Air SUP-ply: Are Inflatable SUPs the Ultimate Camping Multi-tool?

SUPs in the alpine. Tim Emmett Catches the sunrise above the Squamish Valley on a lake-to-lake link up.

words & photography :: Jim Martinello.

In the world of self-powered exploration, every ounce matters. Having the right tools for the job can make the difference between a good trip or a slog; a comfy night or a sufferfest. Over the past eight years, I’ve realized that the key tool in my camping arsenal isn’t my fancy stove or my space-tech tent, it’s my stand-up paddleboard (SUP).

A few years ago, after an all-day whitewater extravaganza on the Chilcotin River, we crawled our way up a steep, slippery bank to a grassy plateau to pitch camp. As it does in the mountains, rain came slashing down in biblical proportions just minutes later. Using two boards to make walls and another two to make couches, we put a tarp over our instant living room and waited out the mother storm in comfort. We used our SUPs to get to camp; then used them to create camp.

In years to come, camping and adventuring became a whole new realm—inflatable boards determined where we could go, what we could bring and how much fun we could have. My boards have carried me through multi-day surf quests on the West Coast with the boys and paddle-in, bandit-camping with my family. We even paddled across an alpine lake, deflated and hiked over the mountains to relaunch in the ocean the next day. I’ve used my SUP as a bed, a table, a bench, a personal dock to belay a climbing partner from, and rafted up to make a party barge. I’ve paddled long trips carrying enough food to be self-supported for days on end. The SUP bounces off rocks and can take being dropped, dragged and finessed into some of the most beautiful spots in the Coast Mountains and beyond. They’re also easy to repair if a puncture occurs (which is rare unless you rake it across sharp barnacles or a grizzly bear decides to use it as a chew toy—I’ve seen it happen!).

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Pack it up, carry it on your back, toss it in the trunk of your car, or check it on an airplane—an inflatable SUP can be a true passport to accessing adventure and becomes the ultimate unsung hero at camp once you get there. The most versatile tool in the shed, inflatable SUPs have become indispensable friends, limited only to where we want to take them.

Double stacked. Jake Humphreys (left) and Dennis Flett ferry board-on-board up a tidal inlet. Nootka Island, BC.

Inflatable boards determined where we could go, what we could bring, and how much fun we could have.

The bug net is everything. Midway through a 13-day self-supported first descent of the Mountain River NWT.
SUPs are flocking awesome and so is this sea stack scenery. Jonathon Gilmour. Olympic Peninsula WA.
Just another floating hootenanny. Thomson River BC.
The post-work camping commute. Christina Tottle shuttles Brielle Martinello and Seanna Lawson across Howe Sound.

I’ve used my SUP as a bed, a table, a bench, a personal dock to belay a climbing partner from, and rafted up to make a party barge.

Sleep with one eye open. Trevor McDonald gets a fiery awakening on the banks of the Bella Coola River.

Comments

One thought on “Air SUP-ply: Are Inflatable SUPs the Ultimate Camping Multi-tool?

  1. This is soooooooo aweome. I live in Switzerland and we are also using iSUP for this types of adventuring. Love it!!

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