3 Essential Tips for Enjoying a Canoe Camping Trip

Canoe sitting on a river bank with palm trees in the distance.

Canoe camping is a fantastic activity that combines the best of car camping with the best of backpacking. 

It allows you to retreat into a remote area, like when backpacking, but bring some of your favorite creature comforts along, like with car camping. Keep the following tips in mind when planning a river trip and you’ll be happy as a clam. 

Everything Will Get Wet

Two canoes attached to a camping platform in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Notice, I didn’t say “may get wet!” Consider every piece of gear in your canoe or kayak as an object that will be subjected to splashing, small leaks, and even rain. Prepare as needed, and you’ll be a much happier camper, especially in the winter! To make all your gear water resistant, purchase large drybags and use those to pack everything from clothing to sleeping bags, cooking equipment to the tent, and even firewood. Firewood can be double bagged in durable garbage bags and in most cases, should stay dry. 

Pro Tip: Bring at least one ‘chemical’ log for each evening fire you plan on having. The chemical logs burn hot enough to help light damp firewood but not hot enough for soaked firewood.  

Camping Areas Change

Whenever we canoe camp, we prefer to camp on sandbars and other open areas along the edge of the river where it is possible to drag your vessel to shore and tie off. With camping platforms, you are often camping 100 feet or more from shore, you will want to bring all your gear onshore with you to make sure it doesn’t drift (or walk) away in the night. Hauling all your gear out of the boats every night to set up camp and back in the morning to pack up gets old, FAST. With that in mind, keep in mind that sandbars are not static things.

Sandbars and related camp areas may move, change, be flooded, or even disappear depending on recent river conditions. If canoeing in an area where you can talk to a land manager, call them and ask about camping conditions. There may be established camps, like on the Suwannee River, that you can rely on as a backup plan. If not, keep an eye on the time as you paddle. If it is getting late in the day, settle for the best site you can find with enough time to set up camp before nightfall.

Campfire on a riverbank in FloridaCook Real Food

When river camping, especially in cooler weather, you shouldn’t have to resort to dehydrated food. Bring a camp stove, some pots and pans, even a dutch oven, and bring great food to feast on. Remember, this is slightly less convenient than car camping. With a gas stove and a fire, you can make a large variety of food that will keep any camper happy.

Pro Tip: If you’re of age and interested in happy hour, we always plan light hor d’oeuvre and a cocktail to keep our canoe-mates full and happy while we set up camp and cook. Nothing makes for grumpy campers faster than being wet and hungry. Ask me how I know … 

I hope you have a great time canoe camping and enjoy the perks of getting outdoors with a bit of luxury. If you have any questions, please let me know and I’d be glad to help.

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a canoe gliding through a cypress swamp

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