April 15, 2016

How to Pack for your Kayaking Adventure in the San Juan Islands

Kayaking in the San Juan Islands

If you look at many people’s bucket lists, kayaking in the San Juan Islands is often near the top. The chance to paddle in some of the Pacific Northwest’s world-renowned crystal clear waters, always with the potential for exciting encounters with wildlife!

The San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are a small archipelago in the most northwestern corner of the continental United States. Comprised of 743 islands, rocks, and reefs (dependent on tide), and with only four islands serviced by the Washington State Ferry System, there are so many nooks and crannies to explore that are only accessible by kayak.

Most people are excited about the possibility of paddling with the orca whales that frequent our waters from roughly May through September. These inquisitive animals are some of the most intelligent, graceful and powerful animals on the planet, and it is a treat to experience them on their own terms in their natural environment. Check out this clip from a guest on a San Juan Outfitters 5-hour route last summer!

An Orca Whale surfaces near San Juan Island
Sarah McCullagh

If that doesn’t get you stoked about kayaking here in the Islands, I don’t know what will!

In addition to the orca whales that we often see in the area, our kayak guides often report bald eagles, sea stars, humpback whales, porpoises, minke whales, harbor seals, sea lions, gulls, and other sea birds. We also have some of the most beautiful scenary and landmarks in the Pacific Northwest. Keep an eye out for some of our historic lighthouses! Seeing the landscape in a kayak provides a super personal and intimate experience as a part of the ecosystem. I often find that as I kayak around the islands I notice far more of the details that I might overlook while traveling by motor vessel. 

Packing for a kayak tour
Sarah McCullagh

Planning for Paddling

When planning a trip out to the islands the majority of people budget a day for paddling, usually for a simple day paddle is 3 or 5 hours in length. While out paddling with our sister company, San Juan Outfitters, we like to include paddlers of all levels! Whether you have never stepped foot in a kayak before, or you are an old pro we would love to help your San Juan Island paddling dreams come true!

While preparing for your day paddle, there are a few things you should keep in mind to have on hand. One of the most frequent questions we get relates to clothing! We always recommend quick-dry layers, such as athletic shorts or leggings, and a light running shirt.

I also recommend paddling in athletic sandals such as Keens or Chacos. These will allow your feet to breath while in the boat, but also provide some traction if you end up making a pit stop for lunch or a quick hike.

We also always recommend bring an extra warm layer (or two!) such as a fleece or wool sweater and a raincoat. Due to the always-changing nature of the Pacific Northwest’s weather, and our policy to go out rain or shine, it is always a safe bet to have those packed.

We also recommend a hat, either one that blocks the sun or a warmer beanie-type hat dependent on weather.

You should also bring:

  • Sunglasses
  • A Reusable water bottle
  • Snacks and lunch (available on the island or bring something to eat from home)
  • Sunscreen

And don’t forget your camera!  I have had great success shooting with both a small point and shoot camera, as well as with my GoPro from my kayak. 

San Juan Outfitters kayaking gear
Sarah McCullagh

Kayaking Gear we Provide

Our kayak guides take pride in providing a personalized experience for each individual. We will also provide you with some state-of-the-art gear and show you how to use it!

While packing for your trip you do not need to worry about a lifejacket, paddle, a spray skirt, or any dry bags. We will have those waiting for you on our unique, easy load kayak dock.

Before each trip departs Roche Harbor, you’ll receive personalized safety and paddling instruction from our expert guides. Your guide will walk you through the route that you are paddling, in addition to going over how our stable, double sea kayaks work. 

A San Juan Outfitters Kayak Guide and guests
Sarah McCullagh

Get out there!

My best piece of advice to new paddlers is to relax and enjoy!

When trying new things we often forget that the experience is meant to be fun and enjoyable. I always have my guests take a deep breath and smile; we’ll handle all of the details! There is so much to see here in the Salish Sea that is best seen by a kayak, I am so excited to see you out on the water this summer.

Give us a call at 866-810-1483 or contact us online to learn more!