Overnight boat camping may not – at first – be on everyone’s mind when planning a fun day at the lake. Instead, it’s about launching water toys, casting fishing poles, or enjoying the view. Nevertheless, camping on the water can actually be easier than camping on land. And if you’re looking for a fun adventure, setting up camp on your boat can be a relaxing and unique experience for you and your family.


So, forget traditional camping this fall and try out a new way of camping - on your boat - using these tips from Canvasworks in Cokato, MN. Once you’re ready to try boat campling,  contact us to order a boat enclosure or window for added privacy and protection from mother nature!

1. Check Boat Rules and Regulations Before Heading Out

Whether your boat is 16 feet or 65 feet or is motorized or non-motorized, it should be properly registered and always be equipped with all necessary emergency equipment as required by law.


Be sure to read over the Minnesota boating guide before planning your outing. This guide has essential information you need to know as a boat owner or renter. Always ensure you have enough life vests for everyone on board and have a whistle or horn in case of distress.


Take a moment to read our blog “Boating Safely at Night,” especially if you have minimal experience with boating at night. If your boat is longer than 23 feet, you’ll need to display a white light visible from all directions between sunset and sunrise to alert nearby boats that you’re anchored. However, rules vary by state, so check your state guidelines before venturing on a boat camping trip.

2. Research the Lake for Any Rules and Fees

Before your outing, check out Lake Finder to research lakes and any possible entry fees. You can also check out places to fish and boat maps to find boat launches and bait shops.


Once you have found a  secluded and peaceful spot, read the depth of the water using the boat’s depth gauge and confirm you have an adequate anchor line and the correct anchor. Be sure you have anchored an appropriate distance from any other boat that is nearby as well. You don’t want your boat to swing into another boat in the middle of the night. 

3. Have a Plan for Restroom Breaks

Having a boat with a marine head will make a difference with bathroom breaks. If your boat has one, it's not a problem – so long as you know how it functions and how to empty it after docking. If you don’t know or it’s been a while since you’ve used it, brush up before you head out. It's also an excellent time to ensure everything is in working order; fixing a broken part on land is much easier than on the water.


If the boat does not include a marine head, plan out last-minute restroom breaks on land where public restrooms may be available. Fully equipped land restrooms are also better for campers wanting to wash up or brush their teeth. That said, investing in a portable marine toilet is a good idea if you don't have a marine head, especially if you have young campers. Just dispose of the waste properly once you dock.



Don’t forget to take tissues and Wet Wipes – onboard essentials!

4. Stock Water, Food, and an Emergency Boating Kit

Even if you're camping close to a grocery or convenience store, you should stock up on all your supplies before leaving. In that respect, camping on the water is no different. You'll need to have enough potable water for drinking and other necessities. In most instances, you'll be able to bring enough water onboard to meet your needs. However, getting a water purification kit may be best if you're on an extended trip or in an out-of-the-way area.


Making a basic meal plan before heading out is easier than figuring it out on the fly. A meal plan allows you to maximize your storage space and utilize ingredients for more than one meal. You'll need an onboard fridge or coolers for any perishable goods. Get high-quality coolers, especially if you plan to stay out for more than one night. Snacks that don't require heating or refrigeration are great, quick options when spending a prolonged time on the lake.


Another item no boat should be without is an emergency boating kit containing emergency first aid supplies and emergency supplies for your boat. A well-stocked kit should take care of any small emergency and allow you to communicate any larger ones to a rescue crew.

5. Prepare Bedding and Activities for Onboard Guests

Your guests will need places to sleep and weather appropriate bedding. Kids are usually your easiest customers in this regard, they’re likely so excited to be camping on the boat that they’ll be happy with a pillow and a sleeping bag. Other guests may prefer to bring their own pillows and sleeping bags, so you’ll only need to figure out where everyone is going to bed down.


Daytime activities are easy; fishing and water activities are sure to be crowd pleasers. Once the sun goes down it can get more complicated. After all, it’s not like you can start up a fire on the deck of your boat to keep everyone occupied. If children are among the campers, you can plan some activities around stargazing. A quick Google search will give you some great ideas, such as scavenger hunt in the night sky. Camping on the water is also an excellent opportunity to educate children and adults about the boat itself or nautical terms, making it a fun and educational experience. Finally, you can round out the night with a few water ghost stories; just make sure they aren't too scary for the younger crowd! 


6. Check Your Boat and Your Equipment

Last but not least, you'll want to check that your boat and any essential equipment are running correctly. Unfortunately, there is no easy access to maintenance tools or companies when you're on the water, so it's best to check before you leave. This holds especially true for any equipment on your boat, especially motors or engines and communication or navigation equipment.


You'll also want to brush up on anchoring techniques and ensure you have the necessary anchors for any situation since you don't necessarily know the ground you'll be using to anchor.


We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips and are ready to give camping on the water a try! Start small and enjoy a fall colors tour on your boat followed by an overnight in an area you’re comfortable. It’ll help you iron out the kinks in your plans and make the experience even better the next time. You never know, it might just be your new favorite thing to do on the water!

Canvasworks: Minnesota Marine Specialists

Whether your boat outing includes overnight camping or not, be sure and contact one of our experts at Canvasworks to order boat and window enclosures, a custom Bimini top, or other marine products that will enhance your days at the lake! Send us an email at sales@canvasworksincmn.com or give us a call at 320-559-0165 today to get started on your project.