17 Top Canoe Trip Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring (2019)

Updated on April 25, 2019 by Asher Fergusson

Heading out on the open water on a canoe is exhilarating, and a great getaway from everyday life. It’s a unique and interesting way to explore your surroundings and get in touch with nature. Whether you’re going alone, or are partnering up and going with a friend, check out this list before you go.

What to bring on a canoe trip:

1) Weather-Appropriate Clothes – There’s nothing worse than being unprepared for the weather when you’re trying to enjoy a day in the great outdoors. While canoeing, you need to wear clothes that are water-resistant, or at least quick-dry. This rash guard will protect you from the sun and wind, while keeping you dry!

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2) Canoe – You can’t canoe without a canoe! This one is square-backed, perfect for paddling, and uses an electric trolling motor. It’s a three-seater with a built-in cooler and dry storage built into center seat. Perfect for a fishing trip, because fishing rod holders come included!

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3) Paddle (one per paddler) – Arguably the most important thing to bring on a canoe trip other than the canoe itself. Everybody in your canoe will need one paddle. These ones are lightweight aluminum models that would do well on the open water or river setting.

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4) Personal Floatation Device – Safety first on the water! It’s highly important to bring a lifejacket for each person in the canoe (plus an extra one, to be on the safe side). These ones are specifically designed for watersports, and allows for a lot more body motion than standard issue life vests.

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5) Dry Bags – Even if you don’t flip, your paddles are likely to splash a bit of water into the canoe. Put all of your stuff in a dry bag, and you won’t have to worry about dropping anything in water or water getting into the bag. This one has a watertight overlap roll top and the best-in-class waterproof performance. Use it to hold your camera, cell phone, or use it as a fishing tackle bag or travel bag for so much more than canoe trips.

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6) Water Bottle – Staying hydrated is always very important while doing anything athletic or in the outdoors. With a reusable water bottle you can refill anywhere, saving the environment and saving yourself some money. This is my favorite water bottle for canoe trips because its spout makes it easy to drink while paddling.

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7) Trail snacks to give you energy – You’ll need lots of energy for a long day of canoeing. These energy bars will provide you with a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. It’s moderate glycemic index food will give you sustained energy throughout the day, and will keep you full and focused on the water.

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8) Signaling Devices – In case of emergency, you definitely need to bring a flare, whistle, mirror, or all three with you on your canoe trip. If you get stuck somewhere, or separated from your group, these devices will all come in super handy. This particular whistle is great for taking out on the water with you because it can blow wet or dry, is a bright orange color, and includes a neck lanyard.

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9) Emergency Floating Throw Line – If your partner or another paddler gets thrown into the water during a strong current, an emergency throw line can save his or her life. A good throw line comes in a bag that floats, unwinds upon throwing, and can easily be attached to the person in the water. This one has great reviews and is a good item to keep in your canoe for any kind of trip.

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10) Solar Charger – Needless to say, outlets are nonexistent in the great outdoors, especially on rivers and lakes. Disconnecting is great, but there will be times that you absolutely need to charge your camera or phone. Bring a solar charger so that you never have to worry about running out of juice. This one is foldable and very efficient.

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11) Portable Waterproof Speaker – Whether you’re canoeing solo, or with a big group, playing music will set the mood for a good time. This one will let you play music from sunrise to sunset after one three-hour charge! Perfect for a day out on the lake.

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12) First Aid Kit – You should never embark on any kind of trip (day hike, canoe trip, mountain biking trip, etc) without a first aid kit. While canoeing you may encounter loads of bugs that’ll bite you, trees that could scratch you, and loads of other hazardous annoyances. Keep band aids as well as the big guns with you – emergency splints, instant cold packs, and gauze, because you just never know.

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13) Maps and charts in waterproof case – When you’re out on the river, the last thing you need is a wet map. Keep your maps and other navigation tools safe from any amount of rain, snow, dirt, dust, sand, or even a quick dunk in the water. This waterproof map bag is perfect for canoe trips. Use it to keep anything secure, and focus on paddling instead of worrying about drying out your stuff or finding your way home in the dark.

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14) Paddling Gloves – A long day of paddling can do a number on your hands. Unless you want blisters, invest in some paddling gloves. These ones provide protection against the sun and have a contoured double layer in high wear areas of the hand. The soft material will help you maintain contact with your paddle, and maintain flexibility in the wrist!

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15) Sun Hat – Protecting yourself from the sun and its harmful UV rays is very important when you’re spending the day outside. A breathable sun hat is the ideal accessory for your trip. This one has an adjustable drawcord and toggle, and claims to block out 98% of harmful UVA and UVB rays, even carrying the Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal of recommendation.

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16) Spray Jacket or Rainwear – Getting a little wet on the river or lake is all part of the fun of any good canoe adventure. If it’s chilly out, or you’re just not fond of damp clothing, bring along a water-resistant rain or spray jacket. This one has zippered hand and chest pockets, a drawcord adjustable hem and a hood. Perfect for the unpredictable weather you may encounter on your trip.

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17) Neoprene footwear – If it’s not warm enough to go barefoot or wear sandals, you may want to bring along a pair of neoprene water shoes. It’s important to wear shoes that are built for water exposure, since the bottom of your canoe may get covered in a layer of water. These ones have a stretchy pull-on upper with mesh insets for quick-dry breathability and a secure fit, so your foot doesn’t slip when wet.

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Other packing list items for canoeing:

What to wear on a canoe trip:

For your canoe trip, make sure you wear comfortable, breathable fabrics. It’s a good idea to wear a swimsuit underneath, so you can jump in the water occasionally, if the weather permits. Skip the flip-flops in favor of old sneakers or water shoes that will stay on your feet if you need to pull the canoe through the shallows or if your canoe flips during your trip. Moisture-wicking fabrics that won’t stay wet when you sweat are key!

What NOT to take on a canoe trip:

1) 🚫 Jeans – Denim is your worst enemy when you’re out on the water – it’s bulky, heavy and does not lend well to exercise. Leave the jeans at home, and wear stretchy comfortable pants or shorts.

2) 🚫 Electronics – No need to weigh yourself or your canoe down with extra electronics.

3) 🚫 Valuables – There’s no reason to bring anything highly valuable into your canoe that may flip.

4) 🚫 Nice clothing or shoes – No need to dress to impress on a canoe trip, so leave the nice clothes at home.

FAQs about camping:

1) Do I need prior paddling experience?

If you have no experience, but would like to go on a canoe trip, sign up for an organized trip. Your local REI most likely has a canoe trip scheduled for the near future, so go and learn with a group of other adventurous folks.

2) How many people fit in a canoe?

It depends on the canoe. The norm is two to a canoe, although they do make canoes with three seats. Definitely check the weight allowance before adding any extra people to your canoe.

3) How do you deal with inclement weather on a canoe trip?

Be prepared! Bring rain gear (jacket, umbrella, etc.) and make sure your stuff is in a waterproof bag.

4) Is it better to use a double canoe rather than a single one?

There are pros and cons to both types of canoes. If you are canoeing solo, you have the freedom to choose where to go and how fast, but you have to paddle by yourself. In a double, you share the weight and paddle together, but must agree on where to go and how fast or slow to take it.

5) What if I am driving and the ending of the trip is in a different location?

Have a friend pick you up at the pullout point. Or, if you’re going with a buddy, leave one car at the end point and one at the beginning.

6) How do you ensure safety while out on the water?

Make sure to bring a first aid kit and emergency throw bag with you at all times, and observe canoe safety protocols. If you’re not confident in your swimming abilities, make sure to wear a life jacket!

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