Your boat will need the carrying capacity for the extra gear necessary for overnight excursions. Ideally it will have watertight compartments for gear storage. How waterproof the compartments are will dictate how you package items in them.
Pack lighter items, like sleeping bags, at the ends of the boat. Pack the heaviest items (water, food) nearer the center of the boat and as low as possible. Locate things you want easy access to when you get to shore (lunch, flashlight/headlamp, first aid kit) near compartment openings. Pack securely so weight doesn’t shift unexpectedly. Packing in several smaller drybags, instead of in one large one, makes arranging storage in the boat easier.
Think like a backpacker. Look for items that will do double duty. A paddling jacket serves as a rain jacket when you’re on land. There are sleeping pad/camp chair combinations that will improve camp comfort. Your paddling shoes may serve for side hikes.
Bringing along a duffel bag with a shoulder strap makes it easier to move all your small items up to camp. Pack plenty of water if fresh water won’t be available; a water purifier will save you weight if there will be filterable sources. A spare paddle is a very important safety item.
Remember, the extra weight you’ll be carrying will affect the handling characteristics of your boat. By all means, pack the boat like you’re going on a trip and practice with it before taking that first overnighter.
Look for information on safety, navigation and trip planning in sources like The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking. And check out our Gear Checklist for suggested take-alongs. Also local kayaking clubs can be excellent resources for local boating conditions and requirements – plus you can link up with some new boating companions.
Practice safe boating and go prepared for all conditions. See you on the water!