Whether you’re planning on shooting a treacherous stretch of the Colorado or going for something a little more mellow, being well prepared for a canoe trip is absolutely crucial. A river, no matter how calm, is not the place you want to get caught lacking supplies. Turbulent waters, unpredictable weather, and wild terrain are all things you can run into on a river adventure, and it’s best to be well equipped for any situation. To get you ready for your next paddling expedition, we’ve created a canoe trip packing list so you know exactly what to bring.

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Canoe Trip Packing List: The Essentials

For starters, make sure you have a solid canoe and paddles. These are obviously a very important piece of equipment when you’re going on a canoe trip, as they are your main mode of transportation. Before you leave, do a quick inspection to make sure there are no leaks in the canoe and that your paddles are structurally sound. We recommend bringing one paddle per person, and one or two extra paddles just in case. 

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

A PFD is one of those things you don’t have to use often, but when you do need it, it’s essential that it works properly. There are both inflatable and standard PFDs, so you can choose which type to bring based on your preferences. We recommend sticking with a standard one because they’re easier to use, but if you need to save space when packing, then an inflatable PFD works well too. 

You’ll want to make sure your PFD fits good, but doesn’t restrict you too much. We suggest going to a store instead of online shopping, because then you can try it on and see how it feels. Astral PFDs are some of the highest rated, and they have both mens and womens models. If you’re looking for something with a little more technology and storage, check out the Astral Sturgeon.

Dry Bag

Things are bound to get wet on a canoe trip, so you want to make sure that you have a functional dry bag to keep your dry goods from getting soaked. There’s nothing worse than heading out on the river and having your valuables get ruined on the first day. We recommend bringing a couple different sizes of dry bags for better organization. Digging through one big bag every time you need the smallest item can become quite annoying. 

If you want multiple smaller sizes, Sea to Summit dry bags come in one, two and four liter sizes. They have a roll top style and D ring attachments, making it easy to replace the attachments if needed. For those who want a bit more dry storage room or a different style, the Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack is a great option. Its backpack design makes it easy to transport and comfortable to carry.

Paddling Jacket

Canoers that are heading into whitewater rapids or spending long days paddling should add a paddling jacket to their canoe trip packing list. It will keep you dry and comfortable, rather than feeling soggy and bogged down by the constantly splashing water. 

The Level 6 Baffin Splash Top has everything you could need for a paddling jacket. It’s made from waterproof nylon, and has an adjustable neoprene waist, wrist and neck ties, and drainage holes so that it doesn’t fill with water. 

Paddling Gloves

Paddling gloves are optional, but they are nice for keeping your hands warm and protected against blisters and sun exposure. For multi-day trips or paddling through intense rapids, these are a good idea to have. The NRS Boater’s Glove is awesome for canoeing, because the open-finger design allows for higher dexterity tasks. It also has extra padding in areas that are prone to get blisters from paddling, and vent holes in the palm allow for cooling. 

Kayak Helmet

A helmet is an optional piece, but it never hurts to have extra safety measures, and it may end up saving you from serious injury. The WRSI Current Pro Kayak Helmet has a multi-impact shell and foam liner for protecting against impact. It also has an adjustable harness so you can fit it snuggly to the shape of your head. Another awesome feature is the interconnect system, which holds the helmet in place when water tries to push it back. 

Bilge Pump or Bailer

Another vital item for your canoe trip packing list is a bilge pump or bailer, which is a tool that removes water from inside your canoe. This is another one of those things that you hopefully don’t have to use, but is important to have just in case you take on water. North Water makes a four in one bailer, high visibility reflector, signaling device and buoyant heaving line. This is a great option for those going on longer, remote canoe trips where safety is more of a concern. 

You can also make your own bailer out of old plastic containers if you want to save some money. Arizona Iced Tea jugs, Ocean Spray jugs or laundry detergent jugs work great for a container. The sturdier the plastic, the better the bailer.

If you would like to go down the bilge pump path, the NRS Kayak Bilge Pump With Float is good for any watercraft. It is rated as being able to pump out eight gallons per minute, and it will take up less room in your canoe than a few bailers. It would also pair well with a couple bailers if you want to have both. 


Having a good GPS is important for all types of outdoor activities, including a canoe trip. The Garmin GPSMAP 66sr is a top of the line GPS that has cutting edge location tracking along rugged terrain and winding rivers. It also has bluetooth connectivity so you can share your routes, cloud based route planning, and TopoActive public land mapping. It’s really the all-in-one GPS, and is a great investment if you’re a big outdoor adventurer.   

Emergency Radio

It’s always a good idea to pack a satellite communication device so you can stay connected when you’re off the grid. Garmin has years of technology in satellite communication systems, and the Garmin inReach Mini 2 is perfect for canoe trips. It’s small and compact for a satellite radio with a battery life of up to 14 days. You’ll be able to stay in touch via the global 2-way communication and interactive SOS signaling, and you can even send out your coordinates with the smartphone app.


When out on the river, your canoe is your everything. That’s why a good sealant is an absolute must for patching up any unexpected dings. The best on the market is the 3M Marine Adhesive Sealant 5200, as it is incredibly strong and versatile. It is a polyurethane, quick drying adhesive that works on wood, fiberglass, aluminum and gel coat. It’s also tack free in one to two hours and fully cured within 48 hours. Not only is it strong, but it is also flexible and works above and below the water line. 

More Gear to Bring

Along with the bigger, more specific items, you’ll additionally want to add some basics to your canoe trip packing list. Some other essentials that we recommend bringing are: 

  • Compass
  • Map
  • First aid kit
  • Light sources – flashlight, headlamp, and lantern
  • Waterproof watch
  • Cooler
  • Towel
  • Water (experts recommend one gallon per day per person)
  • Balaclava
  • Rain jacket

Camping Essentials

For multi-day canoe trips, it’s also important to make sure you have all your camping gear so you can set up camp every night. Don’t forget to plan and organize so you’re not digging through all your bags every time you need to find something. Check out our complete wild camping gear guide for more ideas on what to bring. 

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