Updated: Jun 21
Our Experience: 10-Year Wedding Anniversary Kayak Camping Trip
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As my husband and I approached our 10-year wedding anniversary, we were in search of something truly memorable to commemorate this milestone. We've reached a point in our lives where we value intentional spending and investing in experiences that enrich our lives as a family. That's when the idea of kayak camping came to mind—an adventure that offered the perfect blend of excitement and tranquility, while also providing us with reusable gear for future outdoor escapades.
Reflecting back to my younger years, I spent countless weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day immersed in the river's embrace. On one particularly memorable night, Chad, my now-husband, joined me on the riverbanks after returning from an overseas mission with the West Virginia Air National Guard (that's how we met—both serving as loadmasters on a C-5). I vividly recall guiding him to our favorite campsite along the river, surrounded by the warm camaraderie of dear friends from our small town. Those moments were filled with exhilaration and joy, but as I recently discovered on our most recent float trip, it wasn't merely the "liquid courage" that made those experiences special—it was the captivating beauty of the river and the enchanting landscape of Almost Heaven.
Eager to embark on a new adventure, we decided to start our journey at the Old Fields Bridge, just outside of Moorefield. While we were no strangers to this part of the river, the low water level due to a prolonged dry spell added an element of uncertainty to our trip. Drawing from my past experiences as both a kayaking enthusiast and a former river guide in Harpers Ferry (albeit for a brief two weeks), as well as my training in Air Force Survival, I was equipped with valuable knowledge on river safety and preparedness.
So, if you're considering an overnight kayaking trip like ours, I've compiled a list of essential items and invaluable tips to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience.
Essential Gear and Items for Kayak Camping
The small yellow dry bag. (I've had this bag for a long time. I'm not sure where I got it from but I linked to one I think is similar.
2 Isobutane Canisters (I bought ours at Walmart)
Rechargeable Lantern (This link is different from what I have, because it's old)
2 Headlamps (We've had these forever)
Lighter (I had one around the house)
Green Dry Bag (I've had this one for over a decade, I'm not sure where I got it from)
Extra Walmart Bags and Ziplocks (I used small and large bags to put clothes and other items in)
Water Filtration (I bought this one, but haven't tried it)
Hatchet (This was a cool purchase, but the cap keeps coming off the blade which makes me a little nervous. I did have it beside me as I slept, just in case a bear tried to eat us in our sleep.
Box Cutter (I didn't know Chad brought this, we could of just used the Hatchet)
CPR Mask (Mine is from when I was lifeguard 20 years ago)
Cards (We had a pack)
Toilet Paper (We just took a roll and put it in a bag)
Hygiene Products (Tooth brush, Toothpaste, Body wash, FaceWash, Lotion, Contact Solution, Hair Brush, Extra Hair Ties)
Cookware (I bought this one and was very happy with it!)
Glasses & Contact Case
Duck Tape (I usually don't take a whole roll, but rather wrap it around itself or a pencil)
550 Cord (I didn't have a lot, so I just took my bag of scraps)
First Aide Kit (I just put a bunch of first aide items into a ziplock, but this one would be nice to have and attach within reach to the kayak)
White Noise Machine (This is a luxury item that makes sleeping a little easier. It runs off batteries and we always use it when we're camping or on vacation
Blue Dry Bag (This was a new purchase. It came with a phone dry bag as well. It has backpack straps that we didn't really need, but made it nice when we had to haul everything up a steep bank to our campsite)
Clothes (I put all our clothes in gallon ziplocks. This is what we brought for 2 people. The ziplock serve 2 purposes: 1. keep everything dry 2. It allows you to compress the clothes so you can fit more in your bag)
2 pair of socks
2 Sleeping bags (These are summer weight sleeping bags, It did get down to 50 degrees while we were camping, but with a sweat shirt, pants and socks on it wasn't bad) I also made sure to bag our sleeping bags in trash bags, I couldn't get them small enough to fit a gallon ziplock. But I will be buying some of these larger bags for our next river camping trip, because I think they would be more reliable than the trash bags)
Large Yellow Dry Bag (I wish I would of gotten a bigger bag because our sleep mats were just a little too tall and it made it hard to do the suggested 3 fold. We did get a little water in this bag, but it's because I couldn't make the last fold)
Inflatable Sleep Mat (A friend gave me this one, it really didn't provide much cushion. It insulated me from the ground.
Sleeping Pad (We did buy this one, it wasn't the greatest provider of cushion either. Chad used it. It is lightweight and we will probably use it for hiking in the future)
2 Wash Clothes
2 Pillows ( I would recommend these pillows. They were great and we will definitely be using them every time we camp. I made sure these guys were put into ziplock bags because having wet pillow would be miserable!)
Camp Chair (We bought one of these chairs. Chad didn't think he would want or need a chair for camping, but after he saw how comfortable I was sitting around the campfire, he said he wish he'd bought one too)
2 pair of shorts
Here are the other items that were randomly placed between our kayaks
2 dry boxes (We each had one. I put fishing tackle in mine and my cell phone. Chad had our drivers license, money, keys and my fishing license in his. He wore his cell phone around his neck in a small dry bag that came with the large yellow and blue dry bags we bought.)
We had 4 Walmart bags stuffed in our kayaks. 1. Trash 2. Dry sandals for camp 3. Layers of clothes we took off while kayaking 4. Towels, which were also in ziplocks
Sunscreen and bug spray were in a small compartment in Chad's kayak
We took about 2 1/2 gallons of water. These are just some random water bottles we have. They aren't the most reliable lids. I was afraid they would pop open, but they didn't.
We took 2 small coolers. One had lunch meat, cheese, mayo, coffee creamer, and pepperoni. The other cooler had 9 non-alcoholic (NA) cans of beer (I'm over 4 years sober! I really did like the taste of beer and have found several varieties of NA that I enjoy without the blackouts and hangovers.)
I invested in an emergency paddle. I have been on the river before where someone has lost a paddle or broken one. It's one of those things you hope you don't need, but you're glad you have it when you need it!
We've had these water shoes for 4 years. Mine are just now falling apart. They do get stinky so they are kept outside and never left in the car overnight. We've made that mistake before.
You of course need paddles. I think we got these at Dick's Sporting Goods, but I'm not positive.
When I was a river guide (for 2 weeks) we were required to get a throw rope. I still keep it in my kayak. We ended up using it as a way to hang our food overnight so bears wouldn't get it.
Chad has a Trophy 126 Future Beach Kayak . I think we got his kayak at Dick's Sporting goods. It has held up well for us.
I have a Perception Prodigy 13.5. I got this kayak because I had a large dog at the time and figured once we had kids I could use it for taking my kiddo down the river. It came in really handy for camping gear!
I really love my kayak and it's versatility. I couldn't find where it is sold anywhere anymore, but Amazon has this perception that is a 13.5 sit on top tandem kayak.
We both had our life vests with us. The top one is Chad's I think its from Walmart and the bottom one is mine that I got when I was a river guide. Both have a whistle attached. Mine has pockets inside where I usually carry a small pocket knife.
Lastly, we have our tent and tarp. I bought this small 2 man tent when I was 12 years old for $20 at Walmart! Her zippers are starting to give out on me, but she still works. I like having a small tarp to put under it to keep it clean and to be able to leave our shoes outside. However, notice that there is one sandal in the picture in front of the tent. That's because there was a thief that stole my other one! I think it was a fox because when we woke up Chad heard what he called "a weird bird", but I'm pretty sure it was a fox laughing!
Exploring the Captivating Beauty of Almost Heaven
Our adventure began at the Old Fields Bridge around 1:30 pm. After a relaxing float along the river, we found a great campsite just past the Sycamore Bridge around 5 pm. Weekends can get busy, so it's best to arrive early for a good spot. Luckily, being a Wednesday, we had no trouble finding a spot all to ourselves. The campsite had two fire rings, a cleared area, and natural rock steps leading up from the river. It was a hidden gem that we spotted easily from the water.
The next day, as we continued our float, we checked out a few other campsites along the way. While most didn't catch our attention, there was one that stood out. It offered a stunning view of the river and the passing railroad. The only downside was that it was the last site we came across. If we had known about it earlier and planned to camp there, we would have skipped the other sites, but there was always the risk of someone else beating us to it.
On the second day, we paddled more as we floated for about 2.5 hours to reach the Trough General Store. The low water levels meant we had to walk a few times, but it added an element of excitement to our journey. Altogether I believe it's 11 miles of floating.
Some places to rent kayaks or get a shuttle
If you aren't familiar with the area and are in need of renting kayaks or getting shuttles to drop offs, here are two local outfitters you should reach out to:
Breezewood Adventures They are located in Moorefield, WV and are good dudes!
Calleva’s Trough Outfitters Looking at their website, it looks like they may only be open on Friday-Sunday.
Here's a video of our trip and a more in-depth explanation of gear we used.