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Are You Ready for an Inflatable Paddle Overnighter?

You’re teetering on the precipice of packing your dry bag with all the essentials and spending the night on an island or beautiful shoreline on some favorite lake or river. How do you know if you’re ready? How do you know if you have enough experience? Check out this check list of preparedness before you head out on your first overnighter…


Once you have selected the waterway you want to adventure on for an overnighter, consider visiting the location and paddling the stretch a few times before the overnighter. Make sure you are familiar with the terrain and hydroscape before loading all the gear on your paddleboard or kayak. Outside of having visited the waterway, you’ll want to have a couple months of paddling under your belt and experience on the water to fall back on. If you feel you’re on the less experienced side, consider bringing a paddle buddy with more experience than yourself. A good rule of thumb – the more remote the location and the more miles you hope to complete, the more experience you should have going into the adventure. For your first time, don’t sandbag yourself – start with an easy win.


Some of the maneuvers you’ll want to dial in before the overnighter are paddling steady and strong when your vessel is loaded with gear, getting back in your vessel after a fall or ejection out, flipping your vessel back over in the event of a capsize, knowing how to patch a puncture, learning how to read and use a map, and gear familiarity. Be sure you have all the necessary pieces. Another resource for practicing is devising and completing a downriver bike shuttle trip. Although it isn’t an overnighter, you do have to change out gear twice and keep critical items with you on different legs of the trip. Practicing these logistics is similar to executing a paddle overnight. 

Cross training 

Have you backpacked before? Have you done big, all day hikes? Have you rock climbed before? Have you read a crag guide book? Have you bike toured before? These are all relevant to overnight paddling experiences that will give you a ton of crossover knowledge. Feel empowered to harness previous wilderness experiences and learnings and apply them to your paddle over nighter.

Gear, logistics and provisions 

For a detailed listing of preferred gear, logistics and favorite provisions, see these blog posts: How to Plan an Overnighter and Top 7 Overnighter Must Haves.


If you are as safety focused as me, here are some suggestions to set you up for success. Take a Swiftwater rescue course. These are offered seasonally and locally. In these courses you will learn what professional boaters and guides know about rescue and safety. Get a Wilderness First Responder or a Wilderness First Aid certification. Lastly, many boat shops and paddle clubs offer overnight outings. If you’re having reservations about going it alone, team up with an organization – learn what you need to from one trip – then you’ll be ready to plan your own overnight hydro adventure! 

Happy paddling – see you on the water! 

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