NC Kayaks: Designed for Kayak Camping

Kayak Camping: my Favorite

I have been kayak camping for years. It is actually my favorite kind of camping. There are a lot of places that you can get to in a kayak where very few others can go. Even if you stay on the beaten path, like the middle of Puget Sound, many Washington Water Trails campsites rarely have other campers. We have written about the gear we use in our kayaks. We have also talked about our kayak camping set up. It’s probably about time to talk about the kayaks, themselves. NC Kayaks are a popular day-use kayak, but they were designed with touring (kayak camping) in mind. Keep reading to learn more about what it means to be designed for kayak camping and why we build them the way we do.

Crossing to Fox Island

How far? How Fast?

Our philosophies for our touring kayaks are pretty straightforward:

  • The faster the kayak goes… the farther you can go in a day.
  • The harder it tracks, the straighter your path… the farther you can go in a day.
  • The less energy it takes to make it go… the farther you can go in a day.
  • The more stable the kayak, the less energy you use staying upright, the more energy you have to paddle… the farther you can go in a day.

You may have noticed that we think the ability to cover distance is important.

If it fits…

With load capacity of 325# in the NC15 up to 450# in the NC19, any of our kayaks can bring a lot of gear. For the most part, we can use our car camping gear for an overnight trip. If you already own bike-packing or backpacking camp gear? You could be set up for weeks in an NC Kayak (like one customer that soloed the Inside Passage in an NC19).

With the addition of a bulkhead hatch, it is even easy to bring long, narrow items. For example, I have a camp chair that I use while car camping or kayak camping. It folds down to about 30″ x 6″ x 6″ – not something that I can maneuver through the deck hatch, but since the bulkhead hatch is a straight shot into the bow, it’s an easy fit.

In the aft hatch, since we don’t use a skeg, there is no sea chest in the kayak for the skeg to retract into. This means more space (that is easier to access) than a similarly-sized kayak with a skeg. We habitually carry our tent in a (not-quite-full) 30L dry bag and also fit our 20L cooler dry bag in the same hatch. Various 5L, 10L, and 15L dry bags fill in the space between.

Chop off Blake Island

We’re in for some chop!

With their upswept bow and and unique hull shape, NC Kayaks can handle the rough stuff. The rub-strip that goes around the perimeter of our kayaks deflects water away from the cockpit and provides lift when the bow punches into a wave. The soft-chined hull and proprietary hull shape make edging smooth and help keep the kayak predictable in rough conditions.

Getting Technical

When we build our kayaks, we use high quality fiberglass with a vinyl ester resin. The strength of the vinyl resin’s bond to the fiberglass is about equal to the strength of the fiberglass. What does that mean? Basically, it means that we’re maximizing the efficiency of the combination of fiberglass and resin. By using materials of similar strength and flexibility, we get the best combination of strength and flexibility. In practical terms, that means that our kayaks can flex to handle rock strikes better than a carbon fiber boat. And when the impact overcomes the flexibility of our laminate? They’re relatively easy to repair (even in the field, if needed), unlike a Kevlar boat.

What about Carbon Fiber? Or Kevlar?

Since we primarily build custom kayaks, customers often ask about carbon fiber and Kevlar options. Although not impossible, we do not recommend either, because the trade-offs are not worthwhile in our eyes. There are pros to each, but we find that the cons outweigh them. Carbon fiber is stronger than fiberglass, but since the bond with the vinyl resin wouldn’t be any stronger, the kayak wouldn’t be any stronger, and would have a tendency to de-laminate. In order to get the full benefit of the carbon, we would need to use an epoxy. The problem with that is now we would have a very strong and stiff laminate that doesn’t handle sharp impacts well because it’s brittle.

One solution is to add Kevlar to the laminate. It is very impact-resistant and will help keep the carbon from fracturing. While Kevlar may indeed be bullet-proof, that doesn’t mean it is truly impervious to damage. The problem with Kevlar is that it doesn’t absorb the epoxy, so if it is ever damaged, it is very difficult to repair. NC Kayaks are designed for kayak camping. So we want you to be able to venture to unknown beaches, potentially far from assistance. With that goal in mind, the drawbacks of carbon fiber and Kevlar are just too great. If you stick closer to home and never primitive camp far from others? You will still enjoy the impact-resistant and easy-to-repair fiberglass kayak.

Let me explain… oh wait, I already did. Let me sum up…

We build our kayaks to be fast, stable, cargo-hauling, capable, kayaks. Did I mention they’re pretty, too?

So before you start figuring out where to go camping this summer, let us give you a whole lot more options.

Order your NC Kayak at or call us at (253) 476-8582.


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