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Stand Up Paddle Board Bags - SUP Bags

If you’re thinking about getting a new paddleboard bag, how should you start your search for the perfect bag? There are a variety of different bags on the market, at a wide range of price points, and it can be tough sorting through all the marketing materials about the “best paddleboard bags” or the “top SUP bags of 2016.” The way to make sure you come out with the best SUP cover is to make sure you understand all the different choices, consider why you want a paddleboard bag and how you will use it, and find that type of bag within your price range.

Why Do I Need a Paddleboard Bag?

There are a lot of different reasons you should have paddleboard bags for all your paddleboards - flatwater, surf, race, touring - they all will benefit from having a bag.

Daily SUP Use

The first and most common reason to use a SUP bag is to protect your SUP during “daily use”. And by daily use I mean in your more local travels with your board, getting it to and from the water for your regular sessions, or to your SUP yoga practice, and then home again. Hopefully you’ve got your paddleboard in a paddleboard rack at home to keep it stored, displayed, and out of harm’s way. Starting with when you take your SUP off your rack, there are a lot of ways your board can get dinged and damaged. First, I’m always way too impatient getting my paddleboard out of my rack and on my roof rack and inevitably knock it against the wall. The dings my paddleboard has gotten in my own garage are avoidable had I loaded it into a SUP bag before moving it.

Next, having your touring paddleboard in a bag helps with transporting your board to the water. Many people load their paddleboards onto their SUP car racks to drive to the water, and it’s advisable to travel with your SUP in a bag while on your car’s roof. Think about all the dirt and debris you see kicked up on the roadways - that’s the stuff that is contacting your paddleboard and potentially damaging it or dirtying it. Your SUP will also be spared sun exposure while on your roof rack, and if it’s hot out your wax or deck pad won’t be impacted nearly as much if your board is in a bag.

For people that can walk to the water (lucky), having your SUP in a bag typically means you’ve got a strap to carry your board, which is especially helpful for the biggest and widest paddleboards. The bag also gives you somewhere to store your board on the sand if you’ll be hanging out at the beach while you’re not paddling, to keep your SUP out of the sun and elements. Once you’ve finished your session, pop your paddleboard back into the bag so it’s protected on your trip home and back to where it started, on a SUP storage rack at home.

Paddleboard Storage

How about when your paddleboard is sitting around at home? That’s another great time to have your SUP in a SUP bag. There’s a lot of different places you might store your paddleboard when you’re not using it, and we’ve seen pictures of SUP racks just about everywhere, from indoor, climate controlled areas, to outdoor racks exposed to the elements. Indoors, you might store your paddleboard in your garage, shed, basement, mud room, family room, living room, or bedroom. Outdoors, you might store your SUP on your deck, balcony, or outdoor SUP rack.

In either indoor or outdoor storage, your paddleboard will benefit from a paddleboard bag. In storage spaces like garages and basements, although indoors, they are not typically the cleanest places, and your board will accumulate dirt and dust, especially if it’s waxed, that it would not accumulate if stored in a paddleboard bag. Also, basements can be damp, and a bag keeps mold and mildew off my paddleboard. For in-home SUP storage, sure your family room or bedroom is probably clean and won’t affect your board negatively, but in connection with your daily paddle use, why not store your paddleboard in a bag so it’s ready to go whenever you are? Save yourself the extra step of putting it in a bag before you travel with it.

If you’re storing your paddleboards outdoors on an outdoor rack, even more reason to keep them in a SUP cover. Outside, your boards will be exposed to the elements - sun, heat, cold, dust, pollen, dirt, rain, and more. A bag’s layer of protection will keep your paddleboard in much better shape defending against exposure and will significantly improve the life of your SUP.

SUP Travel and SUP Trips

This may be the top reason why paddlers get bags - for long-distance SUP travel. Whether you’re hopping on a plane to get to Hawaii for the Paddleboard World Championships or you’re heading south during the winter for some warmer paddling locales, you’ll obviously need to load up your SUP into a SUP travel bag. These bags are designed to keep your paddleboard intact and undamaged while you get to your destination and back. Many different things could damage your paddleboard on a trip, from you loading your boards into your car and riding to the airport to bumpy rides over unpaved roads at your destination. Having a paddleboard bag that provides top-notch protection for your SUP, and that can fit some of your other gear - extra fins, hat, leashes, rash guards and tops, suntan lotion, and paddles - will make your next SUP trip a better one.

A paddleboard bag also is a must when you’re taking a long-distance road trip with your paddleboards strapped to your car’s roof racks. Some of these points I mentioned already - your SUP is exposed to all kinds of dirt and potential damage on the roadways, along with sun exposure, when riding on your roof. Wrap your paddleboard in a bag to protect it the next time you drive to OBX and back.

What are the Different Types of Paddleboard Bags?

I classify bags as falling into one of five different types of paddleboard bags, although the lines aren’t always clear on where one bag falls: (1) paddleboard socks, (2) paddleboard day bags, (3) paddleboard travel bags, (4) paddleboard shoulder carriers, and (5) paddle bags.

SUP Socks

Paddleboard socks or sock bags provide a thin layer of typically knitted material that covers your entire paddleboard, and closes with a drawstring on one end. Because they’re thin, knitted material, they don’t provide much substantive protection to your SUP from dings or damage, so you won’t be covering your SUP in a sock on your next long-distance trip. But paddleboard socks are great for indoor storage to keep your paddleboard clean and covered, and for transporting your boards on short trips in your car or on your roof rack. Some people leave their SUP sock on the beach or shore while they paddle then put their paddleboard back into the sock immediately when they’re out of the water, so it doesn’t get sandy or dirty while wet.

Some socks have reinforced nose areas for slightly more protection in that potential impact and damage area. SUP socks typically close with a drawstring, not a zipper, so they’re more flexible in general in their profile vs. a bag. The knitted material is intended to be somewhat stretchy, although it’s not going to stretch infinitely to cover your board. Finally, knit SUP socks often come in designs and colors, so have more style than bags, which are often gray, black, or white.

SUP Day Bags

Paddleboard day bags provide more paddleboard protection than paddleboard socks, but less than heavy duty SUP travel bags. Day bags got their name from their best use - to cover your paddleboard for the day. This includes getting your paddleboard to the water and back, whether it’s by car or foot. Because they offer protection between a board sock and a travel bag, they should be priced between those two bags.

Day SUP bags are typically made of plastic, foam, or tarpee upper (or a combination of all), so they are generally water repellant or waterproof exteriors. Many also offer their shells as heat reflective, so that your paddleboard can stay cool despite sitting in a bag in a locked, hot car or out in the sun on the beach. This is obviously important to protect your paddleboard’s finish from sun-induced aging. Some SUP day bags also have reinforced padding and protection at the nose and tail. Day bags open and close via zipper, which zipper may only go a quarter of the length of the bag or so, while other day bags could zip so that the sides open so you can lay the two sides of the bag open completely. Most day bags are built to fit 1 paddleboard.

SUP Travel Bags

Because paddleboard travel bags are used when your paddleboard is most susceptible to damage - long distance travel - they come with a range of protective feature and will vary in price. Often you’ll travel with multiple paddleboards, so paddleboard travel bags are made to fit different amounts of boards, typically 1-3 boards. Heavy duty SUP travel bags might be referred to as coffins due to their size and features. While day bags are made of plastic or tarpee, you want your travel bag to be made of something much tougher, that won’t be cut or ripped from minor mishandling or abrasions. Thick woven material is typical and so is some color or design, since the travel bags aren’t designed to optimize sun reflection like a day bag might be.

I’ll point out some of the different features to look for in a SUP travel bag and it’s up to you to understand what you need for your travel, and what could be overkill. First, a big plus for a SUP travel case is wheels, especially for a multi-board SUP bag. The bags get heavy fast and bulky when packed with boards and gear, and if you have to lug it from your home, to car, to airport, down the terminal, and all over your destination, wheels will save some of your strength for your paddle sessions. If you don’t get wheels you want a really strong reinforced shoulder strap, ideally that connects at 4 points for optimal stability, and that also can clip off when you’re not using it, or to clip off so it’s not hanging out once you’ve handed over your bag to the airport handlers (and said your prayers). Most straps will be padded, but more padding can be better. An exterior pocket is great to stash your travel rack or tie down straps once you land at your destination.

A zipper that goes the whole way around your bag is often a huge feature so your bag opens to fully load and unload all your paddleboards, and to strategically insert protective pieces or pack your clothes around your nose, for example. A strong metal zipper always beats a cheap plastic one because you don’t want to reach your paddle destination only to have your zipper break and your only option is to rip your bag open.

Travel bags should have some extra padding at the nose and tail areas that are most vulnerable to damage. Sometimes it’s padding built into the bag, other bags actually come with tail and nose inserts or pieces that set up in your bag around your paddleboards. You can also find nose protectors and tail protectors (along with rail protectors) separate from the bag. Again, packing your clothes in your bag is always a good SUP padding solution. Another protection feature in multi-board SUP travel bags are included separators to place between your paddleboard so they don’t smash together or transfer wax from the top to the bottom of another paddleboard when stacked together in your SUP travel case. Also on the interior of the bag, it’s nice to have interior pockets to store your stuff, like suntan lotion, fins, leashes, and more. Some amount of pockets is usually standard. And any bag with a paddle holder gets extra points.

SUP Carriers

This may be the least utilized category of paddleboard “bags” and I put that in quotes because these options don’t typically cover your entire paddleboard. Instead, their main purpose is to help you carry a bulky SUP to the water and back. SUP carriers are often a strap system that wraps around your paddleboard that you carry with a shoulder strap. SUP slings are a mix of bag and carrier. Neither is intended to protect your paddleboard from damage or sun exposure, only to make it easy to get your paddleboard to the water.

Paddle Bags

If you’re getting a bag for your paddleboard, you’ll probably need one for your paddles, too. Paddle bags are typically set up with similar materials as your paddleboard bags. A nice feature is an adjustable paddleboard bag, to fit your adjustable paddles.

What’s the Right Size Paddleboard Bag? Paddleboard Bag Dimensions

I wish I had all the answers on what bags are best for your paddleboard, but I don’t, and frankly paddleboard bag sizing is a combination of art and science. Sizing your SUP for a bag will depend on 3 main dimensions of the bag, the same dimensions that should be marked on your paddleboard: (1) length, (2) width, (3) thickness, aka number of paddleboards.

Often paddleboard bag listings come in different types: for surf SUPs, for race of touring SUPs, or for more standard flatwater SUPs. Surf SUPs may be shorter bags with more pointed noses. Race and touring bags likely will be longer bags with sharp, pointed noses. And standard bags will come in a variety of sizes with more rounded nose shapes.

An important note in paddleboard bag dimensions is that many paddleboard manufacturers don’t provide all the information about bag dimensions. That’s why I said finding the right paddleboard bag is part art, part science. This can be particularly problematic for SUP socks; they’re supposed to stretch to some width and thickness, but they can’t stretch forever and no one knows exactly how much they are meant to stretch. Socks and day bags are typically for 1 paddleboard, so hopefully they’re the easiest to figure out. And paddleboard travel bags may be designed for multiple paddleboards, so remember to get the bag that fits your largest-dimensioned SUP.

Paddleboard Bag Length

This is the most obvious paddleboard bag dimension that you need to choose a SUP bag. How big is your paddleboard? You’ll need a paddleboard bag at least that big. Most SUP bag listings for size are for the interior of the bag, meaning a bag advertized as 11’6” should fit a paddleboard 11’6” long. That said, bag listings vary and if you want to ensure a fit it doesn’t hurt to order up a few inches. The length question is pretty standard and should be the easiest question to answer on paddleboard bag dimensions.

Paddleboard Bag Width

As explained, if you’ve got a wider, shorter surf SUP, you should search for surf SUP bag listings. Still, if you consider your paddleboard as a “standard” width SUP, you’ll be wise to find out about bags’ widths to match to your paddleboard. The toughest part about bag width is that...most bag listings don’t disclose bag width. It usually goes back to the surf SUP vs. race/touring SUP vs. standard SUP bag distinction, meaning go surf bag if you’ve got a wider board. Bumor.

Paddleboard Bag Thickness

This is the least important of the bag dimensions because in most cases the answer is that a bag fits 1, 2, or 3 paddleboards, so really thickness is about “board capacity.” But, 3 thinner paddleboards could fit in a travel bag while 3 touring SUPs might not fit in that same bag. So it’s worth thinking about, although again this information is not readily available from bag manufacturers. One alternative is to get a 3 paddleboard bag for 2 thick paddleboards, which should be fine (or a 2 board bag for 1 board). That of course is going to be more expensive bag per board, though. One other trick is that a thicker bag may have some give to accommodate a wider board. So if you’re cutting it close but the bag is thicker, there should be some play in the thickness to stretch to width to accommodate your paddleboard.