Best Tents for Kayak & Canoe Camping

Best Tents for Kayak & Canoe Camping

How to Choose the Best Tent for Kayak Camping

When shopping for the best kayak camping tent, it may seem like there are a lot of things to consider. Luckily, it isn’t that different than finding your perfect backpacking tent. You want something light and durable and rated to whichever seasons/climates you plan to use it in – paying particular attention to capacity and price. After sifting through these criteria, it will soon become clear which tent is the right one.  

Pack Size & Weight

Weight conscious backpackers are hypersensitive to the pack size and weight of the gear they purchase. In terms of kayak and canoe camping, you have much more freedom in adding a few ounces here and there without really paying for the extra weight. 

There is a surprising amount of dry storage space in kayaks, and the soft material of tents make for easy stuffing into every nook and cranny. Still, you want to find a tent that packs down to a reasonable size. 

Canoes have ample space for storage, so pack size is less critical when canoeing. Compared to backpacking, you can comfortably transport much more weight on the water than on your back, so weight is less of a concern. 

If you are looking for a multifunctional tent that you plan to use for both water travel and backpacking, consider skewing light. It is also worth noting that the weights above are pack weights, meaning they are a bit heavier than necessary. You can shave a few ounces here and there when hitting the water.  

Season Rating

Very few people are kayak or canoe camping in winter when it is snowing because many bodies of water are frozen during the colder months. Some of the most incredible places in the world to explore by kayak are in the far northern latitudes of Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, etc.

Similarly, world-class canoeing destinations like the Boundary Waters in Minnesota are uniquely beautiful (and cold) in the spring and fall. 

If these destinations are on your list, consider looking at four-season tents. If these places don’t speak to you, a four-season tent is overkill. They provide a lot of comfort and protection in extreme weather, but three-season tents will generally suffice for most places – including coastal temperate rainforests that see a lot of rainfall.  

Set-Up Ease

One of the first things you should always do when you arrive at camp is to set up your tent, and the easier that is to do, the more enjoyable your experience will be. Choosing a tent that is easy to set up is especially prudent if you are camping in the rain.

The ease of setup allows you to expedite creating a warm and dry shelter in demanding conditions. That said, it is always good to practice setting up your new tent at home before heading off on an adventure. With enough practice, even the most complicated tents can be set up in a matter of minutes. 

All in all, the best canoe camping tents are going to be easy to pitch, and easy to pack. 


Capacity is entirely personal preference and depends on who you plan to camp with and how much extra space you desire. Some kayak and canoe campers want to maximize interior space so that they will purchase a tent rated to one additional person than on the trip. This allows for gear storage and added comfort inside. 

Others will prioritize weight and packability and choose a tent meant for the exact number of people on the adventure. 

It is up to you to prioritize what you feel is the most important, but remember not to get bogged down in ounces as weight is far less of an issue in kayaking and canoeing than in backpacking. Additionally, remember that vestibules on the outside of a tent are a great feature in terms of protection from the elements and gear storage space.  


Like all outdoor gear, you often get what you pay for when it comes to tents. More affordable tents will often be less durable and be made from cheaper material. If you don’t plan on using your tent often, are budget conscious, or just want to give kayak camping a try, then less expensive options are an excellent choice. 

There are many affordable and serviceable tents on our list. If you are more drawn to high-quality gear that will last for years and years, be prepared to pay for it. Ultimately you need to decide what you are willing to spend and what you are ready to sacrifice when setting a budget. 

Kayak and canoe tents can easily be multifunctional and serve you in other backcountry endeavors. If looking for an option that can check multiple boxes, consider what is most important to you in a backcountry shelter for all modes of transportation. 

Finally, do a little research on each company’s warranty, repair, and return policy. Most outdoor companies are very generous when it comes to building a devoted customer base and will do a lot to ensure you remain satisfied with their product.  

Due to the nature of canoe camping, you’re going to want to make sure you find a tent that’s going to last. The last thing anyone wants is to be halfway through their trip and have no shelter for the remainder of the time. Unfortunately, the best canoe camping tents don’t come cheap. That said, they do last a pretty good amount of time, the value for money is definitely there. 

Final Thoughts

Exploring the backcountry via kayak and canoe is a phenomenal way to avoid the people that may have otherwise crowded your local hiking trailheads. Exploring nature by water offers a unique perspective that not many others get to experience and also allows you to bring a lot of gear along for the ride. 

This often translates to comfortable camps, delicious food, and a guaranteed good time. While many backcountry gear items are universal, there are some specific needs you will need to address to ensure that you are exploring the wilderness by water in a safe, efficient, and enjoyable way. 

After those needs are addressed, and if you are in the market for a new backcountry shelter, start your search for the best tent for kayak camping. Like all tents, this is a personal endeavor – the best tent for you will likely not be the best tent for someone else. 

Do your research, jot down what you feel is the most important, and buy when you’re ready. Before you know it, you will have a paddle in the water, setting forth to parts unknown! 

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