14 In DIY Projects/ Guides

The Kayak Tent Platform Experiment

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.

kayak tent platform

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.

kayak tent platform
kayak tent platform

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.

kayak tent platform

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
kayak tent platform
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.

kayak tent platform
kayak tent platform

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!)

kayak tent platform
kayak tent platform

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.

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Kayak Packing List - The Roamer Post | The Roamer Post
    December 30, 2015 at 11:12 am

    […] to the top of the Noosa River and back again to Boreen Point before our budget (and unfortunately the kayak tent platform) gave out. We were hoping to be able to setup our little floating campsite in Hill Inlet (where you […]

  • Reply
    Linds
    July 28, 2016 at 1:28 am

    Great work guys! I love the idea.

  • Reply
    Merel
    July 29, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Thanks!

  • Reply
    Adam
    March 31, 2017 at 5:10 am

    I would make go to the edges. Due to rain looks like it would just get swapped!!

  • Reply
    Stephen Mulligan
    July 3, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    I’ve never seen anything like this. Very cool.

  • Reply
    Jeremy Guy
    July 13, 2017 at 12:30 am

    That’s fantastic! This would be so much better than some of the camp sites we’ve stopped at. Hopefully a commercially made platform will be produced.

  • Reply
    Jeremy Guy
    July 13, 2017 at 12:32 am

    That’s fantastic! This would be so much better than some of the camp sites we’ve stopped at. Hopefully a commercially made platform will be produced. Maybe ratchet straps to increase the tension?

  • Reply
    Jeremy Guy
    July 13, 2017 at 4:01 am

    Been doing some research. Started off with x2 Helinox cots strapped together mounted on foam blocks for roof racks. Then discovered climbing platforms which seem ideal. Ratchet strap to kayaks. Check out one made by Black Diamond – Cliff Cabana.

  • Reply
    Tom W
    August 4, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    I have a similar idea with my canoe. Check it out on my web site: springhollowcanoedesign.com

  • Reply
    Carrie, Two Small Potatoes
    August 22, 2017 at 3:24 am

    This is brilliant! Did you guys have to come to shore to put the platform together, or could you do it from the water? We haven’t been to Australia yet, but we’re eager to eventually do some paddling there. I have to admit I’m a bit less excited though after reading about their stringent rules on beach camping.

  • Reply
    Norman Witzler
    October 5, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Maybe two inflatable mattresses. one on top of the other, floating between the two kayaks that are connected by the paddles somehow to lock everything together. Then have two military-type bivy bags to keep you comfy and free from bugs.
    To inflate the mattresses, have a foot-operated bellows pump.

  • Reply
    Jake Williams
    April 27, 2018 at 5:31 am

    Very cool experiment, thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    pjt
    August 18, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    OMG I’ve been thinking about doing this for a looong time! I looked to whitewater catarafts for inspiration.

    For more support in the middle of the platform I thought to use one pontoon from a whitewater cataraft (not cheap though) inflated with foot pump. You could then adapt the platform for solo use too.

    I also thought about repurposing old carbon fiber kayak paddle shafts for the frame to save weight, and breakdown for storage. At first I thought about dual use of our kayak paddles for some of the frame, but if they failed we’d be screwed.

    also trying to figure out a way to deploy this when off shore.

  • Reply
    Aaron
    November 25, 2018 at 6:20 am

    Use bamboo for your frame. Lighter and stronger than carbon fibre. And attaching the bamboo to your gunnels would give capsize protection. Try diagonal webbing straps to add stiffness, and reduce sag.
    Commercial version??? R u mad!! Do it yourself man! That way if something goes wrong you can fix it. Shelter is a survival essential. You can’t trust profit motive capitalism with your life.

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