Picture of Preparing for a Wilderness Canoe Trip
My first canoe camping trip was more like the world’s strongest man competition than a camping trip. We packed tons of food, gas stoves, gas lanterns, more clothing than needed, heavy tents, camping chairs, children and dogs into heavy rented canoes and paddled to a remote campsite. Portaging was impossible.

After almost 20 canoe camping trips I now know what I NEED to pack.

for more info, see:
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Step 1: Load carrying capacity

Picture of Load carrying capacity
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Even if you want to bring all the gear and clothing you own or empty the pantry and kitchen for some wilderness gourmet cuisine you will be limited by the load carrying capacity of your canoe. Overloading can be dangerous. Stacking a heaping mound of gear between the gunnels of the canoe can raise the center of gravity and make it tippy.

My cedar strip canoe has a maximum load in the “optimum” range of 450lbs. So with 2 paddlers of about 160 lbs each, 2 canoe seats about 5lbs, 2 PFD about 5lbs, two paddles about 5lbs, that only leaves about 105lbs total for gear. I found that carrying about 50lbs of gear per paddler, for a one week trip, is on the lighter side but is a good goal.

Step 2: Number and difficulty of portages

Picture of Number and difficulty of portages
If you do not plan to portage your canoe and gear, then, hey load it up. Portages can slow you down and depending on heat, insects and trail conditions, can be quite miserable. I usually double portage, which means to get the canoe and all my gear to the end of the trail, I walk it 3 times.

You will also want to have your gear organized into packs that are easy to carry, usually means shoulder straps, so that you are not stumbling and fumbling dropping things along the way.
lelefry993 months ago
Those pictures if I'm not mistaken are of the boundary lakes between Minnesota and Canada. The Boy Scout northern tier high adventure base is up there where I went when I was 14 and that looks just like what I saw. Am I right about the location?
jimmar57 (author)  lelefry993 months ago

you are correct. Most are from the Quetico Provincial Park side

Nostoc1 year ago
Also, depending on where you are going, a machete can be very helpful for the whole group.

A few years ago we went on a trip after a major storm had passed in the area (we didn't know about it), every trail was filled with fallen trees. Our machetes litteraly made the trip possible.
Nostoc1 year ago
Your back pack doesn't need to by water proof, but everything you want dry should be in a dry bag. You can buy them at any outdoors shop, it's way better than some garbage bags and not very expensive.

I usually have a huge one for the main pouch in my back pack, with my sleeping bag, clothes, etc in it, and a few small one for misc stuff, like matches, toilet paper and the like.

This is the kind of stuff I'm talking about
Nice instructable!!! That is sooo true about the first canoe trip you always end up with more than you need!!!!!
pfred21 year ago
I only went canoe camping once when I was much younger. I suppose it is fair to say that my tolerance for pain was higher then. I didn't even bring a sleeping bag. After that we brought power boats.

My list, and methods are similar to yours, with some style differences. For instance I always camp with a campaign hat, not a ball cap. I like more brim. Instead of spare shoes I'll bring something I can walk around camp with. Some lightweight slides are sufficient camp mocs for me.