First Canoe Trip of the Season?

In my years as a river guide and later as director of a river running operation, I saw many people book an adventure and show up (not quite) prepared for the canoe experience. Most were fit and fulfilled the requirement of having basic canoeing skills but lacked knowledge of moving water and the environment we were operating in. That was ok as we were prepared to teach novice paddlers.

canoe on river
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on
Each trip had 2 sets of orientations. One at base camp before leaving for the river, and one riverside at the put-in location.

The base camp orientation went over the activities of the day, time schedules, and safety items. We started by making sure everyone had (in hand) their own properly fitting PFD. We then covered basic items such as a review of what should be in each person’s dry bag, then on to personal safety and comfort items such as wearing sunscreen, and staying hydrated throughout the day.

At river side we did another orientation covering river canoe etiquette, river guide signals, following the guide, stroke review, and what to do when you swamp to assist in your rescue.

When you’re planning your personal canoeing adventure, it is a good idea to follow the two-orientation practice. The first is at home when you get prepared by making a plan and doing a gear check. The second is at riverside when you make sure everyone is on the same page as you take to the water.

Here are a few tips for you to consider as you plan your first paddling adventure of the season:

  1. Spend some time getting in shape.
    1. Enough said. No bullet points needed!
  2. Check all of your gear for wear and proper fit
    1. Proper clothing
    2. PFD’s
      1. Remember, kids grow and last years PFD may not fit correctly now.
    3. Paddles
      1. Make any needed repairs or replace
      2. Proper length for each person
    4. Dry bags
    5. Throw bags and rescue equipment
    6. First aid kits
      1. Check expiration dates on any medications
  3. Don’t forget the sunscreen
    1. Remember that water reflects sunlight which will increase the chance of sunburn
  4. Hydration can easily be ignored when we are surrounded by water
    1. Carry a water bottle and drink a lot!
  5. Altitude – if headed to the mountains remember:
    1. Some people are every susceptible to altitude sickness and may need a day to acclimate prior to strenuous activity.
    2. Higher elevations can contribute to both sunburn and dehydration.

Paddling season is upon us and, like you, I can’t wait to get back out and canoe. Check out our video page for more tips!

Let’s prepare carefully and have a safe and exciting time!

Happy paddling!

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