Camping with a TRAK Kayak

Can a TRAK folding kayak safely carry more than 60 pounds of camping gear? I was fairly certain it could but I had to check it out for myself. So that’s what I did this past Labor Day weekend while camping at Wisconsin’s Rock Island State Park. I organized this event for the Northeast Wisconsin Paddlers kayak club. Last Friday, 10 of us paddled out to the northern tip of Wisconsin’s Door County “thumb” to a group camp site (GSII) on Rock Island. Seven of us paddled the short route from the northeast corner of Washington Island while three paddled from Detroit Harbor on the south side of Washington Island. Five additional members of our group paddled across from Jackson Harbor on Saturday for a grand total of 15 happy campers.

TRAK float bags

Rock Island provided the perfect opportunity to put the gear-hauling capability of my TRAK kayak to the test. The paddle from Washington Island’s Jackson Harbor is only about two miles, so I reasoned if I couldn’t fit all the essential gear, I could easily make a second trip. As it turned out there was no need for two trips. TRAK’s large float bags double as dry bags, which means you can pack them full of gear while still providing adequate floatation for the kayak in the event of a capsize.

TRAK rates the maximum payload (how much weight the kayak can carry) at 350 lbs (159 kg). I tip the scales at around 185 pounds so that leaves a comfortable margin of 165 pounds for gear, although I’ve never seen a kayaker try to carry that much gear. For this trip, my gear list included:

  • 7-pound tent
  • 10-pound tarp
  • 4-pound sleeping bag
  • 2-pound cot
  • 2-pound hatchet
  • 12 pounds of clothes
  • 9 pounds of food
  • 2 pounds for mess kit, stove and fuel
  • 3 pounds of radios and flashlights
  • 4 pounds of water
  • 2-pound hammock and straps
  • 2 pounds of event paperwork and reading material
  • 1-pound shaving kit/toiletries
  • 4 pounds kayak gear (PFD, spray skirt, paddles, float bag, bilge pump, first aid kit, flare gun)
  • TOTAL = 64 pounds

Before loading my gear, I laid everything out on the ground next to the assembled kayak, being careful to evenly distribute the weight fore and aft while positioning heaviest items closest to the cockpit. Most of the gear went into separate medium to small dry bags, which then went into TRAK’s two large float bags. Some waterproof items, such as my tarp and cot, I shoved directly into the float bags.

Me in my gear-laden TRAK kayak as I approach Rock Island.


My view from the cockpit.

On the water, my 16-ft. TRAK handled the weight well. I could definitely tell I was riding lower in the water but I wasn’t aware of any effect on speed, stability, edging or turning. I asked my paddling buddy Dan to snap some photos so I could see how the loaded kayak looked. As you may be able to see in the photos, it sat a little lower in the water than when empty, which I would expect of any kayak carrying 64 pounds of gear.

I’m happy with the results. The overnight camping capacity of my TRAK proved itself on this trip, giving me confidence to plan longer crossings to more distant islands and campsites.

If you want to know more about TRAK Kayaks, get in touch with me. I’ll be happy to have you take one for a test paddle so you can see how it folds up and packs into a bag for easy transport and storage.

After arriving on Rock Island Friday afternoon we unloaded our gear, set up camp, ate dinner and enjoyed a beautiful sunset paddle.

Compared to the rest of the group’s rigid kayaks, my TRAK looked a little lumpy on shore. This was because I released pressure on the hydraulic handjacks that tighten the skin around its foldable frame.

Our tarps came in handy during a rainy Saturday afternoon at the group campsite.

My TRAK on the shore of Rock Island State Park


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