Winter canoeing with kids, what to take

I want to take my 5 year old son on some very short canoe trips with me this winter. All of them in calm water, in public places, with easy access to land.

He’s a decent swimmer, and listens very well. I don’t plan on dumping, and the risk is pretty low. But what should I have with me just in case. Our water is very cold here in Oregon.

Here are some of my initial thoughts:

No cotton

A wet suit shirt of some kind (recommendations please)


Throw bag

Extra change of clothes in drybag

Hand warmers

Cell phone

Closed-cell pad for canoe bottom to help keep him warm

Breaks for hot chocolate

Good gloves

Calling it quits when he gets cold/bored.

Other thoughts for canoing with children in cold weather?


If I were taking a child canoeing in the
winter it would be only water depth where I could stand up.



Instead of a wetsuit top, how about getting him/her a kids wetsuit. You shouldn’t have trouble finding one at a surf shop if you’re near the coast. Our kids (6 and 3) both have shorty 2/3 mm wetsuits, but I won’t take them out in water that’s below 40, and typically we’re paddling in mid-50s and above.

I dress them in polypro top and bottoms, and a wetsuit. For comfort-sake we usually put the thermals on first, then the wetsuit, with a rain suit over that. Fleece can be added to suit the air temps.

I’d add an exposure bag of some sort, and fire-making tools to your list.

good tips from South Park


– Last Updated: Nov-14-09 9:59 PM EST –

First of all, plan on dumping, at least in terms of what you'll be carrying to handle emergencies. Especially considering how easy it is to carry stuff in a canoe, there isn't any reason to be under prepared.

The wetsuit idea is a minimum. Also a hood, like a scuba hood, or good heavy old fashioned wool that'll still trap warmth when wet. And staying very, very close to shore. Being a good swimmer is irrelevant in winter temps water for a body that small (or yours). It's about the cold, not about what someone can do in a warm pool.

The exposure cover os some kind is a great idea. I believe that Nate is talking about something like this - there are a few variations on this idea out there.

Or this -

also considered it
I’m wondering the same thing, but I think I’ve decided that the risks to our 3-year old of Washington wintertime temperatures is just not worth it.

Number one job as a parent is keep the kids safe. I just really don’t think I can say that I’m able to do this on the water this time of year.

Not to mention what his mom may be thinking.

But I’m (we’re?) open to others’ thoughts and especially experiences.