Must Have Canoe Accessories

Last Updated: 27.05.20


While Shakespeare saltwater rods are great accessories to have, canoeing also requires other essential things. Dry bags, paddling gloves, a personal flotation device, and a paddling map are only a few of them and each is essential in order to have a safe trip.


What is a canoe?

A canoe is a type of easy-to-move and narrowboat which is pointed on both ends and also on top, as opposed to the closed-on-top kayaks. In order to move, the canoe is propelled with the help of one or more paddles.

While in the old days of the Native Americans they were used as a primary transportation vehicle between the islands or on the rivers, these boats have much more of an athletic role these days since canoeing is recognized as an international sport.

While Natives used to build their boats from birch bark where the resources allowed it or simply give the canoe shape from the inside of a tree through the use of tools, fire, and water, modern ones are made from plastic most of the time.

As a durable material, plastic ensures the canoe can be good to use for a long time while also going pretty easy on the body, something that is especially useful for beginners who are bound to take their share of bumps and flips.

If you’re only thinking about starting out, you should remember that the type of canoe you buy is quite important, especially if you are a beginner. While an advanced paddler can do with a cheaper boat because of the added experience in taking care of it, a beginner will require something more durable and expensive.

Money-wise, canoe prices start in the $600 range and can even climb as high as $2000 for wooden and personalized designs. You should be able to find a good and sturdy canoe, perfect for beginners, for something around $900 to $1000. 

While there are quite a few traditional canoe designs, one popular choice is the ‘prospector’, made by a lot of companies due to its durability and popularity.  



Other essentials to find

When the summer heats up, a canoe can be one of the best places to cool off and spend a relaxing afternoon. Spending a hot day paddling such a boat will relax the body, soothe the mind, and offer a glimpse into just how peaceful nature can be. 

You will see how your cares and worries get swept away beneath the current and leave your body. A human-powered boat is also a great eco-friendly way to access some beautiful campsites around the country without causing damage to the environment. With this in mind, let’s look at some essential items you are going to need for this. 


Dry bags

While water is a beautiful and fun environment to be around, we’re going to need some protective gear since we are dryland beings. Your phone, camera, maps, food, and even some extra clothes will all have to stay protected and dry. A watertight dry bag with a roll-top is the perfect solution to keep all your gear from becoming damaged or just wet.

For this, you’re going to want to look at larger dry bags which are 35 liters and above since they are perfect for holding clothing, food, and other items that you don’t need quick access to when paddling. This type of bag can be stowed away in a canoe during multi-day trips without having to worry too much about it. 

For smaller items like maps, snacks, or your phone, dry sacks smaller than 20 liters will work in a pinch since these are the items that you will want to keep on hand at all times. Furthermore, such a small sack is easier to keep stored at your feet in a canoe or with the help of whichever way you choose to secure your items. 



While having a blast on those hot days on the water, it’s easy to get caught up in it and forget to apply some much-needed sunscreen. However, you should remember that the ‘lobster look’ is neither attractive nor comfortable for that matter so don’t forget to bring some lotion along.

Sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 15 would be the ideal way to go but if you want to be on the safe side you can even get something around 30 SPF. Pick up a tube and make sure to reapply throughout the day, not only once. Also, don’t forget that sunlight is also reflected back at you from the water so rub some lotion under your nose and chin.


Paddling gloves

Paddling is an intense experience so even experienced people get sore hands and sometimes, on extended trips, even blisters. The friction from a paddle can pull the skin on your hands, therefore creating painful blisters or hot spots. To avoid this, you have to be careful and protect your hands as much as possible.

To do this, a pair of paddling gloves are a great way to go because they offer a barrier between your skin and the rigid composite or wood shaft and handle that your paddle comes with. Another bonus is that your gloves will also protect your hands from the sun and avoid some potentially-painful sunburns. 

Even if you think you are man or woman enough to handle a day in the sun without protection and that gloves are not for you, full-finger neoprene ones will be an essential piece of gear when you go paddling in cold temperatures.



Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

While paddling is a fun and relaxing activity, you have to remember than a canoe is more prone than other boats to being moved around by the wind and potentially even tipped over. Therefore, any activity where you may end up capsized and swimming should be performed while you have a life-jacket strapped on or any other Coast Guard-approved PFD.

Depending on your local laws, these may or may not be compulsory to wear but you should at least bring one with you. In ideal situations, every person should have the knowledge and experience to completely avoid unsafe situations. However, inexperienced paddlers have to start somewhere so it’s best if you are always prepared.

It’s also worth remembering that modern PDFs are not the clunky, orange, foam-filled things of the past but instead many of them have a low profile, comfortable design that actually helps you keep an unencumbered paddle stroke and also feature some pockets and lash points.


Bilge pump/sponge

If you are out in your canoe and you happen to be lucky and get a rough, windy day, get caught in a surprise rainstorm, or simply you happen to capsize, it’s quite obvious that your boat will fill with water. A good boat with a significant amount of water on its bottom will not sink but it will become extremely difficult to control.

The easy solution to this problem is keeping a bilge pump or a sponge close by to remove water from the bottom of your boat whenever the need arises.


Paddling map

When canoeing, it’s always important to know where you can find a campsite or shelter if you ever have to, and that is even truer on longer trips. You will also need to know which direction to head at a fork in a river or how much farther the carry is.

For these reasons, a paddling map is crucial to have during your adventures so you don’t get lost and know exactly where you are at all times. With this in mind, remember that there are maps for most paddling areas including popular ones such as the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the Adirondack Park, and the Saco River. 

These maps are usually very detailed and include things like topographic information, locations of campsites, shelters, access points, and so on. Another important thing they show is any location where you may find rough or shallow water so you don’t accidentally end up there.


Water footwear

While not required, it’s probably best if you have some water-compatible footwear while you are paddling because nobody likes to get cold and wet feet. This type of footwear will also protect you from rocks and underwater debris while still draining and drying quickly. 

On trips where you have to portage long distances or camping at the end of a section of a river, trustworthy footwear is essential to have. 



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