Doing an overnight trip on a Ozark River

Doing an overnight trip on a Ozark River

The Ozarks offer a great selection of rivers and streams that, for a brief time, can wash away your worries and anxieties. Beautifully clear and cold our rivers twist and turn their way through the lush Ozark landscape, spotted with cliffs, caves and all sorts of creatures. We have some of the most amazing river systems in the country, particularly our numerous spring-fed rivers, which are unmatched. But sometimes a day on the water just isn’t enough. If you’ve never been on an overnight trip then it is definitely something you should try and this will be a helpful read to get you started.


The majority of our rivers have large gravel bars that are perfect for setting up a great campsite. Spending time on a gravel bar right off the river is what makes it an amazing experience in my eyes. It’s like backcountry car camping, but on beautiful meandering stream surrounded my some of the best scenery the Ozarks have to offer. Your only limited in what you carry based on the capacity of your canoe or kayak. Bring what you want and don’t look back! Unlike backpacking, weight is not much of a concern when the river is doing most of the work for you. I have been on plenty of trips where I have brought 300-400 pounds of gear, including food, drinks, tables, chairs and anything else I could think of bringing. No need to bring lightweight freeze dried meals when you can do some gourmet cooking right on the river. In fact I seem to eat better on the river than a do on a day-to-day basis. The experience and surroundings that an overnight river trip brings is what keeps me going back again and again.


So, you’ve done some day trips on the river and now your ready for an overnight trip, but what do you bring and what do you need? Well, if you’ve already got camping gear than your well on your way to spending some amazing nights on the river. Past the basic camping gear like, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, cooking supplies, etc. your going to need dry bags and a boat.

Selecting a canoe or kayak

When it comes to selecting a canoe or kayak there are a few key things to consider before buying.

First is storage capacity. How do you want to spend your night on the river? Do you want to bring all the amenities or do you want to take a more minimal approach? If you say “bring it all”, then a canoe is for you and this is where they can really shine. Most canoes can hold upwards of 800 pounds, which is plenty for all of your gear and passengers. Easy to load and unload with room for a full size cooler, large amount of cooking supplies, table, chairs and really whatever else you can think of bringing. (The Discovory 158 from Old Town Canoe is a great choice for loading up with gear.)


If your into spending nights on the river but bringing tons of gear isn’t as appealing then a kayak will be the way to go. Kayaks can be trickier to load down with lots of gear, but they are lightweight, quick and easy to paddle, especially when compared to a canoe. Good things to look for in a kayak would be something in the 12ft range with dry storage and plenty of external bungee tie-downs. (Like the Rip 10 or 12 from Necky Kayaks)

Rip10_Sunrise_Top Rip10_Sunrise_Side

Although you can’t fit as much gear in a kayak as you can a canoe you get the big advantage of how easy it is to paddle. Quick, nimble and just plan fun! You’ll be able to speed around the river easily checking out everything you see and paddling circles around those in a canoe, but they’re going to be the ones with the cooler full of drinks and food, so be nice! There are also hybrid models available. The NEXT from Old Town is a great example of a hybrid that has the storage capacity of a small canoe but the performance of a kayak.

NEXT_Top_blue_crop NEXT_Side_Blue_crop

Second is performance and features. How far do you want to go and what do you like to do while on the river? If your looking to cover a larger number of miles or spend multiple days on the river, then selecting a longer boat will be in your favor, a kayak that is longer than 12ft will suit you well. Or if your in the market for a canoe than something closer to 17ft will give you the ability to cruse down the river with ease and minimal effort. If you enjoy fishing on the river than a fishing specific kayak, which come pre-outfitted to meet the needs of the dedicated angler, will be your best choice. Something like the Predator kayaks from Old Town make a great option for anglers and have plenty of room to store gear for an overnight trip.

PredatorMX_LimeCamo_Top PredatorMX_LimeCamo_Side

Gear you need for overnights

Dry bags

Dry bags, like they sound, keep all of your gear and clothing dry and protected. Most bags suited for rugged river use will be made of a super durable PVC based material that are exceptionally watertight and rugged. Definitely built for years and years of hard use. Most people can get away with grabbing a couple 20 – 30 liter bags for tents, sleeping bag, etc. and some 5 – 10 liter bags for small accessories that you would like to keep closer at hand. We carry a great selection of dry bags from small 5 liter all the way up to 115 liter dry bag backpacks.

Baja_Dry_Bags Boundary Pack Group

Dry box

Dry boxes are perfect for holding items that need a bit extra protection or for quick access. They are great for cell phones, wallets, fishing license and other small accessories.

Bilge pump/bailing bucket/sponge

Chances are your going to take on a bit of water at some point during your trip so being able to get the water back out easily is key. Bilge pumps makes it easy and quick to get large amounts of water out of your canoe or kayak and are nice and compact.

PFD (life jacket)

Life jackets are required on all Missouri rivers and lakes. Selecting a jacket that fits your needs is key when wearing it over the course of an entire day. Jackets come in all sorts of shapes and styles suited for the particular needs of a paddler. If kayaking selecting something with a high back will keep you comfortable all day. There are also fishing specific vests for the dedicated angler.

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