After being asked by the woman at Lake Powell SUP how adventurous she was, my mom replied, “EXTREMELY.” That is the moment my SUP camping career spontaneously began.
Planning only to rent paddleboards for a few hours the following day, we found ourselves leaving the shop at 5 pm with two boards strapped to the top of my mom’s Subaru. We used black garbage bags as dry bags for our gear and, to save on space and weight, my 64-year-old mom packed a foil car shade as a sleeping pad.
Since then, we have dialed in our gear but even on that impromptu and hastily planned trip, we had a spectacularly fun adventure. The first step is getting out there and finding out what works for you. Here are some tips to get you started.
Pack all the non-negotiables.
If you are planning a new or ambitious route, take a map (keep your map dry in a Ziploc or invest in a waterproof map cover).
Pick an adventure buddy and make sure each person has a PFD (personal floation device), leash, repair kit (if you are rocking an inflatable board), plenty of water, and a Wag Bag for sanitation.
It is better to pack fewer luxury items than leave behind any of the non-negotiables. Keep yourself safe so you can go on future adventures.
Tackle a manageable route.
Start with a simple overnighter on a lake you have paddled before. On my first trip, we cautiously camped within eyesight of the parking lot. Tell a friend where you are paddling, where you intend to camp and when they should expect to hear from you. There’s no need to be the Aron Ralston of Stand Up Paddleboarding.
Have cell service? Drop your friend a pin.
Prioritize your gear.
For this first trip, you don’t need to invest in an ultralight tent or watch hundreds of YouTube tutorials on how to rig a tarp shelter but do aim to pack the minimum amount of gear you need to make the trip enjoyable.
Check the weather forecast—can you forgo your tent’s rain fly? Or a tent altogether? If you are camping on sand, are you willing to camp without your sleeping pad?
We all have a few luxury items that help add to our enjoyment. For this trip, place emphasis on “a few.” Decide what yours are and think creatively about possible accommodations or substitutions.
For me, a sweatshirt stuffed into my sleeping bag stuff sack is only an adequate “pillow” for one night; on longer adventures I bring an inflatable pillow. My mom requires extra rations of chocolate. I bring a premixed margarita in a Nalgene instead of a six pack.
Also decide which luxury items can be left behind. Do you NEED that SUP Buddy suction-cup drink holder? Your waterproof speaker? And you know what? Your answer might just be yes. Prioritize.
Plan easy, straightforward meals.
This is not the time for your gourmet dutch oven creations. Uninterested in freeze dried backpacking meals? Consider making a package of shelf stable ravioli (Trader Joes has good options) using a backpacking stove.
My mom and I complement a meal by eating packaged salads straight from the bag. Instant oatmeal and instant coffee are always camping breakfast classics but if you aren’t into the “instant” life, bring along a premade breakfast burrito you can eat cold and a camp mug with a French press insert. Bring a chocolate bar or some Smashmallows for dessert.
No room for Gatorade? Pack some Nuun tablets to add to a water bottle. Remove any unnecessary packaging before you go and bring a bag for packing out garbage/recycling– Ziploc double zipper is my go-to.
My mom and I pulled off our first trip without a gear-rigging test run before we left. Most of the pros advise against this! If you are feeling anxious, organize all your gear ahead of time and practice attaching it to your board. Carabiners and bungee cords are your friends. Make a gear checklist to ensure you remember all the non-negotiables.
Once you’ve done your prep, go test it out! Take note of what worked and what needs to be adjusted for next time. Slather on some sunscreen and paddle your heart out!