The Inflatable Kayak Mattress Push-Through Tent

Nigel from the UK was nice enough to share his brilliant idea on how to transform his inflatable kayak into a mattress/tent for overnight kayaking trips. I thought his idea was worth sharing and would be useful for anyone doing solo overnight paddling trips.

The great thing about his idea is that it is easy, quick to set-up and very light to pack on the kayak – takes up almost no room for overnight camping trips.

I’ll try to explain as best I can using Nigel’s words but take a look at his pictures below as I think they will give you the best idea on how he made it work.

When contemplating what to pack in his kayak for an overnight trip, Nigel asked the question “Why not use the kayak as the mattress in the tent?” He then set about doing what he does very well – made his idea a reality.

He used his Sea Eagle FastTrack as the mattress but I don’t see why this idea wouldn’t work with just about any inflatable kayak out there – as long as it was long enough to lay down in comfortably.

Steps to follow:

These were the basic steps and supplies that Nigel used to make the push-through tent.

1. His first step was to find the cheapest possible single skin pop up tent. He found one that comes in a circular bag that can easily be secured under the bungee cords on the kayak deck while paddling.

2. Next he got two Army surplus trench covers. The guy in the local Army Surplus store told him ‘A tank could run over those, mate’… not something you would probably have to worry about but good to know!

3. He put eyelet holes in the bow and stern covers, covered the front deck and passed a zig-zag cord right under the boat to keep everything tight.

4. Then he put the open half of the kayak through the tent opening and attached the tent with pegs in the ground.


5. Then attached the other trench cover over top of the tent for added protection and secured it with cord to the fore deck cover

Close the tent zipper, add a sleeping bag or two and you have your very own push through tent with an inflatable kayak mattress… great for solo overnight trips!


Nigel suggested deflating the keel in order to avoid a rocking chair effect when sleeping.

According to him it is a snug fit, but the floor makes a good sleeping mat – well insulated but not for sub zero temperatures or heavy rain.  If you have your pump with you and need extra room you can let a little bit of air out of the side air chambers.

However with the right sleeping bag I would think this set-up would work fairly well even in cold temperatures. Set-up time is roughly five minutes.

Such a fantastic idea! Perhaps not good for someone with concerns about being buried alive as Nigel pointed out but otherwise brilliant, easy and best of all the equipment takes up very little room in the kayak while paddling.

Thanks for sharing Nigel!


  1. Wow, fantastic idea. Completely eliminates the need to bring a bulky mattress. Plus, I bet it’s super warm and cozy. Thanks Allison and Nigel.!!

    • Nigel, Norfolk UK says:

      Quick comment, single skin tents are notorious for building up condensation, this is why I also put on the outer cover, which creates an air gap, that plus sensible ventilation and you will be pretty OK.

      The hilarious bit is getting the spingy tent back in its bag..the instructions that come with it could be clearer. It kind of involves a strangling action, then the tent gives up and goes quietly, strangely satisfying when you get the hang of it!

  2. That’s cool. I could see myself trying that under the right circumstances. It must be satisfying to put that together and have it work. Thanks for sharing the photos.

  3. I like it. I have a similar tent, I could probably make this work. Only thing is how to keep out the bugs, it looks like theres a little opening in the back and possibly at front.

  4. Well, it’s just a prototype really, but I think the usual guy ropes can pull things together, plus you have side walls for none flying bugs!

    Maybe the traditional camping combination of electric tennis racket fly swot..always entertaining, turn a cloud of midges into a firework display….Citronella (spelling?) candle and strong drink..and let’s not forget the ever useful ear plugs!!

    Nigel, Norfolk UK

  5. Hi i just have a qeustion about the Inflatable Kayak Mattress Push-Through Tent when you sleep on the kayak wont it damage the skegs????

    • Hey Brock, you can put a fair amount of weight on the kayak without damaging the skegs especially if you put the majority of your weight at the front end of the kayak. However to be safe I would probably remove the skegs altogether… assuming you have a kayak with removable skegs.

      • thanks allison
        but no my skegs are not removable i have a 330 sport sea eagle….can you remove them im 99% sure you cant, i use my kayak for camping in OZ.Dont know whether to use this tent idea or a hammock?

        • No you’re right Brock, the skegs on the 330 can not be removed. However they are smaller than the large skeg on the Fasttrack which is the kayak used in the picture of the push-through tent. You could try it, but this might not be the best option for you.

      • just kick a hole in the dirt where your skegs would meet the ground. (that’s what I did, plus the skegs on the 330 are fairly flexible so no damage is done if some weight is applied to them) I put my head at the front of the kayak, and feet towards the rear.

    • Nigel Turpin says:

      Yup, remove the rear skeg..a design weakspot, get a bit of grit in and it jams…have filed mine down a little on the base area to give it a little bit of ‘wobble’ this helps. Also blank of plastic (a little rectangle)made to go into skeg slot if on a sandy beach, remove as fitting skeg, easy peasy! Deflate front ‘bow skeg’ to taste, I suppose.

      Just back from canoeing Scottish Lochs and now going back to my beloved Lake District for more…Ullswater first I think….have achieved early retirement at last…. arf arf…Nigel T

      • Hey Nigel, I am so jealous you were canoeing the Scottish Lochs, I dream of doing that! Glad you are enjoying your early retirement!!

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