San Juan Island's Original Sea Kayak Outfitters & Guides Since 1980

FAQs Multi-Day Trips

Can I take your trip with no previous kayaking experience?

By all means! For many of our clients, this is a first. If you are in average or better physical condition, enjoy camping outdoors, would enjoy moving through the water by the power of your own body and don’t mind outhouses, you’re in!

What are the best months to see whales?

May and June are usually the best, but over the last two years July and August have been excellent too!  Because each of our two, three and four day trips spend a day and a half to two days paddling in prime orca whale waters, you stand the best chance of sea kayaking with whales.

How often do you see orcas?

What facilities are at our campgrounds?

Picnic table, fire pit, outhouses.

What are your minimum and maximum group sizes?

Our maximum group size is ten clients.  Our minimum is three.

Why are your guided trips less expensive than your competitor’s?

Because we own and operate our company, we are able to keep overhead costs to a minimum.  We pass those savings on to my clients without sacrificing quality, service and professionalism.

Will I need to invest in expensive camping gear?

Not really! We supply two-person tents, all the kayaking and cooking gear, breakfasts and dinners. You simply bring a sleeping bag in a stuff sack and pad(we can rent these to you if you don’t have your own), rain gear, water sandals or booties, flashlight, mess kit, water bottle, lunches and personal items. A detailed equipment list will be sent to you after you register for your trip.

Do you supply dry bags?

On our multi-day trips, we have a simple, inexpensive and proven way to waterproof your clothing and sleeping bags without the use of dry bags.  We have found that it is difficult to sanitize and deodorize dry bags that have carried other people’s wet, dirty socks, underwear and other clothing just a few days before. Transferring your stuff to dry bags also delays us an hour or more at the launch site when we could be catching the last of a favorable tide or claiming a prime campsite.  Detailed instruction for this waterproofing system will be found in the equipment list/information packet that will be sent to you upon receipt of your registration form.

What size bags can I use for my gear/clothing?

Your bags (two per person) and sleeping bag stuff sack(one per person) should be no larger than 22″ long and 18″ in diameter or smaller. Use pliable nylon duffels, day packs (water-proofing instructions are included in your confirmation/equipment list packet), or your own dry bags. Please do not use rigid or external-frame backpacks. One of your bags will be a “handy bag.” In it will be the things you need while paddling, ie. snacks, gloves, rain gear, layer of clothing, hat, sunscreen, lip salve, binos, camera, sunglasses, etc. This bag will be placed on the floor of the kayak in front of you where it is handy. All other clothing and gear can be packed away out of reach. For easy transport to the island, you may put all of your bags/sacks in one large duffel, which, after emptying at the launch site, may be left in my van during the trip.

Will we be moving camp each day of the trip or paddling from a base camp?

We use a different campsite each night. Mornings will find us breaking camp after breakfast, loading the kayaks and moving on to new adventure. By not using a base camp, we are able to extend our range and experience more scenic coastlines, wildlife habitat and learn to flow with the rhythm of a multi-day kayak expedition.

What type of clothing will I need?

A good rain coat w/ hood and pants(Gore-Tex or comparable material), layered tops(polypropylene, fleece, Capilene, or other high-tech garments) and stocking cap for cool weather. Shorts and t-shirts(long or short sleaved), shade hat for paddling in sunny, warm weather. A detailed equipment list will be sent to you when you register for your trip.

Where do we camp?

Campgrounds are marine state parks accessible only by boat and, in most cases, only by kayak.  Campsites are grassy sites usually on a bank above the beach.  On our three and four day trips, the last evening’s campsite is a small island with only two campsites.  Both are reserved exclusively for San Juan Kayak Expeditions! Camping here is a very special experience!

Where do we bathe?

In the sea with biodegradable soap!  You can swim, shampoo, bathe and shave in the sea. No fresh water is available for showers. The water here does not leave a salt residue after a swim and, though brisk, is very refreshing!

Where can I store extra clothing, gear and luggage while I am out on the trip?

Your things will be safe in our van/shop while we are on the water, and they will be waiting for you at trips’ end.

How long do we paddle each day?

From five to twelve miles. We will be in the kayaks from three to four hours each day. Some sections require that we remain in the boats up to two and one half hours, but usually there are one or two beach breaks to eat lunch, hike, play horseshoes or just relax.

Do I really need to be in great shape?

No. But you do need to be in fair to good shape. The better your physical condition, the more you will enjoy the trip. We do my darnedest to use the tides and sail with the wind, but we can’t always have it my way. When these elements are against us, a prolonged period of exertion may be necessary. You best be ready!

What are the best months to take one of your trips?

We like May, June and September! Things are green, wildflowers abound and whales are everywhere. July and August up the odds for warm, summer weather. September finds fall in the air and serenity on the water and is probably the nicest time to be paddling out here!

What is your minimum age?

Twelve on our half-day and sunset tours, fourteen on our guided trips and sixteen on sea kayak rentals. Children or young adults must be able to interact well with adults, be physically active individuals and enjoy camping in the out of doors.

Do you ever cancel a trip due to weather or lack of clients?

We very rarely cancel a trip because of weather. This is because rain rarely lasts more than a few hours, and there is always a lee side from which to launch and alternative routes to paddle if strong winds exist. We will cancel a trip if I have less than three clients. This very rarely occurs.

How often do you have capsizes?

While paddling, we have never had an accidental client capsize in thirty+ years of leading kayak expeditions here in the San Juan Islands!  That safety record cannot be matched in the sea kayaking industry!  Our extensive experience and knowledge of the islands, honed observational skills and top-notch, new equipment insure a safe and memorable voyage for our clients.

May I bring my own kayak and/or paddle?

We prefer all participants to use my double kayaks and paddles. We know how our equipment will perform in island waters, and we carry spare parts and repair materials to fix them if need be.

I am single. Is that a problem?

Definitely not. You will get a two person tent to yourself and will paddle with another member of the expedition or with your guide Bethany or Tim. Our trips attract an equal mix of couples, friends and single people. You will fit right in!

Where do we get drinking water during the trip?

We carry it with us in two-and-one half or five gallon containers. This water is for cooking and drinking (and contact lenses) throughout the journey. We carry enough so that you may refill your personal one quart bottle at any time. Stay hydrated.

Do you supply wetsuits?

You do not need one. If you have your own, please do not bring it. Paddling in a wetsuit is too restrictive and hot. Our top-of-the-line double kayaks are stable and dry to paddle.

What are your routes?

Our routes are planned to utilize tidal currents, maximize our chance to paddle with orcas, observe the best the San Juan Islands have to offer,  stay off the beaten paths most other outfitters use and stay, as much as possible, away from civilization.  Each kayak trip page has a thumbnail route map for your perusal.


All photos in our website have been contributed by past guests. Thanks to all who have shared their experience! And special thanks to guest Philip Robinson for his fun pics.

Contact Info

San Juan Kayak Expeditions
Tim and Sally Thomsen, Owners/Operators since 1980
PO Box 2041
275 A St, Friday Harbor, WA 98250, USA
Open 7 days a week for questions & reservations.

Facebook By Weblizar Powered By Weblizar