essential canoe gear

I’ll be doing some recreational paddling next season, quiet stuff on mostly flat water. Now I’m trying to make a list in my mind as to what I need to stow, so I’m interested in what others bring along. Apart from my fishing rod and a lifevest, what else would be helpful? For example, do others perhaps bring along a small anchor for when you want to stop? What about a sponge for mopping up excess water? I’m sure I could learn from all of you guys.

A short list…
There aren’t a lot of items you “need” to take. I’ll suggest a few things I always bring along. I’m sure other paddlers will add to or emend this list. But one thing you may consider is making your list on paper—rather than trusting to your memory when the time comes to load your gear—it’s way too easy to forget things in the excitement of getting out on the water.

I always carry a spare paddle. I’ve never needed it yet, but you can bet that if you lose or break a paddle and need a spare you’ll need it right now.

I have one of those gallon-sized containers that pretzels come in with a screw-top lid. In this I carry:

-A cell phone—practically a “must” these days.

-A camera.

-Bug spray.

-Any other small items I want to keep dry and in a secure place.

You mention a sponge—good idea. I also carry one of those quick-dry towels. I got mine from and it’s a good one, but you can find them other places too. Sounds like you’re a fisherman—the towel is excellent for handling your catch if you are a catch-and-release guy, because it’s less stressful on the fish if you handle him with a wet towel as opposed to your dry hand.

You mention an anchor—also a good idea. This can be improvised though. You need not purchase a “real” anchor. I usually use one of those bricks with holes in them [not a cinder block—that’s too large and bulky for most applications]. Some folks use a net or a cloth bag which you can put rocks into and then tie to the end of your anchor line.

A poncho—or at least a large trash bag—comes in handy when those rain showers appear out of nowhere. I usually remember to carry both. If you don’t run into rain you can use the trash bag to help dispose of the ever-present flotsam [bottles, cans, Styrofoam, etc.] that you will find out there on the water.

Well, Michael, that’s a start. Good luck. Happy paddling.


'biner" and a spare paddle
I hook my keys to the boat or my PFD(if I am wearing one) every thing else is dependant on legnth of trip. Often stop at the lake on the way home and put in a quick 50 minutes on the water before going home, how much do I need?

For longer trips I will bring more hydration and snacks.

It’s a canoe, not a scrawny kayak.
A cooler with a good lunch and cold drinks is nice. A dawg. Just about anything you want.

First aid kit ?


Essential gear
I keep a dry bag ready to go in the boathouse so I don’t have to waste time finding things. In the bag I keep a towel, a change of clothes (varies with the season), a rain suit, a first aid kit and a trash bag (handy for putting slimy trash picked up along the way and/or for wet clothes if I inadvertently go swimming). I also take a bottle of water, a bailer, a sponge, a kneeling mat, a spare paddle, a PFD (of course) and at least one painter line. If I’ll be out for several hours I’ll take a separate food bag with extra drinks, etc. - Randall

I bring a spare paddle if I am alone, something weighted for the front of the canoe if alone (a 35 pound dumbbell actually), I tie my (if fishing) tackle “box” to a twart (I don’t bring much and it is a small box that holds maybe 5 lures, a couple of spinners, and couple of jigs with squiggly things, spare hooks, a bit of split shot weights, and bobbers), night crawlers if desired, fishing needle nose pliers, fishing rod, headlamp if night fishing, some rope to tie to a stump or to line through whatever, sometimes a a water bottle with water, a hat, life vest, jacket or something woth long sleeves if needed. Nothing else for a few hour day outing. I tell my wife where I’ll be and about when I’ll be back. Don’t over complicate.

Some more stuiff
I use a granite gear wedge thwart bag as a glove box in my canoes. In addition to the stuff that’s already been mentioned, here are a few more items to consider: a whistle that works when wet to attach to your pfd, sun sceen, rod holder if you do any trolling, a blunt darning needle or beefy side cutters to extract a hook should you bury one into you, old pair of biking gloves or moleskin if your hands aren’t toughened in, LED light should you not get back before dark, a map and compass unless you know the body of water you are on, and a little bit of TP may come in handy by the end of the day.

here’s the thing
it depends a bit where you’re paddling as well:

in Canadian waters you are required by law to have:

PFD for each person on board, a propelling device (your paddle) or an anchor (stupid rules…)45 ft of floating line, something to bail out your boat (bailer, pump, bucket,…) a signaling device (whistle, horn, etc) a watertight flashlight if you intend to paddle at night/in the dusk.

I also carry a first aid kit, my survival kit, a spare paddle, bear spray (since nearly all our routes here are in black bear and grizzly country), some food, waterbottle, towel+change of clothes (again: cold water padling…), cellphone (which mostly doesn’t work anyway…), a compass (in a pocket of my PFD at all times), sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, duct tape (as the universal repair kit) and with whitewater paddling a wrap kit,

A lot of the above not that much for my personal safety or satisfaction than to be prepared for the misshaps of less equiped people.

I can’t count the times anymore that my spare clothes saved somebody else from having hypothermia (again-cold water up here…).

There are many lists
I have about 20+ lists that I’ve aquired over time. Only a few of them are specific to water sports. I recently came across this list, and it seems to be pretty good:

I have a small thwart bag (from cabelas: that is amazing. They also make a really nice bow bag and under the seat bag. I keep everything I need in it, and keep it in my car.

Doing a search for “gear list” and adding canoe to it will bring lots of results from ‘the google’.


check your state boating laws

– Last Updated: Nov-21-06 10:09 AM EST –

Like Canoecamp said, it depends on where you are paddling. The only essentials are a canoe and a paddle, everything else is for comfort or "just in case". And then there are the silly things required by law. I was stopped this summer at a Colorado lake by the county boating officer, who was checking all of the boats there. Turns out I was in violation of two of the state requirements. I hadn't had my name, address, and phone number written on the boat in indelible ink (new boat, hadn't gotten around to it yet, and come to think of it, still haven't)and I didn't have a typeIV throwable pfd on board, as required for any boat 16' or longer, that wasn't a sea kayak, that wasn't on a "whitewater river". I asked if a throw bag would be an acceptable sustitute, and of course it wasn't. I had my whistle, spare paddle, a typeIII pfd for both of us, but no throwable (i.e. a floating seat cushion type, or ring type)typeIV.

Now how stupid can you get? If my canoe had been 15'11", or a sea kayak, or if I'd been on a "whitewater river", I wouldn't need it. Apparantly only people in canoes of 16' or longer, when on lakes, are required to attempt to save a swimmer? So I went out and bought a seat cushion at KMart. Point is, no matter how stupid the rules, it pays to know what they are and be in compliance. Check with your state parks department, or conservation department, or whoever is in charge of boating to see what is required in your state.

Just a minor point, but the suggestions to carry some "ballast" are good, to adjust trim for help in dealing with tough windy conditions. The suggestions of bricks and dumbbells are not so good. If your canoe fills with water but dosen't overturn, it could sink like a rock if you use rocks, or bricks, or dumbbells. Much better to bring something like a drybag which you can fill with water, or a couple of empty milk jugs to fill with water - the water is neutral bouyant, and won't add any weight to a canoe filled with water, so it will float a lot higher than one using anything heavier than water, like bricks, etc.