If you still believe rowing stand It’s just a resort sport, think again. SUPs are uniquely versatile, with a great crossover for surfing, racing and whitewater kayaking. Beyond those high-adrenaline ports, SUPs are also perfect for multi-day excursions — as long as you have the right kayaking gear.
I recently participated in a five-day SUP expedition at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. Kayaking between forest islands, maneuvering through breathtaking caves, camping on freshwater beaches – it was an adventure like no other. While a multi-day SUP expedition is completely doable for most kayakers, your success and safety depend on experience, preparation, and most importantly, bringing the right equipment. The 10 items below have helped us successfully navigate the turbulent and unpredictable waters of Lake Superior and will surely come in handy on any kayaking trip.
The best kayaking equipment for a multi-day expedition
1. NRS Escape 14 Inflatable SUP
Durable, stable and fast – the NRS Escape has proven to be a worthy board for expeditions. Although only 29 inches wide and loaded with more than 60 pounds of gear, the 14-foot inflatable board was incredibly stable and effective, even while battling choppy conditions and runaway inflation.
The Escape’s sturdy construction, including heavy-duty PVC stitch and double sidewalls, gave me peace of mind throughout the ride and easily held up against cave walls, rocky beaches, and even an impromptu surf session at Lake Superior.
Three-Piece Adjustable Paddle Black Project Ohana Travel
2. Black Project Ohana Travel Three Piece Adjustable Paddle
Having the right plank under your feet is essential, but an effective, sturdy paddle is just as important. Designed and tested in Maui, Black Project paddles are renowned for their exceptional performance, and the Ohana Three-Piece Travel Paddle did not disappoint.
The paddle is conveniently packaged down to fit in my travel bag and snaps together in seconds. Once the blade was dipped in water, I was impressed by the strength and stability of the scoop’s dual-deck blade design. Its high power on each stroke also significantly reduced fatigue, even on eight-mile rowing days. An added bonus: You can choose from three blade sizes and two shaft sizes to ensure the racket fits your body well.
3. NRS Astral GreenJacket PFD
Paddler PSA: Don’t become a statistic – always wear a life jacket and leash. Countless paddling tragedies occurred because people failed to put on their safety gear and got separated from their board during a fall. The Astral GreenJacket PFD is a top pick that never gets in the way of a paddle stroke, and its front clamshell pocket with multiple storage compartments provides easy access to important items like a compass, power rod and whistle. Plus, a unique cord storage compartment prevents coiled leashes from dragging in the water or getting tangled up in my dry bags.
4. Yeti panga 50 duffel
Dry bags are great for keeping your gear dry, but they aren’t great for reaching your items on the go. Yeti Panga offers kayakers the best of both worlds. The high-density nylon shell and molded EVA bottom easily held up against abuse, while the HydroLok Zipper allowed quick access to the middle of the gear paddle. And in testament to its waterproof barrier, not a single drop of water entered the Panga River—even as I flipped my board and bags upside down in the water while landing on the botched beach.
5. Kuiu Mountain Star Tent for Two Persons
Setting up your tent in the rain or wind is a frustrating experience – unless that tent has an integrated rain fly. The Mountain Star Tent for two people made by Kuiu, took less than five minutes to set up, and packed into a small suitcase weighing just over three pounds. The built-in rain fly can be removed easily if you want a view of the night sky, while the double cross-column design and horizontal roof truss create a stable structure unaffected by the Lake Superior gusts of wind. Dual vestibules and four internal storage pockets create ample space for organizing equipment, and two adjustable vents provide good air flow and low condensation inside the tent.
[Starting at $279; kuiu.com]
6. Kelty Cosmic Down 40 . Sleeping Bag
After a long day on the water, getting a good sleep is essential to recharge your body’s batteries. I snuck into my Kelty Cosmic Down sleeping bag thanks to its soft, lightweight nylon fabric and warm 550-fill down. Weighs less than two pounds and can easily fit into a small utility bag; It took up very little space inside my dry bag. Plus, a stowed interior pocket allows easy access to the headlight and notepad for late-night wandering.
7. Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System
No matter where your adventures take you, you will always need clean water. While the water quality of Lake Superior is excellent, we still filtered all of our water on my trip. Fortunately, the good old days of endless pumping or bad-tasting water purification pills are long gone: This Platypus gravity filter makes filtering water easier than ever.
At camp or even at rest stations, I simply filled the “dirty” tank with lake water, hung it from a tree branch, and then let gravity push the water through the fine filter into the “clean” tank. Within 10 minutes and with minimal effort, I had four liters of filtered water ready to drink
8. Garmin Instinct Solar Surf Edition
More than just a fitness watch, the Garmin Instinct Solar has provided my rowing crew with a wealth of valuable information. While real-time tide data would be invaluable on coastal excursions (not applicable to Lake Superior), the watch was primarily used to record daily racket stats, monitor our heart rate, and make sure we stayed on track.
When paired with Garmin inReach (SOLD SEPARATELY), the watch will provide weather alerts and waypoints for navigation (which has proven to be an invaluable feature during a particularly foggy morning), and can even send a distress message to GEOS Emergency Response Team If you get stuck. Best of all, you can access all of this information from your wrist, reducing paddling interruption.
9. ACR Artex Display ResQLink
During any SUP expedition, prepare for the unexpected. Bad weather can roll quickly, injuries can occur, and unexpected equipment failures cannot be ruled out – if you’re not prepared, you can easily find yourself in a bad situation. This is why it is a good idea to bring along a dedicated personal GPS beacon that can come to your rescue when all else fails. This floating device from ACR Artex requires no subscription and, when activated, will alert a network of search and rescue satellites exactly where you are using three signals, including GPS positioning, a strong 406MHz signal, and a 121.5MHz homing capability. A digital display will provide live beacon status and GPS coordinates, while a built-in strobe will aid in low-visibility rescues.
10. West Marine Standard Horizon HX300 Compact Hand Portable Floating VHF Radio
From listening to the latest National Weather Service update to communicating with your team, VHF radio is absolutely essential for marine expeditions. West Marine’s premium VHF checked these boxes and more: It also delivered a clear signal and excellent battery life. We hooked up radios to our life jackets to keep in touch with each other, which was especially useful when we’re scattered through the long crossings.
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