7 Things I Won’t Go Canoe Camping Without

Every year a few friends and I go canoe camping on the St. Croix River. It’s a two-night trip, and we stay at a different campsite each night. I’ve often claimed that canoe camping is “almost” like car camping. You’d be surprised how much you can pack into a canoe if you take advantage of every available space. Over the years I’ve learned how to make this trip as relaxed and comfortable as possible, and I’d like to share with you the gear that I won’t hop in the canoe without.

sponge for canoe camping
You have to have a sponge if you’re going to spend any amount of time in a canoe. Things will get wet. That’s just how it is. A cheap sponge makes it easy to keep the floor and any gear around you nice and dry.
seat for canoe camping
If I’m spending the entire day in a canoe, a good canoe seat makes a world of difference. It takes a lot of strain off your lower back and makes everything easier. Fishing, eating, and taking photos is much more comfortable. I’m not a fan of the canoe seats that have straps holding the backrest up. I prefer one that is built like a regular chair. This particular one is also thin, so it comfortably fits on the back seat.
If you have a full-size cooler, you’ll have room for one other large item, and it’s hard to beat the utility of a suitable storage tote. You can fill it up with gear and not worry about anything getting wet. I recommend a locking lid. Sooner or later you’ll probably be using a shuttle, and often the trailers are uncovered. A locking lid will keep everything safe.
Canoes can get hot. There is a lot of glare off the water, and there’s no shade, so you’re just stuck there. If you haven’t gotten into evaporative cooling gear yet, you should check it out. As clothing dries, it also takes your body heat with it. On a hot summer day, this is a good thing. I’m a big fan of the Chilly Bean hat from Frogg Toggs.
Rain can come quickly when you’re out on the water, so you need to be able to protect yourself easily. Full rain suits are great, but they’re not so easy to put on in the canoe. Much better to have a poncho handy that you can slip over your head while you paddle to shore. The LINENLUX ponchos are made well and have a lot of fun patterns to choose from.
Like I said earlier, things will get wet. It’s just part of canoeing. You’ll want to have your cell phone, snacks, and other small items that you regularly use in a dry bag. The easiest way to keep this accessible is to clip it around the crossbar on the canoe.
If you have to head to shore and wait out the rain, it’s nice to have a tarp. Your tent is probably packed away, and it’s not fun to set it up, let it get soaked, and tear it down. A lightweight tarp like the Kammok Kuhli has guy lines with built-in tensioners, which make it easy to set up in a hurry.