Let's Experience an Unforgettable Boat Camping Adventure

boat camping

Imagine a camping trip without wildlife wandering by your tent or people talking loudly around a nearby campfire.

Seem unlikely? It might be time to try boat camping—a trip where there are no roads or hiking boots required, just a sense of adventure and a love of water.

Stop imagining and plan you first boat camping trip. Keep these tips in mind as you pack and move from one location to another.
Pack for Your Adventure

Camping on the water, or on the hook as it's commonly known, is much like camping on land. Like RVs, many boats have a galley, a toilet, and ample seating space that doubles as a sleeping area. You can add these amenities to a boat that doesn't already have them by adding a portable toilet, sleeping bags, a cooler, a camping stove and a 5-gallon fresh water container.

Despite the luxuries, most boat campground sites are primitive and often, fires are prohibited, even on shore. Don't forget that with minimal storage space, packing can be tricky as well.

Here's what you should always make room for:

  •     Sunglasses
  •     Brimmed hat
  •     Long-sleeved shirts
  •     Long pants
  •     Sweater
  •     Sweatshirt
  •     Sunscreen
  •     Insect repellant
  •     Extra drinking water

This is not a complete packing list, but it's a good starting point. Fill in the other items based on where you're going, what you like to eat, and other personal preferences.

Typical Rules and Regulations

boat camping

Many boat-in campsites have a different set of expectations and regulations; always research specific rules for the place you plan to visit. However, some rules are the same no matter where you are. The following regulations are standard throughout the U.S.

Having a self-contained sanitary unit on board

This is a polite way of referencing a "porta-potty." Your toilet must be Coast Guard approved (Learn more at USCG.mil), have a holding tank with a tight closure, and be installed in a private location.


Inquire about the nearest offshore waste dumps along your route. No matter where you go, you must always dump your waste at an appropriate facility.

Being equipped with anchor lights

Your boat must be equipped with anchor lights, allowing other boaters or patrol boats to see you at night and avoid a collision.

For safety, always tie up outside the main traffic channels and within 200 feet of shore. Make sure you're not in swing distance of any other boats in the vicinity, and that your anchor is properly set.

    Many docks and mooring sites are privately owned, or owned by a federal, state or local agency, in which case, permission and/or permits may be required.
    Most often, lakes and waterways require that people tie up to the shore at a designated campground. Remember, camping on shore may be prohibited in non-designated areas, and pulling up on shore for the night may also be against regulation.