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Choosing The Right Canoeing Equipment

Updated on June 21, 2013

I've Just Bought A Canoe - Now What?

Slipping silently through the misty waters of northern Alberta on calm mornings, I greet the day. I love drifting silently at this time of the day The sun low, coloring the sky tangerine, the day just breaking. White-throated sparrows and red-wing blackbirds vying for the best spots to greet the morning. You can't get a better start to the day. Paddling a canoe through a wilderness lake is the only way to be a part of it all.

We just purchased a second hand canoe. I canoed lots when I was younger and know how to canoe rather well but my wife has rarely been in a canoe and doesn't know the first thing. Our quest for this weekend is to research what canoeing equipment we need and what I can build or modify from what I have in my camping gear.

I purchased the second hand canoe for a few reasons. The price being one. Because I don't know how well we will take to canoeing in our later years, I didn't want to go out and buy the best of the best out there, even though that is what I was looking at. I wanted to give the old canoe a new home. People hate selling canoes I have noticed over the years. The fond memories make the parting difficult. If you share the love of canoeing with those selling , the parting is easier. I assured them the canoe was going to a good home. It's funny but it helps.

Photo Credit

I Am Going Canoeing This Weekend

I renewed my interest in canoeing recently and have taken steps to reintroduce myself to the past skills I used to enjoy. I have many fond memories of canoeing both solo and in groups through the back country lakes and rivers of my wild Canadian home.

I've lived in many provinces of Canada and canoed many of them. The peaceful hardwood forested lakes of New Brunswick was where I first both paddled with a group and tried solo canoeing. They were some of my best memories.

The wild rivers of Ontario. Here I learned that the thrill of whitewater is too much for me. It also instilled in me the amazing people the first nation peoples and the first wave of fur traders/trappers really were. It is tough enough to haul today's modern lightweight gear over the many portages of the wilderness lakes and streams. It is said that the average trader of the day used to carry 600 lb packs over typical portages of several hundred feet. Amazing.

The wilderness lakes of northern Alberta is where I really got close to nature and paddled more solo than with others. These places are closest to my heart and these are the places I wish to introduce my wife to. As we happen to live in Alberta now and it is easy. We'll see how it goes.

Care to follow along?

Equipment Needed for Canoeing - Essentials for Safety and Comfort

Harmony 30 Liter Waterproof Barrel (Blue)
Harmony 30 Liter Waterproof Barrel (Blue)

Barrels are the best way to carry foodstuffs in a canoe. Not only do they keep them protected from water but also from being banged around. They are also easier to keep pests away.

 
Outdoor Products Pack Ultimate Dry Sack
Outdoor Products Pack Ultimate Dry Sack

Buy several at different sizes but do not over fill these bags. They are only water resistant at the best of times and then only if you can fold the closing seam down several times before buckling closed. These are best used for clothing and things that you know will not be ruined if they get wet.

 
Light My Fire Original Swedish FireSteel Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter - Black
Light My Fire Original Swedish FireSteel Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter - Black

Always have a way to start a fire that works when you are wet. It could save your life. Practice often as it is a skill you need to know. These fire steel take an old skill and brings it up to where almost anyone can light a fire with them.

 
Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter
Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter

Gone are the days you can drink the water straight from the lakes and streams of our country. With these simple pocket filters, you can have safe drinking water here or anywhere. You can use them when backwoods canoeing or traveling to a third world country. It's a good thing.

 
Astral Buoyancy V Eight PFD
Astral Buoyancy V Eight PFD

It is important, very important, to have a PFD that fits, is comfortable not only when you are sitting still but when you are paddling and even floating in the water. If you are not comfortable in your life jacket, chances are you will not wear it when you need it most. Always wear your life jacket. Buy the best, what's your life worth?

 

Canoeing Equipment Needed - All you need to know about paddles but were afraid to ask.

Photo by me as I am shopping for paddles.
Photo by me as I am shopping for paddles.

You have you canoe, but what else do you really need and what do you think you need?

Paddles:

How do you choose a paddle. There are lots of shapes and sizes, one could just about spend all day trying to decide there are so many options. It comes down to what type of paddling you are doing and personal preference.

Shaft length.

Everyone is different so shaft length is important if it is too short you'll be reaching to far over to paddle and you end the day with a sore back. If the shaft is too long, you are driving the paddle too deep into the water and risk breaking the paddle on rocks or dragging too much water needlessly and tiring out early.

A note about bent shaft paddles. These are meant to have the blade straighter in the water when you are in your power stroke. You cannot do a j-stroke with any efficiency with them. These are best left to the racers and the more experienced paddlers.

The easiest way to know the length of your paddle is to sit in a chair set the handle between you legs on the chair seat and the shaft flare should start at your nose height.

Blade Shape

Oval round square or even leaf shaped paddles are out there it doesn't really matter much to the paddle. From experience, choose a smaller bladed paddle if you are a white water paddler. They are quicker to maneuver and don't sink so far that they jam in rocks and get ripped out of your hands. Bow paddlers should choose and short-faced blade as well. The long bladed paddle is best served in the stern paddler position to steer with. Make the paddling a pleasure and choose a smaller blade than you think, it is more efficient and you will suffer fatigue less often.

Material

Wood, aluminum, plastic? These are all material of choice. I prefer wood but a white water canoeist may prefer aluminum shaft with plastic blades and a t-grip. I am not a white water canoeist and the amount of white water I run my wooden paddles serve me fine. Again this is a personal choose. Wooden paddles are warmer than aluminum as well. A point to consider if you are a cold weather paddler.

Find the Right Shaft Length

Set the upended paddle with the handle between you legs on the chair seat. The shaft should start to flare at your nose level. This is the golden rule - everything else is personal preference.

More About Canoeing Safety Equipment - Buying A PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

Shopping for PFD is the only way - you have to try them on
Shopping for PFD is the only way - you have to try them on

You PFD has to fit right and be comfortable when you are paddling. If not , chances are you will not enjoy the experience. I remember the old kapok life jackets we wore as a kid. 4 inches thick and you could barely look out through the hole once your neck was stuck in. Every time you leaned over to paddle they would ride up and hit you r glasses or knock your hat off. The dumb things would chafe something awful. They ended up on the bottom of the canoe as soon as we were out of site.

With today's modern materials makes, it is easier to make a PFD designed with a paddler in mind. They are light roomy and afford lots of shoulder movement without chaffing. They even have pockets for an emergency whistle, fire stick and lip balm. Important features. And the bright colors make one visible which is good.

Safety Rope Throw

It is always good practice to have a safety rope throw bag in the canoe.

Bailing Bucket or sponge

Canoes are open topped and even on the mildest of rapids and sunniest days water can get into the canoe. You bring tiny bits in every time you shore your paddles or getting in and out if it is a wet takeoff. eventually you will start collecting water and it is a good idea to have a bucket or sponge to be able to rid the canoe of excess.

Repair Kit

Buy a small kit for the type of canoe you are using. Even the most experienced canoeist can get a little beat up in some rapids. A patched canoe may not look the prettiest but it may get you home where a canoe with a hole in it will not. Plain old duct tape works where all others fail. Grab a small roll of duct tape and you're covered.

Painters or guy ropes

These are 25 to 50 foot ropes tied to the bow and stern that you can guide your canoe with from shore. Through a shallow section that would have you scraping the bottom if you were in it or just if you wanted to get out and stretch your legs on a windy section of beach. Having two ropes allows you to angle the canoe so it stays away from shore while you are pulling it along.

These ropes are also good to use to tie up you canoe at night so it doesn't float away if the wind comes up, or the tide. Use the soft diamond braided rope that is easy to tie knots in and not the stiff yellow polypropylene rope.

The path of the paddle can be a means of getting things back to their original perspective - Bill M.

Have You Any Canoeing Stories?

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    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 2 years ago

      That can be said with any sport/activity. Prepare for it with the proper stretching before and after and take frequent shore breaks and enjoy the natural beauty of your surroundings.

    • profile image

      Amanda 2 years ago

      Eventually, all the pressure from your legs goes to those few vrteebrae and cartilage disks..Foam can't do anything for your yak back, because those few vrteebrae in your lumbar spine are the only rigid thing between your rib cage and your hip bones that can bear the brunt of that continuous pressure Foam, straps, plastic, webbing it's all hype

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Klaartje Loose: Awesome. I bet that was a lovely trip.

    • Klaartje Loose profile image

      Klaartje Loose 4 years ago

      Oh I LOVe canoeing! Canoed years ago with a friend in Sweden and Norway, camping gear in the canoe, away from civilization for 21 days, great...

    • Northerntrials profile image
      Author

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Wow. Thanks for sharing that. It is so true.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Its been too long since I've been in a canoe and your intro just drew me in. Where I grew up became a national park and the interpreters have taught many the ins and out of canoeing including my oldest son who used to go on many of their excursions with an emphasis on safety. There's just something about gliding over water in silence that makes your world perfect in the moment....wishing you many adventures! :)

    • Northerntrials profile image
      Author

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @WriterJanis2: Thanks for the tip. It's time for you to get out in the real world and see the nature as it is. Disney has its own view of nature and its not all as it is. But I guess if that is the only option go for it. The real thing will thrill just as much if not more though.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Your link in the Squidoo forums isn't working. However, I found you anyway. The only canoeing I've ever done is at Disneyland.

    • Northerntrials profile image
      Author

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @the-gadgeteer: Thanks for visiting and commenting. I appreciate it. Good luck in your lens making, I'll be watching.

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Canoeing is so much fun. I need to take my kids on a canoe trip down the Blue River now that they are out of school. They have never been, and I know that they would love it.

    • profile image

      the-gadgeteer 4 years ago

      Nice lens. I'm not a big canoeist, just done some minor rec canoeing, but enjoyed your descriptions of the peaceful fun.

      Congrats on the purple star. I just wrote my first lens and hope someday I'll achieve your status.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Dabdab: Awesome. If I can get back so can you... got any stories?

    • Dabdab profile image

      Dabdab 4 years ago

      I should really get back into canoeing - there are some great spots near me.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @capulonix: Unlike rowing , when you are paddling you are looking in the direction you are traveling, so you see everything. And paddling quietly, you'd be surprised what you do see.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Arod17: Find a rental center near you and go. They are very reasonable to rent. $15 - 30 /day which includes paddles PFD's and safety gear. Try it.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @linsm76: Thanks. I got shopped under the table trying to find the perfect fit. It took two days but it was worth it.

    • capulonix profile image

      capulonix 4 years ago

      An interesting lens with good information. Like Arod17 I have never been canoeing or even used a vessel that required a paddle. Done a bit of sailing and rowing but that is the limit. It must be a tranquil and relaxing experience in the right location

    • Arod17 profile image

      Arod17 4 years ago

      I never been canoeing I always wanted to go

    • profile image

      linsm76 4 years ago

      Some great information for those who are interested in canoeing.