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The Essential Canoe Equipment

Everything You Need to Get Started

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Two canoes on a lake
Shioguchi/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Most new canoeists rarely do the necessary research before buying their first canoe and canoe equipment. It is common for these individuals to just go out and buy a boat and a paddle and they think they have done their due diligence. Any serious canoeist will tell you there is definitely more to it than that. Yes you can get started with a bare minimum amount of equipment. There is also a lot of extra gear out there that will make your paddling experience safer and more enjoyable. The following list will give you some pointers to consider before you make your first canoe purchase.

    Essential Canoe Equipment & Gear

  • Canoe: Whitewater canoes are completely different from recreational and racing canoes. There are also canoes that are meant to be paddled by one person and then there are the canoes that can comfortably hold three people. The type of canoe you choose depends completely on what type of paddling you wish to do, how many people will be in the boat with you, and what level of paddler you are.

  • Paddle: Everyone knows you can't canoe without a paddle. Make sure that you buy enough though. You need to purchase at least one more than you need. Every canoeist should have an extra paddle with them secured in the canoe in case of an emergency.

  • PFD: PFD stands for Personal Flotation Device and is essentially a life jacket or life preserver for canoeists. You'd be surprised how many people don't include PFDs in with their canoe equipment purchase. It is actually illegal in many places to paddle without a PFD. Again, make sure you have enough for each person in the canoe.

  • Float Bags: Flotation is only a requirement for whitewater canoes. These bags tie securely in place in the bow (front) and stern (back) of the canoe and prevent your boat from sinking should you end up flipping over.

  • Helmet: Helmets are only a requirement for whitewater canoeing.

    Non-essential Canoe Equipment & Gear

  • Drysuit, Wetsuit, Paddle Jacket & Pants: This is totally a matter of preference and water temperature. Most people paddle without any of these items all summer long.

  • Booties or Sandals: I can't imagine getting into a canoe without a pair of sandals but they certainly aren't required.

  • Throwable Flotation Device: This is a actually a coast guard requirement for boats that are longer than 16' and are not canoes or kayaks. But why not have one with you anyway? You never know when you may need to throw someone a flotation device to rescue them from drowning. They also make great seat pads when they are not being used to save a life.

  • Rope Bag: It could help you save the life of a friend. I strongly recommend all paddlers to carry a rescue throw bag.

  • Knife: This is one of those items you will probably never use. In the event you get tangled in a rope or stuck under a raft, you'll be glad that you had one.

  • Dry Bag: This will keep your snacks and camera dry. Just make sure it is attached inside of the boat.

  • Sunscreen: Since you are completely exposed to the elements in most canoes, it is always a good idea to bring along some extra sunscreen during the summer months.
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