Gear Tips: Packing Light for a Canoe Trip [Video]

If you’re looking for lightweight and affordable gear, take a look:

Your Canoe Pack

Your canoe pack needs to be durable, functional, comfortable and—as Careena points out in the video—it needs to fit your body!

She and her husband each have their own pack that’s big enough for everything they need, including their food. Careena had to switch brands in order to find one that fit her short torso.

She makes a comment that’s something important to keep in mind: She prefers light weight over comfort. You may be different, so choose what’s most important for you!

For more on packs, see our post: The Best Canoe Trip Packs. And check out the Earth Pak Careena uses here.

Your Sleep & Shelter Gear

Any backpacker’s sleeping bag will work great for canoe tripping. Careena likes the Extreme Lightweight Down model from Mountain Warehouse. It can be comfortably used in temps down to about 5º C/40º F.

Bags are all rated for temperature ranges, so choose one that’ll work for the climate and season you’ll do your canoe tripping in.

A sleeping pad can do more than give a bit of comfort—it’s a barrier between you and the cold ground. Careena likes Therm-a-rest’s NeoAir Xtherm. Though pricier than a lot of the pads out there, she’s never been cold using it.

This particular model is also 2.5 inches thick when inflated, much thicker (and therefore more comfortable) than your average self-inflating pad. And speaking of inflating, this pad is NOT self-inflating, but is easily inflated by either its pump sack or by old-fashioned lung power.

packing canoe trip gear
(photo courtesy of @oleroemhansen)

When Careena and Ryan canoe trip together with their dog Grizz, they pack along the 2-person tent from Wilderness Excursions. One of them will pack the tent and the other will pack the poles to divvy up the weight.

Again, tents made for backpackers will work great for canoe trippers, too.

Finally, you’ll want a good tarp or rain fly. Careena likes Aquaquest in the 10x10 foot size. A US brand well-known by BCWA canoe trippers is Cooke Custom Sewing’s Tundra Tarps.

Careena mentions that when she goes on a solo trip—during non-bug season—she’ll forego the tent and just use a ground tarp, sleeping pad and tarp with her sleeping bag to save weight and set-up.

She doesn’t bring a chair with her, but always carries along a piece of Reflectix to sit on in camp and as another warmth barrier, if needed. Super light and compactable, you can find it at hardware stores by the roll.

Cook Kit & Water Filtration

The Belnaps don’t bring food that can’t be cooked using their ultra-packable cook kit. Careena also brings an extra metal mug for coffee or an extra small pot.

She uses the Toaks Titanium 750 ml pot with bail. You may want something bigger, depending on your appetite. She adds a titanium spork, and keeps a cigarette lighter inside the cook kit bag, too.

Her tip: Don’t get a cook kit that doesn’t have the overhead bail.

For her little pot she uses the BRS Ultralite Camping Stove along with an MRS fuel canister that fits perfectly inside the Toaks pot.

family wilderness canoe trip
(photo courtesy of @campfiresandkids)

They don’t use dish soap, but instead use pine needles or dirt to wipe out the cups, then boil water in them to sterilize.

If you want to bring soap, though, a great idea is Dr. Bronner’s Organic bar soap. It can be used for your hair and body, and also for your clothes and dishes if need be.

She uses the Sawyer Mini water filtration system, which is the lightest filter available, and a water bottle.

For herself, Careena packs 5-7 days worth of camp food in a 10-liter dry bag, along with the rope to hang it up. She dehydrates all her own food like chili, pasta and rice dishes.

Misc. Camping Gear

Here are a few more items Careena includes in her pack:

  • Lightweight foldable camp saw. She uses the Silky Ultra Accel.
  • Bear spray, if you’re going into bear country.
  • Fire steel (as well as a lighter)
  • First Aid kit. Keep up on it!
  • Toilet paper (be sure to dispose of it properly!)
  • If in bug season, a Bug Shirt. Don’t buy the knock-offs if you want it to work and last!
  • Hygiene items in a sandwich-size Ziplock bag: the bar of soap, a conditioner bar if your hair needs it, any contact supplies, toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • A hand knife.
  • A canoe emergency kit that clips to the canoe seat with a bail, rope and whistle.
  • PLB—personal locator beacon in case of emergency, especially if you’ll paddle alone. Some are just for emergencies and others can double as a satellite communication device. Careena uses the Spot X.
  • Headlamp. She uses the BioLite 200, which is super packable and light. It’s rechargeable and able to go for a full week on low with one charge.
wilderness canoe trip
(photo courtesy of @andrewstrain)

We won’t cover it here, but Careena also goes into how she packs her camera gear. If that’s for you, keep watching the video after minute 18:50. She gets into her clothing suggestions after that (the bottom line: as little as possible!).

There you have it—a whole gear list of suggested lightweight and very packable gear for your next canoe trip. And the next and the next. Good gear is worth the investment as it’ll perform well and last through several seasons.

Add your clothes for the weather you’ll meet and you’re ready to go.

Happy canoe tripping!

Do you have more questions about canoe paddles? Get in touch with our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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