When we were planning to make a long kayaking trip up the east coast of Australia (which we unfortunately had to cut way shorter than we would like), one major problem was pretty obvious as soon as we looked at a map: a shortage of campsites. Don’t get us wrong, there’s heaps of campsite spread out along the coast, but occasionally there’s long (too long) stretches of coast where there’s none available. Australia (and especially up here in Queensland) is pretty heavy set when it comes to rules and laws to what you can’t do (which is a lot) and dropping your tent on a random beach is sadly one of them.
Since we’re not once to admit defeat to easily we came up with a slightly mad idea to fix this problem: a kayak tent platform. That way, we would be able to pitch a tent on the water and as long as we had our own facilities in tow (hello poop tube!) there would be no reason why we shouldn’t be allowed to camp basically anywhere (given reasonable conditions), since we would technically be a boat.
Since there’s no commercially made options available yet, certainly not for two people, we were left with the task of making one ourselves. A job that especially Sam was keen to take on. Perhaps the one major flaw in this plan was that neither of us are engineers and we had a very (very, very!) tight budget, so we had to make do with cheap and found materials and a can-do experimental attitude. Here’s what we came up with:
KAYAK TENT PLATFORM – THE CONSTRUCTION
A couple issues with sleeping on kayaks were obvious from the start. Obviously, you’re very close to the water and kayaks have very little storage space. Storage space meant we couldn’t take a solid base with us, it had to something flexible with could be stowed away easily. This also meant that our base was going to sag, no doubt about it, so we had to somehow raise the platform higher to keep our butts out of the water. Also, we needed to make sure that whatever flexible base we were going to use would be strong enough to hold us for many nights to come and wouldn’t stretch over time.
After wrecking our brains over what materials to use and how to build something that would work around these issues, we felt most inspired and assured by a trampoline like construction. A frame to stretch the trampoline out could be divided into several sections and a trampoline is made to bounce on so surely it would hold two sleeping bodies. We found a secondhand trampoline on eBay and scavenged for aluminium (some we found cheaply at a supplier and some we found laying around in family’s backyards and boats) poles to make the frame. Aluminium doesn’t rust and is much lighter than steel, which was crucial for transporting it in a kayak.
Once the main materials were gathered, we found, bought and were given a whole bunch of buckles (like the once you find on you backpack) which we stitched onto the trampoline with pieces of webbing. This allowed us to put the trampoline on and off easily and gave us something to tension. Sam attached smaller poles on the inside of the outer casing so we could slide smaller sections into each other. Then Sam made wooden brackets shaped to the deck of the kayak to raise the kayak tent platform higher above the water.
Since aluminium is a fairly flexible material, we discovered on our first test run that the poles bent to much for our liking. So later we made the addition of dowel supports in the corners to push the frame out.
KAYAK TENT PLATFORM – ISSUES
All and all, our kayak tent platform worked fine and kept us afloat for about a week. After that the dowel gave in, which was fixable, but it seemed pointless to repair something that would last us another week to have to keep doing that. Since we didn’t have the money to rebuilt or redesign anything, we had to abandon our experiment. Another issue we came across was with storage and safety. The only way to lug this thing around, was to strap in on deck. Which is fine, but once the kayak flips (which does happen often enough with sea kayaking to be an issue) it’s nigh impossible to flip it back again, especially is rougher water (which is probably the only time you would flip in the first place). We had our poles stashed in a big sack made from tarp, which after flipping would fill with water which in turn wouldn’t come out. This could perhaps be solved by a giant dry bag… Maybe. Sea to Summit makes ones up to 120l which is the biggest we could find and it might do the job, but it certainly wasn’t within our budget anymore.
However, the fact that our kayak tent platform worked for a week and had absolutely no problem holding one person for probably a lot more nights to come does make us feel hopeful that it can definitely be done with stronger, better, more expensive materials. We sincerely hope that a team of engineers are working on a kayak tent suspension system suitable for two people, so that one day (maybe) we can give our trip another shot. (With hopefully a lot nicer budget!)
Over to you! Are you a bit of a mad backyard amateur inventor (or a real one!)? What do you think we should have added, changed done differently? Let us know how you would, hypothetically, construct you’re kayak tent platform in the comments bellow.