The Complete Guide to Canoe Camping

Immerse yourself in adventure and tranquility with this exciting watersport. Canoe camping is like traditional backpacking; however, the only way to reach the campsite is by boat. Paddling on the water is an excellent alternative to hiking during hot summer or a unique way to enjoy the winter landscape. 

Whether you’re a beginner paddler or an experienced canoeist, thoughtful preparation is needed for a successful adventure. This guide provides relevant tips on choosing a destination, planning a route, effectively packing, staying safe on the water, and more. 

How To Prepare for Canoe Camping

Choose a Destination

There are a few considerations when deciding on a location for canoe camping. You’ll need to pick a destination that matches your comfort level, balancing your skill set and sense of adventure. 

If this is your first canoe camping experience, choose somewhere popular with marked campsites. Having marked campsites will make camping easier as you adjust to canoeing and camping combined. A good place to start is searching for local boat-in-only campsites. Look for National and State Parks nearby, and you’ll experience canoeing to the campsite but still have access to restrooms, tables, and flat ground. 

However, experienced primitive campers and canoeists can opt for more remote locations without amenities. National and State Forests with rivers are the best options for escaping into the remote wilderness. There are usually rules in these locations associated with fires, trash, wildlife, and camping locations, so familiarize yourself with those before heading out. 

Plan Your Route

After choosing your destination, it’s time to plan your route. This part can be tricky if you’re new to canoeing. Consider how fast you paddle, as this will dictate your daily travel distance. A good rule of thumb is to go 3.5 kilometers per hour at most. Then, think about how long you want to paddle each day. 

Exploring and relaxing are some of the best aspects of canoe camping, so give yourself plenty of time each day to enjoy it. Leave enough time to set up camp, cook dinner, and enjoy the great outdoors. 

Now, you can decide how far you want to travel each day. Don’t try to overexert yourself; otherwise, the trip will be less enjoyable. Paddling for 8 hours a day is likely too much for a beginner. Stick closer to 4 or 5 hours to leave plenty of extra time if you paddle slower or have an emergency. 

To start, beginner canoeists should stay for 1-3 nights. As they gain experience, they can increase the length of the trip.

When looking at maps of the area, consider how many times portaging is necessary. Portaging is when an obstacle requires the canoe to be picked up and moved instead of paddled. For example, suppose you must go from one lake to another through shallow water or avoid a waterfall. In that case, it’s easiest to portage by unloading all your gear onto dry ground, moving the canoe, and then making a second trip for the gear. 

While considering all this, decide how far to canoe each day and how many days your trip will be. Then, you can start looking at the finer details, such as food supplies, clothing, and needed equipment. Call national and state parks to utilize park guides who are experts on the park routes and can provide advice. Google and social media are other resources for discovering campgrounds and routes that others have taken. 

How To Pack for Canoe Camping


When narrowing down what food to bring, consider the length of your trip and how much you can fit. Meal planning is critical to overlapping ingredients for easier packing and ensuring enough meals. Ensure each meal has sufficient calories—paddling can burn more than you think. 

High-protein and high-calorie grab-and-go snacks can easily supplement our body’s needs between meals. Consider what spices and cooking oils/butters are needed for the planned meals. Water-tight barrels are perfect for keeping food dry in case of a flip. Water tablets or a water pump are great options for water purification. 

Kitchen Equipment 

Of course, a camp kitchen is needed. The type of kitchen equipment required will depend on how dispersed the camping location is. For remote locations, EcoFlow Portable Power Stations make utilizing electrical equipment, like a coffee maker, easy. 

Consider packing pots and pans, a camp stove, some fire starter, cutlery, cups, plates, a can opener, and hand sanitizer. Recharge this portable power station with EcoFlow Portable Solar Panels for continuous power in remote areas. Consider which portable solar panel meets your boating and camping needs


The type of clothing to pack depends on the season, and how much depends on how long the trip is. However, generally, you should pack a swimsuit, quick-dry shorts and shirts, close-toed hiking shoes, and waterproof sandals. At night, a fleece jacket, long pants, and cozy wool socks will keep you warm while at the campsite. Layers are essential to packing lightly and efficiently. 

Paddling Accessories

This includes paddles, the canoe, life jackets, and other safety equipment. You’ll need at least one paddle, one lifejacket for everyone, and one extra set, just in case. Make sure the lifejackets fit correctly, and all equipment fits into the canoe. 


A satellite phone and a first aid kit are essential safety items to have on hand. Pack both of them to ensure they stay dry. A wilderness first aid kit contains more extensive tools and medicine than a household kit. Everything should be in-date, and there should be enough for everyone on the trip. 


Outside of an emergency satellite phone, plenty of other tech can make the trip fun. Cellphones and tablets can be used to keep in touch with the outside world. Speakers can play music at night or while paddling during the day. If you like photography, bring a camera and laptop to take and edit photos. 

Keep all your devices charged with EcoFlow RIVER 2 Series Portable Power Stations, the most compact portable power stations. With these, you can maximize canoe space without compromising your power needs. 

Camping Equipment

At night, you’ll need somewhere to sleep. A tent provides shelter overnight, but you don’t have to splurge on one. A lightweight backpacking tent is compact enough for easy storage in the canoe. A sleeping bag and pad are also necessary for warm, comfortable sleep after a long paddling. Again, backpacking-grade ones are perfect for storing in the canoe. The tent, bags, and pads must be stored in water-tight containers or bags. 

Personal Hygiene

Pack what is needed for bathing, teeth brushing, and medication. Make a plan for going to the bathroom. Bring enough toilet paper or reusable bags based on the length of the trip. Also, pack chapstick, sunscreen, bug spray, lotion, and sore muscle cream. 

Keeping Safe While Canoe Camping

While canoe camping is all about adventure, the most important aspect is staying safe while on the water or setting up camp. You never know when you’ll find yourself in an emergency, so being overprepared is always a good idea. Keep reading for some safety precautions to take while still enjoying the sport. 

  • Share your itinerary and location with others. This is good practice before any camping journey. Tell a trusted friend or park ranger where you plan to go, by which days, and when you’ll be back. It’ll be easier to find you if you get lost or there’s an emergency.
  • Watch the weather. Being outside means encountering all types of weather. Check the weather before the trip. Pay attention to rain, high winds, fog, and heat index. When packing, include the appropriate apparel and gear for each type of condition.
  • Always wear a life jacket. Even if you’re an experienced swimmer, capsizing is unexpected. Don’t take a chance; wear a life jacket.
  • Know your limits and only paddle where you feel comfortable. Never overexert yourself on the water. If you don’t have the energy to go further, it’s best to stop and rest. Don’t go out on water that you aren’t comfortable. Lakes are usually calm, but rivers can have unsafe currents.
  • Take a canoeing safety course. These courses are designed to teach you how to handle specific emergencies on the water, such as capsizing or getting lost. They also provide safety tips, such as checking the canoe for leaks before heading out. They may also recommend specific safety gear always to have onboard.

Top Tips for Taking Your First Canoe Camping Trip

Practice Packing Before Leaving

Don’t wait until you’re about to launch into the water only to discover you can’t fit all your essentials into the canoe. To avoid this, practice packing everything into the canoe at home or wherever it’s stored. 

Invest in Dry Bags

Dry bags are the best way to pack clothing, camping supplies, and toiletries. You don’t need to spend a fortune on dry bags; invest in durable ones so everything stays dry. Dry bags come in all sizes and are usually measured in liters. Barrels are an excellent option for storing food, but a dry bag will also work. Choose whatever meets your needs and storage limitations. 

Bring Plenty of Fire Starters And Matches

Pack extra matches, fire starters, and lighters. This will prevent you from arriving at your campsite only to realize there’s no way to light a fire. The fire can provide everyone with warmth, the ability to cook, and an enjoyable nighttime activity. If one option fails, gets wet, or is lost, there is a backup. 

Have a Backup Plan

Sometimes, things don’t go to plan. Consider possible scenarios that could alter the original plan. The boat can become damaged, someone can hurt their wrist, or the weather significantly changes. A backup plan also means you can call for help from the appropriate authorities if something happens. 

Joy in The Journey And Destination 

As with every activity, there’ll be frustrating times as a beginner. Remember that the joy of canoe camping is in paddling to the destination and in outdoor camping once there. While on the trip, maintain a balance of both. If paddling is more brutal than usual one day, it’s okay to camp early and relax. Be patient with yourself as you embark on this new kind of adventure. 

Pack in Evenly

Distribute the gear weight effectively in the canoe. Experienced canoeists refer to this as trimming, or how much of the canoe is underwater. Having the stern heavier and the bow lighter in rapid waters can make navigating easier. 

Backup Power Solutions

With easy-to-use power solutions like the EcoFlow RIVER 2 Series Solar Generator, there’s no reason not to pack the best one for your canoe. You’ll never need to worry about electrical outlets while camping. Solar generators combine portable power stations with solar panels to generate and store solar energy regardless of location. If you also plan to fish, consider solar generators supporting all your fishing electronics

Start Planning Early

If this is your first canoe camping trip, start planning as soon as possible. This allows plenty of time to hash out all the details. Book camping permits in advance, purchase equipment, take safety classes, and practice using gear without worrying about time constraints.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Canoe Camping Called?

Canoe camping can be called “canoe tripping” or “canoe” touring. All three phrases convey the combination of traveling and camping by canoe. These trips usually involve multiple days and nights in the wilderness. 

Is It Safe To Sleep in a Canoe?

Sleeping in a canoe is generally considered unsafe. Canoes are unstable and prone to easily overtipping, and tossing and turning during sleep can increase this chance. It’s best to paddle to shore and set up camp for a safe and stable night’s rest. 

Final Thoughts

For a successful canoe camping trip, choose a location that matches your skill level and take time to plan your route carefully. Consider your paddling speed, how long you want to paddle, and how many days the camping trip should last. 

When packing gear, plan out meals and tools, clothing for the number of days and activities, safety precautions, and backup electrical power. The compact, lightweight EcoFlow RIVER 2 Series Solar Generator is the best option for portability. 

To prepare for and minimize emergencies, incorporate safety measures such as life jackets, weather knowledge, and sharing your itinerary. Now, you’re ready to paddle away into the tranquility of the water and relax under the stars during your next adventure!

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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