SUP Camping: A New Way to Explore

SUP Camping: A New Way to Explore

There is something thrilling about loading your gear into a backpack, driving out into the wilderness, and then leaving everything behind as you explore a world very few are lucky enough to see.  The challenge isn't just in the terrain, but in the very act itself.  When you are limited to a backpack and are faced with surviving in the wilderness ... what do you bring?

But backpacking has even more limitations, especially when it comes to water.  That's why we are huge fans of SUP camping.  A relatively new activity, SUP camping brings a few notable advantages your to next camping adventure while still providing the challenges you crave.

Hiking boots and backpack

There's more space than a backpack ... but not much.  While SUP camping, you have two main loading areas: one at the front of the SUP and one at the rear.  What you load and where you load it depends on what you plan to plan to do, where you plan to go, and how long you plan to be gone.

Consider your board.  There are many different types of SUPs, and not all are created equal when SUP camping.  Typically, touring or all-purpose boards are best.  They are wider, longer, and generally more stable than other boards.  You also want a board with adequate places to anchor your gear.  Bungees in the front and back are ideal.

SUPing is about balance, so be sure to balance the weight along the center line of the board.  Weight distribution back-to-front is important as well.  In most cases, you will want equal weight in the front and back.  If you are planning to go through any whitewater, considering packing more of the weight up front.

First Aid Kit

Create a day/ditch bag.  This is the bag you plan to grab if you need to ditch your SUP for some reason (whether you're going to do a little exploring on land or you tip, your gear gets free, and you have to make a quick decision before it floats away).  In it, store what you need to survive - water purification system, matches, first aid, some food, your cell phone and money, and so on.

Do a dry run.  This may seem like overkill, but it's better to figure out that you have too much gear and not enough board in your backyard than at your drop-in site.  If possible, test it out on the water.  This allows you to adjust weight distribution to be sure you can balance properly on the board.  It also gives you a chance to feel how the board handles on the water with your gear attached.

Weight Scale, Light and Heavy

Think light.  Don't be fooled.  SUP camping isn't just about minimal gear, it's also about lightweight gear.  All boards have a maximum weight with the larger boards topping out around 300 pounds.  After you consider your weight, the weight of the dry bags, the weight of any food and water you need to bring, sleeping gear, cooking gear, clothing, first aid gear ... you see where I'm going with this.  After packing, weigh your dry bags to get a better idea of what the combined weight will be to make sure that you don't overload your board.

And, of course, follow all of your water safety rules.  That includes bringing safety gear (compass, maps, GPS, etc.) as well as creating a float plan to leave with an emergency contact.  Make sure to follow any laws/rules associated with the body of water you are traversing as well as any camping regulations that apply to your planned rest stops.


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6 Ways to Reconnect with the World Around Us

6 Ways to Reconnect with the World Around Us

Technology is wonderful, right?  No more paper maps (that never fold back the way they are supposed to), no more clipping coupons, no more waiting for ... well, anything really.  With the internet, the world is literally at our fingertips, just one tap, swipe, or voice activation away.

And yet, technology pulls us away from the world.  We see everything through a screen and are bombarded by information, most of which we never actually wanted.   Rather than watch an event we pay hundreds of dollars to attend (like a concert), we watch it through our phones.  We see birthdays, first steps, and even our food through the lens of a phone.

Taking picture with smartphone

This new world is our children's world.  And frankly, I think it's a terrifying one.

Not that I'm against technology.  I love streaming movies just as much as the next person, but as we connect with the rest of the world, we disconnect from the world itself.  You know ... trees, grass, dirt, nature?  Sound familiar?  Most of us have memories of playing outside as children, letting our imaginations run wild as we create pirate ships out of fallen logs, slay dragons with our mighty broadsword branches, and do all the things kids are supposed to do.

Now, instead of playing pretend, many children are checking their social media accounts, watching YouTube videos, and are growing up far faster than ever before.

Is that a good thing?  Time will tell, but many are saying no.  No it is not.

So how do we fix it?  How do we disconnect from the world of technology and reconnect with the world around us?  Stillwater Outdoors has a few suggestions to help you and your family get started.

Man hiking down trail

1.  Lead by Example

This one can be hard, but it is by far one of the best ways to get kids excited about the world around them.  Schedule some technology-free time for yourself and do something that interests you - ride your bike, visit a park, read a book, take a walk.  If your kids see you doing it, they'll be more likely to do it as well (or at least may groan a little less when you make them do it since you're following the same rules).

Kids making crafts

2.  Plan Themed Activities

Pick something that interests your kids and then for that week/month, plan activities around that interest.  If your kids like water plan a visit to the local pool, a trip to the aquarium, a craft activity creating fish out of various materials.  Letting your kids pick the topics or activities gets them involved.  Utilizing the same theme for a longer period of time allows for a more in-depth look at the topic and more time for fun activities.

United Way, Volunteering

3.  Community Service - As a Family

This one is perhaps one of the most important ways to reconnect.  It helps to teach kids compassion, empathy, and kindness (and parents as well).  Although there is nothing wrong with donating to a local shelter or food bank, it can be beneficial to go one step further and donate your time.  Having children work to help others, to see how their efforts can change someone's life, is truly an awe-inspiring experience.  It lets kids know that what they choose to do in life does matter, that they can make a difference, and that everyone, regardless of background, deserves respect.

United Way helps communities all around the globe by focusing on education, income, and health.  On their Get Involved tab, you can search for volunteer opportunities right in your community.

kids splashing adult with water

4.  Visit Somewhere New

This is a wonderful way to spend a weekend.  Have the family choose a new spot (or take turns picking the next location) and go explore.  It could be a park, a national forest, a beach, a library, anywhere really.  Set boundaries early on (miles from home, cost, and so on) to keep things fair.

This is a particular favorite of mine as I tend to frequent the same places again and again.  It's not that I'm adverse to change, but habit oftentimes gets the best of me.  By choosing new locations to explore, I'm expanding my comfort zone, having new experiences, and am showing my daughter that the unknown doesn't have to be frightening.  Sure, we may have no idea where to park, how to participate, or what to buy, but by figuring it out as we go, we are teaching her how to solve problems, be flexible, and, most importantly, have fun.

dragon fruit, cut to show inside

5.  Try Something New

This could be a new type of food, a new game, or even participating in a new event.  As I mentioned before, it's easy to slide into the same routine day after day, week after week, so why not schedule one day where the family does something different?  Food is an easy way to start.  Pick out a new recipe, have everyone help make it, and then try it out.  Not every choice will be a winner, but it's a great way to spend time together and make a few memories.  If you don't know which recipe to start with, why not have your kids choose an ingredient to give you a starting point.  It helps make grocery shopping a little more exciting when they get to choose the secret ingredient.  Then have the kids research what it is, how to cook it, and pick a recipe.

children visiting grandparents

6.  Visit Family

I know, I know ... it's not Christmas.  Or Thanksgiving.  But when did it become the rule that visiting family only happens on holidays?  Go visit a family member you haven't seen in a while, but go with a purpose.  Do they have a particular skill that the kids might find interesting?  Do they have family stories (even embarrassing ones about yourself) that the kids might love to hear?  As a child, I used to love sitting around the campfire, listening to the adults in my family tell stories from their youth.  There is something oddly satisfying in learning that your father used to tease his sisters as much as you tease yours.


There are a million other ways to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the actual world and what works best for you and your family may not work for others.  Hopefully, this list will give you a few ideas to try the next time you see your kids staring at a screen or hear them complain about being bored. 

We'd love to hear about your tips and tricks for reconnecting.  Contact us today or join our mailing list for more information.

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A Beginner's Guide to Camping

A Beginner's Guide to Camping

Most outdoor enthusiasts understand the allure of camping.  They appreciate the solitude, the chance to connect with nature, and power of unplugging from technology.  There is a certain primal satisfaction to be gained from disconnecting from the rest of the world, facing all that Mother Nature has to offer, and returning again a bit dirtier and maybe with a few more bumps and bruises.  They've gone off-grid, challenged the most wild and untamed parts of this world, and pushed themselves to go farther, climb higher, and stay longer.

This article is not for them.

For those of us who are relatively new to the idea of off-grid (no campgrounds and no amenities) camping, the idea is ... well, fairly daunting.  How do you get water?  Where do you go?  What do you bring?

Woman overlooking lake and mountains

Where should I go?

That's completely up to you, and by that I mean it's up to your skill level, location, preferences, and so on.  When choosing your destination, consider these questions:

  • How do you plan to get there?  Hiking?  Biking?  Boating?
  • What skills/limits do you have?  Mountain climbing?  White water rapids?  A mile walk?  Ten miles?
  • What temperature/weather conditions are you willing to handle?  Hot?  Cold?  Rain?
  • Who is coming with you and what are their capabilities/limits?
  • How long do you want to be gone?
  • How much are you willing to spend on food, permits, and any additional/specialized gear?

Answering these questions will help narrow down your list of possible destinations.  My go-to off-grid destinations are almost always National Parks/forests which cover thousands of acres, encompass varied terrains for all skill levels, and can be found in just about every climate.  Check with these websites for more information (including campground information for those who want to use them):

US National Forest Campground Guide

Government Recreation Site

US Forest Service

Tents on mountain overlooking lake

What should I bring?

There are too many variables to come up with a complete list, but this should provide you with a good start for your next camping expedition.


Whether that means a tent, a camping hammock, or a rain fly stretched out between two trees, you are going to need somewhere to sleep.  Other things to consider when choosing what type of shelter to bring include weather (temperature and precipitation), bugs (mosquitoes and sleep don't mix), and even wildlife (it's never fun to wake up with a snake in your sleeping bag).  If you are planning to carry your gear in, lightweight shelters are a must.  Also consider bringing some sort of compact, lightweight sleeping mat.  Rocks and tree roots start to feel like boulders and logs after a few minutes of sleeping on them.

Fish cooking on campfire


If you are planning to fish or hunt (check for licensing requirements and seasons before doing either) for your food, that's fine, but what if you don't catch anything?  The fish don't care how hungry you are - if they don't want to bite, they're not going to bite.  How much room do you have for food?  How long are you going to be gone?  How strenuous will your daily activity be?  Answering these questions will help you determine how much and what to bring for meals.  Also consider how the meals will be prepared.  Are you going to have to cook?  How are you going to do it?  Cooking gear adds a lot of weight and takes up space, so consider your options carefully.


How do you plan to get water?  Bringing it along may not be an issue if you can drive directly to where you plan to camp, but in many situations that isn't possible.  Water is heavy, bulky, and necessary.  If you are planning to use water you find (even water from campground spigots), it needs to be treated first.  There are many options including chemical tablets (remember to wait the recommended time before drinking/adding flavoring), water filtration systems, and boiling the water (for at least five minutes and make sure to cool before drinking).

Compass and map

Safety Gear

This includes basic first aid equipment, compass/GPS, a knife or multi-tool, maps (digital and paper), a cell phone or other communication device, and so on.  Waterproof matches and/or a lighter are always a good idea, even if you're not camping near water - just be sure to check for any burn restrictions in your area.  Again, where and when you go will help determine which items are considered necessary.


Consider the climate, terrain, and what you'll be doing.  How much room do you have?  What are potential weather concerns?  How long will you be gone?  Dressing in layers allows you to adjust for changes in temperature throughout the day and clothing that dries quickly is always good to have.  Don't forget to bring a change of clothes to leave in your car for the trip home - especially if your route out involves water travel.

Hiker, mountain gear

Camping Plan

It is always a good idea to have an emergency contact with all of your information including where you will be staying, the route you will take to get in/out, any day trips (hiking, biking, boating) that you plan to make, and when you'll be leaving/returning.  Make sure to bring a copy with you and include any safety phone numbers (forest service, local police, etc) on it.  When the trip is over and you've returned home, make sure to notify your emergency contact that you made it back.

Stillwater Outdoors invites you to join our email list to get free information on camping, water sports and safety, and more.

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Health Benefits of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Health Benefits of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Almost every sport offers some health benefits - some more than others.  So how does stand-up paddle boarding rate?

In my quest for alternatives to the gym, I came across many articles touting the health benefits of stand-up paddle boarding.  But how healthy can it really be?  In many pictures, I see individuals almost casually coasting across clear, smooth water.  Not exactly what I envision when I think of exercise.

Woman on SUP

So what's the answer?  How does it rate against other forms of exercise?  Well ... like most things in life, the answer is complicated.

Myth One: It's a great way to exercise your core

Well, that is true, but it isn't necessarily true in all cases.  Using an SUP can be a great way to exercise your core, but only if you do it right.  And by right, I mean you have to push yourself.  If you can easily cruise around the lake for hours without feeling much in the way of muscle aches, you probably aren't getting much of a workout.

yoga on SUP

So how do you maximize your core routine on an SUP?  Dig deep.  Dig hard.  Fully rotate your torso with each stroke. 

Try going out on windy days when the rougher water presents more of a challenge.  If that feels a bit daunting, go out on calm water but set goals for yourself.  See how fast you can go, have a race with a fellow paddle boarder, or try adding a new component - like yoga - to your routine.

Myth Two: It's great for your cardiovascular system

Good?  Okay, yes, just about every form of exercise is good for your heart.  But does stand-up paddle boarding really improve your heart health enough to be considered great?  Again, yes and no.  According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), most who paddle board don't hit the target zone for heart rate during exercise.  The harder you work on the water, the more your heart will work, so pushing yourself is obviously better than cruising along at a leisurely pace.

SUP race

Are all the benefits myths?

Not at all.  In fact, even the first two "myths" are only so in certain situations.  And there are a surprising number of other benefits to be gained from a few peaceful hours out on an SUP.  Here are a few of our favorites:

1: It's low-impact

This is great for those with joint pain or those who are recovering from an injury.  You can work your muscles, stretch them, and not have to worry about repeated stress on your ankles, knees, and hips.


2: It's a great way to relieve stress

All exercise releases endorphins, which helps to boost your mood.  Stand-up paddle boarding adds another, often overlooked, benefit - "blue space".  Research has shown that just looking at a picture of nature, specifically one with water, can help create a better sense of well-being.  Feeling good about yourself can go a long way toward living a healthier lifestyle.  

3: Social Health

We've talked about physical health and we've talked about mental health ... but what about social health?  Is that a real term?  I don't know, but if not, it should be.  Humans are social creatures and our general satisfaction with life, happiness, and well-being is closely related to the quality of our relationships.

Three people on SUPs

Stand-up paddle boarding is a wonderful way to spend time with friends or get to know someone new.  It's quiet enough to allow conversations, is easy enough for anyone to learn, and is a great activity to do as a group.

Final Thoughts

Should you invest in an SUP?  Yes.  Not because it's going to make you dominate in the next triathlon or because it will knock three inches off your waist, but because any step you take to get out and do more is a step in the right direction.  The more opportunities you give yourself to exercise and release stress, the better off you will be.

So the next time your best friend asks if you want to take a spin class at the local gym, suggest paddle boarding instead.  As far as well-rounded, integrated exercises go, stand-up paddle boarding stands alone.

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Destination Spotlight: Clear Lake

Destination Spotlight: Clear Lake

In honor of our military families, today we would like to showcase the Clear Lake Recreation Area.  It is designed to provide family fun for all active duty, retired military, active members of the Reserves, National Guard, DoD civilian employees, and their families.  The 34 acre recreation area is along the shore of Clear Lake, which spans nearly 337 acres and is over 100 feet deep.  The Recreation Area is located at South 14824 Clear Lake Road, Cheney, WA.

If you're not associated with any military branch, don't fret.  Clear Lake is easily accessible thanks to the public boat launch (on the same road) near the south end of the lake.

Map view of Clear Lake Recreation Area and Clear Lake Public Boat Launch

I am always impressed by how much they have to offer.  Besides an extensive list of rental items (ski boats, paddle boats, SUPs and kayaks, fishing gear, and far more), there is also a large playground, several picnic acres with grills for cooking, a swimming area, docks for securing your boat, and camping spaces whether you bring a tent, RV, or stay in one of their cabins or yurt.

There are three reasons why my family and I keep returning to this particular spot again and again ...

1.  It's rarely busy.

This is, of course, rather subjective.  Although many of the camping areas fill up quickly, the beach, grassy areas, and the lake itself aren't usually crowded.  We last went to Clear Lake on Memorial Day weekend and expected it to be chaotic, especially since we got there later than expected.  We were pleasantly surprised to find no competition for a nice grassy area down near the water, had plenty of time to set up our stuff for the day, and got our boat launched and docked all with minimal frustration.  And when we got out onto the water?  There were a few fishing boats scattered around, but even so there was ample room to cruise the water at speed without bothering anyone.

Clear Lake Recreation Area, Playground Equipment

2. There is something for everyone.

My daughter loves the playground and beach and will gladly spend all day digging in the sand if we let her.  My husband likes to cruise around on the boat or PWC and recently learned how to wakeboard while on Clear Lake.  I prefer the challenge of man-powered vessels and spend most of my time on an SUP or kayak.  Whatever your preference, Clear Lake Recreation Area has something for you.  And if you don't own it, don't worry.  They have a surprising number of watercraft available for rent and include boater safety training with each motorized rental. 

Clear Lake, Stand-up Paddleboard, SUP

On most lakes, I am often forced to deal with speeding boats and thoughtless drivers who rarely consider how their wake or proximity might bother a nearby SUP.  Clear Lake offers a very large no-wake zone, well beyond what would be necessary for safety alone.  Because of this, Clear Lake is an ideal spot for anyone wishing to learn how to SUP, kayak, or canoe.  There's little chance for tipping when the boats putt along from the launch toward the north end of the lake.  This area is also a haven for many water birds, so keep watch as you coast along the shore.

No wake zone, Clear Lake

3. They offer more than just water fun.

During the first Saturday of May, they offer a Kid's Fishing Derby which allows kids between 5 and 14 the chance to fish on the lake.  For $10, the kids get a t-shirt, a fishing rod, and can keep up to three trout that they catch.

Those looking to challenge themselves on another level should consider registering for the Clear Lake Triathlon.  Registration is from June 6th to July 18th with the big event happening on July 21st.  Complete a 500 M swim, 15 M bike, and 5 K run as an individual competitor or build a team of three and have a different person complete each part.

Does anyone out there not like a good movie?  Well, probably some one, but for those of you who are looking for something to do on a warm summer night, check out their free movie nights.  The gate will remain open late, allowing you to settle in with free s'mores and hot dogs (while supplies last) while watching a family-friendly movie. 

For those of you who may be interested in visiting, check out Fairchild's website for more information.

Public Boat Launch

Clear Lake Public Boat Launch

Keep in mind, the Clear Lake Recreation Area is for our military families only, but that doesn't mean that non-military families can't enjoy the lake itself.  Clear Lake offers a public boat launch (use requires a Discover Pass) on the south end.  From here, you can access the extensive no-wake zone for those with man-powered vessels or take your motorized boat beyond it if you want to pull skiers, wakeboarders, or just cruise the lake.

Note: Stillwater Outdoors received nothing for posting this and is not affiliated with the Clear Lake Recreation Area or the Fairchild Airforce Base in any way.  Our only purpose was to offer our readers a short review of a local lake and recreational area.

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Boat Launch Etiquette: A Helpful Guide

Boat Launch Etiquette: A Helpful Guide

Like thousands of others this Memorial weekend, my husband and I ventured out to a local lake to enjoy a bit of boating.  If you've ever gone to a boat launch during a holiday, you probably understand how stressful and chaotic it can be.  Long lines, impatient children, and something always seems to go wrong.  We were lucky.  We got to the lake early enough to avoid the big crowds at the ramp and were docked and settled before things got busy.

Those who came later in the day, however, weren't so lucky.  We watched, completely baffled, as a man spent nearly 30 minutes at the launch, blocking one of the ramps, as he tried to secure his kayak on top of his vehicle.  For those of you who may not know, kayaks can be carried and don't require trailers.  Why then was he blocking a ramp and preventing others from launching their boats?  We have no idea.  Or the man who backed his boat into the water only to realize that he had yet to remove any of the straps securing it to the trailer... straps that were now several feet under the water.  While his wife and children waited, he had to pull the boat out of the water, remove the straps, and back it down the ramp once more.

Boat launches don't have to be stressful.  They certainly don't have to turn us into monsters rampaging down the dock or completely ruin our vacations.  If you keep a few friendly reminders handy the next time you visit the boat launch, you will soon understand how a little planning and a quick checklist are all you need to make your day on the water start out right.

Note: Although I worked at a company where I was required to launch various watercraft, I am by no means an expert.  Please use this only as a basic guide and consult any and all manuals associated with your specific boat and trailer before launching.  This is not an exhaustive list of all the steps required to launch a boat properly and safely.

Boat Launch Parking Area for Boat Prep

Prep Area

Upon entering the boat launch, do not go directly to the launch.  Don't do it.  I don't care if the kids are screaming in the back seat or if there's no one there when you arrive.  Your first stop must be the prep area.  Some launches have designated lanes for this.  Others don't.  If your boat launch doesn't, go to a parking spot instead.  Once there, use this checklist to help make sure the basic preparations are done before you approach the water.

  1. Insert/tighten your drain plug(s)
  2. Remove any straps from the rear of the boat (keep the front secured until the boat is in the water)
  3. Unplug your trailer lights if not using waterproof, LED lights (this helps prevent bulbs from cracking during the temperature change)
  4. Check for safety gear including PFDs, whistles, oars, fire extinguishers, lights, buoys, flags, and so on
  5. Load any optional gear including water bottles, food, towels, and so on
  6. Remove anything you don't want to keep in the boat (things stored there for travel, for instance)
  7. Secure a rope to the boat to keep hold of during the launch
  8. Pay any parking or use fees

The basic idea here is to get as much as you can done before you get to the water.  Then, when you approach the launch, you can be on and off the ramp in a matter of minutes.

Boat Launch, ramp

Boat Launch

Always inspect the boat launch before you approach.  Look for debris in the water - logs and branches can drift into the shallows, broken glass, metal, and uneven concrete slabs can cause problems.  Also look for the slope of the launch.  A gradual slope means you'll have to drive the boat farther in before it floats.  A steeper slope means you'll need to back up less, but will prove harder to remove the boat later.  If you have someone with you, have them wait on the dock, within sight, as you approach.  They can tell you when to stop and can hold the rope when the boat is launched.  If you are alone, be prepared to tie your boat to the dock.  Make sure that whatever you tie the boat to is well-secured.

Personal Watercraft (PWC) secured to a dock

Return to your vehicle and make your final approach to the launch.  For those who launch boats often, backing up becomes second nature.  For those of you who may not do this very often or have never done it, practice.  Practice at home.  Practice a lot.  It seems ridiculous, but backing up a trailer is difficult, especially when the boat is very large or very small.  Visibility is limited and movements are counter-intuitive.  It's better to practice in your driveway or on a dirt road somewhere and take fifty times to get it right than to show up at the boat launch and spend the same fifty times trying while ten others wait in line behind you.

So please, for everyone's sake, practice.

Docking Bays at Boat Launch

Unless the dock is very long or has several docking bays to which you can secure your boat for any length of time, the name of the game here is speed.  Please don't sit at the dock for a long period of time while you arrange things or do more equipment prep while at the launch.  Those things were supposed to be done in the prep area.  Once the boat is in the water and you have parked your vehicle, it's common courtesy to try to return to the boat and cast off as soon as possible.  There are others waiting to use the dock (both outgoing and incoming).  Try to make any final arrangements, like loading people into the boat, as quickly and safely as possible and be on your way.

Launching/Retrieving Boat

On the Return

When your day is done and you're returning to the launch, do everything in reverse order.  People were the last in, now they are the first out.  Tie off or have someone hold the boat while you retrieve the vehicle.  Approach the launch and park.  Pull the boat into place with ropes.  Never power load any watercraft!  I've seen boaters try to drive their boats onto the trailer only to have it end horribly wrong.  It's probably illegal (and if it isn't, it should be) and it can seriously damage your boat.  I've seen PWCs overshoot and hit the vehicle.  I've seen boats run into trailers that weren't deep enough and gouge out the bow.  Be safe, be careful, and use ropes to pull the boat into place.

Once it is secured at the front of the trailer, get back into the vehicle and drive up the launch just far enough for you to do a vegetation check.  This means getting out again, or having someone else do it for you, to check the trailer and boat for any plant or animal matter that may have decided to go along for the ride.  Remove the debris and then proceed to the prep area or parking lot.  Once there, you can go through the checklist again.  Make sure that all the necessary straps are in place and tight, test your lights to be sure they are working properly, remove the drain plug, and then remove or secure any gear in the boat.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means.  Every trailer and boat combination likely has different quirks or steps that may be required.  The more familiar you are with your boat, trailer, and the launch will determine how smoothly and swiftly things go.  Please use this as a guide only and add any steps that your situation requires to launch safely.


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A Friendly Reminder: Water Safety Do's and Don'ts

A Friendly Reminder: Water Safety Do's and Don'ts

Though I lived within a mile of a lake while growing up and visited it several times a week during the summer, I still remember the anticipation, the excitement, and the overwhelming desire to run out of the car and down to the water as soon as it got within sight.  It didn't seem to matter how many times I went - my reaction was always the same.  As a kid, my top concern was fun.  Water was fun.  Splashing was fun.  Swimming was fun.

Waiting was not.  Sunscreen was not.  Rules were definitely not.

Now that I'm older, hopefully a little wiser, and with a child of my own, I've come to appreciate some of those rules my parents drilled into my head at such a young age.  With that thought in mind, I'd like to share some of those rules with you and your family with the hope that they will provide some ease of mind and make your summers a bit safer and a lot more fun.

Please save and share the infographic on basic water safety with friends and family.  Although it was originally designed for SUPs, it applies to most watercraft.

Water Safety Do's and Don'ts

Travel With a Buddy

This one seems obvious, but I'm always surprised by how often it's ignored.  Water travel isn't like a car travel.  If something breaks and you get stuck, you can always call a tow-truck while on the road.  And if you end up having to spend the night?  At least you're warm, dry, and in the relative safety of a car.

On the water, things are far more dangerous.  Some lakes can span many miles, rivers go even farther, and depending on the time of year, time and day, and particular water you happen to be on, there is a chance that you won't be able to flag anyone down for help.  If you are injured out on the water, you may not have time to wait for someone to find and help you.

Family on an SUP at sunset

Having a buddy with you can save your life, literally, so don't risk it if at all possible.

And if you do have to go it alone?  Always leave your information with a friend.  Give them a detailed map of the water you're going to be traveling including marked areas for every stop you plan to make, and then don't improvise once you're out there.  List the time you plan to leave, the time you plan to return, and visual cues (the color of your clothes, vest, watercraft, and so on) for rescue crews should they be called.

Bring a Map, GPS, and Compass

These are useful whether alone or with a group as it is easy to get turned around while out on the water.  There are no road signs and in some cases there aren't even many landmarks by which to orient yourself.  Having a map and compass can mean the difference between getting off the water and into town before nightfall ... or eventually wandering into town sometime after 2 AM only to realize it's the wrong town.

Aerial View of River System

Although most phones have GPS capabilities, don't rely on it to always work or be accurate.  Many lakes are in remote areas and reception can be spotty at best.  Plus, if you've been using it to take pictures during your trip, the battery might not have much power left.  Bring a separate GPS unit if at all possible and make sure it's charged before heading out.

Watch for Changes in the Water/Weather Conditions

This is especially important for those of you using non-motorized boats.  Though this may be hard to do depending on your water access, it is better to row against the wind at the start of the trip when you have plenty of energy to spend.  Then, on the return, when your muscles are already starting to ache and you're feeling the burn, the wind will be at your back and will help you get to your drop-in site rather than fight against you.

As for the weather?  The dark clouds in the distance may seem a long ways off, but a quick change in the wind and they'll be dumping rain on your head before you know it.  Always watch the skies for any sign of impending storm.  If it looks questionable, don't risk it.  Shorten your trip and remain within easy rowing distance of your drop-in site.  It you see any lightning or hear thunder, get off the water immediately.  Go straight for shore - regardless of if it's your drop-in site or not.  A bit of trespassing is nothing compared to electrocution and most land owners will understand given the circumstances.

Lightning Strike on Open Water

Remember, water doesn't attract lightning, but it is a great conductor.  A lightning strike doesn't have to be a direct hit to kill you while on the water.  More importantly, while out on the very flat, very open water, you will most likely be the tallest thing around and will serve as a lightning rod.

Don't Lose Track of Time

This is important for many reasons.  One, watercraft are required to have lights after a certain time each evening to be sure they can be seen by other watercraft.  If you're busy taking pictures and exploring and forget the time, you may find yourself in a dangerous situation, especially if you're using a non-motorized boat with no built-in lights.

Two, things look different in the dark.  It is far harder to find your way home when the landmarks on the shore are no longer visible. 

Three, if you're out alone, losing track of time could cue your friend to call for help.  They may believe you to be hurt or lost when, in reality, you fell asleep in a sheltered bay after a nice afternoon swim.

Bring Your Dog and Give Them a PFD

Dog with PFD, dog life-vest

Many dogs can swim and love being out on the water.  Some dogs can even swim for great distances.  But it may be dangerous to assume that just because your dog can swim out thirty feet to collect the stick you threw that he can swim the two hundred yards back to shore after your boat capsizes.  Even if he can, many dogs won't swim for safety if their family remains behind and having them tread water waiting for you could prove deadly.  If you're taking any pet on the water and they aren't a goldfish or the family parrot, get them a personal flotation device built to support their weight and size in the water.

Remember Your Car Keys (and Any Other Important Items)

This may seem obvious, but many people leave them behind - usually locking them inside their car.  Sound familiar?  Before you go, check for your keys, wallet, and phone.  It's always a good idea to have identification and a bit of money on hand, just in case.  Worried about them getting wet?  Invest in a good dry-bag.  I suggest getting one that's brightly colored to make it easier to see on the water or from a distance.

Stillwater Outdoors Dry Bag, light blue/black

Dry-Bag by Stillwater Outdoors

Watch for Other Boats

It's always a good idea to have at least one person in every group take a boater's safety course before going out on the water.  In some states, it's required, so be sure to check with the local laws before you head out.  Even if it isn't, the course will provide you with vital information that could save your life while out on the water.

For those of you using non-motorized craft like a SUP, canoe, or kayak, the general rule of thumb is to avoid motorized boats as best you can.  They are moving faster, are heavier, and will do a lot of damage if they hit you.  Yes, they are supposed to be watching for other boaters.  Yes, like pedestrians, you do have the right of way in many cases.  But none of that matters if something happens to distract them and they drive straight into you.

While boating, do everything you can to make yourself easier to see.  Brightly colored clothes, flags that wave overhead, even lights can help to make collision less likely.  And if you decide to jump into the water for a swim?  Always remain close to your boat, never do so in high traffic areas, and remain vigilant.

Don't Get Too Close to Wildlife

Although seeing that massive turtle sunning itself on a log would make for a great photo, that yawn isn't really a yawn.  And that hissing sound?  The turtle you're trying to get a selfie with isn't pleased.  More importantly, even something as seemingly benevolent as a turtle can be dangerous.  Snapping turtles' jaws are meant to cut and combined with their jaw strength can severe fingers and toes.

Snapping turtle on land

So if you happen to see a little critter frolicking playfully in the water as you row past, take a picture ... but do so at a safe, responsible distance.  Remember that wildlife, as the name implies, is wild and when you're out on the water, you're in their domain.  Be respectful.  Even turtles deserve a little personal space.

Tie Off Your Boat

After several hours of boating, a planned lunch break may seem like a good idea.  You pull your boat onto the beach, empty out your snacks on a beach towel, and settle in for a quick meal.  And after that?  What's better than a quick nap or bit of sun-bathing (with adequate sunblock to protect against cancer of course)?  So, twenty minutes later, you lift your head, scan the beach, smile at the duck paddling through the reeds, and then feel your stomach drop as you realize that's your boat floating across the lake.

Although lakes and rivers don't experience tides in the same way the oceans do, there are plenty of other factors to consider - the biggest one being the wind.  A quick change in its force or direction could be disastrous for your trip.  So the next time you stop for lunch, tie your boat to something permanent - a tree, a massive boulder, a heavy anchor.  Anything that will hold it in place should the wind change direction.

From all of us at Stillwater Outdoors,

Have fun and be safe.

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Off Season?

Off Season?

For most of us, summer is paddleboarding season. For some of us, late spring and early fall are also a part of paddleboarding season. For the latitudinally fortunate, seasons are no concern and temperatures are comfortable year-round. However, a very select few are able to maintain the tropical paddle schedule no matter where they are. Hats off to them.

We are hitting late summer here in the northern United States, and we're a little upset here at Stillwater Outdoors. What are we going to do with ourselves all winter? How do I wind down after work without a balmy paddle?

It is very easy to get caught in this train of thought, but don't! In this article, I have included some photography to remind us all that winter is a beautiful time to be on the water. With some preparation, and the proper equipment, you can enjoy all of winter's quiet serenity from the comfort of your paddleboard.

Practice, practice, practice! Hone your balance this summer, so that you only get wet when you want to. This is the number one thing that will allow you to paddle this winter.

Get a dry suit! A dry suit will ensure your safety, should you fall in, as well as keep you warm while comfortably above the surface. 

Be Prepared! Bring a dry bag with a change of dry clothes and extra gloves. Hand warmers are highly recommended as well. A thermos is full of something warm to drink is a winner every time!

Talk a friend into joining you! We do not recommend paddling alone during winter. The buddy system is best!

Use the rest of the summer to practice your balance and gather the necessary equipment so you'll never have the off-season blues again!

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The Columbia River Watershed

The Columbia River Watershed

For those of you who have never paddled the Northwest; you definitely should. The Northwestern United States and British Columbia have long been associated with rugged geography and a general sense of adventure.

Our love of paddleboarding grew from our love for exploring our area. What we want to make known, however, is the intricate system of waterways that serves as the lifeblood of this natural treasure. This lifeblood is The Columbia River Watershed.

Whit is The Columbia River Watershed? This term refers to the drainage basin of the mighty Columbia River, where rain, melting snow, and ground water converge into a single point of lower elevation.

The Columbia River is 1,243 miles long and is our single biggest outflow into the Pacific Oceon. This makes it the fourth largest river in the US. The watershed that feeds this behemoth is a 258,000 square mile area, larger that the country of France, and contains over 115 contributory bodies of water.

People are coming to realize that the Northwest is a boon of inland watersports including paddleboarding, rafting, kayaking, fishing, diving, boating, and just getting connected to nature. Next time you plan a big adventure, see what we have to offer!

Notable bodies of water:

  • Columbia River
  • Lake Coeur D'alene
  • Lake Pend Oreille
  • Flathead Lake
  • Clearwater River
  • Deschutes River
  • Willamette River
  • Spokane River
  • Payette River
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Paddle Spot: Crater Lake

Paddle Spot: Crater Lake

From time to time we like to post paddle spots that we have access to from here in the Spokane area. Not too long ago, I made a visit to crater lake, where i snapped the above photograph. Although I did not have my SUP with me at the time, Crater Lake was definitely added to my bucket list that day, and I think it should be on yours too.

Crater Lake National Park is located not an hour and a half outside of Bend, Oregon, a paddle boarding hotspot here in the Pacific Northwest. This jaw dropping area is home to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States at 1,949 feet! Photos of the lake's 5-mile by 6-mile surface are deceptive to cameras and truly must be seen in person to appreciate. 

Crater lake was created by the volcanic collapse of Mount Mazama about 7,700 years ago and has no water flowing into it, or out of it. Instead, rainwater and snowmelt replace its contents in a 250 year cycle. It's unique geographic traits keep the water very cold all year, allowing it to maintain its deep blue blue hue and crystal clarity.

TREASURE HUNT! The cold water temperature slows organic decomposition. Crater lake is known for the "Old Man of the Lake", a 30 foot tall tree stump that has been bobbing around the lake since 1896! The top only sticks about 4 feet out of the water, but the lake's crystal clarity allows the entire tree to be seen from the surface! 

(photo credit:

Grab your board, Crater Lake is closer than you think and as exotic as the farthest of destinations.

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