10 things to take Overnight Canoeing
Posted on Mar 20, 2017 by David Russell
What should you pack in your canoe for an overnight adventure? What will make a real, positive difference to your comfort and enjoyment out in the wild?
– See our beginner’s guide to wild camping in Scotland
After years of canoe-tripping in the Highlands, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to give it some thought. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about essential safety items here such as buoyancy aids, throwlines and first aid kits. Nor am I talking specialist items like fancy paddles, boats and sails. These are simply some of the things I think make a difference to my enjoyment during a trip. If you’re going to be outside for seven days straight this stuff matters.
My Top 10 Items:
1. A Tilly Hat
I don’t like rain falling on my head nor wearing a hood. A decent waterproof hat will keep the rain off wonderfully. The hat will also keep the rain off your shoulders and that means the rest of you stays dry. Perfect if you get caught in a shower and aren’t fully waterproofed and hooded. It also keeps off the sun, and when you are on the water you are subject to a whole lot more UV than normal. Keeping your skin safe is vital to finishing the trip in good health.
For my money, a bladder style affair is a better bet than a water bottle. To keep your bottle to hand in the boat you have to keep it loose or clip it to something. If it’s loose it will roll around, and could fall out if you capsize. It’s secure when clipped but still swings around and isn’t necessarily accessible.
Good reasons to get a bladder:
- It fits into the back of your buoyancy aid if it has a pouch,
- You can keep yourself hydrated with frequent sips as you go along
- When you get out of the boat it’s easy to grab and take with you
I love photography, and have a collection of fancy cameras and lenses but on a canoe trip they add a lot of extra weight. Keeping them safe and dry in the boat isn’t a guarantee either so it’ll be packed away making it difficult take advantage of that unexpected Osprey encounter. A high quality waterproof camera that you can slip in a pocket on a leash is a better bet. I recommend the Canon D30 which I love, but there are other great options too.
- See our top tips for Photography on the water
For an overnight trip I put my night clothes in the best dry bag I have. If I get soaked, I want to guarantee that I have something warm and dry to sleep in. I pack:
- A full set of thermals
- Thick socks
- A woolly hat
- A jumper
- Roll mat
- Sleeping bag
- Read on for more tips on how to pack like a pro for wild camping
5. Blister Tape
If you are new to paddling or have been off the water for a while then a small roll of climbing tape can be a lifesaver to keep your hands in good shape. Even after paddling for years I still get blistered in the crook of my hand on the side of my thumb after thousands of paddle strokes a day. A little bit of hard-wearing tape helps reduce the problem and means I reach the end of each day with happy hands.
In my view any and every canoe trip is a special occasion, or at least has the potential to be. Enjoy a dram and a chat as you sit by the campfire watching the stars come out.
- For more tips read our wild camping guide for beginners
7. Midge Net
You can do surprisingly well to keep midges at bay by choosing a campsite wisely in a breezy spot, and if you have a campfire the smoke helps to fend them off. They aren’t usually much of a problem but every once in a while Scotland’s wee blighters try to spoil your fun. If they do then a headnet means you can carry on regardless. I like the folding, beekeeper style as this keeps the net away from your face and gives you some breathing room.
Canoeing puts big demands on your footwear. When stepping in and out of shallow water you need to keep your feet dry. Then you are paddling for a few hours without moving your legs much, so your feet could get cold. Ashore you may walk around or even go for a hike so good tread is essential. The best solution for me is a solid pair of wellies backed up by good warm socks.
I’m British, and I simply won’t go paddling if I can’t take a litre of tea with me and keep it hot for ten hours. Seriously though, being able to get a hot drink in after a hard upwind leg or a rainy afternoon gives a huge boost to morale and energy. If you fill it with boiling water before going to sleep you’ll have hot water ready for a drink and a wash in the morning. And I always feel more human after that!
Having a campfire is a magical experience, but a fire is not suitable at every campsite. Some types of terrain are very sensitive to disturbance, or even flammable if a fire is built directly on the ground. A firebowl protects the ground from heat, so means that even in those tricky places you can still enjoy the warm glow of smouldering embers without causing any damage. Of course, this is just one technique and a comprehensive understanding of good fire practice is a great bit of knowledge to carry with you.
If we’ve whetted your appetite for a wild canoeing adventure check our our wilderness immersion film or have a look at our expeditions.
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