If you've never broken camp, loaded up a canoe, and set off for your next campsite by paddling out into a serene early morning lake or river, you're missing out on a unique outdoor adventure.
There are plenty of reasons to give canoe camping a try. Here are three: First, you can explore places that are impossible to get to on foot. Second, because you can carry much more gear in a canoe than you can on your back, canoe camping allows for more creature comforts than backpacking. And third, well, it's just fun.
Here are some tips to help make your next canoe camping trip a success.
Before You Go
Define your goals: Determine what type of trip you—and your companions—are seeking. Is it a challenging week-long adventure, or a long, lazy weekend? Are you comfortable being out in the wild, miles from the nearest person and sign of civilization, or do you prefer the security of knowing you're not alone? Want great scenery or to see wildlife? Catch fish? Take side trips, such as hikes or visits to historic landmarks off the water?
Anyone planning a canoe camping trip should know the wishes and experience level of everyone who will be going.
Research your options: Decide how far you're willing to drive and start exploring what's available. Among the key elements you'll need to nail down are:
- The length of the trial
- The difficulty of the paddling (the river class)
- Availability of suitable camping spots
- Access to drinking water
- And whether any portage of the canoe is required
Go online, look for river guide books, and talk to local park rangers and folks at your local outdoors retailer to help piece together the right trip for you.
Tap into local knowledge: Now that you know where you'll be going, consider working with a local outfitter. Depending on the size of your group, that's often the best way to rent gear. Plus, an outfitter can be another valuable resource for local knowledge such as hidden camping spots or weather patterns.
Practice: Spend a day at a local lake or river testing your gear—and yourself. This can help you decide what to bring and what's better left at home. You can also gain valuable practice in loading and launching the canoe, and improving your stroke technique, which can save a tremendous amount of effort once you are under way for real.