Tony Bain SUP knowledge – Pack to paddle

Words and pics: Tony Bain

I was on a four-day British Canoeing paddle sports leader coaching course in Scotland recently. At the end of the course the weather was looking great for a non-stop sojourn across the country by SUP. One of the guys from the course was amazed that after a weekend of paddling, rescues, water skills tests, teaching sessions and classroom lessons, I was even contemplating paddling across Scotland let alone non-stop. In total awe he headed home and I went to my start point at Inverness.

The Great Glen Canoe Trail is an amazing route whether it is a multi-day trip or a non-stop. Loch Ness is always the challenge, it is long – very long – and if you’re out there in the wrong conditions then it is unforgiving. The route is achievable by all at your own rate and as conditions suit, however, you need to have the right kit with you if you need to put ashore.

It was after the paddle when the question was asked regarding one of my Facebook pictures, “What did I carry in my deck bag?” He didn’t realise that I was taking such a big kit bag. Me being me answered, “Whatever you need for the paddle in question.” Every trip/paddle you take is different, each one has different risks and therefore has different kit requirements.

If you’re going down the beach with some friends and just going to launch and return within a short distance then you wouldn’t need to put anything on your board. You might consider taking a drink on a hot day, but that is probably it. You’ll have all your other stuff in a pile on the sand so all is good.

Tony Bain

Round the headland
If you are going to paddle around the headland to the next deserted beach for some quality sun, then chances are the water bottle will be joined by a whole raft of other things. I’m sure food, some extra clothes, towel, sunhat, sunscreen, camera and phone may be among your essentials. These would all fit in a smallish deck bag of around 20 litres.

For plans of paddling round the headland and camping on a deserted beach, staying overnight, then you are going to need a sleeping bag, shelter/tent, sleep mat, bivvy bag, more food, extra water bottle, cooker, cooking pot, eating utensils, rubbish bag, some warm clothes for the evening and wet weather kit in case conditions change – there could be more stuff you require as well.

As you can see with your paddles becoming more diverse and elongated then so does the amount of equipment you might have to carry.

Tony Bain

Yukon 1000 Canoe Race
If you were planning to travel to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada and take part in the Yukon 1000 Canoe Race, aiming to travel the 1,000 miles of the route, from Whitehorse to the Dalton Highway River Bridge (as seen in the TV programme Ice Road Truckers), you are going to need a little more kit, lots more food and general equipment. The race takes part in July (Tony will hopefully have already completed this as you read – ed) and lasts around 10 days. Appropriate planning and listing your must haves is therefore essential.

It sounds idyllic though doesn’t it? But when you think that there are Grizzly and Black bears fishing along the rivers at this time of year, busy replenishing their body fat stores ahead of the winter, maybe not so. They shouldn’t really bother us though but we need to be careful and set warning chords with bells on them to warn of approaching wildlife as we sleep. Our food needs to be kept in bear proof containers as well. All consideration’s for a trip at the slightly more extreme end of the spectrum such as this.

We will be miles from anywhere, hundreds of them. We will be using spot trackers so people can monitor where we are, how fast we are going and where we stop each night. We can call an SOS when we want, but can we communicate with the outside world if we really need to?

What say a bear mistakes one of us for a fish? Yeah, really, I know bears look so cute and cuddly, but it has happened. We may need to talk to someone real quick. Normally we would have a mobile phone with us. But way up there they don’t get coverage, so we will need a satellite phone or satellite communicator. The more tech we carry the more solar chargers/spare batteries etc we need to carry and the list goes on. Before long, 20 litres turns into 40 litres then into 85. That is when you realise that little 10’6” you normally paddle is going to have to get bigger – much bigger!

Tony Bain

Tony Bain is owner and operator of Green Dragon Activities. A qualified SUP instructor Tony is also the Fastest Local Bog snorkeller (20 secs off the world record) and the holder of the World Bathtubbing record for 100 metres in a time of 1 min 26.41 secs. Find out more at

Green Dragon SUP School in North Wales offers SUP beginner and improver sessions for individuals and groups. Fun water Activity sessions, SUP Polo arena, SUP Jousting and Jumbo board racing.

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