canoe packing philosophy

I’ve got a multi-day trip to the Everglades coming up. Over the summer I installed a sliding bucket wenonah seat into my Bell Rob Roy. I really like the set-up; it obviously allows me to mess with the trim quite a bit. I haven’t paddled it with any significant load yet. I typically pack water and other heavy gear behind the seat and then put float bags in both ends and then a dry bag inside each float bag. I’d say 1/3 of the end of the bow and stern are just flotation. Should I spread it out a little more? I know I don’t want it bow heavy because of the tracking/diving through waves problem. I’ve got a lot more options now and would love to hear of how the canoe trippers out there are distributing their gear. Thanks.

Chad, my philosophy for solo canoeing is to have my heaviest pack near the rear portion of midship. I then use water bottles and my food pack up front for trim. This keeps the weight away from the stems and I ride over waves instead of plowing through them. Have fun on your trip.


On a recent trip of mine, I had to put things where They fit the best. I never have used float bags because I have no room. The air trapped in my 9 dry bags is sufficient enough to keep it afloat when full of water. (it works too, I flipped it and water was to the gunnels and it was still floating)

I typically try to trim slightly bow heavy and more so if travleing upstream. On big lakes or water I try and even it out. It basically ends up being even throughout the boat. If you paddle stern heavy you have to consider once a boat is in motion since the bow will rise up about 1/2 to 1 inch when moving compared to when still etc. So if you go a little bow heavy when packing, it should ride even or trim when paddled.

Below is a gear list of everything I took in my solo boat on my recent 6-month trip. How it helps.

Gear List: Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Expedition: St. Louis to the Pacific 2004

5-gallon plastic pail w/ 30 lbs. Of food: Grains, pasta, oats, canned goods, dried soups.

1-5000cc Dry Bag:

2-man tent, ground cloth, extra stakes, 1 lg. Plastic tarp, 1 sleeping bag, 1 thermorest pad, L&C Journal, 1 small map case, 1 large sketch/note pad, 1 personal journal w/case, pens, pencils, 1 hygiene bag w/: floss, tooth paste, tooth brush, razor, shave cream, shampoo, soap and container, plastic mirror, vitamins, Misc. items.

1 heavy fleece pullover, 1 expedition weight pullover, 1 light wt. Bottoms, 4 pr. Underwear, 4 shorts, 2 paddling pants, 1 hiking pants, 3 pair socks, wool mittens, 5 t-shirts, paddling jacket.

1 Small Dry bag: Lunch food, snacks,

Jerky, nuts, sardines fruit leathers, candy and powdered drink mixes.

1 large Pelican Case:

Nikon 5400 digital camera, 1 Canon AE1, 10 rolls of slide film, 1 small tripod, 1 extra lens, 1 Globalstar Satellite phone, 2 Sat Phone Batteries, 1 extra camera battery, 1 camera filter, Misc. camera Equipment.

Small Plastic Case:

3 tubes of sunscreen, 1 small travel clock, 1 GPS, 1 knife, matches, sunglasses and prescription glasses, tape for repairs.

1 4000 cc Dry Bag:

Cook Kit: @ small pots, mug, knife, fork , spoon, pot holder, Coleman Exponent Stove, Pack Towel

3X Weeks food: Dinners, lunches, dry foods, whole grains, pasta and dried veggies approx. 40 lbs.

1 small Fry pan, jar of nut butter, jar of oil. Jar of honey.

4-1gallon water jugs w/ attached drink tube. Full of water ='s 32 lbs.

1 qt. Water bottle

1 large maps case w/ compass and approx. 250 maps of entire trail.

1 2500 cc Dry Bag:

1 Fleece top, novel to read, space blanket, leatherman, rain parka, 1 ball cap, bear mace, headlamp, 10 batteries, rain jacket and anorak, Movie Camera w/ batteries and asses. TP, trowel, bug dope, sunscreen, bug head netting, dry shirt, wallet, contact #'s book, small fanny pack.

1-1000cc dry bag:

3-1qt. Fuel bottles full of whitegas, 1 MSR spare stove, windshield, 1 spare foot control rudder. 1 bottle of dish soap, 2 lighters, repair kit: extra cables, small saw, assorted screws, bolts, tools, rope, and misc.

1-large Pelican waterproof Case:

Dell Inspiron Laptop PC, 2 extra PC batteries, CD Drive, Floppy Drive, exta disk, 3-Iridium Satellite Phone Batteries, Iridium Satellite data phone, extra cord ass/s/.

1-Small Dry Bag:

Basic first aid kit, 2 phone batteries, camera book, misc. items and PC information, tokens, gifts etc.

1 Med. Dry Bag:

2-Solar Panels, 2 carrying tubes for panels, laptop cord, laptop solar adapters, phone adapters, camera adapters, phone cables, misc. ass. Plugs, light weight jacket

1 Large 5200cc Back Pack

1 pair of Chota Knee High mukluks

1 pair of hiking boots,

1 pair of sandals

1 pair tennis shoes

1 Portage cart

1 Bimini Sun Top

1 Rain Cover

1 Cockpit cover for night


Extra paddle,

Collapsible pale,

Bike lock,

Throw bag, bail bucket, and sponges.

Misc. straps and tie/downs


You shouldn’t have to worry…
…about how you pack the canoe in the Everglades or 10,000 islands.

I have done many multi-day trips there, and almost all of your paddling will or should be in protected waters.

There are so many mangrove islands, that if there are any strong winds, you can usually hop scotch between them and keep yourself protected.

Have a great trip. If it is in Feb or March, we just might bump into you.



Cheap tip for canoe packing

– Last Updated: Nov-23-04 10:26 AM EST –

Instead of dry bags, try 5 gallon plastic pails with water tight lids. They are free and have a bail to secure them in the boat. You can purchase lid that screw on and off they they make great campside seats. The keep things dry and from being crushed.


– Last Updated: Nov-23-04 9:59 AM EST –

i've paddled for eight hours plus a day in 25 to 30 knots with three foot rolling waves. this went on for days as a yaker and i paddled from picnic to pavilion and to highland beach on the gulf. i'm talking about the outer islands, not the highly protected wilderness waterway. the gulf is usually quite calm, but a front can really make the gulf waters nasty. once when i paddled out of Everglades channel my bow dove completely under water and a wave hit me in the chest. the boat was fully loaded, and there was clearly too much weight in the bow.

Norm, thanks for sharing your gear list. We all can benefit from your significant experience.