Paddle Board Camping – the Complete Beginners Guide

Paddle Board Camping – the Complete Beginners Guide

So you’ve been paddling for a while now and the confidence is starting to build. Perhaps you’ve managed to tackle a few waves or mastered a couple of yoga poses. Maybe you have even started to do some longer distance paddling and want to take it up a notch. As it turns out, you’re a bit of an outdoors type as well so any excuse to connect with nature is always a good one.

It’s almost annoying that you hadn’t thought of it before really. Paddle Board Camping that is.

Before you get too carried away though, lets take a look at some important ‘need to knows’ before you take to the water. In no particular order:

Camping Site by the Water

Walk Before You Run

As much as you’ll want to load up and go big, the smart thing to do is to start out small in the first instance and build up from there. Remember, you will be covering greater paddling distances and over longer periods of time. You will also be paddling with a lot more weight on board so that on its own will be more of a challenge for you. Take your board out for a paddle in calm water conditions albeit fully loaded so you can get a genuine level of comfort in terms of stability, buoyancy and your overall ability to mange yourself on the water.

Once you have a couple of day trips under your belt, start small and keep your first camping expedition to 1 or 2 days only. Don’t venture too far and make sure you are comfortable with your location and surroundings.

Like anything we do for the first time, there will be a bunch of mistakes and learnings along the way. If you start small and build from there you’ll be able to iron out all of the crinkles and be all the wiser for it.

(2) Have a Paddle Plan

Create a plan or a rough guide of your expedition. Work out and agree how many days you plan on camping for. What sort of distances you’ll be covering each day and where you will be camping. Understand the waterways and weather conditions. Do your research beforehand, read relevant blogs and pick up any tips from the locals. The better you plan ahead then the less likelihood for mishaps.

All good plans can come undone or do change though so if you are able to plan for contingencies then please do so i.e. access to medical attention; alternative accommodation or transport. Equally important, make sure you leave your plan with at least one other responsible person. If you are able to maintain contact with them as well (mobile phone coverage) then better again.

SUP with Gear in Canyon(3) Weather Conditions & Waterways

Very similar to when you are taking to the water on one of your typical paddles, and more so when you are camping, weather and water conditions are an important consideration. They are of greater importance again when you are planning on being out in the elements for an extended period of time.

Beyond the fact that bad weather conditions are a real buzz kill when you’re paddling and camping, there is a clear increased risk to your safety so its crucially important that you pay attention to the weather forecast. Make sure you’re looking at a reliable source and keep in mind that weather conditions can and do change quite quickly so having contingencies in place i.e. quick access to land and shelter is also important.

Choppy waters and high winds present a higher risk than calm water conditions as would be expected. When you also factor in the additional and potentially unstable weight you will be carrying, your risk factor is again increased. Unlike kayaking or canoeing expeditions, SUP camping (paddling) is a solo activity so you won’t be able to rely on an extra paddler to get you out of challenging conditions.

You should also have an idea of what type of waterways you will be paddling on. Things like rips, currents, high and low tides, water levels, off shore conditions and other will also play a factor. To the extent that you can familiarise yourself with or gain some experience paddling in similar conditions beforehand then this will be a very useful advantage.

<< Looking for a camping SUP – its all in the name – South Bay Board Hippocamp 11’6” iSUP >>

(4) Your Board

If you already have your own SUP then you will have a level of comfort paddling on it as well as being familiar with how it handles. The large majority of recreational all-round SUPs will be more than sufficient for paddle board touring although if the board is say more tailored to surfing or is smaller in size, then it may not be an ideal option for lengthy paddling or multi-day excursions.
SUP Loaded with Camping Gear

If you are yet to buy a board then there are a few features that you should focus on.

Inflatables or iSUPs are typically considered to be better options for touring and camping as they are light-weight, durable, comfortable under foot and perform well in varying water conditions. The length, width, and volume of your board is also very important.

A typical iSUP is approx. 6″ thick which will allow nicely for the added buoyancy that you will require given the additional weight that you are carrying. A wider board (32″ and up) will better aid stability and longer boards (all-round boards are typically +/- 11′) will also glide more freely through the water which is ideal for longer touring distances. Not to be forgotten are the D-rings, bungee system or other attachment points. Some boards have up to 15 separate D-rings as well as front and read bungee systems. Evening out your load is really important so having a bunch of different options is a nice plus.

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(5) Safety Equipment

First and foremost, your Personal Floation Device (PFD) / Life Jacket and Paddle Board Leash are nonnegotiable items. Even if you are an experienced paddler, they should be worn at all times and particularly when you will be on the water for extended periods of time where conditions can change and fatigue comes into play.

Other important safety essentials include:
SUP Camping Accessories

First Aid Kit
Portable Battery Pack / Compass – Solar Charging
– SUP Repair Kit
Water Proof Flashlight
Multi-Purpose Utility Knife
– Insect Repellent and Anti-Inflamatory Cream
– Location Map (hard copy)
– Additional Tie Down Strays / Zip Ties / Bungee Cord
– Spare SUP fin, leash & 3-piece / adjustable paddle

(6) What to Pack

Your best advised to pack the essentials only and to try and remain as light-weight as possible. Bear in mind that you may also need to carry your kit in a backpack both at the commencement of your journey as well as to your camping location(s) depending on how far they are from the water. You also have a responsibility to carry all of your waste on your return journey as well so its worthwhile having some zip lock bags for rubbish and wet items.

The more trips you have under your belt then the better you will be able to refine what you pack but as a guide we suggest the following:

> Dry Bags – 3 or 4 as a guide. They come in a whole host of sizes and you can really never have too many. A couple of small bags for instance are great for your personal items such as your phone, charger, toiletries (including toilet roll), Set of Dry Bagssnacks, sun protection, flash light, Polarised Floating Sunglasses
> Tent
> Sleeping Bag
> Sleeping Mat
> Candles
> Safety and Personal items as referenced above
> Camping Lantern
> Pump if iSUP
> Plastic bags for waste
> Portable Fishing gear if planning to fish that is
> Inflatable Pillow for added comfort if desired
> Fire Starter (or lighter / matches)
> Cooking gear including utensils, cutlery, plates & bowls, washing up liquid, fuel, Stove / Cooking Wear
(Odoland is a great example of a compact stove and also includes a handful of other cooking essentials)

> Water: hydration and in particular when you’re out there on the water paddling is really important. It is easy to get dehydrated without noticing so always have ample water nearby at all times. If you have access to fresh water then that’s a genuine plus so you’ll only need to take a couple of water storage containers and then some water for when you first set off. A CamelBak or similar hydration backpack will come in very handy for not only when you are on your board but for general trekking as well. If however you do not have access to fresh water then you should buy yourself a simple Water Filter. For shorter trips you can of course carry extra water in bladders but this will most certainly create additional weight so be mindful and plan ahead.
> Food: single serve meals, soups, pastas, tea & coffee, energy bars or snack bars, fresh fruit, vegetables and some stock cubes are great for soups and stews as well. If you do catch some fish then better again. You can probably afford to be a little generous when it comes to your food but don’t go overboard. It’s all extra weight after all.

In terms of clothing you will need to make a judgment call dependent on the season and number of days that you will be Various Camping Accessoriescamping for. Items to factor in include:

> Yoga Pants
> Gloves for paddling
> Neoprene Booties
> Hat / Beanie
> Socks & Underwear
> Light-weight Fleece Jacket
> Spray Jacket
> Wet Shirt or Rashie
>Waterproof Footwear
> Base layer clothing – t-shirts, track pants, sweat shirt, gym gear etc.
> Swimwear and Towel (consider a compact Microfibre Towel)

The above suggested products have all been well rated by Amazon customers and represent good quality at affordable price points. There are of course many more to choose from so please do your research.

(7) Campsite

This is really not that dissimilar to if you were heading out camping but without your board. The main difference is that you’ll likely want to pick a location that is close to were you will be pulling into land just so you can minimise any lengthy trekking.

Campsite Fire by the WaterIn the first instance you will need to make sure that you are legally allowed to camp in your chosen location – not on private property that is. Camping grounds are an obvious choice for instance and they will also potentially have access to fresh water or even showering facilities which would be an added bonus.

If you are not in a camping ground then make sure you have any necessary permits to camp in national parks or on other public land. Arrange them in advance if possible through the local ranger’s office or relevant parks and wildlife association.

In you are in a group and plan on cranking up the music, then be conscious of your surroundings and any other campers or nearby neighbours. Try to pick a location that is sheltered or protected from the elements (high winds). You should also remain conscious of how close you are to the water (high tide conditions) so aim for a stable flat and protected location.

(8) Packing Your Board

This is a great example of practice makes perfect. There will likely be some trial and error here so its important that you do a dry run on land; at home or in your backyard if possible. It might sound a tab annoying but think about how many adjustments you make when loading up the car on a big family trip for instance. It’s tough to nail it first go so sort it out before you set off for the water.

Paddle Board Camping

We’ve covered off all of the items that you need so now its time to make the most of your dry bags. Consider what you will want easy access to at the earlier stages of your journey (stow these items in your small dry bags) and then work your way back from there. It’s also a good idea to pack many of your items in separate bags within the actual dry bags. An added layer of water protection and easier to locate.

Now that you’re all packed you need to make sure that you are able to evenly distribute the weight across your board. Will you be using the boards existing bungee system only? Unlikely so having additional bungee cords, netting, carabiners and tie down straps will be useful. Noting where you will be standing, evenly distribute the weight between the front and rear of your board also ensuring that you are not too top-heavy as this too will affect your stability.

If you take a worse case scenario where your board capsizes for instance, think about whether your gear will be secure and water tight and how you will go about righting your board. Practicing how to get back on your board in the event that you do take a spill is also important but if you are comfortable that you have these bases covered then you should be in pretty good shape.

Over time, you will refine what you pack and how you pack and will no doubt find a balance that best suits you. Until then though, do your practice runs and work methodically through the process.

(9) Further Food For Thought

** All campers know that minimising your footprint and preserving nature and the wilderness is of utmost importance. If you can leave your camp site as if you were never there then well done.
** Have you adequately researched your camping site(s)? Know your destination and plan for any contingencies as needed.
** Your ultimate camping location considered, if you’re by the water in the warmer months in particular then insects and bugs can be a real nightmare. Consider packing extra netting for your tent and load up on your repellent. Citronella Candles are also a nice option as well.
** Also think about any mammals of the non-human variety that may be in the vicinity of your campsite. They were there first so play it safe.

On the surface it does seem like a hell of a lot of kit but when you consider your mode of transport (SUPing) the potential remoteness of your location, your safety considerations and other, then its easy to appreciate that many of the about items are quite important.

<< Want to learn more about Stand Up Paddle Boarding Etiquette >>

Paddle Board Camping key takeaways:

– ensure that you practice and have a level of competency on your SUP and in particular once it is loaded up with all of your gear.
– please do not overlook the importance of packing and stowage of your gear on your board. Practice and adjust as many times as you need. Lugging around wet clothing, redundant appliances and sodden food will be very unpleasant if you do end up in the drink so lets get it right up front.
– select your campsite carefully and plan ahead in terms of permits and general logistics.
– expect the unexpected in terms of the weather and plan accordingly.
– make a comprehensive paddle or float plan and ensure than others are aware of these proposed movements.
– lastly, have some fun and make the most of it. We would be more than happy to critique a few of your pics so feel free to send them in!!

We hope this Post proves useful but as always we would love to hear from you so please feel free to leave your comments below and we will get back to you.

Until then, stay safe and get wet.

14 thoughts on “Paddle Board Camping – the Complete Beginners Guide”

  1. Thank you for all this advice! I have never tried paddle board camping but it does look like a great deal of fun. It is really good to know about all the equipment, preparation and practice I need to ensure I stay safe and I will certainly heed your advice. With winter coming I should have time to see what equipment that you recommend will suit me and maybe add some to my list for Santa!


    • Nice one Maddie and I’m glad you found it useful. If you’re the adventurous outdoors type then combining paddle boarding and camping/trekking together is brilliant. Baby steps as I suggest but do let me know if you do give it a go.

      All the best – Jason.

  2. Your article is so informative, very thorough! You have covered pretty much all of the info needed for a first timer like me. I’m going to forward this to someone I know who is into paddle boarding and camping but I don’t think has ever combined the two.

    QUESTION: What would be a good resource to find good spots for paddle board camping?

    • I’m glad you found the post useful Glenn. Even for first timers or novices, its a great sport to get into or give a try so well worth considering.

      There are obviously a bunch of different resources you can consult in terms of locations and a lot will depend on where you live (country and region). The U.S National Parks Service – is a fairly good place to start although they cover off parklands that are not necessarily on the waterways. If you let me know what state you live in then I’d be happy to suggest a few more options.

      All the best – Jason.

  3. I haven’t tried paddle boarding but we do spend a fair amount of time sailing. A paddleboard is certainly worth trying as it is light and could easily be stowed aboard. With any water activities, planning ahead and keeping your eye on the weather is essential. Even with a great forecast, squalls can pop up out of nowhere.

    You’ve also touched on clothing and hypothermia which is a real threat if you have no dry clothes to put on when you get out of the water.

    Thanks for this great post. I think we have a new activity to try next summer. Is it difficult to learn? Can you take lessons somewhere?

    • Hi Deb and thanks for your comments.

      Its actually not that difficult to learn and with your sailing experience (active on the water, balance etc.) you’d have no problems. Practice makes perfect and taking a lesson or two is always a nice introduction if you are unsure. Perhaps take a read of these Beginners Tips as that will likley assist.

      All the best – Jason.

  4. This article is really useful. It does cover everything you need to know for paddle board camping! I’ve never done it before so every piece of information you give is so useful.

    I think doing your research is key before venturing out in to something like this otherwise you could find yourself in some very difficult situations.

    Thanks for the info.

    • Thanks for your comments Amy. Your totally correct, anything to do with water and equally camping does have its challenges so being prepared is key. I hope you do get the opportunity to give it a go one day.

      All the best – Jason.

  5. Great points, ideas and advice Jason.
    This is most definitely a place that I would refer anyone I know wanting to go paddle board camping! You have given some extremely useful information.
    Another key takeaway that I got from you post was, when we do something for the first time there will be mistakes so we learn as we go. Very true…great read!

    • Thanks for the thumbs up Ashley, appreciated. Paddle boarding in any of its variations is great so if you’re yet to give it a try then get it on your list.

      Thanks for the feedback and take care – Jason.

  6. Wow, this article was very interesting. My goal is to get an inflatable paddleboard next year, but I’ve never even thought about camping with it. A lot of the same rules apply when camping traditionally, but these are some great things to consider. I am feeling super inspired, thank you! 🙂

    • Glad you found the article useful Courtney. Do let us know how you go or if we can give you any guidance in terms of suggested paddle boards.

      Take care – Jason.

  7. Thanks this informational post. I have heard of paddle board camping, but I have never thought that there is so much preparation and equipment involved. What would your advice be to a complete beginner who have never tried paddle boarding before?


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