canoe camping checklist

Looking for input on the essential list of things to take on a canoe camping expedition of 2-5 days, winter excluded. Also food packing recommendations with/without a cooler, excluding the usual dehydrated, high sodium packed stuff. And whose got the best soft cooler? Thanks in advance.

Take Anything You Want
The trick is deciding what you are willing to carry. A cooler full of ice & beer sounds good, but do you really want to carry it?

Start with menu planning. How many meals are you going to eat? There’s a big difference between packing for two days (Breakfast at home/Lunch/Dinner/Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner at home) than packing for 5 days. It’s 4 meals vs 13 meals…and don’t forget little snacks.

What are you going to eat for those meals? Whatever you decide, plan on re-packing it to save space.

Once you figure out what you will eat, everything else will fall into place.

How will you prepared the meal?

What will you eat with?

Where will you eat? Under a tarp? In a chair?

How will you clean up after eating?

After digesting, better hope someone remembered the toilet paper!

Pack whatever you want.

When you reach camp, you’ll remember what you really wanted!

do a web search
do a google search for “canoe camping checklist” and you will find several pre-printed check off lists that you can print.

There’s a lot of opinions on this subject but I gnerally go back to see what Cliff Jacobson has to say. He has several books out on the subject as well as some stuff online. I have his “Expedition Canoeing” which has a lot of info. He has a Boundary Waters based approach which is very practical. It may be a bit overkill for a short rec canoe trip but still you can hardly go wrong with it.

Just remember, opinions are like anal sphinkters, everybody has one.


Go to B. Hansel’s site

Excellent resource for lightweight canoe or kayak travel. I am still trying to pare my kit down to his carry weight.


What ever you forget you’ll remember
when it’s too late. Take a note pad with you and write down what you forgot. Hopefully the list won’t be too long. That’s called “learning by experience”. Some great stories have come from dealing with what was forgotten.

Have fun


Google search
did reveal some interesting details. I’m not a novice at this but am looking ways to reduce the weight/volume and to pick the brains of others and find what they’ve used that might be out of the box. I appreciate all the input.

More sources
ALso try My Canadian Canoe Routes and Quiet Journey. Gear lists, but much more info too.


My answer is - are you going to portage on the trip? If I have even a few portages planned I pack “backpacker” light - everything besides the canoe, paddles, and fishing rod goes into one pack, on my back - If i’m just paddling to a campsite then I take the kitchen sink.


what’s in the b’lite pack and how big is it?

We bring everything in te canoe.
As the trip comes to an end the canoe gets a lot lighter. Some kinds of beer can be frozen and used instead of ice. The full siZe Coleman Stove is very nice for making coffee and eggs at the same time. Tents are nice when it is cold and hammocks are nice when it is hot. I’m always amazed at all the stuff we take along.

camping gear
I just take what I normally take backpacking, as well. I keep all my gear in a spreadsheet on my computer broken up into categories with weights of each item. That way, I can check off items I plan on bringing, the spreadsheet tallies weights so I can make adjustments before I pack anything, and when I’m done with the ‘planning’ I can print off the list and make sure I’m not forgetting anything.

If I’m not portaging, then I can bring a bigger tent and a heavier stove and maybe some camp chairs, but everything else is generally the same equipment.

For 2 nights, I can pare down to 20-25lbs of gear, food, and water if I need to, or I can bump that up to 40+lbs. Longer than that, and the only difference is that I’d carry more food and maybe more fuel.

Oh, and FYI, not all of the prepackaged meals are heavily laden with salt. You’ve gotta read labels to find it, but it almost always tastes better (and costs more). Alternatively, you can look into freezer bag cooking, where you make your own meals either from pre-dehydrated ingredients, or from fresh ingredients that you end up dehydrating on your own. Lets you put whatever you want into your meals. I usually bring a little bit of both types of meals on trips. The prepackaged stuff tends to be a little more elaborate so it breaks up the monotony a bit.

Ditch the cooler
An excellent read is Backcountry Cooking by Dorcas Miller volumes one and two.

When you are done you will realize that by adding a dehydrator to your home kitchen and a Tilia Foodsaver anything you can cook at home(except high fat items) is fair game for canoeing.

A little soft sided cooler can be handy for keeping your butter cheese and worms cool. Wrap them in a wet towel and make sure the towel stays damp. Will keep for six weeks. Hopefully you will have used all the worms by them except they seem to multiply in the moss.

I use a spreadsheet on the computer, and follow it to the letter. Otherwise when I havent I have forgotten the fuel to go with the stove or the TP.

try Darren’s outdoor page or Bill Masons Song of the Paddle book its awesome