The first thing to know about packing for a canoe day trip is that missed takeout points, “Oh-let’s‑just-go-around-the-next-bend,” poor weather, injury, etc. happen all the time so bring some emergency supplies in case. That being said, you will primarily be packing for a one-day trip, so let’s get to it.
Wear (and pack) Appropriate Clothing
While the weather in the driveway of your house in the suburbs might be 76 and mild, a river day trip that stretches into evening can end in chilly and windy climes. If the forecast for the day is sun and fun, you’ll want to wear quick drying shorts over a bathing suit, and perhaps a UPF shirt or even, a baselayer, which actually do an amazing job blocking the sun for your entire upper body other than your head. Opt for sturdy water shoes that lace or strap up because you’ll be spending lots of time with your feet on the rocks in the water. If the weather prediction is cool and windy, a windbreaker and a trusted pair of wool socks will do the trick. Whether the day is cool or warm, be sure to bring an extra sweatshirt and jacket, as well as a sleeping bag or blanket; River riding can chill some paddlers (and not others), and you’ll want to be well prepared.
The Sun and the Bites
While not canoe-specific, these essentials are part of a successful outdoor day trip of any type: Sunblock, sunglasses, a hat, and insect repellent. Remember, in protecting against the sun, you not only avoid sunburn, you ward off dehydration and exhaustion as well. As for bug bites: nothing ruins a run down the river faster than a black fly bite or mosquitoes feasting on your tasty flesh, so repel, repel, repel — whether it’s a natural ointment or the real stuff. And don’t forget a strap for those sunglasses.
Basic First Aid Kit
Injuries occur in the most unexpected of ways – a fall while walking on slippery rocks, a bee sting, a cut on a strainer; accidents like these have spoiled many a trip. In addition to bandages, antibiotic ointment and antiseptic, don’t forget any regular medications taken by paddlers in your party. While not technically part of your first aid kit, good emergency preparedness also includes such items as a cell phone and even more importantly, a dry bag.
While the duration of your trip might require only one meal and a snack, prepare for more. Two-meals-worth of food will cover you in the event of unforeseen delay, and the extra meal won’t take up much space in your canoe. Think water, waves, and swamping when picking your foods: individually wrapped snacks, fruits and vegetables will all stand up well to splashes; bread and crackers – they go in the dry bag.
Who’s got the Map?
Hopefully you can avoid finger pointing when it comes to the end of your trip and the need to locate that takeout point. Be sure to mark the takeout point prominently before embarking on your trip. A compass and waterproof flashlight aren’t half bad ideas either, and can come in more than handy.