Warm, sunny days are great for spending time hanging out at the beach, floating down a river and especially for canoeing on a lake. Gliding through the water and exploring the lake-shore looking out for the best picnic spot; life is good! Canoeing is easy and fun for just about everyone so don’t sweat it if it’s your first canoe outing, we’ve got a canoe gear guide to get you ready.
Comfy, Canoe Apparel & Footwear
We want to ensure that your day on the water, whether it be your first canoe trip or not, is a memorable experience. Follow these simple apparel and footwear guidelines in order to maximize your comfort on your next canoe day trip.
The clothing you choose to wear while canoeing will depend on the weather. Should the sun be shining strong in the sky, a comfy pair of waterproof or quick-drying shorts and a tank top with a swimsuit underneath would be perfect. If you choose to go for a sleeveless top, make sure you lather on the sunscreen so you don’t end up with a crimson red, sun burn on your back and shoulders.
For canoeing in general, you want to pick anything that will be comfortable to wear while sitting for an extended period of time and that will not be uncomfortable if it were to get wet. Quick-drying tops and bottoms are ideal and wont cause chafing or discomfort once they are wet.
Should the weather be more on the grey side and the clouds above are threatening rain-showers, some rain-gear would be necessary and if its a little bit chilly, don’t hesitate to throw on some extra layers. Sometimes it can be breezy on the water so check the weather forecast before you leave the house and make sure you bring some warm layers if the temperatures are looking cold.
Other apparel such as hats and Buff products are important as well. If you choose a large sunhat like the TNF Horizon Brimmer Hat or the Electric Co. Hat that provides shade for the back of your neck in the sun, a Buff would not be necessary. Should you opt for a baseball cap that only shades the front of your face, you may want to throw on a Buff to keep the sun off your neck for part of the day.
For footwear, you can either choose to be barefoot and even-out your unreal, sandal tan lines or opt for a pair of waterproof footwear. Whether you choose flip flops, aqua shoes or a strappy sandal, any choice will work. If you have some portages to make during your route, it may be a good idea to go for a strappy pair of sandals like Teva, Merrell or Chaco. These will be a more sturdy and secure pair of sandals to avoid any tripping or slipping while traveling across the land.
If you plan to canoe to a trail head you will want to bring a pair of proper walking shoes to throw on. Depending on the difficulty of the trail, your strappy sandals may work well enough but this is somewhere where you will want to research beforehand.
*To find out which type of hiking footwear will be best for your outings, check out our finding the right hiking boots or shoes guide.
Other Necessary Gear
- Apart from the necessary canoe equipment and safety gear, there are a few other important pieces that should be included in your packing list. These few important pieces of gear include:
- lighter or matches in some sort of waterproof container
- sunglasses, suncreen, lip balm and a sunhat or a cap; The reflection of the sun on the water can be very strong so make sure to keep yourself protected while you’re out on the lake.
- bottles of water to stay hydrated
- snacks; If you’re going for a long paddle, try to have a few energy bars or trail mix close by so you can munch if you get hungry or start feeling tired.
- waterproof cases for your phone and/or camera
- dry sacks or waterproof bags; These are very convenient should you need to store towels or extra layers that need to stay dry.
- pocket knife or multitool
- fully charged headlamp and cell phone (extra batteries for headlamp if it runs on batteries)
- insect repellent; Lakes can be a popular spot for mosquitoes and other annoying, buzzing bugs and if the murmur of a mosquitoes drives you as crazy as it drives me, bring along some bug spray like Watkins, the strong stuff.
Whether you are canoeing to a special spot for a picnic, for a little walk or hike or for a secret swimming spot, packing a small lunch if you are going to be gone for a few hours is never a bad idea. If you’ve got room, you can pack along a picnic blanket and a small cooler to keep the cold items fresh and enjoy some lakeside scenery.
Canoe, Paddles & Life Jackets
Once you arrive at your destination and are waiting to hit the water in your canoe, it never hurts to do a quick gear check. It is always best to go over all gear before most any outdoor activity or sport to ensure that everything is working properly and safely.
Before hopping in the canoe you should be all geared up with your life jacket. The seats in a canoe are sometimes not the most comfortable and as much as you may want to use your life jacket as a bum cushion, it is meant to be worn. There are a variety of styles and sizes for life jackets and they can be slightly bewildering with all the straps, buckles and zippers so before you set off, just double check that they’re all secured safely.
Your canoe should obviously float on the water and look as though it is floating equally. Be aware that it will feel wobbly and tippy when you are crawling in. Be careful when entering the canoe and try to balance your weight. Stay centered as best as you can so that you do not flip it.
It is normal to see some small puddles of water in the vessel due to water dripping from the paddles so don’t be alarmed if there is a little bit. Now, if the water is ankle deep, you may want to look into the reasoning behind that.
There should be at least two paddles per canoe, one paddler in the front and one in the rear and generally two people per canoe. If you are more than two, you can either hop in another canoe or grab another round of paddles and sit in the same canoe if there is enough room. Some canoes are too small and will only accommodate three people maximum but others can accommodate more.
If you are more than two people in a canoe, try to have an equal number of paddlers on both sides of the canoe. This will provide even power on both sides so the canoe goes forward in a straight line rather then in circles. If there are three people in a canoe the middle person can choose to either not paddle at all, or they can paddle on both sides. It’ll most likely be easier to have just two paddlers in this case.
Boating Safety Equipment & Tools
As with any outdoor outing, you should always carry a well-stocked first aid kit and a whistle. Some life jackets will have a whistle attached but in the case that they don’t, bring your own so you’re not left without one.
- Other important safety equipment that you should carry in your canoe at all times are:
- a bailer or a bilge pump and a sponge – used to bail water out of the canoe
- floating throw line with a throw bag – used to tow a canoe in distress or be towed
- spare paddle and a spare life jacket – if a paddle or life jacket are lost for whatever reason, there is a spare
If you are renting a canoe from a company, these few safety items should already be included inside the canoe or provided by the canoe rental company.
It’s always a good idea to research the area you plan to go canoeing beforehand to avoid any silly navigational mistakes the day of. There may be hidden rocks or shallow patches that are not visible from the surface so being familiar with any unknown hazards ahead of time is a good idea.
Some lakes are very small and are littered with hidden beaches perfect for picnic stops so an exact planned route isn’t 100% necessary. For those planning trips on larger lakes with numerous arms, some rivers and maybe a portage spot or two, a detailed map is essential to keep on track.
*Portage is the action of carrying your gear and your boat over land between two bodies of water.
If you are bringing along a map but are not able to find a laminated or waterproof version, ensure that you keep your paper map in a sealed tight zip lock bag. This will help it last throughout the journey so you don’t end up stranded should the ink run and make reading unclear.
Other handy navigational devices such as GPS devices and compasses are important as well. You want to make sure you know which way you are headed if you are sticking to a particular route. A pair of binoculars would also be convenient to bring along so you can locate important landmarks and routes from a distance.
Plan A Canoe Trip This Weekend
At the end of the day, we all love to get out and explore and what better way to explore than in a canoe? Whether you are a first time ‘canoer’ or you have a few canoe trips under your belt, this canoe gear guide is perfect to get you prepared for a canoe day trip this weekend.