Canoe Trip Readiness Checklist and Resources
We have compiled a checklist of basic tasks and procedures related to backcountry canoe trip travel in Algonquin Park. While comprehensive, this list won’t cover every conceivable detail or situation. Please visit the links to various resources included in the text for more information.
Many of these items should be completed before leaving home, and others are done while on the trip. If you have questions about any of these items, please feel free to call us at 1-800-469-4948.
Click the titles below to see their content.
Download this page as a printable PDF file.
- Plan a canoe route appropriate to the experience and abilities of the group. Always plan according to the abilities of the most inexperienced member of your group. Ensure that everyone in the group understands the basic principles of canoe tripping and what to expect while on the trip.
- If you need to rent equipment, pick an access point that is convenient to an outfitter that offers the services you require.
- Book permits with Ontario Parks.
- Understand the terrain and typical conditions for the time of year you are visiting.
- Ensure that all group members understand the relevant park regulations.
- Check the weather forecast before heading out. Weather in Algonquin Park can change quickly and can be very localized. Pay particular attention to wind forecasts, paddling in windy conditions requires skill, takes more time and can be dangerous. Paddlers can be shore-bound by the wind on a beautiful sunny day.
- Fill out a trip plan, share it with your group members and emergency contacts. This is a detailed itinerary of your trip and should include details like where you are going, your intended paddle route, the names and contact information for the people in your group, when you intend to return and local emergency contacts. The trip plan should be given to a competent adult. If you run into trouble and do not return on time, this person will inform the authorities and give them the important information in the plan to help them find you quickly. Here is a sample.
- Check with your group members and find out what health concerns, medical conditions, medications and dietary restrictions may impact the trip. Include this information in your trip plan.
- Understand and be prepared to practice “Leave No Trace” practices while on your trip.
- Arrange rental or outfitting services well ahead of your start dates. Check with the other members of your group to make sure they have all the necessary equipment and clothing.
- Plan and pack a healthy menu that is easy to prepare, takes dietary restrictions into account and is packaged in compliance with Algonquin Park’s food container regulations. Be prepared to store your food properly and away from wildlife.
- Obtain the knowledge and skills you need before heading out. Read trip reports online and/or watch videos made by experienced canoe trippers. Practice canoeing locally or take a course from a certified instructor; take first aid training; research the area you are visiting, and test out new equipment at home.
- Whether you are new to canoeing or consider yourself an expert, consider taking the free online paddle sports safety course.
TAKING THE ESSENTIALS
Always carry the essentials and know how to use them:
- Emergency contact information for the local area and a copy of your trip plan.
- Map(s) that covers your entire route. The entire park can be seen on the official park map, more detail is available on maps from independent mapmakers. (Buy maps online).
- Flashlight / Headlamp (Buy online)
- Lightweight camp stove and a fire making kit (Buy online)
- Signalling device (i.e. whistle)
- Extra food and water and/or water purification method (Buy online)
- Extra clothing packed in a waterproof bag. Cold water and/or cold weather can result in hypothermia. (Buy online)
- Navigational/communication devices, portable charger
- First-aid kit - make sure all group members know the location and contents (Buy online)
- Emergency blanket
- Shelter system, eg. lightweight tent(s), hammock, tarp shelter (Buy online)
- Pocket knife (Buy online)
- Sun protection
- Add other equipment specific to your chosen activity, season and location.
- Travel with a companion: a companion can give you a hand to overcome difficulties or emergencies.
- Be prepared: ensure everyone with you understands what to do in case of an emergency.
- Don’t depend solely on technology: equipment failure and lack of reception are very possible in the outdoors. Carry a map and compass and know how to use them.
- Know the limits of your group and stay within them. Be honest with yourself and respect the concerns of everyone in the group.
- Understand the safety hazards presented by environmental conditions like wind, rain, thunderstorms and cold water. Hypothermia is a real danger at any time of year.
- Never use alcohol or mind-altering drugs before or during a paddle.
- Avoid dehydration! Ensure that everyone has a water bottle and understands how to properly treat water from a lake (eg. boiling, filter and/or chemical treatments)
BEFORE GETTING ON THE WATER
- Ensure that ALL passengers are wearing properly fitting Transport Canada approved PFDs and that each canoe has a regulation “safety kit” (rope/whistle/bailer) and a spare paddle.
- Establish simple, non-verbal communication signals and make sure that everyone clearly understands the communication signals used (i.e. basic paddling instructions, “come here”, “get to shore quickly” etc.).
- Check that each person has a whistle or sound signalling device attached to their PFD or at their disposal.
- Check that everyone is dressed appropriately for the weather and water conditions.
- Check that everyone is wearing a hat and sunscreen.
- Ensure that all loose gear is secured to the boat to avoid losing items in case of capsizing.
- The skills of paddlers should be assessed before leaving the access point. Review capsize protocols and basic rescue procedures.
- Discuss the route, navigation and pace. Ensure that every boat in your party stays within sight and sound of the others.
- Consider using a satellite-based emergency locator, such as a SPOT or InReach,
to help rescuers quickly find your location. Algonquin Outfitters rents the SPOT satellite messenger device, which can send pre-set messages and activate EMS.
- Ensure that you have a fully charged mobile device and carry it in a waterproof, floating case. If you're in an area without cell reception, consider bringing a satellite-enabled device, such as a satellite phone or a device with texting capabilities, such as a SPOT X or InReach.
IN AN EMERGENCY
- Don’t panic: Stay calm and maintain a positive attitude.
- S.T.O.P.: Sit, Think, Observe and Plan.
- Stay put: It reduces time and search area for the authorities looking for you.
- Seek shelter: Protect yourself from the elements by staying warm and dry.
- Signal for help:
- Think BIG, Think CONTRAST, Think 3’s.- Create a ground-to-air symbol by making the letter “V” or “SOS”, at least 3 meters in length.
- Use whistle blasts x 3, mirror flashes x 3, horn blasts x 3, signal fires x 3 or rock piles x 3 to signal distress.
- Yell and/or wave to other park users to indicate that you need help.
- If you are able to call 911, consider doing so. This should only be done in the case of serious medical emergencies and other life-threatening situations. Response time will vary in Algonquin Park, and will be affected by time of day, weather and other factors. First responders will usually be OPP or military SAR personnel arriving by helicopter. Personal discomfort, broken or soaked equipment and/or being overdue for return are NOT emergencies and you should be prepared to deal with these situations on your own.
Algonquin Outfitters trip planning resource page:
Another outfitter’s resource page with detail on many of the points above:
Download this page as a printable PDF file.
- Algonquin Outfitters Canoe Trip Planning
- Algonquin Outfitters Canoe Trip Route Samples
- Algonquin Outfitters Rental Equipment
- Algonquin Outfitters Outfitting Packages
- Algonquin Outfitters Store Locations
- Algonquin Park Access Points Map
- Algonquin Park Backcountry Camping Fees
- Algonquin Park Backcountry Canoe Tripping Equipment
- Algonquin Park Backcountry Regulations
- Algonquin Park Backcountry Reservations
- Algonquin Park Black Bear Safety
- Algonquin Park Can and Bottle Ban
- Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Network
- Algonquin Park Emergency Contact Information
- Algonquin Park Seasonal Activities
- Backcountry Canoe Tripping Principles
- Canoe route maps can be purchased from our online store
- Choosing Lifejackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
- Leave No Trace
- Ontario Parks Reservations
- Paddle Sports Safety Course - Free online course
- Top YouTube Canoe Channels
- Trip Reports - Algonquin Adventures
- Trip Reports - My Canadian Canoe Routes
- Weather Forcast and Alerts
- Weather Wind Forcast
FREE Paddle Sports Safety Course
THE comprehensive canoe, kayak, & paddleboard safety course
Hop in or on, and stand up and cheer! If it's got a paddle it's in this course. Including everything stand-up paddleboard (SUP). Just be careful standing up in those kayaks and canoes, in fact, we'll teach you how (or when not to). Push off and get started!