Canoe tripping beyond backpacking has a few additional skills and gear required.
AN OUTFIT CHECKLIST
In addition to your general camping backpack gear you’ll need a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), paddles, bailer and sponge (to keep water out of boat) and dry bags.
I’ve used my hiking pack inside plastic bags or compartmentalized my gear within dry bags within the pack but prefer to use a dry bag backpack like the Sealine 115. Make sure your dry bag has a thick waist strap so when portaging a boat on your shoulders you distribute the total gear weight between shoulders and waist.
Attached to your PFD you should have a pea-less whistle, compass, mini flashlight, fire starter and quick fuel (in-case of a dunking).
You may also want to bring along a fishing pole, long handled net and tackle.
Portages or Carries involve lifting the canoe out of the water and transporting along forest trails. Some folks will use carts but they can often be more trouble than they are worth. My recommendation is to purchase the lightest boat you can afford. Hurting your back later on with a heavy boat may result in much higher expenses anyway and the lighter the boat the more likely you are to actually load it up for a trip.
Place the boat against the thigh and bend your knees so you can lift and roll the canoe onto your shoulders in one smooth motion.
PAINTER LINE & THE BOWLINE KNOT – SECURING YOUR BOAT
When stopping always secure your boat. I keep a line of rope attached to the bow known as a painter. It’s generally equal to the length of the boat. I’ll tie the tag end around a tree and secure it with a bowline knot. When the line is not in use it is wrapped tightly around a center thwart and grabbing a hold of it provides a nice added balance when carrying the canoe overhead.
KEEP IT MOVING
The forward stroke propels the canoe forward and comes to most folks naturally. Hold your grip hand above the water vertically at about eye level. The paddle should be vertical to the water and you twist your torso to bring the paddle forward and pull the water back.
The J stroke begins with a forward stoke and finishes with a quick “J” motion. The subtle motion of the J stroke by turning your wrist at the end of the forward stroke allows for consistent course correction keeping you on a straight path.
The draw stroke is a powerful turning stroke that can be done from the bow (front) or stern (back) of the canoe. To execute this stroke you turn toward the water and reach out with the paddle into the water and pull the boat toward the paddle. The cross draw stroke is completed on the opposite side you are paddling while holding onto the same grip as the draw stroke.
The stern pry stroke is completed at the end of a forward stroke and helps to direct the boat to the opposite side of the paddle stroke. As the paddle moves behind you let the blade come flat against the stern of the canoe and than as your torso twists back go ahead and pry the paddle outward by pulling in your grip hand and pushing out with the hand on the shaft of the paddle.
BLACKFLIES DEFENDERS OF WILDERNESS
Your obsession with canoe camping will put you out in it during the worst of the bug season. Although the “blackflies, are the defenders of wilderness”, I like to think better a bug bite than frostbite. With the right bug dope, permithrin treated clothing and a head net they are often manageable. My best recommendation is to secure extra time into your trip planning so you can take an opportunity to read or nap when bugs are out or bad weather is overhead.
And finally the most important thing you may need is a good tripping partner. Canoes are known to zigzag and even be called divorce boats for folks who can’t seem to get along. Finding a partner skilled and ready to go at your pace can be critical to a successful trip!
Share a comment if you have any questions about #gettingoutinit! or let me know what critical skills you think I’ve left out.