You know what stand up paddle boarding is — in fact, you’ve been an avid paddle boarder for quite a while now, and you love the water sport so much that you’re always trying to evangelize and get all your friends, relatives, and random people you might meet at Starbucks into SUP.
You also know what camping is. In fact, you belong to the minority of people who actually actively enjoy camping. You’ve done it before, plenty of times.
You own a tent and know how to pitch it. You know how to keep bugs away, and you make a mean roast over a campfire. You like camping enough that you’d be happy to go camping not just with your own inner circle of seasoned campers, but also with complete camping “noobs”.
If everything we’ve described so far hits the mark where you’re concerned, there is still a good chance that you clicked on this guide just because you were browsing through Boating Beast and the title caught your eye.
You may not have heard of SUP camping before, even if you’re already familiar with SUP fishing and SUP yoga. SUP camping is a niche activity, after all.
Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like; a combination of two things you already know and love — stand up paddle boarding and camping. Yes, it can be done anywhere, at home or abroad, and yes, SUP camping is awesome for the right set of people.
You probably know that much already, even if this happens to be your very first time hearing “SUP” and “camping” in the same sentence, and you probably want in. You’d probably figure it out on your own, but you probably want to hear how others who’ve boldly gone before you do it anyway. This guide is for you, because it’s here to get you ready for a great trip that you’ll never forget. May many more follow!
- What Is SUP Camping?
- How to Get Into SUP Camping
- SUP Camping: Essential Gear to Take on Your Trip
- Essential Stand Up Paddle Boarding Gear for Your First SUP Camping Trip
- Essential Camping Gear to Bring on Your First SUP Camping Trip
- Tips to Keep in Mind When You Go SUP Camping the First Time
- In Conclusion
What Is SUP Camping?
SUP camping, or stand up paddle board camping, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a wonderfully eclectic combination of stand up paddle boarding and camping.
We wouldn’t want to narrow the definition of SUP camping down much more than that, because there are, in fact, several ways to get into this practice — which can also be called a SUP expedition, a SUP trip, or an extended SUP touring trip. All we’ll say to further define SUP camping is that it requires a SUP and all necessary auxiliary gear, and a tent and all necessarily auxiliary camping gear.
Feel free to enjoy SUP camping in any way that works for you, including one of these already-defined methods.
Base Camp SUP Camping
This type of SUP camping combines stand up paddle boarding with camping, but also keeps the two separate. You basically get to your (initial) camping location, set up camp, and then go SUPing to explore the area. When you’re done stand up paddle boarding, you return to camp and do whatever you may do while you’re camping.
Your base camp may move, but your gear stays on the shore. You don’t take your camping fear onto your SUP. This is a casual and recreational style of SUP camping.
Distance Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Stand up paddle boarding is the prime focus of this style of SUP camping; you aim to get from one predetermined location to another, hoping to cover great distances (often as fast as possible). Because you have to sleep at some point, you meet this unfortunate but primal human need by setting up camp when you’re simply too exhausted to SUP any longer.
Comfort isn’t your primary concern in this case. Neither is the enjoyment you might get from camping. Your main aim is to paddle board across great distances, as quickly as you can. This kind of SUP camping calls for minimal camping gear and and a touring SUP.
Hike-In SUP Camping
This style of SUP camping calls for campers to explore their chosen route through a combination of hiking and paddle boarding. Hike-in SUP campers need both an inflatable SUP — to ensure that they can deflate their paddle board for longer hiking trips — and a lightweight tent, of the kind they can comfortably take onto their SUP.
‘Whatever You Want’ SUP Camping
While this style isn’t defined and doesn’t even have a clear name — some may call it “hybrid” SUP camping — it’s what’s most people will be doing. You’ve got camping gear. Everyone in your party has their own SUP and auxiliary gear. You do whatever you feel like with that.
Some days, that may mean staying at your base camp most of the time and paddle boarding whenever you want to. Some days, that may mean hiking to a great lake. Some days, that may mean paddling your way to the next camp site. Heck, some days it may even mean renting a car to drive to a wonderful SUP destination.
This style of SUP camping is, above all, meant to be fun.
How to Get Into SUP Camping
Whatever type of SUP camping appeals to you most, everyone has got to start somewhere. Even if you are an experienced paddle boarder and an experienced camper, distinctly from one another, that place is small and manageable.
Keep these tips in mind when you venture into SUP camping for the very first time, and you will be good to go.
Don’t Be Too Ambitious
You are, during your first SUP camping trip, simply testing the waters. Keep your first trip small and manageable and, where possible, close to home. Pick a campsite with a nice lake nearby. Set up camp and enjoy exploring the lake with your paddle board.
Try out what it would be like to paddle board to the next camp site by packing your gear up, loading it onto your paddle board, and SUPing. When you are done for the day, break that same gear out and pitch your tent in the same place again.
Take care not to put your skills to the test by keeping the time you spend paddle boarding manageable, and knowing for sure that, by the end of the day, you will have access to the amenities you are comfortable with.
Above all, don’t go solo for your first SUP camping trip. Take trusted friends along for this exciting ride.
Choosing the Right Paddle Board for SUP Camping
Some folks will just go with the SUP they already have, no matter what it may be, while others would consider investing in a brand new stand up paddle board for their SUP camping trips. No matter which category you fall into, here are some things to keep in mind.
They may determine what kind of camping you’re going to be engaging in, or they may convince you to get a new stand up paddle board, but they’re important either way.
- Inflatable stand up paddle boards are great for leisurely campers who are primarily in it for the wonderful camping experience. You can break your SUP out to explore nearby waters and deflate your stand up paddle board if you are traveling to a new site.
- Inflatable SUPs are also good for SUP hikers. That’s because iSUPs can be deflated and stored, making it possible to hike long distance until you reach your next paddle boarding destination.
- Long-distance paddle boarders, who are focusing on the distance they can cover on a SUP, may want a touring SUP or a racing SUP. These paddle boards may be rigid boards as well as iSUPs.
- Unless you’re only interested in base camp SUP camping, you will want to make sure that your stand up paddle board comes equipped with ample storage space, in the form of bungee ties at the front and rear of the SUP. Without it, you would never be able to take your tent onto your stand up paddle board.
The more distance you intend to cover with your tent on board a stand up paddle board, the more important it becomes that your camping gear is also lightweight.
Practice Stand Up Paddle Boarding with Camping Gear
Even if you are a seasoned stand up paddle boarder, perhaps of the kind who has gone on their fair share of whitewater SUP trips already, it is important to remember that stand up paddle boarding with a bunch of fairly heavy gear is an entirely different experience.
You will literally have to pull more weight along for the ride. More than that, the way you pack, load, and balance your gear will have an impact on your SUP’s behavior in the water as you paddle. The way in which you can move through the water will be different, and so will your speed.
Practice SUPing with camping gear before you attempt long-distance SUP camping, because it’s a different sport entirely. Never be scared to start from scratch. Forget about your competitive spirit, and place your own safety — and that of your party — at the core of your mission.
Build Confidence Over Time
Work your way up to longer and more ambitious SUP camping trips gradually. Start with base camp SUP camping, and practice paddling with gear. Try paddling from one campsite to another nearby one next, and make your camping trips more challenging only when you are absolutely sure that everyone in your party is ready for that.
SUP Camping: Essential Gear to Take on Your Trip
The gear that you bring into any SUP camping trip depends on your goals, the size of your party, and the amenities available at the campsite or campsites where you will be staying. Here, we will be covering the bare essentials that almost anyone who feels ready to try SUP camping simply must bring on their trip, regardless of the SUP camping style they choose.
This can be divided into two parts — namely, essential stand up paddle boarding gear and essential camping gear.
Essential Stand Up Paddle Boarding Gear for Your First SUP Camping Trip
People who are brand new to stand up paddle boarding can indeed attempt a base camp style SUP camping trip quite safely, but for now, we will assume that you already know your way around a paddle board. To enjoy stand up paddle board camping, you will mostly need the same gear that you rely on for any SUP trip. Here’s a look:
- A stand up paddle board. Folks who are new to SUP camping will almost always load their camping gear and their SUP — in most cases, an inflatable SUP — into a vehicle and drive to their campsite. If you are slightly more experienced, you can also use your stand up paddle board to reach your planned campsite.
- The right paddle for your SUP. Most beginner stand up paddle board bundles come with a paddle board, a leash, bungee ties for storage, and a paddle. The paddle you will get with a SUP will be made of aluminum in most cases, simply because this is the most cost-effective option. That may be fine. SUP campers who will focus more heavily on hiking will, on the other hand, want a fiberglass or carbon fiber paddle. So will those who simply crave the best.
- Your leash. It’s there. Use it. No matter how annoying you may find the leash, it’s there to keep you safe.
- Your personal flotation device. Whether you choose a life vest or a belt, you will want a good PFD. Paddling with a bunch of gear is a different, and more challenging, experience. Your personal flotation device might save your life, so make sure that it is good.
- Bungee ties. They will help you store your camping gear as you paddle from one place to another. They better be good.
- Pumps. For serious SUP camping trips that cover longer distances, high pressure pumps are a must, at least for the iSUPers out there.
- Dry bags. They keep your camping gear and all the essential personal stuff you are bringing on board dry. ‘Nuff said.
Essential Camping Gear to Bring on Your First SUP Camping Trip
SUP camping unites two disciplines — stand up paddle boarding and camping. As well as all the essential SUP gear, you will need to come armed with the right camping stuff. Your setup will depend on the amenities you will have access to at your designated camp site, or camp sites, as well as on your personal preferences. It is unique to you and your party, and not all of you will need to carry everything you need; divide and conquer as you can.
Not sure what you need? Are you new to camping? Here’s a look at the kind of gear you will generally benefit from when you are going camping:
- A tent. That one is obvious. Unless you go base camp SUP camping, you’ll also place a premium on weight — the lighter the tent, the easier it will be to carry it on board your stand up paddle board.
- A sleeping bag, and maybe a pad and a pillow. If you are going as lightweight as you can, your spare clothes can stand in for your pillow.
- Clothes. The kind of clothes you will pack for a SUP camping trip heavily depend on your destination. They will definitely include socks, underwear, t-shirts, and pants. You will also almost certainly need to bring something warm, like sweaters that dry easily or cardigans. You will need SUP shoes and a wet suit while you are out on the water, and you may want a swimming costume. Bring just a bit more than you think you will need, but make sure it folds compactly. Not sure how? The KonMari folding method can be a lifesaver.
- Towels. Never forget!
- A first aid kit. You never know when you will need it. Don’t just buy a first aid kit off the shelf. Customize it to keep the medications your party members may need in mind, and consider allergies as well. While they could be categorized as separate items, we’ll include sunscreen and bug repellent here, too. They’ll help to keep you safe and comfy while you are SUP camping, even when you are not at risk of facing an emergency quite yet.
- Cooking gear. Unless you are planning to rely on locally-available amenities and restaurants, you will likely want a camping stove, lighters, basic pots and pans, and a few MREs.
- Toiletries. That’d include toilet paper, sanitary pads (where relevant), any creams and lotions you don’t want to forego, and soap as well as hand sanitizer.
- Stuff to help you navigate. Include multiple options. Maps, compasses, GPS, and cellphones are all good.
- A knife. Again, you never know when you may need it. Maybe pack a multitool as well.
Depending on the situation you are facing, you may need much more, or slightly less. Don’t take anything we say as the “be all and end all”, but rather assess the SUP camping situation you are going to be encountering.
Tips to Keep in Mind When You Go SUP Camping the First Time
Fun and learning may be your primary goals. In fact, they absolutely should be if you are going SUP camping for the very first time. However, your safety and that of anyone else who may be coming along for this wild adventure should always be at the top of your priority list — you can’t have fun if someone is in danger, after all.
Are you about ready to set out on your first-ever SUP camping adventure? Awesome! Just keep in mind that you will also always want to:
- Have access to plenty of clean drinking water. The average adult male needs 15.5 cups of water a day, which equals 3.7 liters. Women generally need 11.5 cups, or 2.7 liters. That covers all of your needs, including sources of water that come from food rather than water. If you are long-distance SUPing, take more than you think you will need, because water always runs out faster than you think it will.
- Take SUPing safety seriously. Even if you’re very experienced, wear a leash and use your personal flotation device.
- Find a good balance. You don’t want to pack too much camping gear, become stand up paddle boarding will turn into a challenge. You don’t want to pack too little, or camping will be horrible. Finding the right balance takes time, and that’s why we recommend the base camp approach for beginners.
- Leave your environment the way you found it. Do not litter. Too many campers do, and it is not a good look. Yes, this means you also have to pack garbage bags, and dispose of them appropriately, if you are not camping at organized and established campsites.
- Check the legalities. Is SUP even allowed where you are hoping to go? Is camping? Does the place you are going require specific life vests? Check in advance.
- Check emergency aid options. No matter where you are, it can never hurt to be aware of the location of the nearest hospital, or local emergency response numbers.
Are you in a larger SUP camping party? Check on each other regularly, to ensure that nobody is going at a pace they are not comfortable with. Help each other. Take time to unwind. Don’t just focus on paddle boarding, but take your time to enjoy the unique environment you find yourself in.
SUP camping allows you to explore the world on your stand up paddle board, and to lay your head down in a whole new place when you have had enough for the day. It is a wonderful way to see the world, or even just a small part of it. Above all, be realistic in your expectations, and build up to new adventures slowly — so that you are always ready to face whatever you may find.