Canoe Camping

Keeping Up the Tradition!




A canoe camping trip is a restful adventure into the great outdoors.  Excursions can last anywhere from two days up to a month with the right planning and right canoe for the type of water.

Canoe Camping

Generally, canoe camping trips will be done on rivers or lakes.  Water speed determines the type of canoe to use.  If the waterway is a narrow fast moving river, one-man canoes of 12 to 14 feet long with a high rocker profile are best.  Tracking is not nearly as important as control and maneuverability is the name of the game.  Make sure the canoe is either aluminum or other high strength material to withstand the rocks and abrasions it will encounter.

Never camp alone especially on a river where whitewater is expected.  Common sense dictates that a backup plan needs to be in place if one canoe goes over, that someone else is there to fish you out.

Slow moving streams or camping around lakes requires a completely different boat setup.  With any camping trip, it is advisable there be at least two people but they can be in the same canoe.  Try using around a 16 to 18 foot craft with a relatively minimal rocker profile.  On lakes and on wide rivers, strong winds are sometimes expected and tracking a straight line becomes more important than maneuvering around.

Avoid aluminum canoes if possible.  The absolute best canoe for a quiet ride is still the canvas over a wood frame, but some of the new materials such as Kevlar and Royalex can provide a quiet paddle as well.


Planning a Canoe Camping Trip

The biggest challenge experienced by a canoe camper is the availability of viable campsites.  The development of riverfront and lakefront properties has taken many sites away and the biggest part of planning is plotting out where to set up camp.  There are available place to camp at National and state parks as do islands in lakes.  Plan your trip and then do what you can to verify that your prospective campsites are open to the public.

Canoe Camping Campsite

Now that you know where you will be camping and hopefully know what canoe will be used, the next task is deciding on the supplies needed to cover the trip.  To make sure have everything from first aid to food and the sleeping bag to the stove use a camping checklist .

Probably one of the biggest learning curves any novice canoe camper has is learning what not to bring.  Obviously, a camping tent is on the required list, but it should be only as large enough as needed.  Unless the entire family is going to a known campsite, chances are that your campsite may only fit multiple smaller tents instead of a large family tent.

A camping stove is also on the required list as cooking by campfire may not always be practical.  The size of the stove will depend on your need It maybe a small stove that a backpacker uses may meet your needs.  On the other hand, if room allows you may want to pack propane camp stove.

campact burner

Plan all your meals including snacks in advance.  This will allow you to prepackage or purchase readymade meals.  Food Savers, re-seal bags and containers are advisable and should be pretested for leakage.  Keep in mind that ALL non-biodegradable garbage will need to be carried back.  It is the responsibility of all campers to be "low-impact" to the environment and anything you take in to the wilderness has to be taken back out otherwise it will soon no longer look like the wilderness.

One big advantage to canoe camping over kayak camping or backpacking is you can bring and ice chest along.  Make sure the ice chest is relatively new with high quality insulation and always remember to minimize the amount of times you open it.  An alternative to carrying drinking water is to bring along a camping water filter.  A portable unit can produce all the potable water you would need for drinking, washing dishes, or washing up.


Packing for Canoe Camping

Properly packed canoe

The canoe will need to be loaded in a manner that the weight is towards the bottom to maintain a low center of gravity.  Distribute the weight evenly when packing from gunwale to gunwale and slightly more weight placed towards the stern than the bow.  Place your canoe on a 4" x 4" block at the midpoint of the boat so when empty, it is perfectly balanced.  Pack the canoe shifting heavier items to the bottom and evenly from side to side.  The gear should never extend over the gunwale and kept clear of a paddler's feet.

It is also an important practice to plan for the inevitable, a capsizing.  Develop a regular method using straps and bungee cords to secure items to the canoe so they will not be lost if the canoe tips over.  The straps are to keep the gear in one place to prevent shifting during the trip while the bungees are to tether all gear to the canoe itself.


Most of the information above on this page came from canoe camping enthusiasts we have met during our camping trips.

If you have any questions, email us using the Contact Us button on this page. 



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