Most people think the worst dangers of canoeing are drowning or meeting wild animals when camping. However the majority of canoe injuries are far more mundane and usually of the sprained-ankle-while-portaging variety. However these kinds of injuries can affect your trip significantly. A bit of preparation can help you avoid these and other mishaps.

Prepare Well

Canoeists should arrive the night before their entry day so as to get a fresh start in the morning. This also ensures finding a good place to camp before dark. Make sure you have tidal charts and charter maps that are up to date. Always check the weather forecasts before you leave and pack appropriately.

Create a detailed float plan to work out where you put the canoe in the water, how far and how long you will travel, possible portage areas, where you will get the canoe out, and how you plan to get back to your vehicle. You may need to do some vehicle shuffling or drop off a bicycle at one end to get back. Always tell someone else what you are doing – you could also leave a copy of the plan in your vehicle.

Rest Well

Canoe trips are not survival camps. Eat well and rest well; don’t push yourself too far and you’ll enjoy it more.


Know first aid and how to prevent accidents. Take a mobile phone with you for emergencies and keep an eye on maps for your location at all times so this can be communicated effectively to rescue operators. Know your own ability and that of your paddling companions so you don’t go in above your head literally. You should never paddle alone.

Food and Water

Just because your sitting in water all day doesn’t mean it’s safe to drink. Take a water filter to ensure a healthy supply or bring bottled water with you. Canoeing burns up lots of energy so take more food than you think you’ll need. Even simple day excursions can be extended by a shift in the wind; an unforeseeable delay or accident so make sure there is extra food. Choose your food based on its nutritional value, longevity, simplicity and weight. Remember whatever you pack has to fit a limited space in the canoe and you have to be able to carry it. Don’t forget a stove, pots, pans, dishes and utensils have to be factored in also.

Waterways are not necessarily clean so try to towel down or wash in clean water after immersion. To prevent cuts and abrasions getting infected put on waterproof plasters. Some form of footwear should be worn at all times. River systems may have stonefish, glass or other nasty items in the water that footwear will protect you from.