When many people consider summer activities, two great options come to mind: boating and camping, but often, people don’t think to combine them. Camping with a boat allows for access to camping spots that are otherwise unreachable – plus, of course, the option of sleeping out on the water is an experience unlike any other. No matter where you decide to go, using your pontoon boat to go camping is fun for everyone involved.
Prepare for Your Pontoon Boat Camping Trip
Of course, you can’t pile friends and family into the boat and just go, as fun as that would be. Preparation comes first. While this will likely include itinerary planning and other important steps, it’ll also involve gathering equipment – starting, of course, with the pontoon boat itself.
Select the Right Boat for Camping
Pontoon boats are a great platform for boat camping. They come with plenty of deck space to spread out, as well as roomy benches and loungers that can double as sleeping platforms. Their shallow hulls allow them to easily be pulled up to camping spots on shore.
Bring Boat Camping Gear
The gear necessary to outfit a pontoon boat for camping may vary depending on the destination. A pontoon boat changing room will likely make camping easier and more pleasant for all. Additionally, a pontoon boat tent or enclosure can transform the boat into a giant shelter, allowing those on board to experience the outdoors in comfort and style. A high-quality anchor to keep the boat from drifting throughout the night is also necessary. In addition, other items to include are food, sleeping bags and bug spray.
Break Out the Pontoon Trailer
For those who don’t already have a pontoon trailer, there are many options, including roller trailers and bunk trailers. Which one works best will depend on personal needs, transportation distance and your comfort with trailering.
Set Up Camp on Your Pontoon Boat
Setting up camp may seem self-explanatory – unloading the gear and getting settled for the night – but there are other steps, sometimes missed in the excitement. For example, the pontoon boat has to be ready for the trip, and the eventual camping site should be chosen in advance. Doing these things ahead of time will make the overall experience more fun.
Choose Your Campsite
There are so many options for where to camp, it might be difficult to choose. The good news is that there’s no limit to camping both on land and out on the water! When researching sites, there will be some that do not allow camping or overnight anchoring per local rules and regulations, or campsites that require booking in advance. But boat camping is rapidly becoming more popular, and there should be plenty of options for a good place to spend the night.
Prep Your Boat
As with any boating activity, preparation helps make for a fun time. This could include packing bedding and clothing in waterproof bags, clearing out storage space on board to make sure there’s enough space to stow camping gear throughout the day, locating and packing essentials like biodegradable soap and fire-starting materials. Of course, the boat will need to be prepared just like it would for a regular day of boating with life vests and safety equipment.
Fun Activities for Boat Camping
Once the camping trip is planned and the boat is prepped, it’s time to think about ways to fill the time out there.
Grill on the Pontoon
After camping and boating, the most popular summer activity has to be grilling. It’s fun, it’s seasonal, and when camping, it’s a super easy way to make delicious food throughout the trip. There are many grill options specially made to be carried on board or even mounted on a pontoon boat, making it even easier.
Play Card Games
Everybody loves card games. They’re an excellent, easy way to pass the time and have fun with friends and family. If a deck doesn’t already live on board, it’s easy enough to bring one along. To avoid potential damage, there are waterproof decks – and plenty of creative games to play at a campsite.
Build a Bonfire
Whether or not it’s for cooking, everybody loves a good fire. Obviously, this is only an option when camping on land, as it’s not recommended to start a fire on board a pontoon boat. Before getting started, be sure fires are allowed in the area and be careful around open flame – and don’t forget the s’mores.
One of the most obvious choices for a camping activity is fishing. This is especially a fun idea for those who are already anglers and have gear ready for fishing from the pontoon boat. Fishing is an interesting and relaxing way to enjoy the natural surroundings while camping, and it can be done with relative ease. Plus, depending on local rules related to fishing, whatever gets caught could serve as campsite dinner!
Additional Considerations for Camping on a Pontoon
In addition to all the other preparations already taken, there are some basics related to camping that will help everyone have a good time without getting in trouble or anybody getting hurt. This includes checking on the weather, ensuring you have plenty of safety gear, informing yourself about camping rules, and more.
Camping Waste & Keeping the Area Clean
The number one rule of spending time in the great outdoors is “leave no trace.” When heading out, bring trash bags to carry out all camping waste, and clear out the storage spaces on the pontoon boat so there will be enough space to carry all items to and from the campsite.
Basic Camping Safety
Safety is paramount when spending the night outdoors, even close to civilization. It’s best to be prepared for anything. A way to get in touch with emergency personnel – such as a satellite enabled phone or a GPS locator – is a great thing to bring, along with a well-stocked first aid kit, gear to start a fire and clean water, and emergency flares and lights such as those typically required by boating regulations. Also consider having a plan in place to get back to shore in case of emergency.
Even if it rains, camping can still be a great time, particularly with the equipment to keep dry such as a rain sheet over a tent. But before heading out, check the weather – big storms can be dangerous out in the open. Weather forecasts are very detailed these days, and once armed with the information, it’s easier to make an informed decision whether to go or not and what extra equipment might be needed, such as specialized rain gear.
Rules & Regulations
As mentioned, there are often many local regulations governing camping and campsites. Before going, all prospective campers must be sure that their planned activities are legal, and that they’re allowed to camp where they want to. Most of these rules are very public, and since they’re in the interest of protecting the wilderness, it’s in everyone’s best interest to follow them! That way, everybody can keep going back and camping with their pontoon boats, enjoying the outdoors.