Canoeing Trips for Beginners

Guest Post by John Rivers

It’s Time to Explore the Outdoors!

With the weather cooling down and fall in full swing, it’s time to fit in one last paddle of the year.

This fall, if you’re looking for something new to add to your outdoor adventure bucket list, consider canoeing! A wonderful way to connect with nature and explore the unseen parts of your region, canoeing is an easy hobby to pick up any time and continue throughout the rest of your life.

Photo Courtesy of John Rivers

Keep these 5 canoeing tips in mind if this is your first time on the water:


1 – Safety first

Before you hit the water, it’s important to have all of your safety gear ready to go. One of the best parts of canoeing is that you don’t have to limit your supplies to what you can carry on your back! Make sure you pack sunscreen, sunglasses, spare clothing, a first aid kit, some snacks or a picnic, and plenty of water. These items will keep you safe from harmful sun exposure and UV rays that reflect off the water, as well as dehydration and any minor injuries that could happen along the way.

It’s also important to wear your personal floatation device (PFD) at all times. Even when the water seems calm and you’ve been floating for a while, you never know when you’ll hit treacherous underwater currents.

If you want to be extra prepared, practice getting in and out of your boat a few times before you start paddling. Different canoes have different feels and weight distributions, so even the most seasoned water explorers can benefit from a few test runs. This will help minimize panic and ensure you have a plan if your canoe tips over or you need to stop and help another canoer along your journey.


2 – Find your rhythm with your paddle

Just as all canoes take a moment to get used to, so do your paddles. If you’re just getting started, try your best to implement proper technique from the beginning so you don’t have to unlearn any bad habits.

For instance, it can be tempting to only paddle your canoe from one side. It’s more comfortable and keeps you from exerting energy while alternating. However, it’s important to paddle on both sides of the canoe to establish stability underneath the watercraft. If you need extra stability, you can also try paddling on your knees while navigating rougher water.

While it’s recommended that you start canoeing solo in order to have more control and establish your rhythm with the boat, if you do have a partner, make sure you paddle in sync. Whoever is at the bow of the canoe (the front) should set the pace and the person at the stern (the back) should match and support that pace. Stay in communication with one another to ensure you switch sides at the same time and maximize your momentum. If you can help it, keep your paddle shafts vertical. This will help get the most power out of your strokes.


3 – Dress for the water, not the air

You may be all set to enjoy the first warm spring day on the river, but most likely, the water will not have warmed up quite as quickly. When suiting up for your canoeing trip, dress for the water, not the air.

Just remember, canoeing on a river or any form of moving water means you will likely get wet. It’s common to have a tip or two while you’re getting familiar with the sport, and any rough water will also cause some splashing or overflow.

Start with some thermal base layers or a fleece-lined jacket, and add a weatherproof jacket and pants to repel moisture. If you’re concerned about your belongings getting wet, look into a waterproof bag to store your valuables.

Photo Courtesy of John Rivers

4 – Watch the horizon

Wide horizon lines can be deceiving when you’re in a canoe. They may look relatively easy to navigate, but could have a more significant drop or undertow than you think. The hydraulics underneath may take hold of your watercraft, making it difficult to paddle out of rough water, if you’re not careful.

There will certainly be times to relax and enjoy a good book or some light fishing while floating down a calm part of the river, but stay cautious and be prepared to shift gears when necessary.


5 – Do your research

One of the best things you can do to prepare for your first canoeing trip is research. Read up on the area you’ll be venturing through for climate, wildlife and terrain information. You can also invest in a waterproof map and compass to bring with you to help keep you on your route and provide some peace of mind while you’re out on the water.

If you’re still unsure about whether or not you’re ready to take on a canoeing trip, you can always research and find canoeing lessons in your area as well. There are plenty of outdoor resources and experts out there to help you feel prepared and comfortable for your first journey.

As you plan your outdoor adventures for the year, keep canoeing in mind! With only a few essential items and a bit of research, you’ll be ready to take on new waters and enjoy the scenery in no time.


Do you have a tip to share with us? Let us know or share your paddling adventures with us on Instagram using #brmblife for a chance to be featured in our feed!

You can easily find your way to the best paddling spots in Canada with the help of our Waterproof MapsBackroad Mapbooks or our new Web Map. No other recreation map lists as many campsites or provides you with the same level of detail. We give you the scoop on portages, campsites, put-ins, take-outs, route descriptions and more!

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