An Insiders Guide to Paddling and Camping at Capers Island

Logan Waddell
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One of the best things about the Lowcountry—from an outdoorsy person's perspective, at least—is that the lack of drastic seasonality means that a camping trip is never off-the-cards. And arguably one of the best places to do so is Capers Island.

This picturesque barrier island, about an hour east of downtown Charleston, is one of the best places in South Carolina to enjoy a coastal backpacking trip. Having maintained its primitive characteristics due to the hoops you have to jump through in order to actually get there, Capers is never overcrowded. So, if you're adventurous enough to skip out on the inconsistent ferry system, and take a human-powered paddle voyage out to the island, you're in for quite a treat. We're talking campsites with surreal ocean views, interrupted only by petrified trees, and the shade of centuries-old live oak canopies. If there is one backpacking/paddling trip you should take this season, it should be to Capers Island, and here's how to do it.

1. Gearing up

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Seeing as there is no other way for you to get to the island except by boat, you're going to need kayaks.  Half Moon Outfitters  has the boats you'll need to get to the island. A good kayak is important for this trip, as it's a somewhat lengthy paddle, and you'll need to transport all of your gear.

You'll also need the basics while you're on the island: food, water, camp stove, sleep system etc. But a few other odds and ends you may want to bring are dry bags, clothing that will protect you from the sun while paddling, and a hefty amount of DEET, or your favorite mosquito spray. Mosquito season in the Lowcountry is not something you want to mess around with. In the summers, it's not uncommon to encounter swarms so thick, you can't even hear yourself think over their incessant buzzing. If you'd prefer not to douse your skin in bug spray, Thermacell lanterns are a great way to create a mosquito no-fly-zone in your campsite. How it works is that these lanterns vaporize allethrin, which is a synthetic copy of the active ingredient in chrysanthemum flowers that repels mosquitoes, black flies, and no-see-ums.

Bring everything you'd want for a normal backpacking trip, just remember you will be paddling instead of hiking. Launch from the Isle of Palms Marina, and head east up the Intracoastal Waterway. You're in for roughly a 4.5 mile paddle, so bring plenty of water for the trip, as you won't be able to get fresh water on the island

2. Once on the Island

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Enjoy everything it has to offer. Find a tidal flat to fish from, hike around the island, or set up your hammock and take a nap after that paddle...odds are you might need one. Capers is a large island, so break your hikes up day by day. A map of the island can be found via the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources . One of the main attractions found on Capers is Boneyard Beach, a ghost-like forest of petrified trees sticking out of the sand, left behind by Hurricane Hugo. The beach attracts hundreds of paddlers every year, and is an amazing site to see. Last but not least, make sure you're up in the morning for the sunrise, and out on the beach to catch the sunset. This island is so isolated from development it feels like you're the only person left in the world during the quietest parts of the day.

3. Back to the real world

Logan Waddell

Once you're back from the island, head straight to  Poe's on Sullivan's Island. Poe's is on the way home, and they bring to life that massive juicy burger you'll be dreaming about on the paddle home. Poe's also has a huge selection of local beer that you can sip on while kicking back on the front porch with your crew.

Capers is not for the faint of heart. Plan on at least a long weekend trip, and know your paddling limits before committing to something you can't handle. If you're unsure of paddling out to the island, make arrangements to borrow a jon boat, or contact Barrier Island Eco Tours. They have access to a ferry, but only for parties of seven or more. This is an incredible island that is certainly one of the more unique places to be found on our coast, and there's no better time to visit it than now.

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