Stand Up Paddle Camping Tips

Stand Up Paddle Camping

After getting really comfortable on a stand up paddle board I thought I’d take it one more step and do some stand up paddle camping.  I honed in on a paddle from Isthmus Cove in Catalina to Avalon because it was close but far enough off the map to make it an adventure.  It’s the perfect first trip with some great places to camp (Rippers Cove & Goat Harbor).  One of the things I really experimented with was getting my gear down to just the necessities because I didn’t want to overload the SUP or make it more unstable.   I was able to pack everything into 3 dry bags which I separated into my 3 zones: Zone 1 – Sleep, Zone 2 – Eat, and Zone 3 – Clothing and other safety essentials. With those 3 bags and one water bag the board was balanced and didn’t feel overloaded. Here’s what I had in each of the bags.

Dry Bag Zone #1 (Sleep) Sea to Summit (20L)

Tent – REI Halfdome (2-person) – If you are doing it on y0ur own go for a small one man and cut down on some weight and bulk.  Or no question a one man if your paddle partner snores or has any sort of flatulence issues.  This can be a deal breaker when camping so plan well.

Sleeping Bag – Marmot Trestles (30-degree)  – In Southern California this is perfect bag but depending on time of year and location obviously check with your local outdoor adventure store. This kept me nice and toastie and if it became warm I just unzipped a bit and got it to the perfect temp.

Air Mattress – Primaloft Insulated Air Core (20 x 72 x 3.25) – I have trouble sleeping on air mattresses but I did pretty good on this one.  It was a bit to slender for me but better than nothing.  

Inflatable Pillow – Cocoon Ultralight AirCore Travel Pillow & Thermarest Compressible Pillow – Both of these were great, easy, and very lightweight.  Go with one pillow for your head and if you’re like me and need one between your legs bring the compressible pillow as well and just stuff some of your dirty clothes in it and it makes for a very nice rest.

Dry Bag Zone #2 (Food)

Stove – Jetboil FlashI can’t say enough about this stove.  It’s perfect if you are planning on boiling water for your “add water and shake” food.  It’s easy to set-up and it boiled the water very fast, which is key especially when you have a hungry adventure buddy or a girlfriend who hasn’t had her coffee yet.  

MSR Isopro Fuel (2) – Bring 2 small canisters.  You’ll have plenty of it left over but they are small so you might as well just be safe and take one as a safety should anything happen to the the other one.

Ready Made Meals (just add water) – Mountain House – Visit any REI, Adventure 16, or other adventure outlets and you’ll find a wide assortment of meals.  Try some of them out before you go just so you know what you’re getting and will know what it tastes like.  I made the mistake of bringing a scrambled egg mix from one brand and it was awful.  Everything else was good but that and if I would have tasted it I would not have picked that for breakfast every morning.  Also make sure and get some instant coffee you can just add to your coffee mug in the morning and pour hot water over. Nothing better than a cup of coffee in the early morning.

Snacks – Completely up to your taste but bring them…they are nice little items you can grab as you’re on the journey.  They could be energy bars, some candy bars, crackers, chips, apples, etc.  This is just the munchie food along the way.

Utensils – Go with a spork.  It’s utility and it’s super cool to have a spork. When done with the journey keep your spork in the silverware drawer and wow your friends with your adventurous taste in fine silver or aluminum.

Dry Bag Zone #3 (Additional Clothing + Safety Gear)

Extra Clothing – For just a couple of days bring an extra change of clothes that will keep you warm at night and that’s really it.  Also, if you plan on hiking bring the right shoes as it is very easy to sprain your ankle in all the rocky and steep areas on the island.  That’s when the next item on the list would be helpful.

VHF Radio (to monitor weather and allow for emergency communication if necessary) – This is critical.  Don’t discount communication when you are on any trip.  When the iPhone is out of service range and you are bitten by a rattlesnake, break your leg or suffer a severe gash from a rock you’ll want another way to communicate and be able to talk to emergency personnel.

Office Light – Petzl Headlamp – This headlamp is comfortable to wear and throws some great light on your surroundings and comes in very helpful when you have to find you way around in the dark.

First Aid Kit – Adventure Medical Mountain Kit – It’s not like you are going to need a surgical kit to do an amputation or anything…at least you hope…so keep it small and only bring medical essentials fitted for the location. This was a very small  medical kit and very well organized.

GPS Device – Garmin GPSmap 60CSx – If you are well plan well then you should never need to use this.  It’s just there should you get lost although that is rather unlikely when you are paddling Catalina.  However if you are going deep into the wild it would be essential and highly recommended.  Study up on it as it’s a bit complicated but nothing a little manual reading won’t help.

Whistle – Just attach the whistle to the Life Vest and forget it’s there until you really need it which is hopefully never.

Knife and a Leatherman – You never know when these will come in handy but they are both essential.

Life Vest – SOSpenders Waist Vest I’m a good swimmer and know the ocean but when it comes to safety it’s just smart to have a flotation device when you are going long distances and you’re on your own.  This vest actually goes around your waist and doesn’t impair movement in any way.  To be honest I forgot I even had it on most of the time.

Water Bag – MSR Dromedary – The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day.  So assume this and add more because you are working out all day and also need enough water to boil your food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner depending upon what you have planned for your meals).  So really take a look at what you need and make sure you have well over that amount. Water is heavy and really puts a load on the board but it is the one major key in the journey.  Don’t underestimate.


Stand up paddle camping is an amazing get-away. If you choose the Isthmus Cove to Avalon trip then make sure and celebrate the end of a great stand up paddle camping adventure with a Wiki Wacker at Luau Larry’s!  Feel free to comment with any questions about the trip.

1 Comment on Stand Up Paddle Camping Tips

  1. Thank You for sharing this article with us

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.