound is an adventure company with a great reputation that schedules outdoor expeditions for various age groups.  On a kayaking expedition, you can paddle lakes or ocean in solo or tandem sea kayaks.  During the course, you’ll be taught skills like kayaking strokes, reading ocean currents, water rescue techniques and navigating with charts so that you’ll return with a new sense of self and confidence.

There are outfitting companies all across the country that offer rental equipment, trip maps, and or guided tours. Trip Finder is another resource from Paddling.com that lets you search for your ideal trip in North America by location, offering both outfitter and community sponsored trips.

Many trip locations are more easily discovered by searching for long distance canoe trips as both canoes and touring kayaks can paddle many of the same routes.


Recommend Long Distance Kayaking Spots

There are several locations across the US that have earned the popularity to be on your “must do” bucket list of places to paddle.


Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)

Minnesota is the land of lakes and the border with Canada is easily one of the most highly recommended paddling locations. You can plan a trip from overnight to a few weeks in a remote wilderness with bears, moose, and birds (and bugs!).  A permit is required. There are over 1000 lakes with short (or long) portages between them and lots of campsites.

Beware that it’s easy to get lost, so beginners are well advised to paddle with a group or someone with experience. There are fewer people and bugs in the spring and fall, but the temperatures are a bit more chilly, too.  There are many outfitters to choose from. Boundary Waters Outfitters offers a nice guide on  How to Plan a Boundary Waters Canoe Trip


The Northern Forest Canoe Trail

Spanning 740 miles from Fort Kent, Maine to Old Forge, New York, The Northern Forest Canoe Trail connects many lakes and waterways through the Adirondacks passing through numerous small towns to create a continuous trail.  Although it would take a month to do the entire course, it’s easy to find long stretches to paddle varying from flatwater to mild rapids. NFCT Trail Overview is the link you’ll want to visit to plan your trip.


Everglades National Park

The Everglades provides a special peace and serenity, watching dolphins, herons, and osprey, camping on islands after paddling from one to the next in the Gulf of Mexico.  Be sure to bring your sunscreen! Visit Green Global Travel to start planning your trip.  


Other destinations worth mentioning are the Bois Brule River in Wisconsin, the Buffalo National River in Arkansas,  the Current River in Missouri, and the Bowron Lake Chain in British Columbia.  Other worthy sea kayaking destinations include Baja, Mexico, and the San Juan Islands of Washington State.


How to Prepare for a Long Distance Kayaking Trip? 


Get in shape

Runners don’t just start running marathons. They start by running shorter distances to build up stamina.

Hopefully, you already have access to a kayak so you can practice many months in advance paddling for longer periods of time.  Or maybe spend some time on the rowing machine at the gym to build up your arms and upper body. Five hours of continuous paddling in a day will wear you out if you wait for your trip.  If you can paddle beforehand, you can work on your paddling skills.


Plan your dates and location

Decide who you’re going with and when you’d like to go as well as how many days you intend to spend on the trail.  Assess your groups’ experience and fitness levels, as well as particular interests. Get your permits and camping permits, and make hotel reservations for your arrival date.


Select your package

Decide if your trip will be self-guided or professionally guided.  A professionally guided trip will take away most of your planning headaches as most of the planning will be done for you.  Decide on an outfitting package. You can rent complete or partial packages if you don’t want to bring everything with you.  You can also rent kayaks and camping equipment.


Select your gear

There are lots of gear lists on the internet such as Backcountry’s Packing for a Multi-Day Kayaking Trip.  Besides the usual camping and kayaking Gear, you’ll want to remember water purification, bug spray, a satellite phone, first aid kit, walking shoes, a rain jacket, and clean clothes and a bag for dirty clothes to be kept in your car.  Get your similar gear organized into dry bags. (See more: Dry Bag Buyers Guide And My Top Picks)


Plan your menu

While freeze-dried foods are light, compact, and easy to pack, you should plan on eating well.  Fresh food and meat will last longer packed on the bottom if you’re paddling on the colder water.  Dried foods like fruits and trail mix, and beef jerky, or Cliff Bars make for easily accessible snack and energy sources.  

Don’t forget to bring some fishing equipment to supplement your menu with freshly caught fish cooked over your campfire. Yum! (See more: 8 Awesome kayak Camping Food ideas! (with Recipe))


Tips for Long Distance Kayaking Trip

Here are a few bits of conventional wisdom that are more easily told than learned the hard way:


Test pack your boat before you leave

You need to know that everything is going to fit before you get there!  By loading your boat at home, you’ll be able to better plan where to put everything to evenly distribute the weight and according to their need for accessibility.  


Box beats can, can beats bottle

Everything you bring with you has to be carried out with you, including all your trash.  Boxes can be burned in your campfire. Cans can be crushed to minimize space. There’s not much you can do with a bottle except carry out as it is.


Waterproof hatches usually aren’t waterproof

Go figure…water is wet!  It will get everywhere. Don’t count on anything staying dry just because it’s in the waterproof hatch.  Dry bags will be essential for things that need to stay absolutely dry. Plastic bags can be used for things like the tent that you would like to keep mostly dry. (See more: Dry Bag Buyers Guide And My Top Picks)


Figure one gallon of water per person per day

It’s so important to stay hydrated with any form of physical activity.  If you have access to fresh water streams you might not have to carry all the water with you if you bring a water filter or you can boil it to purify it on your camp stove.  Collapsible water containers work well to fit into odd spaces.


Leave your itinerary with a family member or friend

Believe it or not, cell phone coverage isn’t perfect, particularly in remote locations.  Rent a satellite phone if you can. Always leave your travel plans with someone in case you get lost or have an accident with instructions to notify the authorities should you be overdue for your return.


Breath deeply

It’s easy to get lost in the flow of paddling.  Remember to take time to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings, the plants, and the wildlife, the waterfalls, mountains, or coastline.  Take some pictures, and above all else, enjoy yourself.



Hope you find this post helpful. If you find anything wrong or outdated, please leave your comment below. I’ll update it as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading, Happy kayaking.


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Kurtis Crawford
Kurtis Crawford
2 years ago

Could a person kayak 300 miles in 7 days or less?

1 year ago

That seems incredibly ambitious. Down river in a fast flow? Maybe? In lakes or the ocean, almost certainly not.
That’s more than 40 miles per day. A pretty easy pace on a bike, but in a kayak very hard.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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