Going on a canoe camping trip is like backpacking without using roads. You have to pack light and make sure that you can take all of the essentials wherever you go to your next stop. The way that these two types of camping differ, though, is that those campers who prefer to travel by canoe have one added obstacle – the water.
Today, you are going to learn about all of the things you will need for going canoe camping (that could come in handy on a backpacking trip later!) You need basic items that you would take camping anywhere, of course, but you will also be shown how to best keep your supplies and yourself safe and dry.
We have also, packed in some great instructional videos throughout this article to make sure you have all the knowledge you need for a great trips.
If you want to go on the best canoe camping trip of your lifetime, be prepared and pack what you need before leaving home base!
Canoe Camping Basic Gear
Anything that you would pack for a regular camping trip, you should pack for your canoe camping experience. Never skip over the basics! Let’s talk about what these are and help you put the right foot forward when it comes to what you need.
You have to have somewhere to sleep aside from the cold, mucky ground. Even if there is no shelter to be had, you can never go wrong with packing a sleeping bag to nestle in for the night. For a canoe camping trip, though, you need something as light as a backpacker would take on their adventure. The following examples are some of the best on the market for a camping trip like yours. Check them out and see which may be right for you!
- Ohuhu Envelope Sleeping Bag. This bag is lightweight, portable, and waterproof. Right off the bat, you know that water resistant material is important when it comes to taking a canoe camping trip. This model offers that to you and more! Unlike other sleeping bags used for ultralight camping, this one is still pretty roomy while offering you warmth and protection in temperatures as low as 55 degrees (F.)
- Winner Outfitters Mummy Sleeping Bag. If you are going canoe camping in colder weather and need something to keep you cozy in temps lower than the mid-50s, you may want to consider buying this sleeping bag! It is just as light and just as easily portable while also being made for colder environments.
Obviously, you will want a little more shelter than a sleeping bag can offer after a long day of canoeing. That is where a tent will be useful. Not a standard camping tent, though; you need something lightweight and easy to set up.
- ALPS Mountaineering Lynx Tent. This is one of the bestselling tents on Amazon, and here’s why. It is freestanding, weighs under 5 lbs., protects campers from all types of weather, and it is water resistant. The ample storage pockets help, too. You can get it for under $100, which is a great deal for all that you get!
- Weanas Professional Backpacking Tent. This shelter is used by all types of campers in almost all types of weather. It can accommodate multiple people, it’s weather resistant, and you can set it up by yourself quickly.
One of the most vital items you can bring on your trip is a cooler. It keeps all of your food from spoiling and your drinks will stay pleasantly chilled. Here are some great coolers that other canoe campers have recommended in the past:
- Igloo Ice Cube Roller Cooler. This cooler is big enough for your food items while still being portable and small enough to take on your canoe with no problem! It holds 60 quarts for everything you could need.
- Coleman Soft Cooler. If you prefer soft coolers and you only need a small space, try this cooler from Coleman. They have been a leading brand in outdoor gear for a long time; almost every camper trusts the company to provide reliable products. Almost 2,000 people love this model, and you will, too!
First Aid Kit
First aid kits can make all the difference between a good camping trip and a potentially fatal one. There are basic items that you should be packing into your first aid kit to prevent disaster from striking in an emergency situation. Let’s discuss what these are so you can be prepared for anything that may come your way.
- Adhesive bandages
- Sterile gauze
- Disposable gloves
- Cleansing wipes
- Distilled water
- Antiseptic cream or wipes
- Aloe vera
- Painkillers (ibuprofen)
- Thermal blanket
- Medical tape
- Any prescription medicines that you take
- Snakebite kit
With these items tucked into a first aid kit, you will be able to turn around many dangerous situations and prevent infections, disease, or more serious injuries. For more information on what you should put into a kit and why, visit the Mayo Clinic’s website.
Unless you happen to be a nudist, you are going to need clothes on your canoe camping trip. Having the right outfits and accessories are important because they keep you protected from the elements. It isn’t just about style; clothes keep campers safe!
To get a good idea of what you may need for your trip, check out this list and determine what you will need from there:
- Having shorts on hand will improve your range of movement in your canoe and will help you stay cool under the glare of the sun. Unless you are canoe camping in a cold environment, these will be very useful.
- Moisture wicking clothes. You are going to get wet at some point, either from your own sweat, rain, or from the water you are paddling your canoe in. Having moisture wicking clothing will make you more comfortable because you will stay more dry than you would with cotton clothes.
- If for no other reason than to help you stay cool and comfy, sandals are a great choice for footwear. Sneakers can weigh you down if you fall into the water, and getting them wet at all will be a pain because your feet will get soggy and hot after a while.
- Hat/bandana. Either one of these choices is appropriate for a canoe camping trip because they shield your sensitive scalp from the sun. Getting a sunburn is never fun, so prevent it from happening by hiding your head and neck.
- If you have especially sensitive eyes, this is a must. No matter whether it is cold out on the water or not, the sun will still be shining right into your eyes. This can reduce visibility and could potentially cause you to run into rocks. Pack some sunglasses or you may end up regretting it later.
- Paddling gloves. Most of your canoeing trip will be spent paddling through the water. That can leave blisters and calluses on your hands after a while, and that hurts. Getting protective gloves will help you paddle for longer without being uncomfortable.
- At some point, you may fall into the water or you may just feel like taking a dip! In that case, wear your swimsuit when you go canoeing for the best experience.
- If the weather is cold, you will need to substitute some of your clothing items for a jacket, a wool cap, and thicker gloves. These are completely optional, but you should pack them if you take your canoe camping trip in the chillier months.
Some of the items you will need don’t fit into any specific category, but you still need to remember to pack them. Here are some other items that may come in handy when you go canoe camping:
- This includes forks, spoons, knives, bowls, plates, and cups.
- Insect repellant
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
- Credit card/cash
- Waterproof matches/lighters
Canoe Camping Specific Items
Now that you have your basic camping essentials, you can begin to pack for your canoeing items. We’ll go over exactly what you need for a successful trip down the river!
Obviously, this is the first thing you will need to get when going on a canoe camping trip. After all, it would just be a regular camping trip without it! The model you need depends on the size of your group, where you are paddling, and what you need to take with you. The type of canoe you need will determine where to start looking.
If you are paddling on calm, flat waters, you can get yourself a recreational canoe! They are hard to tip over and easy to control. If you are a beginner, this would probably be the best choice for your camping trip.
Some advanced canoers will be setting out on their journey through rushing rivers and rapids. It would be near impossible to navigate these waters in a recreational canoe. You need something specifically made for paddling through tumultuous conditions.
These are a great balance between the two mentioned above. You can use these models for recreation or for rougher waters if you would like. Multi-purpose canoes are generally bigger than recreational canoes and more easily maneuverable than they would be in rapids. If you are going on a long trip or need something that can handle any challenge, a multi-purpose canoe could be the best choice for you.
You can’t go anywhere in a canoe without having paddles to push them along with. If you are going on a canoe camping trip with more than one person, the best rule is that each person gets one paddle. If you go by yourself, you will definitely need two. In either case, you need to bring a spare paddle in case one gets swept away. Be prepared for the worst scenario and you will never have to actually worry about it!
Personal Flotation Devices
Every single person on board the canoe needs a personal flotation device (or PFD, for short.) Safety should always be your first priority; PFDs are items that you absolutely can’t go without. As is the case with paddles, you also need to keep an extra PFD in the canoe. Anything can happen to one of the originals. Having a backup saves you or someone with you from drowning.
You are going to be mightily uncomfortable if you forget to bring a seat into your canoe. This will keep you both happy and balanced to lessen your chances of tipping over. Having a low center of gravity is important while canoeing, and a seat helps you achieve this.
If you find yourself getting lost, stuck without paddles, or marooned if your canoe wrecks, then you need emergency signals and other devices to get yourself some help. Having these on hand at all times can save your life or the life of someone in your group.
- This is a visual emergency signal that will alert anyone nearby of your location and that you need assistance. They are bright enough to be seen even in the daytime, though using them at night will heighten your chances of being noticed.
- A whistle is your auditory emergency signal for when you don’t think your flare will get noticed by anyone. It also helps when members of the group get split up if the canoe tips. Blow on it and someone is sure to hear. Whistles are widely known for being emergency devices, so it is useful to have one around your neck on a string while paddling.
- Throw line. If someone does happen to go overboard, you can save their life with a throw line. Toss it out while they are still close enough, have them grab onto it, and pull them back in until they can safely climb into the canoe without tipping everyone else over.
- Bilge pump. Your canoe could take on a lot of water. Having a bilge pump will stop it from sinking in most cases.
- Weather radio. You must know what the weather conditions will be like before heading out on the water again. Storms can become incredibly dangerous when you are exposed, and natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes can be fatal if you are stuck on the river.
Wearing knee pads while canoeing is purely for comfort, but that does not make them any less important. If you hurt your knees, you may have to stop your canoe camping trip short because going on is increasingly painful over time. You don’t want that, so pack your pads before you go.
This is where your unique challenge comes in. Not every camper needs waterproof gear because they will not be getting near the water while they explore the great outdoors. That is what most of your trip will be like, so you have to pack items that will protect the rest of your things from being ruined.
Dry bags are going to be your new best friend while canoe camping. You can put just about anything that needs protecting in them, including bigger items like your sleeping bag. If you do not want to find yourself sleeping on the ground with nothing for warmth, put your bag in one of these. Some other canoe campers recommend this dry bag:
- Marchway Floating Dry Bag. This bag is durable, waterproof, and it floats so that if it gets flung out of the canoe, it is easy to retrieve. You don’t have to go diving for your gear! It also has a shoulder strap for easy carrying and it holds anywhere from 10-20 liters. Over 750 people seem to love it, so you can trust that you are making the right decision when purchasing one. Get it on Amazon.
Waterproof Phone Case/Pouch
In this modern era, it would be pretty difficult to go camping without a phone. Most smartphones are equipped with a GPS, apps for digital compasses, and the ability to contact others all in one device. They make camping easier for everyone, including you. This is why you should protect your phone with a waterproof case or pouch while you are paddling through the water. Without our phones, we might get lost (quite literally.) Keep yours safe and you keep yourself safe.
If you need to know where to look for one of these products, start by taking a peek at the Universal Waterproof Case by JOTO. It is one of the most highly rated products on Amazon with over 26,000 reviews! Needless to say, a whole lot of people trust this case with their most precious lifeline. The size can accommodate many types of smartphones, so check and see if yours is on the list. You do not have to pay a lot of money for such an amazing device, either! You can get it for less than $10.
This is just about everything you need for your canoe camping trip. Buy what you need and get what you want after for the best possible adventure. Remember – stay safe, protect your gear, and have fun!
Here are more articles that are sure to help you out.
Overnight Canoe or Portage Camping Trip ( What to pack and keep gear dry )
Backcountry Camping (What is it, Dangers, Packing)