Canoeing: What should I take on a canoe trip?

The answer to this popular question depends on the route, group, season and many other factors, including personal preferences! The easiest way to make sure you have what you need is to book one of our complete outfitting packages. In that scenario, all you just take your personal items, such as clothing, toiletries and a camera. On our canoe trip planning page, scroll down and you’ll find a full list of items you may want to have on a completely outfitted canoe trip, in addition to what we provide.

If you’re planning your own canoe trip instead of  booking an outfitting package with us, here’s a list of basic items to include:

  • Lightweight Kevlar canoe(s) equipped with comfortable yokes
  • Properly fitting PFDs for everyone
  • At least one paddle per person
  • Bailing bucket or bilge pump
  • Signaling devices (whistle and flashlight)
  • 15-metre (or more) throw rope that floats
  • Additional ropes – “painter” rope (tied to the end of the canoe), food-hanging rope (50′ or longer), tarp-hanging rope (50-100′ long, approx. 3-5 mm thick)
  • Canoe route map and waterproof case – topographical maps can also be useful
  • Canoe packs*, barrel packs* and/or dry packs* as required – typically one pack per person for small groups
  • Tarp (10’×10′ is handy size) –  useful as a secondary shelter in camp; essential in spring and fall
  • Additional small tarp or ground sheet for under tent or to cover gear in canoe when paddling in the rain
  • Rain gear (jacket AND pants, keep accessible)
  • Lightweight (<10 lbs.) free-standing tent with full fly
  • Inflatable/foam sleeping pad
  • Lightweight, compact sleeping bag
  • Stuff sacks/smaller dry bags/compression bags
  • Single-burner camp stove(s)
  • Fuel for stove in leak-proof container
  • Lighter and/or matches in waterproof container
  • Pot/pan set – many people travel with just one pot and a lid that doubles as a frying pan
  • Bowl, plate, cup, water bottle and utensils for each person
  • Kitchen set that includes basic cooking utensils, knife, spices, bio-degradable soap, etc.
  • Water treatment system – purifier (tablets) or filter
  • Leather work gloves for handling things around the fire
  • Anti-bacterial wet wipes – great for general cleaning
  • Toilet paper in waterproof bag
  • Wilderness first-aid kit
  • Compass and/or GPS with extra batteries
  • Folding camp saw
  • Repair kit that includes duct tape, multi-tool, parts for stove/water filter, etc.
  • Bug jacket/hat and repellent
  • Headlamp/flashlight with extra batteries
  • Pocket knife or multi-tool

Essential personal items:

  • T-shirt(s) – two for longer trips
  • Quick-drying shorts and/or swim suit
  • Small towel – quick-dry, micro-fibre type works well
  • Lightweight, long-sleeved shirt – cotton/polyester blends are good
  • Sunscreen and hat – one with a full wide brim is better than a ball cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Quick-drying long pants – some styles convert to shorts by zipping off the legs
  • Good-quality rain gear (jacket and pants)
  • Wool sweater or fleece jacket
  • Socks – wool, bamboo or synthetic
  • Extra pair of socks for around the campsite – always keep theses dry!
  • Sturdy footwear for portages – preferably well broken in
  • Campsite footwear – sport sandals, running shoes or duck shoes are great
  • Toilet articles – toothbrush/paste, shampoo/soap, etc.
  • Spare prescription glasses or contacts
  • Personal medications in waterproof  bag or container

Highly recommended items:

  • Camera with extra batteries and memory cards (or film!)
  • Binoculars and field guides
  • Notebook or journal and pencils
  • Day pack or fanny pack for frequently used items
  • Fishing rod and tackle – fishing licenses can be purchased in the park
  • Rainy day entertainment – book, cards, portable board game, etc.

Spring or fall extras

  • Wool or fleece hat, gloves/mitts
  • Lightweight synthetic or wool long underwear (top and bottom)
  • Extra insulating layers, such as fleece pants and jacket
  • Waterproof footwear – insulated boots are a good idea

This list covers the basic requirements for an Algonquin Park canoe trip. Many people pack more items than what we have listed here but keep in mind that everything you take is extra weight to portage. So, do your best to keep it light and pack just the essentials!

*What are barrel packs, canoe packs and dry packs?

Barrel packs are plastic shipping barrels re-purposed for canoe tripping. They’re waterproof, airtight, crush-proof and somewhat critter-proof, so are ideal for containing food. We offer them in two sizes (30 or 60 litres), equipped with backpack harnesses to make portaging easier. Don’t let anyone convince you these barrels are “bear proof.” They are certainly bear-resistant and do a very good job of protecting food and containing odors (which is what attracts animals) but, if they want to, bears can rip them open.

Canoe packs are “must-have” items for canoe trips with portages. Shorter and wider than backpacks for hiking, they’re specifically designed to fit inside canoes. More heavy-duty than most hiking packs, the shorter height of a canoe pack makes it easier to carry a canoe and a pack at the same time. They’re usually 90-120 litres in size, made of water resistant material (not waterproof), and have adjustable shoulder harnesses, waist belts and side cinch straps. Many also have side pockets and straps to hold paddles upright when portaging. When using packs like this, the goal is to get as much gear as possible inside the pack, so portaging will go more smoothly.

Dry packs, also known by common brand names like Boundary, SealLine or Baja Bags, are completely waterproof packs that come in a wide range of sizes. The drawback is that these packs are generally smaller than most canoe packs and not as comfortable to carry. We recommend using the smaller stuff-sack sized versions of the dry packs as personal clothing bags, then packing those inside a traditional canoe pack. As well, many people use small dry bags for items they want to keep handy while paddling (sunglasses, camera, snacks, etc.) but also need to protect from water or other potential damage.