The Complete Guide to Canoe Camping

There’s so much to love about summertime, but it comes with the challenge of trying to beat the heat!

Canoe camping is an activity that unites spending time with an exciting watersport, making it the perfect summertime adventure.

Similar to backpacking but ideal for those who love spending time in the water, canoe camping provides an ideal way to adventure outdoors for those who love to explore and experience nature on the go. 

Ready to get your feet wet with canoe camping? Let’s dive in. 

How Do You Prepare for Canoe Camping? 

It’s easy to feel intimidated and not know where to start when it comes to preparing for a canoe camping trip. 

The great thing about canoe camping is that you can cater the journey to your expectations. 

Want an exciting and fast-paced itinerary? Prefer to laze along the waterways and soak in the beauty of nature? 

Either way, you can make it happen with canoe camping!

Create an itinerary that suits your preferences by choosing your destination and planning your route accordingly. 

Here’s what you need to know to plan a canoe camping trip that goes off without a hitch:

Choose a Destination

Start by selecting the setting of your canoe camping trip. The good news is there are basically limitless options so that you can find the perfect backdrop for your adventure. 

New to canoe camping? We recommend starting with somewhere not too far from home and opting for a more popular destination. As you become more accustomed to the activity, that’s a good time to branch out and try new things. 

An excellent place to start your search for the best destination is by looking at national parks. You can check out this resource from The Guardian and even stop for a pint while you’re paddling.

Of course, these options aren’t specific to canoe camping, and not all will suit this type of outing. Still, it’s an excellent place to search for the ideal destination. 

Those newer to canoe camping should look for locations with developed facilities, such as bathrooms and clearly marked campsites. 

Consider whether your destination requires you to register for the campgrounds or obtain a permit. Check the park’s website to find any requirements you may need to fulfil, and make sure you plan with those in mind. 

Plan Your Route

Once you have your ideal destination selected, it’s time to plan your route.

Particularly if you’re not experienced with canoe camping, this can be a challenging aspect of preparing for your trip as there’s much to consider. 

First off, how fast do you paddle? Keep this in mind as you decide how far you’ll travel each day, and be mindful not to make plans that will overexert you. 

Also, be mindful of portages (the distance you’ll carry your canoe over land). You want to keep those distances lower so you don’t quickly exhaust yourself.

Next, how long will you paddle? Canoeing is only part of the itinerary, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy the other aspects of camping, including setting up a tent, cooking, and enjoying nature. 

For this reason, you don’t want to paddle for 8 hours a day. Plan on closer to 4 to 5 hours, leaving yourself wiggle room if you overestimate your speed and need to spend more time on the water than you planned to reach your destination. 

You’ll also need to think about how long you want your trip to last. If you’re a beginner, stick to 1-3 nights to start and adjust your length for future outings based on your preferences.

Keeping all this in mind, decide how far you want to canoe each day and how long you want your trip to be. Use that information to guide you as you design your route. 

Speak with Guide & Use a Map

One way you can determine your route is to call the park and speak to a guide. With their expertise and familiarity with the park, they might be able to help you decide on a route that aligns with your capabilities. 

You can also obtain a park map that outlines campsite locations, distances between campsites, and portage lengths. If you call the park, you can ask them for advice on the best maps. 

Google & Social Media

The internet is also a great resource. The park’s website is an excellent place to help you find out where campgrounds are located. You can also Google example canoe routes at your destination and use those as a guide to help you determine your plan. Make use of YouTubers or TikTokers that have been on the same route when planning your journey. 

As you design your route, ensure you know where you’ll leave your car and where you’ll pick up your equipment for your adventure. 

What Should You Pack for Canoe Camping

Being prepared is paramount, so don’t forget any of the essentials.

Pack all of the necessary camping gear for your trip — but pack light so you can easily carry everything between campsites. 

Below are some things to make sure you include on your packing checklist to ensure a successful trip: 

  • Something to Carry Your Equipment In: Start by having something to pack your gear into, such as a dry sack or backpack. Make sure you have a way to keep anything water sensitive dry.
  • Paddling Equipment: This includes your canoe, paddles, and lifejackets. Ensure you have enough space in the canoes and gear for everyone on the trip (1 paddle and lifejacket per person). Bring a spare lifejacket and paddle, just in case.
  • Safety Equipment: This includes an InReach/Satellite phone and first aid kit. Make sure both of these are easily accessible and stay dry so you have them whenever you need them. Don’t forget safety equipment like lifejackets, first aid kits, and communication devices.
  • Other Necessities: Other things to consider bringing with you on your canoe (though you likely won’t need all of these depending on the weather and your preference) include toiletries, a fleece long-sleeve shirt in case it gets chilly on the water, rain pants, sunscreen, sunglasses, bug cream, sunhat, a buff, a disposable camera, and raincoat.

What To Wear While You’re Canoeing

While you’re canoeing, you should wear quick-dry clothes like pants/shorts and a T-shirt. You want things that quickly dry off. You can also wear a tank top if you prefer. 

If it’s very hot out, you could choose a bathing suit or even underwear and a sports bra. 

Don’t forget your footwear. You should wear wet shoes whenever you think your feet could come into contact with water, such as when it’s raining or while canoeing. 

Closed-toed trail running shoes work to wear during portage and walking through rapids. You could also opt for short hiking boots if you prefer. 

What To Wear While You’re Camping

You probably don’t want to stay in your canoeing clothes while you’re in the camping portion of your day. 

You might want to change into dry shoes, fleece and synthetic down clothing, long underwear, or wool socks. Of course, this all depends on the weather where you are. Adjust your clothing as necessary based on the weather and your comfort. 

What Equipment Should You Take Canoe Camping? 

That’s not all you should bring with you on your trip. Consider the below categories to make sure you’ve checked off every box on your packing list: 

Tech Essentials

What tech do you want to bring with you on your trip? 

Consider a speaker to play music from your phone while you paddle or relax at your campsite or your cell phone to keep in touch with the outside world (if you’ll have cell service). 

There are all sorts of tech you can bring with you on a canoe camping trip, like a coffee maker, cooking gear, and more.

Of course, make sure you plan where you’ll plug in, even when you just need to recharge. Consider bringing a lightweight, portable power station like the EcoFlow RIVER 2 along for the ride. At around only 7.7 pounds, it won’t weigh you down. 

For longer trips or those relying more heavily on tech, consider the RIVER 2 + 110W Solar Panel to keep your portable power station charged. If you’re a solo canoer with room in your canoe for a solar panel, you can recharge your portable power station from your campsite when you’re not moving. 

Food & Drink

Ensure you bring enough food and water to keep you sustained during your trip — especially as you’ll be spending a lot of time paddling and, consequently, burning calories and requiring you to keep fueled. 

Of course, this goes beyond simply food and drink but also a way to prepare it. Don’t forget things like matches, lighters, cooking equipment, utensils, gear to clean up after yourself, methods for water purification, and anything else you might need. Don’t forget garbage bags.

Sleep Equipment

You’ll need a tent (make sure to store it in a dry place), a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, a compressible camping pillow (if desired), pyjamas, and anything else you’ll need to sleep comfortably. 

Other Necessities

If your campsite doesn’t have bathroom facilities, bring anything you’ll need to go to the bathroom, like toilet paper, hand sanitiser, and a towel. 

You’ll also want to consider shelter like a tarp and rope. You may not need them on a shorter trip, but having a cooking shelter if rain comes down makes things much easier.

In addition, you never know when you’ll need zip ties and extra carabiners.

Consider packing things like books, journals, pens, cards, bug nets, headlamps (with batteries), face wipes, hats, gloves, and cameras. 

3 Must-Know Canoe Camping Tips

Want to make sure your trip goes off without a hitch?

Check out these tips below.

Check the Weather in Advance

The weather during your trip will significantly impact what you’ll wish you have with you. Be aware of what the weather is supposed to be like while you’re packing and plan accordingly. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Share your Plan with Family or Friends

Once your route is decided, make an extra copy and share it with your family or friends. This way, if something goes wrong, someone will know where you’re supposed to be — it will make locating you that much faster if things don’t go according to plan. It’s always best to plan for the unexpected.

Have a Backup Plan

It’s possible someone on the trip could injure their wrist, your boat could become damaged, or the wind might unexpectedly change and make your plan a dangerous option.

Consider what might happen and have a backup plan ready should the need arise. Just in case things go awry, keep the number of any appropriate authorities on hand should you need to call for help. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do You Call Canoe Camping? 

Canoe camping can also be referred to as touring, tripping, or expedition canoeing — but they’re all the same thing. Canoe camping is the watersports equivalent to backpacking, combining the exciting activity of paddling on the water with the beauty of camping in the great outdoors.

Where Should You Pack the Heaviest Items in a Canoe?

Typically, you’ll want to balance the weight relatively equally between the back and front of your canoe, with a bit less weight at the front. Heavy items should be over the centerline of your canoe to prevent it from cracking or leaning to one side.
Check how your canoe is positioned in the water before setting off. Adjustment may be required if there’s too much weight at either end. Find out what works for you, as you might need more weight at the front if you’re paddling into a headwind. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a memorable summertime adventure, canoe camping just might be it.

Make sure you’ve packed all the essentials so you’re prepared for whatever the wind blows your way. And make sure to stay powered up with the EcoFlow RIVER series on your side. 

EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.


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