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Canoe Trips and Survival Camping

If you enjoy canoeing or kayaking and you'd like to add another dimension to your adventure experience, consider a canoe camping trip that simulates an emergency camp-out, but in a fun way. You'll learn what happens when a lot of your kit and clothes get wet, and how to deal with it.

Choose your expedition partners wisely. A canoe trip requires teamwork and a positive attitude. You need the ability to solve problems and have fun without the many comforts of home.

Although these trips require careful planning, even beginners can arrange a trip suitable to their goals and needs.

The adventure you plan should match the ability level of your group. When in doubt, stay on the side of caution and choose shorter, fewer portages. Choose areas of water that will be safe for all members of your group.

It is recommended that you have a minimum of three boats on your trip. If something happens to one of the boats, you can still get everyone home in the other two. More boats may become cumbersome.


There are many items you may want to bring. If it is not neccessary to bring it, then it is is neccessary to leave it at home.

For anything above and beyond the essentials, consider how much comfort it will give you while camping, versus how much discomfort it will cause you while portaging.

Keep in mind that most, if not all, of the necessary equipment can be rented through an outfitting company, so before purchasing any expensive items, it may be wise to try them out first.


Depending on the climate you may want to use a lightweight hiking tent, or just a simple army poncho as a tarp which dries out quicker.


Canoeing is a water sport and you will get wet. Dress for immersion. Consider the water temperature, not the air. You can always cool down with a quick dip, but warming you up requires effort. Carry a waterproof bag for your dry camp clothes at night and a sleeping bag.

Reader Story: Wet Canoe Camping Trip

by Sascha from Germany

It was the rainy season. Time to go canoe camping. The high humidity means we don't feel cold when our clothes get wet. And we got wet a lot.

There is a lake nearby with a small island that canoeists enjoy for overnight trips. My friend Tommy and I drove to the lake, put our supplies in waterproof bags, loaded them into the canoe and pushed off into light rain.

We wore cagoules for paddling and ponchos for excursions over quick drying hiking clothes, like cargoes and matching shirts. We knew that we would get wet often, so these clothes are lightweight and feel good both wet or dry. Before we went on our trip we practiced swimming in our hiking clothes quite often to get ready.

The Island

We got quite hot from paddling and took the ponchos off in spite of the rain. We stowed them securely and paddled on. The rain soon soaked our clothes and we felt refreshed again as we pushed on.

As we arrived at the island as the rain got heavier. The shore was steep, we couldn't just paddle onto it. Instead, we had to jump into the water and lift the boat out. No problem, as we were already wet from the rain we kept our clothes on for this.

The water was about chest deep, with sandy floor. We pushed the boat ashore and went for a relaxing swim to explore the vicinity. Swimming in these hiking clothes takes little effort and feels great. Good choice.

After splashing around for a while in the rain, we got out and setup camp in the pouring rain. First we strung a rope between two trees. Then we buttoned the two ponchos together, hung them over the rope, and pegged them down. Whoosh, we had a cosy shelter, just in time before darkness.

Bivvy Bag

We pulled out one of our two person bivvy bags, the red one that can get wet, and huddled inside in our wet clothes. The bivvy bag is made from special nylon fibres that move moisture from the inside to the outside. Magic. It somehow works with our body heat warming up the inside more than the outside. We wrestled around a fair bit inside the bivvy bag to speed this up. With nightfall the rain stopped and we fell asleep exhausted, but almost dry.

During the night we woke up, feeling a bit cold. We changed into thermal tops and joggings suits from the dry bags in our canoe and went back to sleep in our bivvy bag. Now we were snug and warm. It's so nice to share a cosy space with a close friend.

The morning sun woke us early

Birds singing. Mist rising from the lake. Most beautiful scenery. We slowly untangled from each other and got up to find some food. There were many berries nearby. We also heated up some baked beans and enjoyed the view of the glistening lake.

After breakfast we packed the ponchos and other gear into our waterproof bags, stowed them securely in the canoe and sat down by the water to plan the day. It was a warm morning. No wind, just sunshine.

Decision Time

We were facing a difficult decision. Do we swim first and then paddle, or paddle first and discover a nice place to swim? Going for a swim first and paddle in wet clothes looked very tempting in the warm weather.

On the other hand, paddling off into the unknown with the risk of a sudden soaking was quite a thrilling prospect too. Then we realised that to get the boat afloat again we had to wade into the lake as the water got deep quickly.

We decided to stay as dry as possible and seek out wet adventure round the corner. After we put on our canoeing clothes with socks and shoes we got going. One of us had to wade into the water and receive the canoe.

So I climbed down the bank, stepped into water and waded in about waist deep, only soaking my clothes up to the hem of my T-shirt. That felt really good. My friend passed the canoe down and also waded into the lake. We both climbed in, still half dry, but feeling excited about today's adventure.

As we paddled around the island we found a sandy beach on the other side, facing west. We decided to come back here for the night. Then we spotted another island nearby. We paddled fast and felt quite hot in our clothes that had dried off by the time we reached a sandy cove and clear water. Time to cool off.

Balancing Game

Since all our kit was securely stowed in waterproof bags, we decided to capsize the canoe with the balancing game which has to be played fully clothed for best effect. We put our rain clothes on over the jogging suits and put the hoods up so they didn't fill with lots of water. I almost fell in early when we stood up and wiggled about while getting dressed.

Then we sat down again and both leaned out wide, one to each side of the canoe to keep it balanced. The winner is who can keep this up the longest, leaning so far that the clothes touch the water. Coming back up was not allowed, you had to fall into the water eventually. This was tough.


The canoe rolled about dangerously with each of us dipping our hooded heads into the water in turns. As the water seeped into my clothes I got heavier. Soon my arms got wet too. After a while this was too much and I let go, falling head first into the water. The canoe flipped the other way and my friend fell in too. That was funny.

We emptied the water out of the canoe and pushed it ashore. Lots of water was running out of our clothes while walked around. The island was smaller than the other one, with dense bush.

Swim around the Island

We decided the best way to explore the isalnd was to swim around it and went back into the lake about chest deep, still fully clothed of course because that's how we stay fit and enjoy it. It was a wonderful experience, swimming around this little island, stopping over here and there, coming out of the water and hopping back in again.

After our round trip we changed into dry clothes, jeans and T-shirts, enjoyed a good lunch and an afternoon nap in our cosy bivvy bag.

Rainy Afternoon

When we woke up the sky was full of dark rain clouds. We packed our kit into the canoe, put our shoes and dry jeans and hoodies on, and carried the canoe into knee deep water for our trip around the lake and back to the first island.

Soon it began to rain as we paddled along the lake shore. After a few minutes our jeans and hoodies were soaked to the skin, but we were feeling good and happy. We often jumped into the water to explore the shore. This was great fun.

Back to the First Island

The clouds dispersed and we saw a beautiful sunset as we jumped into the water at the shallow beach we've spotted earlier on the first island. We lifted the canoe out of the water, setup camp, and went for a sunset swim in our jeans and hoodies. Total bliss.

After dinner still in wet clothes, we changed into soft cotton onesies and disappeared into our bivvy bag for the night. As we snuggled up together we wondered what it would be like to swim in these onesie suits the next morning. The very thought stirred some excitement.

Morning Swim

Morning came with a beautiful view. We were ready for a sunrise swim in our baggy cotton onesies. We scrambled out of our bivvy bag and slowly waded into the water. This was an amazing experience as we wore nothing underneath and the onesies have no belt, they just float about. We put the hoods up and swam front crawl for a good distance.

When we got back to our camp site, lots of water dripping from our hooded swimsuits, we huddled back into the bivvy bag which got completely wet. Snuggling up to a good friend in soft baggy wet clothes inside a cosy nylon bivvy bag is a wonderful experience. After a while we got too hot, went for another swim in our onesies, packed up and paddled back to the car.

One More Thing

As we arrived we loaded up the canoe and changed into clean and smart clothes we had kept in the car. We looked very presentable in clean grey jogging pants, yellow polo shirts, red v-neck windshirts, white socks and black sandals.

"Is this all there is?" my friend asked with a wicked smile, shaking his windshirt and nodding towards the lake.

"No. There is one more thing!" I said and we ran into the lake for another swim, looking good in our fine clothes. It was an amazing wet weekend.