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December 06, 2021 11 min read

What Is SUP Camping?

Two yellow inflatable paddle boards below a hammock

It was only a matter of time before the SUP world and camping were combined in a complete awesome adventure package. SUP camping takes your expedition further, allowing you to explore more and create some surreal memories. If you love outdoor adventure, then this is the next thing you have to try!

Why not make a full weekend of paddle boarding? Pitch your tent up lakeside or hang your hammock anywhere along the riverbank. Completely immerse yourself into the great outdoors with SUP camping.

There are two styles of paddle board camping that you can try. 

  1. Set up a base camp and explore the local area, returning to camp each day.
  2. Pack all your camping gear on your SUP, pitching as you go.

Obviously, the first style is more relaxed and better suited for beginner paddle boarders. The second style is ideal for thrill-seekers who want to have a proper adventure.

Regardless of what type of camper you are, we’ve compiled all the details you need to have a successful SUP camping experience. From which paddle board is best for the job to a packing list of essential items everyone forgets, GILI has got you covered!

Best SUP Type For Camping Trips

Yellow GILI Adventure inflatable paddle board beside lake

SUP camping is something you can do on most types of paddle board. However, we recommend choosing a board that has been specifically designed with touring in mind, and will provide plenty of deck space to store your gear. 

Some key features you should consider when choosing a paddle board for camping trips are:

  • Width– a wider SUP is more stable and offers more space to load up gear. Ideally, you need a width of over 31”.
  • Length– longer boards are easier to paddle, gaining more speed on flat water. This is a blessing if you’re tackling long distances. The best length is between 11’ and 12’, depending on your personal preference.
  • Volume/Buoyancy– volume equates to stability, which is crucial for carrying bags and additional equipment. More buoyancy also means the deck will be out of the water so your gear won’t get soaked.
  • Inflatable– lightweight, stable, and durable. Inflatable paddle boards perform extremely well as touring boards. 
  • Attachment points– you need plenty of D-ring attachment points to secure your camping gear down using bungee cords.

All of the GILI Sports paddle board collection are ideal for SUP camping. Our top pick is the GILI Adventure Inflatable Paddle Board. This board is perfect for any adventure, crafted for utility, touring, and performance. 

What To Pack – SUP Camping Checklist

Packing for any trip can be stressful. Let us make your life easier with a few helpful reminders on gear you will need to pack to make your SUP camping trip epic.

You need to consider four categories of gear: SUP equipment, safety gear, camping gear, and food and water

Trust us, packing your kit is the hardest part of SUP camping! You need to pack light, smart, and efficiently, saving space and weight on your paddle board. 

SUP Equipment

GILI Meno Stand up paddle board at the shore

Your SUP is your vessel of transport and lifeline for the adventure. Prepare this well for a solid foundation for SUP camping adventures.

Safety Gear

Two paddle boarders on a long inflatable paddle boards

With these essentials on board, you’ll be ready for any scenario that comes your way.

  • PFD (personal flotation device)/safety life jacket
  • Whistle and light (sometimes included with a PFD)
  • Ditch bag (a small dry bag to store valuables and stays attached to you at all times)
  • First aid kit
  • Handheld radio/phone for communication
  • Waterproof map
  • Permits (if needed)
  • Nylon rope (50 feet)
  • Flares and matches (kept in a dry bag)
  • Sunscreen

Camping Gear

Camping gears essential

Camping gear checklists can go on and on. Here is a quick list of things you will definitely need to make your paddle board camping trip a success.

  • Tent or hammock – make sure you go compact and lightweight to save on space
  • Dry bags (various sizes) – to store the gear!
  • Sleeping bag – consider mosquito nets for comfortable sleeping
  • Small camping stove and gas 
  • Clothes (quick-dry fabrics) – enough for the duration of your trip
  • Hat for sun protection or warmth
  • Toiletries – a toothbrush is a must!
  • Multi-tool 
  • Compass
  • Torch or headlamp
  • Garbage bag
  • Insect repellent
  • Solar charger/power bank

Food and Water

SUP camping food

Are you going to be paddling the deepest depths of the wilderness? There probably won’t be a convenient restaurant perfectly located along your route. So you need to prepare all your fuel to power those paddling arms. 

Easy to cook, traditional camping meals are what you need.

  • Nuts and cereal bars for snacks or light breakfast
  • Dried fruit or meat (like beef jerky)
  • Dehydrated foods
  • Halloumi
  • One-pot meals
  • Milk powder
  • Instant coffee
  • Tinned tuna
  • Tinned beans, etc.

You also need to think about water. Staying hydrated is a must for any adventure, but carrying gallons of water with you onboard could weigh you down. Why not invest in specialized filters or treatment tablets to use the water you’re surrounded by? All you need then is your trusted water canister or bottle.

How To Plan Your SUP Camping Trip

The key to a successful SUP camping trip is careful planning. Plan, prepare, perform. The three P’s to success!

You need to think about the following questions:

  • What is your paddle boarding experience?
  • Have you got the best kind of SUP for touring?
  • Where are you planning to paddle?
  • How many days?
  • How many miles are you going to cover?
  • What’s the weather going to be like?

Location and Paddle Board Skill Level 

Location, location, location – it really matters! Are you planning to take on the ocean currents or explore the lesser-known banks of the great Lake Michigan? Maybe a river is calling your name to paddle amongst the wildlife. The possibilities are endless!

However, paddle board locations each come with their own set of hazards to consider, some more suited to experienced paddle boarders than others. Make sure you aren’t planning a trip through a location that’s out of your depth – skill wise.

We recommend beginner SUP campers take it easy for the first trip. Perhaps take on a lake to begin with, moving on to river exploration once you’re more experienced.

Length and Distance

The number of days and miles to cover is a crucial piece of the SUP camping planning puzzle. First, you need to decide how long you want to be away. Then you need to map out the route for your trip. 

For your first SUP camping tour, you probably only want to take on 5 miles per day. Remember, you can start small and build it up from there.  

How To Load Your SUP For A Camping Trip

Man on a blue GILI Manta with cooler

So you’ve got all your gear packed in dry bags, coolers, and waterproof duffel bags. Next, you need to load up your paddle board properly. We recommend you practice this at home before your epic trip begins. This way, you can iron out any issues you might have and adjust your gear accordingly. 

The weight needs to be evenly distributed across your SUP with slightly more weight towards the back so the nose doesn’t dip in the water – that includes your weight too! You’ve got all the space on both the nose and the tail to secure your gear in place using bungee cords and carabiner clips. 

Load up your heavier gear (like tents, stoves, and coolboxes) at the back of the board, saving the nose for the lightweight dry bags. Try to keep everything as close to the center of the board as possible, to avoid an imbalance to one side and risk everything falling in (including you!) 

Don’t worry if it takes you a few trips to find the perfect way to load your SUP for the camping trip. It may be different each time you go as well, depending on what gear you take and even the season you plan to take the tour.

Where To Camp On SUP Camping Trips

Choosing the right place to set up camp when paddle boarding is just like any outdoor adventure. Everyone wants something different from where they stay, but there are some basic principles that you follow:

  • Make sure it’s discreet (ie. not in a residential area)
  • Don’t stay on private land (unless you have the permission of the landowner)
  • Avoid narrow river valleys in case of flooding
  • Near to drinking water, if possible
  • Sheltered and on flat, dry land
  • Somewhere with a great view 

You may be able to find campgrounds along your route that are nearby the water, or maybe even directly on the water edge. These may have amenities and facilities that would help make your camping experience more luxurious and easier. 

Otherwise, wild camping makes for great stories! Remember to prepare your gear well, map out your route, and be respectful of the great outdoors. But most importantly, enjoy your night sleeping under the stars in nature!

Key Things To Consider When SUP Camping

Man and a woman paddle boarding in river

Just like every camping trip, there are some key things you need to keep in mind when adventuring and exploring the wilderness. And when you add in the elements of water and your paddle board, you’ve got more key aspects to consider. 

Bugs 

Unfortunately, stepping into nature comes at a cost, and that cost is bugs. Depending on the season, you run the risk of mosquitoes and midges, especially as your camping trip is on the water. 

Make sure you pack insect repellent and spray yourself regularly throughout the day and night. You may even want to invest in a repellent band and mosquito net if you’re planning to sleep in a hammock. If your route is particularly bad for bugs, consider wearing loose and long sleeve clothing. 

Tides

You may need to think about tide times, depending on where your SUP camping trip takes you. As well as the ocean, some rivers and big lakes have tides. You’ll find out this information when you are planning and researching the location for your trip.

Weather

Don’t let the weather stop you! We can’t always be guaranteed sunshine and warm temperatures. The weather can change at the flip of a switch in some places. Make sure you have packed the best clothes you can for the forecasted weather on your trip. 

Equally, if you’re expecting hot weather, be sure to wear plenty of sun protection and a hat. You don’t want to get sunstroke mid-trip!

Wildlife

When researching the location, you should be looking into what wildlife you may encounter. Water spaces are full of incredible creatures, from birds and fish to large mammals and potentially dangerous snakes. You need to know what you’re up against and if there is anything you need to avoid at all costs. 

Some parts of the USA have bears, while other regions have alligators or sharks. But not everything is out to get you. Why not make a list of cool animals you could see on the trip, ticking them off as you go. After all, this is what exploring the great outdoors is all about.

Terrain

Terrain means both the water and the land along your route. Are you going to have to hike through certain areas? Maybe the river gets shallow in places and you should use shorter river fins to avoid damage. All of this needs to be considered before you head out with your paddle board for a camping trip.

Leave No Trace

Leave only footprints behind, or in this case, the wake of your paddling trail. Leave nature as you found it after each overnight stay. Take all your trash home with you and always be respectful of the wild. Leaving no trace behind means the activity can be continued by others, and yourself, in the future!

Top Tips For SUP Camping Success

Man holding his GILI Meno inflatable paddle board

Want some more tips to help you along the way? Here are some hacks to make your SUP camping experience even better!

  1. Use your SUP as a bed if you haven’t got a hammock and you want to sleep off the ground. A paddle board is also great for taking an afternoon nap in the sun on the shoreline.
  2. If the wind is getting into your campfire or stove, use the SUP as a windbreak to shield while cooking.
  3. Always carry a repair kit, for both inflatable paddle boards and epoxy boards. You never know when you may need it.
  4. Switch between standing, kneeling, and sitting when paddling long distances. This will help keep your muscles intact for the full trip. 
  5. Practice a self-rescue with gear on the SUP. We all fall in the water sometimes!
  6. Do a dry run of the route, or segments of the route, without camping gear so you know the terrain and where you’re going to camp. 
  7. Take friends! Paddling with a buddy or two is always more fun than going solo, and it’s safer too.
  8. Take a camera. You’re bound to see some breathtaking views and maybe even some cool wildlife.
  9. Have a backup float plan in case things go wrong. You need to know what to do if you fall in as well as if the weather turns, or your route gets inhibited. 

Wrap Up: Preparing For A SUP Camping Weekend

There you have it! Preparing for a SUP camping weekend could not be easier with all these tips and tricks to help you out. With the best preparation, you’re guaranteed to have an epic adventure. 

For beginner SUP tourers, remember to start off small and build it up. There’s no need to be overly ambitious for your first paddle board camping adventure. 

Always check the weather, pack light, familiarize yourself with your SUP and gear, and plan your route properly.  And most importantly, have fun! Go SUP camping and have the time of your life.

FAQ’S

🏆 How do I plan a SUP camping trip?

Planning a SUP camping trip can be broken down into three key areas: your gear, your skill, and the route. Your stand up paddle board gear needs to be up for the task, and your camping equipment needs to be compact enough to load on your SUP. You need to be comfortable handling your SUP in a range of water conditions. And the route needs to be carefully mapped out to match your skill, the length of your trip, and the seasonal conditions.


👍 How do I pack for a SUP camping trip?

Packing for a SUP camping trip needs to be efficient and smart. Compact and lightweight are the two most important aspects of gear you need. Use a packing list to make sure you don’t forget anything. Dry bags, waterproof duffels, and coolers can be secured to your SUP deck using bungee cords and carabiner clips. 


🏝️ Do I need to take all my food and water with me on a SUP camping trip?

The amount of food and water you take with you depends on the route you are paddling. There may be places to eat nearby the water, but you need to make sure they are open before banking on them for your meals. 

If you are taking food, make sure you pack high protein and one-pan meal ingredients that won’t perish in a coolbox. A camping favorite is a time-old classic, chilli con carne followed by marshmallows for dessert! 

Water is a super important item you need to consider when planning a SUP camping trip. Invest in a water filter or tablets to purify the water, and make sure you take enough bottles and collapsible canisters with you.


❓ What paddle board is best for a SUP camping trip?

Inflatable paddle boards are the best for SUP camping trips because they have loads of volume, are super stable, and are durable. The GILI Adventure iSUP is perfect for touring, made with adventure in mind. The high volume means your gear won’t get wet as you paddle along flat water, and you’ll be amazed at how much camping equipment you can fit on top of the SUP.

Abi Leach
Abi Leach


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