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When people think of camping they instantly think of throwing up a tent on a (hopefully) flat piece of ground, surrounded by nature, engulfed by starry skies, and (hopefully!) without too much wildlife in your food supplies.

But another form of camping is starting to trend, by the edge of the water. 

On the water!

Whether you keep your boat by the shore and do camp on the coastline, or throw down your anchor with a cabin inside, here are some simple tips for covering the basics of boat camping if it’s your first time.

Covering the Basics for Your First Boat Camping Trip

Find an Ideal Location in Advance

Boat camping RF

The ideal location for boat camping will differ based on your interests, the type of camping you want to do, and the type of boat you use.

And this is a common trap first timers fall into – choosing a location for camping based of what other people recommend, without actually considering if it’s the right choice for you, your boat, and your interests.

Important to note that if you’re camping or anchoring, it needs to be legal.

Make sure you research or contact your local state officials and campgrounds if you wish to set sail or anchor in a public area, or if you want to cast off from a national boat landing.

You’ll need to have a confirmed and ideal destination before you set sail, because as a beginner you could very easily choose a place to camp which is not allowed, and it’s not always easy to find this information when you’re out on the water.

Prepare a List of Gear

Packing list RF

If you plan on camping aboard your boat, you have to plan for your normal boating gear and additional items for sleeping aboard.

If you plan on camping on the coastline, or on local beaches (once again, check that this is legal in advance), you’ll need more traditional camping gear.

Make sure that everything, your boat supplies, and your land based camping gear, is in good working order before you leave.

Plan out a checklist of all the gear you’ll need in advance and go through it once you’ve packed to make sure you’ve got everything you need. Your checklist should also include boat maintenance checks, including:

  • Ensure the engine oil is filled
  • Make sure the batteries are well charged
  • Check the electrical and plumbing systems to ensure that everything is in great shape

Remember to consider your boat space. How you load your boat is imperative for the success of this trip. You also have to pay attention to how weight is distributed throughout the boat. 

Prepare a Float Plan

Catamaran boat water sail RF

Before sailing off, someone you know and trust (like a family member) should have your float plan (an outline of where you will be at all times).

With this, a relative or friend knows exactly where you should be in case something happens, you don’t check-in, or you don’t return to the dock on time. 

This is something we always recommend for general travel, but is even more important if you will be going on a boat camping trip, since you will likely be gone for days, and perhaps out of range. 

It’s also a lot more difficult to get help out on the water than it is if you were traveling via land.

Know the Weather Conditions

Sailing Boat RF

Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than poor or unforeseen weather conditions, but this is crucial for when you’re spending time on the water as it’s an increased safety risk. 

Make sure you check the weather conditions before going on any boat camping trip.

It’s important that if the weather is too risky, or deemed unsafe, you don’t proceed for the sake of saving your vacation, as sailing in bad weather can be incredibly dangerous. 

Of course, you can’t always predict weather in advance as this can be changing. There are also special boating accessories called boat T-tops that are installed on the deck of a boat for unpredicatable weather coverage.

Companies like Stryker T-Tops designs and manufactures these standing-height covers to provide protection and shade for passengers onboard the boat. These can be important when faced with unforeseen weather conditions. 

With these tips you should be set for your first boat camping trip!

Happy sailing!

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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