Paddling Essential Gear
  • Canoes
  • Paddle
  • Personal Flotation Device
  • Paddle Jacket
  • Headgear
  • Paddle Clothing
  • Footgear
  • Safety Equipment
  • Kneeling Pad
  • Thwart Bag
  • Expand Your Skills

  • Canoes
    Canoes that combine versatile handling characteristics with reasonable weight and low maintenance are the best choices for most recreational canoeists. There are plenty of types to choose from, made from different materials. ABS and polyethylene canoes are known for their near indestructability and are among the most popular canoes manufactured today. Aluminum canoes have drawbacks but are the ultimate low-maintenance boats. Wood canoes are the most fragile and beautiful (and often most cherished by their owners). Our Frequently Asked Questions section on canoeing addresses many of the questions around which types of boats are best for which activities.

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    Paddles
    Paddles can be made of different materials: plastics, metal, fiberglass, Kevlar®, wood, or combinations of these. Because you will pick up and place your paddle thousands of times every day you canoe, you will find that a light, well balanced paddle will make this activity much more pleasant, and having a beautiful paddle will add to your padding pleasure.

    The ideal paddle should be well balanced, comfortable to hold and pick up. It should provide a good "grip" on the water but still slice effortlessly through it. The proper size for your paddle will vary with paddling style, boat type, and body size. Generally, the complete blade of the paddle, but none of the shaft, should be in the water when you do your forward stroke. (A quick check of proper shaft length can be made by sitting on a firm bench and putting the grip of the paddle on the bench between your legs. The throat of the paddle should come to the bridge of your nose – shorter for bent shaft paddles, longer for straight shaft. This gauge works well except for half-grown kids and people with smaller torsos, who sometimes need a longer shaft in order to reach the water.)

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    Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
    Get a PFD that is comfortable and can be adjusted to fit snugly over just your swimsuit but still fit over all the layers that you'll need to wear in early spring or late fall. Make sure that the armholes and neck are cut generously enough to not chafe when you're active. It's important that there are enough pockets and attachment points for all your safety equipment: whistle, compass, strobe, lip balm, sunscreen, tow belt, and whatever else you may need. Swim in your PFD so you know how it will feel. Get one that has a highly visible color and then wear it every time you paddle.

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    Paddle Jacket
    Made of either a waterproof/breathable fabric like Gore-Tex® or coated nylon, these jackets are light, protective and warm. A short-sleeved pullover style keeps the torso warm when the air temperature starts to drop, or on cold-water days. A long-sleeved jacket with latex gaskets at the wrists is wonderful for really cool days or colder water. The gaskets keep your sleeves from filling up with drips off the paddle.

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    Headgear
    Hats with big brims are great for summer paddling as they shade your eyes, and protect your face and neck from the sun. Wool or fleece ski hats are a must when it's cold, and a helmet is always in order when playing in white water.

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    Paddle Clothing
    As with kayaking, nylon shorts, polyester long underwear, fleece, Cool Max® or polyester tops and nylon windshells are the clothes of choice for canoeing. Wet suits and dry suits are important when the water is cold. No matter how warm the air is, dress for the water temperature. If you get too hot paddling, you can always get wet to cool off, but if you're not dressed for the water, you could be in dangerous conditions very quickly. A useful guideline is: if you're not willing to get totally wet at the beginning of the trip, you're not adequately prepared.

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    Footgear
    Flexible neoprene booties are comfortable to kneel in and offer your feet protection when getting in and out of the canoe – and they're warm. Tevas® or other sandals are good for walking around and work well if you sit on your canoe seat and don't kneel while paddling. But the straps rub on the top of your foot when you kneel, and the soles are also stiff for kneeling. Barefoot paddling is fun, and okay if you are paddling in quiet water where a swim won't involve bobbing through rapids using your feet to protect yourself from rock scrapes. Wool socks are best for warmth, either in your sandals or booties, although fleece socks are a close second for comfort – and dry a lot faster.

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    Safety Equipment
    A first aid kit (pinch, blister and small cut care); an emergency kit which containing fire-starting materials, compass, map, high-energy food, a plan (or equipment) for emergency shelter; extra clothing, float bags (which displace water in the event of a capsize) and a towing harness. Your safety equipment list should get longer as the trip distance and remoteness increase.

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    Kneeling Pad
    If you plan to kneel at some point while canoeing, you will want a kneeling pad that is large enough to protect your knees and toes, and that will stick to the hull of your boat. You may choose to glue the pad into your boat, or buy or make one that will stay where you put it to give you a cushy grip with your knees.

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    Thwart Bag
    A thwart bag acts like a large glove compartment for your canoe. It secures to the canoe's thwart and provides storage for maps, a camera, field guide, binoculars, snacks, extra clothing and anything else that you might need. It can also serve as a rucksack for days when you don't want to hang around the put-in and want to do some exploring.

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    Expand Your Skills
    Our Outdoor Discovery Paddling School offers a great selection of introductory and advanced instruction in all aspects of canoeing.

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    Please read this regarding the terms of your use of this information.
    Performance Materials
    Many of our products feature these innovative materials to keep you comfortable outdoors.

    Gore-Tex
    Waterproof and breathable for stay-dry comfort

    EPIC by Nextec
    Water-resistant, windproof and breathable for high-powered activities.

    Primaloft
    Insulates even wet — and warm as down

    Thinsulate
    Lightweight insulation never gets in the way

    H2Off
    Waterproof, Lightweight and Classic

    Polarguard
    Sleeping Bag Insulation — warms even when wet

    Fleece
    Breathable, warm and lightweight

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