Canoe Gear List

Let's say that you have purchased a canoe and are wondering about other gear that you would be wise to be thinking about. Obviously you'll need a paddle for each paddling station. This means at least two for a tandem. But what else might be necessary?


It's easy to make a case for the paddle being the most important piece of your canoe or kayak equipment. The paddle is an extension of your body and you feel the water with it when controlling your boat. it is your most sensitive link to the water world. It is the tool required to explore the characteristics of a boat. If it is heavy or awkward your experience can be dulled and your perception of a particular boat can be adversely affected. You work with the paddle, expending energy as you lift it and pull on it. The boat by contrast will respond favorably, or not, reacting to your efforts with the paddle. You can adjust for unfavorable hull speed or maneuverability but it is hard to compensate for the paddle. You are immediately aware of it with every stroke. For more on paddles read this.


A Personal Floatation Device (Life Jacket) is required by law for each person in the boat. You can pick up something inexpensive in order to be legal but a well fitting, comfortable PFD can be really important if not essential. A comfortable well designed PFD may even become that essential insulating layer in inclement conditions if worn underneath a rain jacket. The PFD isn't likely to save your life if you aren't wearing it and accidents can happen. We may feel that we have everything under control but how about those other boaters around us? Wind, waves, tricky current, or submerged rocks and logs can all lead to an unexpected capsize. Our word of caution is to be prepared and wear your life jacket.

Car Top Carrier

You'll want to at least get your boat home. This doesn't require a major investment however. We'll have some inexpensive options including foam block sets that can be reused. Sometime down the road you'll be wise to invest in a safe, less fussy system if you hope to cart your boat to distant places to paddle. There are many carrier systems on the market that have been designed for specific car and truck models and there are some build your own options too.

Optional Items


This isn't an essential but can be very handy for both solo and tandem canoes, especially if you carry the boat yourself. There are clamp-in options for both solo and tandem canoes, as well as permanently installed yokes for tandems. Some are very simple and some are designed to make those long carries much more pleasant. If you plan on traveling in paddle and portage country, a good yoke makes it more possible to carry your canoe through areas with tricky footing.

Extended Use Items

The gear we have listed above is or can be important for everyday use, even if you adventure from your own waterfront property. But many of us use our boats to explore distant rivers, lakes, and streams, or even venture out on multi-day trips. The beauty of the canoe is that you can think of it as the Pickup truck of paddling boats since you can load it up with gear for any kind of adventure.

We don't want to imply that you need a lot more to get out and enjoy your canoe. You don't really need more than the common sense sort of items like sunscreen or maybe bug dope, rain gear, etc. that you might bring along on any extended hike. If there is anything that might seem specialized it could be footwear. It is often wise to wear something that stays on the feet but can be immersed in water, so water sandals or shoes depending on conditions. There are many warm and cold weather options and paddlers have favorites so ask around. You may not need more than an old pair of sneakers.

It can be nice to have an extra set of dry clothes waiting for you back at the take-out or carried along with you in a waterproof container.

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