By Thomas Ray
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com
For an exciting change of pace, if you already have a canoe, why not try canoe camping? Fall is a great time of the year to be outside and on the water, and you will enjoy the sense of freedom that canoe camping offers to you and your family.
The advantages of camping by canoe are many, but chief among them is ease of travel. You are not carrying your gear on your back. Instead, it is gliding along in your canoe! This is relatively easy if you are heading down a river, or even paddling across a lake, especially compared to backpacking your load uphill.
Carrying such conveniences as an ice chest, a large tent, a table and chairs or a two-burner stove is easy with a canoe. You are only limited by how much weight your canoe will safely transport. Extravagant lodging, meals, and even oyster roasts are possible on a canoe journey!
Canoeing is also a quiet way to travel, and you are likely to experience an abundance of wildlife such as eagles, otters, ducks, muskrats, deer, and other fauna, depending on your locale. Remote areas become within reach, giving you and your family a level of solitude not afforded by many public areas.
Some canoes are better suited to canoe camping than others. While some are mainly built for day trips on whitewater, others are wide in the middle, flatter on the bottom and capable of carrying great loads. However, many types of canoes and kayaks can be utilized for weekend canoe camping. Check the weight capacity and evaluate your particular craft for safety and stability, especially when loaded with gear.
Safety is key, especially when traveling on the water with family or friends. Always heed laws pertaining to safe boating. Have enough paddles, lifejackets, a noisemaker such as a whistle, or any other gear necessary for the safety of your passengers.
A boater safety course will pay great dividends. Take the lessons you learn there to heart—they could save your life or those of your loved ones. When doing any kind of camping, it is always important to have a plan. Planning greatly reduces the chance of unexpected emergencies. Be sure to identify campsites and if they aren’t public, seek prior approval of landowners on whose property you are camping. The last thing anyone wants is to be chased off, or worse, arrested for trespassing. Let friends and family know exactly where you will be going and when you plan to return.
Learn how your canoe will respond under a load by practicing close to home. When loading your canoe, keep the load low and in the center of your canoe. Gear must be lashed in so that it doesn’t shift. Insure that if the canoe turns over, the gear will stay with the boat. Run lashing ropes through the handles of bags and other containers and tie them off so that they won’t become separated from the canoe in the event of tipping over.
Your campsite should be chosen carefully. Be aware of the possibility of flash floods, and of fluctuating water levels when camping on lakes and rivers. Seek high ground for your campsite and avoid the possibility of your camp being flooded.
When traveling on the water, you’ll need a way to keep gear like sleeping bags, stoves, and extra clothes clean and dry. If packs are to be used, they can be lined with waterproof liners and tied shut. Don’t use garbage bags. If submerged, they will allow water to soak your gear. Instead, use dry bags or other waterproof containers made specifically for use in boats. You may also want to cover your dunnage with a tarp.
Aside from a way to keep everything dry, gear for canoe camping can be the same as other camping gear. As alluded to earlier, because the canoe is doing the work, you can haul heavier loads including things like coolers, kitchen equipment, cots, and other items that would be considered impractical luxuries when backpacking. If your expedition includes more than one canoe, the sky’s the limit!
Canoe camping is the perfect family activity! Fall days on a lake or river could include time spent fishing, hunting, observing wildlife or just paddling and enjoying the scenery. Imagine ending your day enjoying a steak dinner complete with dessert and ice cold drinks! Enjoy your time on the water in style!