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    10 things to take Overnight Canoeing

    8 min read

    By David Russell
    More by David

    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. My list below are simply some of the personal things I think make a real difference to my enjoyment during a trip. If you’re going to be outside for a few days straight, this stuff matters.

    Overnight Canoeing

    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.

    What to wear open canoeing in Scotland-3

    Tilley hat coming in useful during the River Spey Descent.

    2. A Hydration Pouch

    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

    3. A Small but Good Waterproof Camera

    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.

    4. A Dry Bag for Overnight 

    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
    Overnight Canoeing

    Stopping to camp on Loch Ness during the Great Glen Way expedition.

    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.

    6. Your Favourite Tipple

    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.

    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.

    8. Good Footwear

    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.

    9. A Really Good Flask

    Bespoke Adventures

    Camping in the NW Highlands.

    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!

    10. Collapsible Firebowl

    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.

    Fancy a Canoe Expedition but with the security of a qualified guide? See our trips below:

    Meet the Author: David Russell

    “I discovered the magic of the outdoors while studying Physics at the University of St Andrews. After graduating I decided to follow my dreams of freedom in the hills and rivers, and trained as an outdoor instructor. After several years of guiding with Wilderness Scotland I moved into the role of Adventure Consultant, but I still get out when I can to share my special places with adventurers from all walks of life.”

    View profileMore by David

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