LEAVE ALL YOUR WORRIES BEHIND!!
There isn’t anything better than hopping on my SUP and getting away from it all.
If there’s no cell service, even better!
Perhaps the thought of being out of touch is too much--this is where planning your first multi-day trip can be tailored to your comfort level and ability.
One of my more recent trips includes paddling 115 km down the Athabasca River with friends over three days. This was a very recreational fun trip, no timelines, no pressure.
YOUR FIRST MULTI-DAY SUP EXPEDITION
- REALITY CHECK: CAN YOU PADDLE A SUP?
- HAVE YOU BACKCOUNTRY CAMPED BEFORE?
- PRE-TRIP MULTI DAY SUP EXPEDITION PLANNING!
- MULTI DAY SUP GEAR JUNKIE
- MULTI-DAY SUP CLOTHING
- SHOULDER SEASON CLOTHING
- HOW TO PACK YOUR MULTI DAY SUP EXPEDITION
- MULTI DAY SUP CAMP SET-UP
REALITY CHECK: CAN YOU PADDLE A SUP?
This seems an obvious question. However, the first step to a multi-day SUP expedition is being able to control a LOADED board in many conditions.
This means already being comfortable paddling a SUP without gear on it in numerous types of weather. Basic Flatwater SUP should be your first competency level before attempting a multi-day trip, Advanced Flatwater SUP is ideal.
Then, practice paddling in safe water conditions with your gear on your board, finding where it rides the best. Where do you feel the most stable with weight strapped on?
HAVE YOU BACKCOUNTRY CAMPED BEFORE?
Having basic backcountry camping skills should be another competency you possess. Not camping from a holiday trailer/car but packing a tent up, carrying your food and being able to survive in a wilderness setting are skills required to avoid disaster.
There is a huge crossover between backpacking gear and SUP expedition gear. I hiked the West Coast Trail for 6 days with everything I needed in an 80L pack. That means I shouldn’t really need anything more than what I carried for that trip. Unlike canoes that can carry a lot of stuff, paddle boarders must be mindful of how much we take and honestly most of it we don’t need.
SHORELINE SUP CAMP
One simple transition is to pack your board and head to a shoreline campsite where you can safely practice camping in a park without having to paddle to your location.
Here you can realize you forgot a lighter or other non-negotiable items. Load and unload your gear on your board to see how long this may take or the best way to pack your gear into dry bags.
PRE-TRIP MULTI DAY SUP EXPEDITION PLANNING!
Using the Adventure Smart App can be a pivotal part of trip management. Where are you going? Who with? How long? When are you back? What is the protocol if you don’t check in?
What’s your warm-up plan if you become hypothermic or someone you’re with does?
Do you have basic first aid? What are your limitations out there? Be honest with yourself!
MULTI DAY SUP GEAR JUNKIE
Portaging into The Lakeland Paddle Circuit 2020
If you want to explore the idea of a multi-day SUP trip, borrowing or renting might be your best bet. It allows you to get your feet wet (pun intended) without spending thousands on gear. Find yourself a friend like me who is addicted to buying gear and you’re set!
I’ve taken many friends on outdoor paddle adventures and so far, we haven’t forgotten gear that was pivotal to making the trip viable.
There are also multi-day guided trips that you can sign up for to experience a group trip before heading out on your own.
READY SET GO!
You’re ready, you have basic skills, what gear do you need?
These are general guidelines, it took me many years of backpacking and paddle expeditions to hone in what I like, this changes constantly for myself and may be different for you.
Rule of thumb: Buying in the middle is usually your best bet, not cheap gear or the most expensive. IF you see the need to buy something different, your average gear will re-sell to the general public much easier than a $700 tent.
MULTI DAY SUP CAMP LIFE: WHAT YOU NEED
Dry Bags: 50L up to 70 L or multiple 30 L bags plan to carry 70-90 L of gear
Shelter: Tent, hammock, bivy or tarp. Even with a tent you can never have too many tarps. Use them to put your gear on when unloading dry bags to keep it clean, use it as a floor mat outside the tent, it’s a rain shelter, the list goes on…cheap blue 8 x 10 ft tarp = priceless.
Sleeping Bag or Down Quilt: Stowed in a compressed dry bag, I also use a small fleece blanket with a down quilt in place of a sleeping bag especially in summer.
Sleeping pad: Inflatable sleeping pad Or sleep on your SUP
Pillow: I take a Thermarest pillow, or use a dry bag with clothes in it
Water Purification: Boil, filters, drops or UV Pens. Collapsible bucket, cheesecloth (to strain chunks or bugs out of water)
Fire Building: Fire starter (Vaseline & cotton balls mixed), lighter, matches, small saw or axe; you can never have too many fire-starting options!
Cooking: Small stove (Jetboil, MSR), Kelly Kettle, Wolf & Grizzly Grill Kit for open fire cooking & 2L pot. These options are relative to environment: boreal vs alpine fuel (wood) availability. Leather gloves for open fire cooking, long handled spoon and/or tongs.
Chair/Sitting Pad: Luxury item depending on the site you are going to, some have picnic tables, a simple piece of foam or inflatable pad can suffice for sitting on logs but not necessary.
Secure It: Rope, tie down straps, bungee cords, carabiners use on your board for securing gear, setting up tarps in camp, hanging things up to dry, hanging food from bears. Extra tent pegs are great for putting up tarps in different configurations where there are no trees.
MULTI DAY SUP EXPEDITION SAFETY
Communication: In Reach, SPOT, satellite communication. Ensure you have cell service if using your phone, no guarantees in most places wild. My In Reach is IN my PFD so if I lose everything I can communicate.
Navigation: A GPS, compass and map. Know how to use them if you are navigating waterways you are not familiar with. I always snap a picture of the mapping in my phone at every trail head just in case. Also, sometimes these have local’s lingo on them that aren’t on standard maps
First Aid Kit: Build your own or buy a comprehensive one (beware the crappy “wilderness” first aid kit with a Band-Aid and moleskin in it). You NEED more to be out in the wild. Can you stop bleeding? What’s your Worst-Case Scenario and are you prepared until help comes?
PFD, Whistle, 15M Throw Bag: Standard practice for you as a paddle boarder already
Leash: I prefer a waist or quick release leash for these trips, it stays out of the way with my dry bags stowed on board.
Repair: Pump if your board is inflatable, SUP repair kit, Gear Aid tape (this stuff is magic), duct tape (wrap it around your water bottle no need to take the roll).
Eating: Options available for tableware can range from a yogurt container (lowest budget) to a backcountry set (highest budget) and anywhere in between. Most times I eat out of the bag if it’s prepackaged food.
Sporks! The bane of my existence, fun for kids but a waste of money. They break! Just take a fork and spoon, I do have an ultralight titanium set but it’s not necessary.
Drinking: I only use metal water bottles for one reason: plastic ones break if dropped. Take a double wall one such as a yeti and your water stays hot or cold. Coffee, tea etc. take a small metal mug or cup that is non-breakable.
Washing: A small travel tube filled with soap will suffice to wash dishes. Wash them in your collapsible pail. Pack a tea towel and small cloth to wash dishes.
Garbage: Opsak are amazing! Odour proof and leak proof, I store my food and garbage in separate ones. I wash them out and reuse them for each trip. Ziploc bags also work but they’re not odour proof.
Storage: Store your food, cooking gear and garbage in bear lockers or hang them up high in a dry bag. Putting them in a dry bag will prevent mice from getting into a plastic bag (from experience yuk).
I also have a bear bag made of Kevlar. These are great for sites with no pole or bear lockers. You literally can tie it shut with a knot and tie it to a tree, it is impenetrable. Even without anything to tie it to the data suggests they won’t carry it off far if they can’t open it.
MULTI DAY SUP EXPEDITION PERSONAL ITEMS
Toilet paper, trowel: Women: get a Kula Cloth no more toilet paper bombs to go pee! Be mindful of the world around you, bury your poo PLEASE!
Toiletries: toothbrush, tooth paste, deodorant, sunscreen, bug spray, brush, lip balm, feminine hygiene, nail clippers (life-saving if you’ve ever torn a toe nail)!
Fun: small game, inner tube for swimming, book, anything small you will enjoy at camp
Body Management: pain killers, pain release oils, small ball for pressure point trigger release
Power: power banks, solar chargers, batteries. How do you keep all your electronics functioning if you’re depending on them? (you shouldn’t be, always have a Plan B)
Towel/Wipes: A travel pack of wipes (baby, wet ones) is a bath in a package. Old adage goes start top to bottom! Small towel if you plan to swim on a hot summer trip.
Headlamp: Options are rechargeable or battery operated. The Fenix HM50R is like wearing the sun on your head it’s amazing.
MULTI-DAY SUP CLOTHING
You’re only as good as your clothing! Hypothermia is the number one risk in the wilderness.
Top to Bottom/Left To Right What I Packed:
150 Wt Long Sleeve Merino Wool Shirt, Long Underwear
Polar Fleece Pants/Underwear/Bra
Gortex Rain Pants/Thick Yoga Leggings
Merino Wool Socks/Hat/ Thick Merino Wool Sweater
Gortex Rain Jacket/Down Jacket
This was a fall trip 3 Days 2 Nights; my summer clothing is similar and if the trip is longer I take the same amount. You’re not changing all the time merino wool prevents odour thankfully…but not neoprene, that gets funky!!
What I wore paddling:
150 Wt Long Sleeve Merino Wool Shirt/Bathing Suit Top
Level Six Neoprene Goddess Lined Short
250 Wt Merino Wool Zip Up Shirt/Merino Wool Socks
Workout Capris/Merino Wool Tank Top
Astral Brewess 2.0 Shoes & Crocs for camp. Hate on Crocs all you want, they are the best shore shoe. Easy to slip on, easy to dry and my socks fit in them. I portage in them also if it’s really muddy and I don’t want to wreck my Astrals.
SHOULDER SEASON CLOTHING
April, May, September, October can be great times of year to paddle. Less crowds, less bugs and stable weather. However, the water temperature and air temperature can create a greater risk of hypothermia.
The best clothing for these times of year are neoprene or dry suits to prevent immersion risks.
Sometimes the air temperature is colder than the water. This prevents you from not being able to warm yourself up properly when out of the water if you get wet.
If you’re alpine paddling even in summer a dry suit or neoprene is imperative! The water is so cold, if you fall in you may not be able to get out quick enough, you become cold quickly while in the water. This then can be a challenge to get on your board and to safety before your core temperature drops.
*Always plan your clothing to the worst-case scenario outcome.
This is a never-ending rabbit hole that cannot be covered in this article completely!
Food is very personal; some people are vigilant about dehydrating their own food. Others are happy with minimalistic food.
I’m an eater! I love food but I’m also simplistic in my approach. Enough calories to function well, tastes decent enough and not being hungry are my parameters.
Prepackaged Meals: Mountain House, Backpackers Pantry, AlpineAire, Happy Yak…the list goes on. Cost per package is $9-14 per meal which can serve 2 people (I often eat one by myself). These are convenient and if you eat enough of them you’ll know which are the best for your appetite and taste buds. Expensive yes, but you either have time or money in life. If you’re working a 60-hour week and trying to dehydrate food it’s not worth the trade-off.
Bulk Freeze-Dried Foods: This is what I use a lot--then I create my own meals for a fraction of the price. Freeze dried is much lighter than dehydrated food so that is one consideration.
DIY Dehydrate: If you have a dehydrator and have the time this is a great inexpensive way to bring your own food with you. I’ve dehydrated pasta sauce and it’s easy to pack along to make pasta with. Chili, soup, meat there’s lot of options when you’re making your own food.
Shortcut Versions: If you’re truly not a food snob and want the best bang for your buck there’s lots of options available. Sidekicks, instant rice, tuna in a packet, ramen noodles are cheap and easy…get creative with budget eating and you can still enjoy food in camp for a fraction.
Snacks: Aka lunch. I often don’t eat a formal lunch but breakfast and supper. If I’m paddling onto another section I just eat on my board. Bars, jerky, nuts, dried fruit, the standard GORP is all grab and go fare that fuels and is easy to consume while paddling.
Drinks: coffee, tea, apple cider, electrolytes etc. there are many options and personal preference to what you pack. Hot iced tea is amazing if you haven’t drank that. Often what I drink while working hard paddling isn’t what I enjoy at home, your output is compensated with calories. Sometimes it’s a mental boost if it’s cold and wet out.
Shore Lunch: maybe you’re lucky enough to catch fish and eat them, I pack foil, seasoned flour and lard for this purpose if I know that’s an option.
HOW TO PACK YOUR MULTI DAY SUP EXPEDITION
We have this exhaustive list of gear that looks like it will be impossible to pack onto a SUP. It happens trust me, it’s so fun every time I start unloading my dry bags in camp and my partners look at me in awe and ask where did that come from?
If I was going solo on a trip I would prefer a 30/50L dry bag for the front and back of my board. However, most times I’m carrying for more than one person and up to four of us so I use all of the 145L of dry bag space I have, comfortably. Hence the Badfisher and its capabilities.
I use smaller Outdoor Research dry bags 10-15L inside my big dry bags, simply to keep everything organized. Rational is if my dry bags fail my clothes and sleep aren’t wet and if my tent is wet it doesn’t get everything else soaked.
*You’ll be Glad You Did: A large black or orange garbage bag should be on the bottom of each 50-70L Dry Bag. Your tent and fly will be wet often times and you can always put it in this to buffer the rest of your gear inside from becoming wet. A dry bag isn’t much good when it’s wet inside. And a garbage bag always makes a rain jacket, shelter, tablecloth or tarp…trust me there isn’t much I haven’t used one for!
My narrowest and most low-profile bag goes on the front of my board so I don’t push too much wind with it if I’m in a headwind. Bring it as close to the deck pad as possible especially on shorter boards.
My largest bag goes directly behind me as close as it can to the carry handle without impeding movement on my board. If it’s close enough I sometimes sit on it.
Notice the small mesh bag closest to me. This is what I store my snacks for the day, survival kit, sunscreen and other small items I like to have close and accessible while I paddle. It’s not water proof but for the most part a Ziploc bag inside works.
Lay your wet extra tarps under your dry bags. Bungees or use the cords on the board to secure your bags. I often use a strap so my load doesn’t shift depending on conditions.
My pump goes at the back usually tucked beside my large dry bag behind me.
MULTI DAY SUP CAMP SET-UP
Random camping along the Athabasca River
The most convenient places to go for your first trip already has amenities.
There are many back country paddle camping sites and more I discover each time I begin researching.
Choosing a random campsite can be challenging but important to your enjoyment.
There’s no pre-set area, no outhouse, no cooking area those are all logistics you must figure out. And a great progression as you become more comfortable camping with your board.
My first priority is shelter, I don’t relax until my shelter is up and ready, second gathering fuel for a fire. Then I can wander, paddle, fish and explore comforted I will return to a camp that’s ready. And it’s part of my warm up plan if I’m immersed or become cold.
Ensure your watercraft is stowed for the night safely. Winds can pick up your board/paddle and blow it away or water levels rise to a point that it is floating and gone with the current. Be mindful of protecting your board so it is safe and you can continue on with your adventure.
Good judgement comes from experience. Experience? That comes from poor judgement…
I’ve had my fair share of lessons out in the wilderness, I’m not an expert by any means I’ve learned as I’ve gone, we all do. The past five years camping on my SUP have been fantastic.
If you camp with me be prepared we will most likely ride out some insane thunder and lightning storm. Waking up to a deluge of water in the morning. One trip to the paddle circuit helped me understand why tents have the waterproof floor four inches up the side…I was in a reverse bathtub. Water flowing under and around our tent, we were dry!
“Life Isn’t About How Many Breaths You Take; It’s About How Many Moments Take Your Breath Away!”
My Aunt in a recent letter to me said she could live a thousand lifetimes and never do half of the adventures I’ve been able to experience.
I’m lucky and purposeful.
Lucky to live a life that allows me to have these amazing experiences but it takes planning and preparation to make that happen.
I hope this article finds you inspired to try something new.
Happy paddling & camping!
Sending You Love n SUP,
Advanced Flatwater SUP Instructor
AQ Outdoors Contact
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