Unlike a sea kayak which may have one to two internal storage hatches, on a sup, we have less space to pack gear. That said making smart choices for what you really need on your trip will help reduce weight and keep your balance. Use my SUP overnight packing list as a checklist and to be better prepared so you have more fun on your next trip.
14′ Paddle Boards are Better for Trips
Longer SUPs are better for trips because can go further, easier and store more gear out of the way of your standing area. Long means 14′ or longer. There are a few hard boards longer than 14′ and I’m not sure if there’s still 17′ inflatables on the market anymore.
But of course, using what you have works too if you’re not interested in longer distances or are just starting out.
Longer boards do allow your to stack gear leaving more standing room which helps with stepping back comfortably to avoid pearling in downwind and surf conditions. Or adjusting your feet or finding a place to sit during a long haul.
Touring Board Width Tip – Aim for no less than 28″ wide for long trips to keep your legs and feet healthy. Karl Kruger choose this length for his Race to Alaska custom board from Bark. Less will mean feet and leg pain after standing for long periods of time. Narrow isn’t always faster.
14′ Inflatables – Check out Starboard, Red, NRS and Imagine have 14′ inflatable board which are quite good.
14′ Carbon / Fiberglass – Bigger selection from SIC, Starboard, Boardworks, NSP, Sunova, etc.
Unlimited Length (14’+) – Sunova, SIC
18′ Build Your Own Carbon Kit – Splinter SUP (site coming)
Custom Designs from – Bark, Kings, Echo Composites,
I have two custom UL or unlimited boards 17′ and 18′ which are super fast, can carry a lot of gear and can handle any conditions including surf. Brandon Davis of Splinter SUP in Port Townsend, WA makes custom kit built 18’x24″ boards that have full internal storage like a kayak.
Outfitting a SUP
For attaching gear to your board, you can use existing D-Rings on inflatables (or glue some on), leash plugs on hard boards (or add them), or add 3rd party tie-down points such as the NSI spectra loop plugs which I’ve used for years. NSI product is so good, I even use it as a leash plug.
Instead of using the existing bungee which is flexible thus may not hold gear in waves and wind, I instead run a strong thin rope through the four attachment points (D-Rings or leash plugs) to make a square shape. Then place my gear bag in the middle of the square, and attach the bag down with a car rack strap threading the strap on both sides through the square rope shape. Tighten the strap as needed.
Always test your gear tie-downs before a trip to make sure it’s balanced, not too heavy and won’t loosen up especially if you flip the board.
I double dry bag everything as I don’t trust single dry bags to keep my gear dry. Everything leaks at some point. Or at least do this for important dry items like a down sleeping bag.
Rack Straps – Bring 2 bright colored 8-10′ long rack straps to cinch down your gear on your board. At camp, suspend to dry gear or tie down a tarp or tent.
My Gear for 1 to 2 Night Trips
Tip: To carry less, I bring gear that have multiple functions.
MSR Pocket Rocket Stove and 1 fuel canister, lighter, backup waterproofed matches, foil wind protector, metal cup for soups or coffee/tea, titanium cookware.
O Meals are a food option that requires adding any type of liquid to it’s pouch which ignites it’s heater thus warming the food in the pouch. This means no need for a stove, unless you need coffee. I even used a pouch’s steam which spews out, to keep warm on a cold morning! For dinner I like the Pasta Fagioli and for breakfast, the Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal.
Coffee – Like many, I’m a fan of the instant Starbucks packets but they do create a waste issue. The MSR MugGate coffee filter can be re-used and works for tea too.
Tent: 1-2 person tent or bivy sack.
Bivy – If I’m solo and to save space and weight, I’ll use a bivy sack. The bivies these days have a raised upper body area so the fabric isn’t in your face, kinda like a mini one person tent. Bivies are also great for day trips to sit in half way at breaks to stay warm on chilly days. I use the Outdoor Research Interstellar Accent Shell bivy.
Sleeping Bag – Choose bags that pack small and light such as those from Big Agnes. Or innovative bags by Thermarest. Choose a temp rating for the temps you’ll be in. Down packs smaller and lighter but can’t get wet, so double dry bag it. You can add temperature boosting silk liners to increase warmth but not weight and space. So I may get a 55F bag but add a liner or wear long johns to compensate.
Sleeping Pad – To save space the Thermarest Neo Air series and no-fill foam Z-Lite pads pack to nothing, don’t add weight or much space. Double them by using to sit on the shore.
I cut my Z-Lite in half (length) and added velcro strips to attach together. That allowed me to store it smaller and use either half by itself as a seat.
On Land Clothing
Warm Clothing – Here in the Northwest, even a summer evening can be chilly. Down or synthetic ‘puffy coats’ are super warm yet also compress small as well. I get cold, so in cooler weather, I’ll bring two – one with a hood and other hoodless. But both pack small. I can interchange both per changing conditions or wear both at the same time, or in place of a sleeping bag on minimalist trips.
I also like a larger puffy to fit over my wetsuit during paddling breaks on cooler days. Also, I use synthetic thermal tops/bottoms, wool or related warm sock for evenings or in the sleeping bag.
This of course varies per condition and weather.
I’m a full 4/3mm and 5/4mm wetsuit fan, some like dry-suits or dry-tops and bottoms options by NRS and Varikobi. It depends on the conditions, water and air temp, whether I’m in rough water or glassy calm.
Hi-Vis Clothing – Super bright colored (not white) shirts for visibility on-water. These days most of our community are wearing hi-vis clothing for all paddling.
Footwear – Sandals in warmer months. I may keep my NRS Freestyle Wet Shoes on for tide pooling or rocky beach walks. Adding a neoprene liner for colder temps or worn with sandals.
Backpacking Pants – Super light, dries quickly, could double as paddle pants on hot days to keep sun off legs.
Shorts – Synthetic material for drying quickly. Or backpacking pants that zip-off.
Compression Tights for long distance paddles. Wetsuits can act as compression tights.
Wallet contents in a plastic waterproof wallet. I use the Seattle Sports phone cases as a wallet.
Sunglasses on retainer strap
Phone in a waterproof bag or case on a string attached to your PFD or deck bag.
Warm hat or beanie – For cooler camp evenings or days. Neoprene skull cap could suffice.
Headlamp for camp and night paddling. I also use a twist-on Guardian light on the rear of my PFD for night paddling.
Watch – I use the Vivo-active by Garmin to track my heart rate and route. Turn off all unnecessary functions to save battery.
Small Ultra-Light Backpack – To carry our gear to shore or for on-shore hikes and walks.
Hydration – I use the Kokatat hydration system that attaches to the back of my PFD. I’ll carry two 1.5 litre bladders for distance paddling. And keep an eye out for marinas and other places with water sources.
Leash – Coiled leash worn on ankle, calf or waist PFD strap. *Attach to your PFD straps for any paddling in any current. And on your waist means you won’t be stepping on your leash
Fin – Surfco SuperFlex 9″ fin for hitting stuff, placing down on land and reducing injuries when falling off in surf. Consider a backup in remote areas.
PFD / Lifejacket – Always buy bright colors for visibility. If you get a waist C02, test it prior to the trip. Try on PFDs to find the best fitting option. They are comfortable if you find the right one. Strapping to your deck is a bad idea, especially if you’re not wearing a leash. I love the MTI Vibe for it’s easy comfort and big see-through pocket.
First Aid Kit / Repair Kit – Prescriptions, Tylenol/Advil/Aspirin, Neosporin, bandaids, super glue, chemical heat packs, fin screws, 5 min epoxy and fiberglass mat, foil tape, extra leash string, etc. U can make a mini-kit with a zip lock bag. Or purchase via NRS which has paddler’s First Aid kits.
Marine chart or map – Navigation apps are fun but if your battery dies or you can’t get reception, a map/chart will be a life saver. You can also pre-download marine charts to your phone. Bring a solar charger for the phone.
Or bring along a small printed version of your chart. Good apps for navigation include iNavx.
VHF Radio – Not all areas of coverage and u can use it as a walkie-talkie between friends, to check NOAA weather and/or to call the Coast Guard (or local authorities) in case of an emergency.
Check out my video on Packing a SUP for Overnight Trips for the former Canoe Kayak Magazine..
I offer SUP Private overnight tours on Puget Sound all year and can schedule pre-trip prep clinics www.salmonbaypaddle.com
Check out my paddling books:
SUP Touring Facebook Groups
Mine – Following my book – Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans (No just kayaking!)
Here’s a great one in British Columbia: SUP Touring Pacific NW