If you still think standup paddlboarding is just a resort sport, think again. SUPs are uniquely versatile, with significant crossover into surfing, racing, and whitewater paddling. Beyond those high-adrenaline niches, however, SUPs are also ideal for multi-day expeditions—as long as you have the right paddleboarding gear.
I recently took part in a five-day SUP expedition in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. Paddling between forested islands, maneuvering through breathtaking caves, and camping on freshwater beaches––it was an adventure unlike any other. While a multi-day SUP expedition is completely doable for most paddlers, your success and safety is contingent upon experience, preparation, and most importantly, bringing the right gear. The 10 items below helped us successfully navigate Lake Superior’s turbulent and unpredictable waters, and they’ll definitely come in handy on any paddling trip.
The Best Paddleboarding Gear for a Multi-Day Expedition
1. NRS Escape 14′ Inflatable SUP
Durable, stable, and fast––the NRS Escape proved itself to be an expedition-worthy board. Despite measuring only 29 inches wide and being loaded down with over 60 pounds of gear, the 14-foot inflatable board was incredibly stable and efficient, even while battling choppy conditions and unruly swells.
The Escape’s durable construction, including heavy-duty PVC drop-stitch and double sidewalls, gave me peace of mind throughout the trip and easily withstood run-ins with cave walls, rocky shorelines, and even an impromptu Lake Superior surf session.
Black Project Ohana Travel Three-Piece Adjustable Paddle
2. Black Project Ohana Travel Three-Piece Adjustable Paddle
Having the right board beneath your feet is essential, but using an efficient and durable paddle is just as important. Designed and tested in Maui, Black Project paddles are renowned for their exceptional performance, and the company’s Ohana Three-Piece Travel Paddle didn’t disappoint.
The paddle conveniently packed down to fit into my travel bag and snapped together in seconds. Once I dipped the blade into the water, I was impressed by the power and stability of the blade’s scooped dihedral design. Its high power-per-stroke also resulted in significantly reduced fatigue, even on eight-mile paddle days. Added bonus: You can choose between three blade sizes and two shaft sizes to ensure the paddle fits your body well.
3. NRS Astral GreenJacket PFD
Paddler PSA: Don’t become a statistic—always wear your lifejacket and leash. Countless paddling tragedies have occurred because people failed to wear their safety equipment and became separated from their board during a fall. The Astral GreenJacket PFD is a top-of-the-line option that never impeded my paddle stroke, and its clamshell front pocket with multiple storage compartments provided easy access to important items like a compass, power bar, and whistle. Plus, its unique rope storage compartment kept my coiled leashes from dragging in the water or getting tangled in my dry bags.
4. Yeti Panga 50 Duffel
Dry bags are great for keeping your gear dry, but they aren’t so great for accessing your stuff on the fly. The Yeti Panga offers paddlers the best of both worlds. The high-density nylon shell and EVA molded bottom easily withstood abuse, while the HydroLok Zipper allowed for quick access to gear mid-paddle. And in a testament to its watertight barrier, not a single drop of water made it inside the Panga—even when I flipped my board and bags upside down in the water during a bungled beach landing.
5. Kuiu Mountain Star Two-Person Tent
Setting up your tent in the rain or wind is a frustrating experience—unless that tent comes with an integrated rain fly. Made by Kuiu, the Mountain Star Two-Person Tent took less than five minutes to set up, and it packed down into a small bag that weighed just over three pounds. The integrated rain fly can be easily removed if you want a view of the night sky, while the double intersecting pole design and horizontal roof truss created a stable structure that wasn’t fazed by a Lake Superior wind storm. The dual vestibules and four internal storage pockets created ample room for organizing gear, and two adjustable air vents offered good air flow and reduced condensation inside the tent.
[Starting at $279; kuiu.com]
6. Kelty Cosmic Down 40 Sleeping Bag
After a long day on the water, getting quality sleep is essential to recharge your body’s batteries. I conked out in my Kelty Cosmic Down Sleeping Bag thanks to its soft nylon shell fabric and its lightweight and warm 550-fill down. It weighs less than two pounds and easily packs down into a small stuff sack; it took up very little room inside my dry bag. Additionally, an internal stash pocket allowed for easy access to my headlamp and notepad for late-night ramblings.
7. Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System
No matter where your adventures take you, you’ll always need clean water. While Lake Superior’s water quality is excellent, we still filtered all of our water on my trip. Thankfully, the old days of endless pumping or foul-tasting water purification pills are long gone: This gravity filter from Platypus makes it easier than ever to filter water.
At camp or even at rest stops, I simply filled up the “Dirty” reservoir with lake water, hung it from a tree branch, and then let gravity push the water through the microfilter and into the “Clean” reservoir. Within 10 minutes and with minimal effort, I had four liters of filtered water ready to drink
8. Garmin Instinct Solar Surf Edition
Much more than a fitness watch, the Garmin Instinct Solar provided my paddle crew with a wealth of valuable information. While real-time tide data would be invaluable for coastal expeditions (not applicable on tideless Lake Superior), I primarily used the watch to log our daily paddle stats, monitor my heart rate, and ensure we stayed on course.
When paired with a Garmin inReach (sold separately), the watch will provide weather alerts, navigation waypoints (which proved to be an invaluable feature during one particularly foggy morning), and can even send out an SOS to the GEOS emergency response team if you get into trouble. Best of all, you can access all of this information from your wrist, minimizing the interruption to your paddling.
9. ACR Artex ResQLink View
During any SUP expedition, you have to prepare for the unexpected. Bad weather conditions can roll in quickly, injuries can happen, and unexpected equipment malfunctions can’t be ruled out—if you aren’t prepared, you can easily find yourself in a bad situation. That’s why it’s a good idea to bring along a dedicated Personal Locator Beacon that can bail you out when all else fails. This floating device from ACR Artex requires no subscription, and when activated, it will alert a network of search and rescue satellites of your exact whereabouts using a trio of signals, including GPS positioning, a powerful 406 MHz signal, and 121.5 MHz homing capability. The digital screen will provide live beacon status and GPS coordinates, while an integrated strobe will help with low-visibility rescues.
10. West Marine Standard Horizon HX300 Compact Handheld Floating VHF Radio
From listening to the National Weather Service’s latest update to communicating with your team, a VHF radio is an absolute essential for marine expeditions. This premium VHF from West Marine checked those boxes and more: It also provided a clear signal and had excellent battery life. We attached the radios to our life jackets to stay in contact with one another, which was especially helpful when we spread out during longer crossings.
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