Words and Photos by Matt Hage
It was another hot summer in the Western States and our modus operandi for family backcountry trips was not jiving with the 90-degree days. We were getting tired of sweating it out beneath 60-pound loads every week with one of us carrying Dusty, our two year old, and the other hauling most of the gear.
With no end in sight for the triple digit temps in Central Oregon, we decide to try something new – stand up paddleboard (SUP) camping. It’s like backpacking without the end of day strain on your shoulders and hips. And there’s a lot more swimming. Oh yeah, and you can bring a small cooler of beer.
Armed with a SHUBU Solr inflatable SUP and a Kraken SUP from Boardworks Surf, we had little carrying capacity. Staying true to our family backcountry mode, all the gear is very small and light. We use a Mesh House 3 tent from MSR that packs to the size of a water bottle and weighs less than a pound. Our sleeping and cooking systems are equally minimalistic, especially on warm summer nights. After loading all the gear into a single dry bag, we found there was still plenty of room for some camp comforts: toys for Dusty and a small cooler for Mom and Dad. Just like backpacking, Dusty rode with one of us and the other shipped most of the gear.
We chose Sparks Lake, a multi-arm crystal water gem in Oregon’s Cascade Lakes, for our maiden voyage family SUP camping. It was a couple hour paddle out to the furthest arm where we found a good spot to set-up camp. After taking care of Dusty’s first dinner (some nights there are three), we took the boards out for an evening paddle unencumbered. We were able to explore the nooks and crannies of the lake’s volcanic shoreline and easily return to camp before dark. After second dinner we eased into camp chairs and sipped cold beers while watching Dusty tirelessly pitch rocks into the lake. We could already foresee much more SUP camping in the near future.