March 25

Gear for Ultralight Canoe Camping

Many people have the image of a heavily loaded canoe, where a paddler/camper can bring everything. Others think of floating down streams, often exchanging long serene glides over flat water, with moments of terror as rocks, eddies and small flumes throw the canoe wildly off course. Still others think of paddling to a small island and setting up a base camp for paddling around a larger lake, unencumbered by gear and lazily fishing for anything that cares to bite. And there are those that think of traveling across waterways, down rivers and up streams, constantly moving from one camp to another.

canoe camping
A 12’ custom canoe with a 250# capacity is all that is needed for most paddling. A longer 9’ double-paddle is used. The rest of the camp gear is behind the paddler under the hump. The spray decks keep water out of the boat. Note the raised area just before the cockpit. It directs water away from the paddler. The low profile and center seating keeps the winds from causing bad directional problems.

These are all parts of canoe camping. It is an outdoors experience different from hiking. It is basically using the same ultralight camping gear as used for hiking, with the addition of a couple small dry-bags and compression/dry bag. Yet, the pack and gear has changed little.

My basic ultralight pack is one purchased from Gossamer Gear, the MiniPosa…it is the same one used for a lot of my hiking. An old tarp that was cut down a few years ago making it lighter, though it wasn’t ever heavy in its original 18oz form…it’s the same one I use for hiking. The pad is a bit of a luxury at 13oz,and, is the same one I use for hiking longer trails. The 800FP down bag keeps me warm at 32F and weighs 1pound, 11oz. Using an old SVEA 123r, it is possible to cook meals, and sometimes on cold mornings, warm my shelter. Again, this is all the same gear I use for hiking, it is all ultralight gear…well, ‘cept maybe for the old SVEA.

Canoe camping has grown in popularity over the past 15 years. There are more people on the waterways and is probably due to the increasing age of the population generally and other factors: lighter weight/easier handling of boats(in and out of the water,) less large and bulky gear needed to be carried (UL has gone more mainstream,) and the decreased cost of “plastic” boats($300-400 kayaks.) For older people and younger children, canoe camping means a possibility of high mileage days in relative comfort; of still being able to enjoy wild scenery; of the low possibility of being overtired at the end of a day. Older folks can avoid the pain of blisters, aching knees and/or other injuries often associated with hiking long distances. For people with foot problems canoe camping offers a solution for getting out, sometimes the only solution.


Be sure to check out part 2 of this article!