Canoe Camping: how to get started

Canoe Camping: how to get started

Some hybrids work, some don’t. In this case, canoe camping is definitely one of the better hybrids we’ve seen! But how do you get started? How do you make the leap from just canoeing, to taking all your camping gear with you too?

Time in a canoe gives you a whole new view of your surroundings but sometimes one day just isn’t enough. A canoe camping trip is the perfect way to extend your time outdoors.To help you plan your first foray into canoe camping and make sure your trip is a success, we’ve put together a few pointers.

Right Place, Right Time, Right Adventure

It is important you choose an area with plenty of campsite options. You will probably want to travel between ten and twenty miles a day, so plan your site distances carefully. It is worth contacting sites in advance to ensure they have space for you.

Check the weather forecast well in advance of your trip and be flexible with your dates to avoid periods of heavy rain. Rain can take some fun out of your trip and affect water levels. For more information on the weather and how it can affect your plans, read our latest weather article here.

Wherever and whenever you decide to take your trip make sure it is within your capabilities and allow time for any unexpected delays.

  1. Top Tip: Most waterways require a licence for you to paddle on them. British Canoeing ‘on the water’ membership gives you access to 4,500km of waterways. You can find out more about it here.

Canoe Camping – Get Your Gear Ready

An open canoe can carry quite a load, but don’t overdo it. There will be times you will have to carry your boat on and off the water.

It is important to wear a well-fitting buoyancy aid when on the water. Check your boat and paddles are in good condition and make sure you have clothing suitable for the conditions. Take extra thermal layers, a hat, gloves and wet-weather gear. But let’s not be negative about this; get your sunscreen packed too!

Your camping equipment is just as important. You will probably sleep like a log after a hard day’s paddle but an inflatable sleeping mat and the right sleeping bag will certainly help. Your local outdoor store will have all the information you need for finding the right fit for you. They’re the experts!

Keep a head torch and matches at the top of one of your bags. If you arrive at camp as it gets dark it will be the first thing that you’ll need in order to find everything else.

  1. Top Tip: Make a note of the gear you use and don’t use during your trip. This allows you to plan and pack more efficiently for future trips.

Engine Fuel

In a canoe you are the engine and it’s important you stay well fuelled. Cooking on an open fire is fun but use a fire box to protect the ground. If you opt for a camping stove make sure you have enough fuel with you.

A cold-box or bag is useful and make sure you have enough fresh water with you. River water is fine for washing in, but it’s not always OK to drink… and quite frankly it’s not worth the risk!

Finally don’t forget the tea bags and some hearty food. You will deserve a cuppa and a good meal after a day in the boat. Try to take food with you that’s not perishable, especially if you can’t guarantee it will stay at the temperature required.

  1. Top Tip: When sitting around the campfire use your canoes as a windbreak.

Get In Trim

No, we don’t mean you need to go on a diet – trim is the word we use for ensuring you distribute weight evenly in your canoe.

Pack all your gear into dry bags or barrels, keeping an essentials bag close to hand. A large dry bag, with carry straps, to carry all the equipment needed for canoe camping and a smaller bag for daytime equipment are usually sufficient.

As a rule, trim the canoe front heavy when heading into a head wind, stern heavy for a following wind and level for fair weather. Pack the larger dry bags into the middle and remember to tie everything down!

Take your loaded boat on a test paddle before setting out on your trip. This way you can check the balance of your canoe and get a feel for paddling in a heavier craft.

And there you have it, you’re ready for your first canoe camping experience! Remember it’s always a good idea to have a test run first so maybe plan somewhere local to explore first. But after that, the world’s your oyster! Check out our Challenge routes for some inspiration for longer paddles, or get planning with PaddlePoints.