Preparing for your First Canoe Trip

posted in: ADVICE & TIPS, TRAILS & TRAVEL | 0

You made the decision to do your first Canoe Trip, it can seem overwhelming at first, but with a few tips and packing advice we are sure your trip will be memorable and not for the wrong reasons. Here is a guide of what to pack for all your canoe tripping adventures. Remember these are just general guide lines and may need to be tailored for each adventure.

Canoe and Gear: You’re obviously going to need a canoe. If you do not own your own canoe, there are many great businesses in Saskatoon that rent Canoes. Check out Saskatoon Canoe Club, Eb’s Source for Adventure or Classic Outdoors for your rental needs. You will also need to bring a paddle and personal flotation device per person and it is recommended you bring an extra one per boat in case something happens. In Saskatchewan it is required by law to carry an emergency bucket in each boat. The buckets must contain a sponge, a manual bilge pump, a sound signalling appliance or device, a magnetic compass and if the pleasure craft is to be used before sunrise or after sunset navigation lights are required. We recommend to have a throw line in the canoe at all times as well.

Water Proofing: This is the most important step while preparing for your canoe trip. You do not want to mess up your waterproofing setup as it will result in having a not so good time. There are many ways to make things watertight, from dry sacks to using materials you may already have at home. If this is your first canoe trip the likely hood of owning a bunch of dry sacks is very small, and having to purchase a bunch may add up quickly. Alternatively, you can use two heavy duty garbage bags and rope. Redundancy is the name of the game so use two in case one gets a tear. You need to twist the top of the bag and fold it over and tie it as tight as possible, place it in the second bag and repeat the tying process. If you are considering to purchase some dry bags there are many different styles, Ultra-Sil ones are great to pack inside of other bags as they are not as durable as some of the other models. If you are looking for a great bag to store everything inside we recommend the Sea-line Boundary Bags. They are extremely durable for weight and in the larger capacities have backpack straps and hip belt, they come in 35, 65 and 115 Litre capacities.

Navigation: you need to figure out how you will navigate, if you choose a map and compass make sure you are familiar with how to use them. You can also use a GPS, but if you do bring extra batteries, and a backup way of navigating. 

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Core Gear: This should always be in your day pack on any trip. Matches, lighter and fire starters in a waterproof bag. A knife, headlamp, first aid supplies, water and a water treatment method. It is a good idea to bring cash with you as lots of remote services won’t accept cards. 

Camp: you’re going to need a place to sleep at night which will usually involve a tent, sleeping pad, and a sleeping bag. Make sure you don’t get this stuff wet, a wet sleeping bag is not going to be fun. We highly recommend bringing a watertight storage option for your tent fly so you can pack it away while wet so it won’t transfer to the rest of your gear. We also recommend bringing a tarp for your tent to increase living area in rain. You’re going to want a full cookset including a stove, pots and pans, bowls and utensils. Make sure you bring enough fuel for your stove and are comfortable with how to use it. Bring a tarp for your cooking site so you can cook in the rain. It is extremely important that you set up your cooking site away from your tent to avoid any unwanted guests at night. 

Food: Food’s important, you don’t want to be with someone who is “hangry” and they don’t want to be with you either. It’s good practice to plan out your meals in advance, it is important to consume the food that will spoil the fastest early on in you trip. It’s also good practice to bring snacks and an extra day of food in case you get stuck somewhere due to weather. 

Clothing: this is going to determine how comfortable you are, so don’t skimp out on this. It is a good idea to bring a full set of sleeping clothes that you keep dry, at the very least have a good pair of sleeping socks. The number one rule on clothing is no cotton or denim, these will not be warm when wet and they do not dry well. Bring quick dry pants for in the canoe and either a synthetic or wool shirt, we also recommend wearing the same socks for in the canoe everyday (this saves space and weight). Bring multiple pairs of clothes so if they get completely soaked you can change and not get hypothermia. You should have two pairs of footwear, one for in the canoe and one for on land. You should also bring a sunhat, buff, and sunglasses you don’t mind losing. 

Optionals: these are other recommendations that we strongly advise to bring. Sunscreen, bug spray, repair kits, duct tape, rope. Another item is a satellite safety beacon, if anything serious happens this is your only reliable way of getting help. Lot’s of places will not have cell service when you venture out on a canoe trip.

Although this may seem like a lot, you will find that all of this fits in one or two bags, and you may already own a lot of it. If not, don’t get discouraged, everyone starts somewhere. Remember the most important thing is to be safe, and have fun.