Canoe Camping Tips – Making Your Trip a Great One

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So you are thinking about going camping in a canoe? Well, you have picked an excellent way to experience nature. By embarking on this journey, you are choosing to embrace the joy of freedom and the next bend in the river. Read on and find out everything you need to know.

Canoe Camping Checklist – Everything You Will Need

To make your journey a successful one, you need certain gear. This list is divided between essentials and optional items. When it comes to camping, you want the maximum amount of utility from the minimum amount of items.

Essentials:

  • Canoe, this item is waterway specific. Each canoe varies with environment type. Some are meant to withstand the waves of a raging river while others are meant for a gentle lake. On top of that, you are going to have to consider the weight and size of it. How long are you are going? What is a canoe I could carry by myself if I am portaging? These questions and more should guide you when deciding on the canoe that works best for you are. Additionally, you need to be aware of the different hull shapes. They come in arched, flat, modified V, and round. Each will work better in different water ways.
  • Paddles, these vary in size and circumference. Some will be better in lakes, others in rivers. It is situational.
  • Sleeping Bag, you are going to want a sleeping bag that fits with the weather. If it is cold, you are going to need to stay warm. If it is warmer out, a lighter sleeping bag will more than fit your needs.
  • Pillow, you can bring an inflatable one or make something out of your extra clothing.
  • Tarp or Rain Fly, when camping, you want to be on the safe side when it comes to the weather. A tarp or rain fly can help protect you and your gear from the down pour.
  • Tent, this is an absolute must for a successful camping trip. It shields you are from rain and the elements. Most include tie downs and a rain fly. Your tent needs to be waterproof.
  • Dry Bags, as the name implies, this item stores your items without fear of them getting wet.
  • Flashlight, when you are camping, you are need to have a light for you are to see at night.
  • Batteries, if your flashlight runs out juice, you will appreciate having a spare pair of batteries around.
  • Rope, with this, you are can tie your canoe to a dock or tree while in the water or make another use of it.
  • Food, depending on the length of your trip, you will need a specific amount of food. When you are canoeing for any length of time, you are sure to build up an appetite. Bring at least an extra day’s worth. Whatever you normally eat, double it as you will be working hard.
  • Compass & Maps, these will direct you if you get lost in nature. I recommend that you acquaint yourself with the techniques of using both.
  • Clothing, you want to stay away from cotton. Stick with either wool or nylon; these materials dry quick compared to cotton. You want at least two pairs of clothing in case one pair becomes unusable. Anything more will slow you are down.
    • Waterproof, because you are going to be on the water, you want your clothing to stay dry.
    • Footwear, sandals and hiking boots are enough to take care of you on your journey.
    • Rain Gear, rain can strike at any time. You want to be able to be dry despite the wet weather. A poncho will do the trick.
  • Water Purification, water can be purified in a number of ways. Iodine tablets, boiling, and distillation will all do the job. If anything, you want to have too much water for your journey.
  • Cooking utensils, for any meal, silverware, cups, pots, and reusable napkins will all work to make your meal turn out well.
  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD), when you are out on the water, it is better to be conservative for your safety.
  • Toilet Paper and Shovel, does a bear s*** in the woods? You bet it does and so will you too. Firstly, you will need biodegradable toilet paper. This will make sure that, after taking care of business, you take care of mother nature. Secondly, you will need shovel or rock. This will be used to dig your hole. Go at least 25 feet away from any water source, so your doodie does not wash way and become a floating log. Remember to cover up after you are done.

Optional Items:

  • GPS, this item is great if you are going deep into the wilderness. While more on the expensive side, a GPS can mark important points and help you are if you are lost.
  • Emergency radio, this will help you in case you get lost in the wilderness. This will help you stay in contact with the outside world.
  • Satellite phone, while they are a bit expensive, they serve as last resort option.

When it comes to packing you must remember your own physical limitations. Ask yourself, can I reasonably carry all of this gear? Your first trip probably will not be a perfect one, so just take note of your mistakes and then correct them for next time.

Rivers, Lakes, and Coasts – Common Bodies of Water

There are three primary water ways when canoeing, either on a river, lake, or a coast.
More than likely you will be either on a river or a lake, so I will refrain from discussing coast canoeing. Lakes and rivers present their own set of challenges. On top of that, each one is more different from the last, so you will going to have to understand the particular nuances of each body of water.

  1. Rivers, all bodies of water move, but rivers especially do. Depending on the speed of the river, you will always be moving.
  2. Lakes, these are more gentle. All lakes, though, are not connected, so you going to have to be prepared to portage. It simply means to pick up all your things and go to another body of water.

Sometimes lakes and rivers run into each other. You need to have the knowledge and foresight of how to manage both of these bodies of water.

Plan Your Trip Carefully – It Goes a Long Way

Before you embark on your journey, you will want a clear path of the route that you are plan to take. Take the time to jot it down on a map; it will save you are energy from the lack of frustration down the road, giving you the energy to focus on the joy of canoeing.

On top of that, you are need to be aware of areas that you are can go to and places you are not allowed to be. Rivers and lakes are not just free for anyone to use. There are specific rules to follow for each and every place you travel to.

Leave No Trace Principles – Everyone Likes a Clean Campground

Whenever you are camping, there are a certain set of general guidelines to follow. This is no different even when it comes to canoe camping. Follow these ethics to make sure our natural environment remains pristine for generations to come.

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare, what environment are you going into? What do weather forecasters say for the area? Do I have what I need? Questions such as these and more will prepare you for your journey.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, when you plant your tent, do not put at the bottom of a gully or river bed. If it rains while you are there and you have put your tent on a dip in the ground, then you will get soaked. Aim to put your tent on a small hill to keep dry
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly, Anything you leave behind will be consumed by animals. Be sure that you leave everything as if you were never there
  4. Leave What You Find, branches, leaves, and rocks all need to be left behind. You are simply a respectful visitor.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts, if you make a fire for cooking or warmth, keep it contained. There are enough forest fires every year and it is important that they have as little reverberation throughout the ecosystem as possible.
  6. Respect Wildlife, when you enter into the wilderness, “you’re not in Kansas anymore.” You must understand that you are entering the world of bears, birds, coyotes, squirrels, and deer. As such, be sure to keep an odorless camp, smell will attract them. When you are make your campsite, you are will want it to be as odorless as possible. This prevents animals from being attracted from your camp.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors, usually, there will be more than just you travelling to the outdoors. You are sharing the space with others. Be respectful and communicative to have a good experience.

Important Skills – You Will Need Them to Survive

To make it out in the wilderness, you are need a variety of skills to make your trip turn out well. These skills will make your trip a great one.

  1. Paddling, when you are out on the water, you want to be familiar how to get around. You can learn how to do basic strokes through videos on YouTube. Here is an excellent one to give you an understanding of the techniques.
  2. Map and Compass, you need to be able to locate yourself on a map and direct yourself to where you need to go. It is as straightforward as that. REI offers in person training and there is also online video training.
  3. Situational Awareness, one of the biggest differences you will immediately notice between city living and the outdoors is the silence. It thunders in your ear drums (not really though). You going to have to use senses you would otherwise not ordinarily use. When you walk, you going to have to imagine where you are going to be in the next few steps.

If you master these skills (and any that are not mentioned), it will go a long way in making your experience an enjoyable and memorable one. Remember, skills equal success.

Final Thoughts and Words

Awesome! You have read the whole article and now you are ready to embark on a canoeing adventure of a lifetime. Just remember, if anything goes wrong, take it lightly and remember that you can always correct it for future trips.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, please comment below and remember to share the article. Thank you for reading and I hope you make it a great day! If you are interested, please check out my product review on the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern.  For those dark and cold nights, it helps to have a friend to shine the light.

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14 Comments on “Canoe Camping Tips – Making Your Trip a Great One”

  1. Informative post! I love the no trace principle. I think it’s really important to respect the landscape and wildlife. To leave it unspoiled for others to enjoy. Perhaps we’ll canoe camp next time.

    1. Thank you for sharing Lace. Canoe camping is an excellent activity. When you are out on the water, it like being on an open plain. The environment just expands out before your eyes. I appreciate your thoughts.

  2. I think I may need to make a print out of that list of essentials for camping! I am NOTORIOUS for leaving something behind. Each and every time! What a great way to organize your thoughts in this post into easy to follow lists. I really enjoyed this!

    1. Yes Eric, I definitely would recommend a print out list. It makes planning and organizing a trip much more efficient. I appreciate that you enjoyed this article. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Wow, Alex, great extensive post! Really helpful, I would have certainly forgotten a few items without this checklist. I’m really excited for my first canoe trip now. Thanks for the info!

  4. Hey Alex! very informative post, I had literally no idea you could even go camping with your canoe. (not in mine anyway), I might need to get a bigger one.

    This looks very relaxing and seems like it’d make a very good adventure!
    I should gather a couple friends and plan a trip…
    I will bookmark this page for further reference… Thanks Alex!

    1. Thank you so much Jeremy! Canoe camping is certainly a little known secret in outdoor recreation. It is a wonderful adventure for a three day weekend or even longer. Please do share here if and when you do go out with a couple of friends. I would love to hear about it. Otherwise, I appreciate your thoughts on this. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Hi awesome article! I am moving out west to British Columbia next summer and I was planning on taking the family camping as well. I really enjoyed your check list and got a chuckle on your explanation on how to use the washroom properly as well lol. I especially liked the shovel part it really made a lot of sense. I think your emphasis on leaving no trace especially helpful as well, as we really need to respect nature and all its surroundings.

    Thanks again!
    -mike duhamel

    1. It is great to hear that you are moving out to British Columbia. The mountains and wilderness there are absolutely stunning. It is absolutely majestic. I appreciate you for sharing your thoughts on this article. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Alex, these are great tips I will need as I continue my “bucket list”. White water rafting is one of my “got to try this at least once adventure”!

    Now I will be well prepared to act like a pro! (lol)

    1. Yes, canoe camping is a great outdoor adventure. More than likely it won’t be like white water rafting, but at certain sections of a river it can get pretty rough. When you do go white water rafting, please share pictures because I think you will have a blast. Thank you for sharing Phildora.

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