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Gear Guide: Canoeing

Whether you're canoeing in flatwater or whitewater, confidence with your canoeing gear is important for maximum control. Today's paddler has a wide range of gear to choose from-some necessary, some not so essential-so its important to search for the right canoe and gear for you.


Your boat design depends on the type of recreation you are searching for.

  • Recreational/sportsman canoes are designed to do equally well on rivers, lakes or flatwater. If you want to hunt, fish, birdwatch or just tool around, these wide canoes are perfect. They provide excellent stability, capacity and ease in maneuvering.

  • Whitewater canoes are suitable for extended, moderate whitewater touring or steep creek boating. Their design includes a rocket-round, shallow V-hull for speed and tracking and extra depth to keep you and your gear dry.

  • Touring canoes are great for the explorer. They are designed to carry a large load, yet are lightweight enough for carrying across land to the next water trail in your journey.

Before settling on a canoe to buy, test a variety of rental canoes. This will help you make your decision.


A paddle's length and blade width must match your size, strength, training and paddling rhythm. Measure the proper paddle length for you by sitting down — the paddle's shaft and your torso should be the same height. The paddle's grip controls the blade's angle and, therefore, the direction of the canoe, so it should fit your hand comfortably.


Look for a personal floatation device with a safety seal approval tag, such as from the U.S. Coast Guard. Select a PFD contoured to fit a your body that is highly adjustable and bends in the right places. When trying on PFDs, sit as you would in a canoe and move around to make sure it does not chafe your armpits or rise up around your neck. PFDs should fit snugly, but not be constricting.


  • Gloves give you better grip on your paddle, as well as protection from the sun and blisters.

  • Self-draining water shoes or sandals prevent waterlogged feet. Select a style with a no-slip grip sole for walking on rocks.

  • A hat shades your face from the sun, and a helmet is essential for whitewater canoeing.

Gear pack

Plenty of drinking water is necessary for any outdoor trip, as well as waterproof sunscreen, insect repellent and a personal first-aid kit. Take along a GPS and compass, but be sure you know how to use them before you go.

Other accessories

  • Adjustable seats prevent ankle distress. Set your seat height to keep your ankles at a right angle. Mesh seats provide better cushion and drain water better.

  • Kneepads provide back relief. Kneeling on pads glued to your canoe is much easier on your back than sitting. Keep knees spread for balance.

  • Portage yokes provide easier transport of your canoe from land to water.

  • Waterproof stuff sacks come in handy when you have to keep your gear bone dry.



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