canoe camping and gear selection

when canoe camping what type of gear do you use…lightweight backpacking type gear or car camping style equipment? Somethings will obviously be the same, like sleeping bags and pads, but for example, do you take a full sized double burner Coleman stove or a lightweight single burner canisiter stove, lanterns, coolers, etc…

Lots of different types of canoe camping. On back country wilderness trips with frequent and long portages; choose lightweight / low volume gear and your back will be happier. If your canoe camping has no portages involved; take whatever you can fit in the canoe and safely paddle with.

Depends on if it is just a overnighter
or a multi day trip.

On a overnighter we forgo the Kataydin water filter for carrying a couple of gallons of water, etc.

A lt more thought has to be put into a extended trip.

Fo the stove, we always just use our little tiny “Hank Roberts” stow away one, since we don’t go camping for the eating part of the trip and usually just use it to heat water or soup.



I take mostly backpacking type gear to cut down on volume, this allows me to add extras like a tarp, chair, and bigger tent

Canoe comfort
I agree with each one of these previous posts. After 40 years of paddling and camping, I’ve really gotten to the point where I focus on comfort. If that means LESS stuff because of portaging, so-be-it. If that allows MORE stuff (especially a comfortable chair and some really good food) then all-the-better! I’ve become a fan of the Jetboil stove for simplicity and flexibility (and 'cause it gets my wife her coffee first thing with the French Press) and, though I try not to use them too much because of night blindness, I find the cool little Petzl headlamps to be great for both post-sundown set up and reading. I’m sold on Ostrom packs, just because they are so well made and seem to fit my back better than anything else out there. And I still have a 30 year old woven basket backpack that holds all the detritus that we carry around in our boats and want to get to quickly. If I am comfortable, I paddle more. And that is the point, eh?

Comfort first
I’m partial to anything that is reasonably light weight and comfortable and tastes good. The Jet Boil mentioned above is a definte must. Part of my enjoyment of each trip is to spend time at home in the kitchen cooking and dehydrating yummy meals for the trail. I eat better on the trail than I do at home. The Kermit Chair, a sponser, is a definite comfort. I also like the Sit Backer seat I use while paddling and sometimes while in camp. Another comfort is the Hennessey Hammock tent. Best sleep I’ve ever had anywhere, and it doesn’t weigh any more than a typical tent and sleeping pad, and takes up less room in the pack and can be hung anywhere there are two trees within 50 feet of each other or a rock outcropping. I camped at one spot last summer where the hammock straddled a little brook. Very peaceful sleep and not tossing and turning with rocks and roots poking me and waking up all stiff and sore each morning. I prefer the Granite Gear Immersion packs because they truly are comfortable for long or difficult portages, and they are truly waterproof without all the fuss of pack liners. I like the 30L barrel with Headstrong Harness for carrying everything that has a food odor, even toothpaste and sun block and bug dope. The barrel isn’t bear proof but it keeps the raccoons and mice from chewing holes in my pack looking for food. Next time I camp in bear country I’ll use a bear vault so I don’t have to fuss with hanging the food. Most of my trips aren’t too many portages, if they were I might rethink some of my little nicities.

canoe camping
I generally use backpacking equipment. Coleman Apex white gas stove. Never take a gas lantern but depend upon LED headlamps. If I feel the need for a lantern, the tiny River Rock LED lantern available at Target is the way to go. More light than my packpacking Coleman gas lantern. Light folding chair is a great luxury.

canoe camping
River tripping and no portaging, coolers, chairs, a double blow up bed, and a big tent.

Lakes with portages, lightweight gear all around. I have some preferences though. I take a small aluminum table to cook on, it also doubles as a desk for journaling and a card table. French press for good coffee, 3 inch thick thermarest for maximum sleeping comfort, 3 man tent for 2 people, and real food. We work so hard all day long that its nice to have a meal with fresh veggies, cheese, and meats. I have a vacuum sealer and seal everything before I go. Over the years I have developed my preferences. I dont mind the extra weight when it means I will sleep great on my thermarest. I never leave home without a good book even if the book is 500 pages.

When I ran Slickrock Canyon on the
Dolores River in western CO, I knew I would be only two nights in the canyon, and didn’t want to fool with cooking, cleanup, etc. So I took only high quality granola and jerky. This worked out just fine, though if I had gone for more nights, a more balanced cooked diet might have been better.

There is no filterable water in that section of the Dolores, so I had to take bottled water, plus some sports drink, and one beer per evening.

All my gear was comparable to backpacking gear, except that my Thermorest was thicker and heavier than one would have used for backpacking. I used Watershed and Voyageur inflatable bags to protect everything from water.

Gear for tripping
jgioe asked: “…lightweight backpacking type gear or car camping style equipment?”

Most seasoned canoe trippers select gear for canoe camping that is similar in weight and compressibility to back-packing gear rather than hefty/bulky car camping type gear. It all has to fit in your canoe and on your back. You’ll want to limit the size and weight of your gear so that you don’t have to do more than two carries (max) across any portage trail – including your boat.

“Somethings will obviously be the same, like sleeping bags and pads,”

Not so obvious actually. We use thick and heavy flannel sleeping bags for car camping because they are cushy and comfy, but for the trail we use down mummy bags. Others use light-weight synthetic bags. The key is low weight and compressibility. We use regular thickness Thermarest Trail pads, but some trippers are willing to shoulder the weight of an ultra thick pad – individual needs and priorities will guide you on that.

“…do you take a full sized double burner Coleman stove or a lightweight single burner canisiter stove, lanterns, coolers, etc…”

We use a small back-packing stove with a separate fuel tank, others use single burner canister type stoves, etc. I’ve used my trusty old Coleman double-burner for many years and have even picked up 3 or 4 of them by now at garage sales for cheap (got a mint condition Coleman for 5 bucks once!) – but they are only really suitable for car camping in my opinion. They are just too heavy and bulky for the trail. Similarly a large Coleman type gas lantern is way too bulky and fragile for the trail – and the light those things put out is obnoxious and unnecessary. We use small battery operated lights very minimally while tripping. Ice chests are for car camping only, they are much too heavy and space consuming for canoe camping. A little research will open your eyes to a long list of trail foods that don’t require refrigeration.

While canoe trippers generally aim for light weight and compact size I think most have a FEW items they splurge on – see some examples above in the other posts. Personally I think a chair is very important for relaxing at the end of the day around the camp fire and/or while cooking. I drag along a parabolic shelter for use as kitchen area and as a place to hang out during rainy days. We also like a “3 person” tent for a little extra room.

I’d say start out with whatever equipment you have on hand and as time goes by add some lighter weight more compressible camping gear to your collection. You don’t have to drop a few thousand dollars on a bunch of top of the line name brand gear all at once. You’ll pick it up along the way as you research and decide on exactly what you’d like to own. I’ve been camping since I was a kid in the 50s so at this point in my life I own a ridiculously wide assortment of camping gear – it’s nice to be able to pick and choose what equipment is appropriate for any given trip… But you don’t need to start out with the entire catalog. Take your time, pick and choose. When pondering canoe tripping gear think “weight”, “compact size” and “quality”. Spending a few dollars more on well built/well designed equipment beats the pants off buying cheap gear that falls apart over and over… My two centz - RK

A mix

– Last Updated: Dec-23-07 10:06 AM EST –

I have plenty of backpacking equipment and plenty of car camping equipment.

For canoe camping I'll take a mix of both. I'll usually bring 2 backpacking stoves, though I have been known to bring my big, two burner Coleman propane stove and/or my mini Weber grill. All depends what's on the menu and how many people are coming.

I'll usually bring a larger tent than my cramped backpacking tent. If it's just the two of us (me and my wife) I bring a 3 person LL Bean dome. If it's more I have a 6 person Walrus that I bring.

I'll also bring luxury items that I usually wouldn't bring backpacking like a hammock and a Peak 1 gas lantern.

The one big difference is that we'll probably take a cooler in the canoe so we have cold beer and fresh meat and greens for 2 days or so.

yeah depends
depends on the intent of the trip.

an expedition or weekend drunkfest.

Expedition ='s lighter weight and smaller everything, dehydrated foods, not a lot of luxury etc.

D-Fest='s; Coolers, double burner, lawn chairs, folding table, badmittin net, dogs , lots of whiskey.

depends on the trip
but I usually pack the same for a one or a four weeker. Food quantities vary.

I think like a backpacker but dont use a backpack but a wider lower pack so I can carry the canoe with the pack. (I am often solo). Its important to have a good harness, shoulder strap system that transfers pack weight efficiently. (though I like one with a tump as an extra for uphill slogs)

Weight is even more crucial than when backpacking when you consider you have to carry your boating safety equipment. There isnt that much room left for extraneous stuff. I do not carry a lantern, I carry a stove that I can bake on (that simmers) (its a backpacking stove), plus a DIY Nimblewell Stove that helps me with fuel as it burns wood. I carry only a Thermarest chair frame, the Thermarest (Big Agnes mattress fits the Thermarest Chair frame too), a light 800 fill power down bag (everything is in sil nylon drybags), home dehydrated food, a light sil nylon tarp, a light tent (under 5 lbs)(thinking of HH but it needs trees, not always available and I am not carrying extra poles)

I shop for my one book permitted by print size. The smaller the better.

No booze on expeditions. No canned goods.

Now a kayak trip is another story…if it fits it can go.

…lots of stuff already said…

– Last Updated: Dec-24-07 2:29 PM EST –

Much of same said, although I love the roominess & netted/sitting area in June(heavy blackflies) of my lightweight 3 & 6-person tents(one of LLBeans makers). Enjoy the JetBoil too.

Might get wet
One critical difference in your gear selection between car camping and canoe camping is you need to assume, well, at least consider, things might get wet. Paddlers use dry bags and barrels to keep gear dry, but leaks happen, so consider that your gear may get wet.

If you are camping where it will be cold, be careful to select a sleeping bag that will dry quickly. Some sleeping bag fillers claim they keep you warm even when wet. My bag will supposedly keep in heat even when wet. However, I’ve never had to find out if that is true. I’m dubious. Anyway, I think it is a critical difference from car camping, and you should select and pack gear assuming it could get wet.

Some of the group trips I’ve been on, somebody will bring the big, two burner stove (actually, my friend got a new one last year and it is a lot smaller than the big green metal cased stoves).

Trips vary, and the gear you take will likely vary, too. But you will almost never be sorry for packing smaller and lighter.


Think outside the box.
I do a lot of extended sea kayaking, so space is at a premium to cram up to a months worth of food and gear into the holds. As such I’ve learned to use the minimalist approach. Granted you have more space in a canoe, however this advice may benefit you for portaging.

When I shop I look for solo mountaineering equipment. It’s generally compact, lightweight, and tough. Usually costs more than standard backpacking equipment. However there must be a corelation between conditions encountered at high altitude and on a northern beach because the gear holds up very well. You would be surprised how comfortable you can be with very little. After a few days adjusting I become very in tune with my minimalist lifestyle.

even if you don’t have portages…
Keep in mind that not all camping spots along the river are easy to access, and you might have to carry your gear farther than expected.

On my last overnight trip on the Colorado River, the island we camped on had a lovely, very large sandbar for camping…but you had to climb a very steep hill to get to it. In addition to that, the landing area at the bottom of the hill was very narrow and mucky. Having been on this river before (but not this section), I “knew” that there were nice flat gravel bars and sandbars for camping, and packed my campbox (I use it for car camping, too) in the canoe instead of in my easier-to-carry waterproof bags. The campbox carries more and is easier to access than the gear bags, but it is also bulkier to carry. I also had a few luxuries, such as my chair and a small table to cook on. When I saw the difficulty of the access to our camping spot, it was a little intimidating, but our group all helped each other to get gear and boats up to the top(we were expecting rain that night). There were lower places we could have camped, but they were not as safe, especially since only two weeks before, a group of scouts lost several boats when the water rose significantly during the night.

When you have too much gear, or gear that is bulky to carry, it is easy to be tempted by the easier site to get to. If I’d been by myself, I might not have had much of a choice, because I don’t think I could have gotten my stuff up the hill by myself.

So…what I’m wordily trying to say here, is that just because you have the room and weight capacity in your boat and don’t have portages to make, you should still plan your gear so that you can manage it…and still enjoy the experience…if conditions are not quite as expected.

I’m a solo paddler, and very independent, and it isn’t easy to ask for…and accept help sometimes, even though I have a wonderful group of friends and paddle partners who expect to help anyone who needs it. It’s still my philosophy that if you can’t manage it easily by yourself, you shouldn’t take it with you!

Even after years of camping and canoeing, it’s still a learning process that is ever-changing. And no matter what…there is always something I wish I’d brought along, and there is always something I wish I’d left behind! :slight_smile:

Have fun and good luck!


make a list
The thing that worked the best for me is to take a small note pad every time I canoe camp to write down things I should have taken-and most important things I didn’t need to have taken.I tend to forget after I’m home for a while.Figgering ways to make things do dubble or triple duty is a great way to cut gear.When I take a trip that I can take more stuff on I take my same kit as when going light and add to it.