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Learn What to Take on Your Next (or first) Overnight Paddling Trip

Make Sure You Don't Forget Anything on Your Next Canoe Camping Trip


Coldwater Creek Canoe and Kayak with Gear at Takeout

Dry bags, backpacks, and coolers fill a canoe and kayak on an overnight paddling trip.

Photo © by George E. Sayour

Planning an overnight canoe or kayak trip can often be as much fun as the trip itself. A properly planned trip involves research, conversation, and packing. Ensuring you are properly packed before you leave on your combination paddling-camping trip is crucial. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to your destination only to realize you have forgotten an important implement needed on the trip. That’s why a overnight canoe trip checklist can be the difference between being fully prepared or forgetting something that is important to your paddling trip.

I have composed here a list of all the items that could be taken on a camping and canoeing trip. The items in this list are separated into camping, clothing, canoe or kayak, food, and recreational items. I have also attempted to give a brief explanation for each item which may help you in deciding whether or not you will need it on your specific trip.

Camping Equipment to Bring on a Paddling Trip
Figure on bringing whatever camping gear you normally bring on camping trips. Keep in mind you will have space constraints as everything will need to fit in your canoe or kayak. Be sure to keep things dry by using dry bags, garbage bags, zip locks, and dry boxes.

  • Tent: Be sure it packs down to a manageable size to fit in your canoe or kayak.
  • Sleeping bag: The sleeping bag should be chosen based on the weather conditions.
  • Sleeping Pad: Bring a sleeping pad purely for comfort.
  • Camp Pillow: Bring a camp pillow purely for comfort.
  • Camp Chair: Camp chairs are not a necessity but if there’s room they sure beat a log.
  • Flashlight: A headlamp is preferable to a flashlight.
  • Multipurpose Knife with tools: I’d never go camping without one.
  • Thermal Safety Blanket: It’s always good to be prepared.
  • Matches: Waterproof matches can be found any place camping gear is sold.
  • Lighter: Bring a lighter in addition to matches- one might fail.
  • Fire starter: Why kill yourself trying to make a fire?
  • Zip Lock Bags: Buy the kind that has a zipper. These will keep things dry.
  • Garbage Bags: These are the poor mans dry bags. Also use to throw away your trash.
  • Dry Storage Box: These boxes are great to keep cell phones and GPS units safe and dry.
  • Extra batteries: Bring extra batteries for every electronic device you have.
  • Cell Phone: Cell phones should be brought in case of emergency.
  • Backpack: Depending on where you are paddling, you may want to get out and hike.
  • Maps: Have good maps of the area.
  • Compass: It would be a good idea to know how to use one also.
  • Water Purifier or Water Tablets: This is a backup to the water you’ll be bringing.
  • Rope: Prevent wildlife from getting at your food by tying it up when you’re sleeping.
  • Duct Tape: This implement really needs no explanation.

Paddling Gear to Bring on an Overnight Paddling Trip

  • Canoe or Kayak: It wouldn’t be much of a paddling trip without a boat.
  • Paddle: It’s kind of obvious, I know…
  • Spare Paddle: This is purely you preference, but you never know.
  • PFD: Lifejackets are needed for everyone in your party.
  • GPS: Know where you are, how far you’ve gone, and how to get to safety at all times.
  • Rope: You may need to tie your boat to shore at times.

Toiletries to Bring on an Overnight Canoe Trip

  • First Aid Kit: If you bring a prepackaged one, make sure it has everything you need.
  • Sun block: You can get burned even on an overcast day.
  • Chap Stick: Keep your lips healthy while on the water.
  • Toilet Paper: Roll some up and put it in Ziploc baggies unless you’d rather use leaves.
  • Toiletry Bag: Fill it with whatever you personally need.

Clothing to Bring on an Overnight Canoe Trip
Be sure to pack clothes for the type of conditions you will be facing during the day, the night, and on the water. You will need to pack things so that they stay dry.

  • Shoes for water: You should have shoes or closed-toe sandals with good support.
  • Bathing Suit: Bring a bathing suit to paddle in or to wear while swimming or bathing.
  • Towel: Towels are needed not only for yourself but also to dry things off.
  • Sunglasses: Polarized sunglasses are great while on the water.
  • Hat: Keep the sun off of your face with a hat.
  • Wind Breaker: Even warm days can feel cool on the water. It should be waterproof.
  • Rain Pants: A rainy day can make for a miserable paddle.
  • Undergarments: Bring extra socks and underwear.
  • Non-Cotton Shirt: Polypropylene thermal wear is a good idea if the nights get cold.
  • Extra Pants or Shorts: It’s always good to have a change of clothes when on the water.
  • Warm Clothes: Be sure to dress for the time of year and have clothes to sleep in.
  • Hiking Shoes: Good shoes are important for around the campsite or if you want to hike.

Cooking and Food Checklist for a Camping and Canoeing Trip

  • Cooler: Soft cooler bags are preferable to hard plastic coolers.
  • Ice Packs: These will only stay cool for the first day.
  • Stove: Unless you don’t need to cook or heat up coffee.
  • Cookware: Determine what you need based on the items you’ll be heating up.
  • 2 Gallons of Water per person: Water is used for drinking and other things like brushing one’s teeth.
  • Dry food Bars: Plenty of Power Bars, Boulder Bars, and Granola Bars will get you through the trip.
  • Meals: Plan enough food for every meal.

Recreational Equipment that Can be Brought on an Overnight Canoe Trip
Bring just about anything else you can think of to enhance your enjoyment of your surroundings and your trip.

  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Video Camera
  • Fishing Gear
  • Snorkeling Gear
  • Books
  • Cards

The next page of this article contains this same list of items without any of the comments. Feel free to print it out and use it as a checklist.

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