While canoes are incredibly versatile crafts that are perfect for gliding through the shallow waters of thick lily pad creeks to going across large ponds in the Canadian Rockies or Adirondack mountain range – one thing is for certain:
The overall comfort of an endeavor in a canoe can be vastly improved if you decide to invest in additional accessories.
While we cover the top 10 canoe accessories in detail below, we just want to make sure there is an incredible point of distinction about this vessel as it’s so often confused:
Are You Really Planning on Taking a Canoe, Kayak, or Dinghy Out On The Water?
While we talked quite extensively on the differences between kayaks vs. canoes in this recent post – we just want to go over a few highlights.
First and foremost, canoes are primarily made for traveling with your gear.
Unlike kayaks that have a relatively limited storage capacity, canoes can often fit several people (i.e. typically 2 adults and two kids max).
Between the thwarts and underneath the yoke is the hull of the canoe – this is where you can safely tuck away some backpacks, food supplies, fishing gear, anchor, etc. as you head on the water.
Even with larger two person kayaks, the storage space is severely limited allowing for only the bare essentials when planning a camping trip.
Another important aspect is how these crafts get around:Canoes rely on a single-bladed oar that will often require coordination by both rowers to work in tandem on the bow and stern of the boat.
Kayaks use a double-bladed oar that allows for tremendous speed over the open waters.
Dinghies are small boats that will have two oars affixed to the side with one person doing all the work (i.e. row boats). Some larger dinghies may rely on a trolling motor.
Given that canoes don’t feature a rutter or extended keel like a kayak, navigating a canoe for first timers can often be a bit more difficult – often leading to pronounced zig-zagging without proper coordination.
But given this minor shortcoming when it comes to effort and coordination with a canoe – there are a few key accessories that you should equip your canoe with for maximum comfort and versatility.
1. Seats Can Help To Increase Comfort and Leverage Whether You Are Fishing or Paddling
If there is one essential accessory that you just simply can’t go without when it comes to canoeing – it’s definitely going to be a seat.
While many canoes may have a webbed seat included when you make the initial investment – just a small seat that has a backing can be incredibly comfortable leading to a much more enjoyable time while out on the water.
Like much of the camping gear that you purchase, canoe seats are often collapsible allowing you to store it away in an extremely compact fashion.
What is even better is that even if you only go canoeing once every few months or perhaps even annually – the versatility of the canoe seat goes way beyond its intended purchase.
Canoes seats can double as seats for gardening, stadium seating at sporting events, or simply the occasional weekend picnic.
In addition to versatility, a quality canoe seat should also have pockets for light storage (think sunscreen, snacks, maps, or bait).
2. Incredibly Low Cost Foam Blocks Will Keep Your Car Protected
While this may have been an initial purchase that you would have made when first buying your canoe – foam blocks primary purpose is for protecting the body of your car from incidental nicks, scratches, and the like across the pristine coat of paint.
Not only will a foam block save your car – but it will also help lengthen the lifespan of the canoe as well.
If you are using a pool-noodle or some other improvisation to keep your car body in great shape – a pair of foam blocks are pretty cheap and built for the job.
3. Canoe Carrier Dolly
There is no worse way to head out on your weekend canoeing adventure only to slip a disc or give yourself a hernia.
A canoe dolly will not only save your back, but also all your energy when loading and unloading your canoe. This means that you can spend the bulk of your energy on the calm waters and enjoying a few brews or perhaps catching a few fish from the local creeks.
Another great feature to a canoe dolly is that they will typically weigh under 10 lbs and will oftentimes be collapsible as well making it easy to store in your trunk when heading to the local launch site.
Secondly, the investment for a carrier dolly isn’t nearly as expensive as one may seem.
4. Tips Can and Do Occur – Especially For The Inexperienced
The biggest fear among novice canoers everywhere is going to be the risk of tipping.
When a motor boat makes a wake that slaps on the side of your canoe – especially if you don’t straighten out in time – it can turn an enjoyable experience to a near harrowing one.
Now if you have on life vests – this usually isn’t a big deal at all – especially if you are just on a day trip enjoying your local park.
However, the sheer inconvenience of fishing yourself and your canoe out of the water is going to dampen your day – the embarrassment is just the beginning.
If you have your phone, keys, and wallet with you – you might find yourself stranded in the most precarious situation – especially if you are in a remote area (which many canoers find themselves).
Therefore, it’s always heavily recommended by expert canoers alike to make sure that you use a dry pack to store the core essentials in.
Dry packs like this one, will float when submerged in water.In addition, they also come with a water tight seal to keep even your most important credentials, phones, and keys completely safe from the water.
Now if you find yourself accessing your phone frequently, some dry bags do contain a window that will allow you to see notifications, time, maps, etc.
5. Do You Have An Active Canoe – Or Perhaps Plan On Doing Some Fishing?
While canoes aren’t necessarily designed for the casual fishermen, there are plenty of men and women out there that will retrofit their canoe for their fishing adventures to catch fish in remote or extremely secluded and seaweed ridden areas.
One of the most popular attachments used by these backcountry fishermen will be the use of a stabilizer.
Much like training wheels that are affixed to a toddler’s bicycle, stabilizers will help to ensure that your boat stays upright should you plan on standing frequently to get a better view of the riverbed and potential fishing locations.
Not only will they keep your canoe perfectly balanced while standing up to reel in that great catch, but these stabilizers are perfect for novice canoers who plan on frequently visiting the waters with children or grandchildren.
While we all want to believe that children will listen the first time, a sudden shift in weight of your canoe may make you overcompensate to counteract the tipping balance leading everyone into a soaked and potential dangerously scenario.
While stabilizers might not be for the purist canoers – they are definitely worth a consideration if you are still working on perfecting your balancing skills.
6. Straps – For Luggage And Travel
If there is one thing that I learned in life – it’s that you can never have too many straps.
When camping and in this case canoeing, straps will be one of the most secure ways to keep all your gear in order when traveling from point A to point B.
When affixing your canoe to the top of your car – or even if you are storing it away for the winter months – you will always find a great use for a strap.
If you don’t have the time to invest on learning the ins-and-outs of making the perfect knot – the locking mechanisms found on straps are a sure-fire way that a canoe doesn’t go flying off the top of your car when traveling down the highway.
7. Don’t Be Stuck Up The Creek Without A Paddle
While the saying is a bit more brash than what we referenced above – the thought process behind the saying rings true.
Of course in the idiom above, the paddle is the solution to your problem – and in this case we recommend all canoers, both first timers and the seasoned vets alike, to always carry an emergency paddle with them.
Whether you snap your paddle between two rocks in the river bed below you – an animal (i.e. gator) snatches it out of your hand when traveling along the rivers in Florida, or perhaps it just simply gets free from your hand and floats away in a strong current – you should never be without an emergency paddle.
Of course emergency paddles are reserved for worst case scenario – therefore never expect these to ever be a real substitute to a full paddle.
Emergency paddles are meant to have a smaller form factor with their collapsible design to ensure that they don’t take up too much room when stored in your haul.
Just be sure when selecting a collapsible paddle that you find one that is crafted from aluminum to prevent any corrosion – especially if you find yourself canoeing often in saltwater.
8. Do Canoes Have Anchors? The Answer Is Yes!
While one may never think of picking up an anchor with a canoe, I will tell you this – there is no better feeling than having a nice seat for your canoe (listed #1 above), coupled with a fine glass of wine, and a good book beneath a shaded area.
To help keep everything in the above scenario in place – it relies heavily (pun intended) on an anchor.
Now canoe anchors are a lot different than your typical anchor that you may use in a bass boat – so be sure that you don’t purchase one for the wrong craft!
The anchors that are used on bass boats will typically be much larger, heavier, and likely overkill for a simple canoe.
As you can see in this anchor, its priced incredibly low, however is rated to be used for boats in the 20’ (+/- 1 foot) range.
In addition, the above anchor weighs a hefty 8lbs.
Now contrary, a canoe anchor will be much more compact and relatively light weight.
One of our favorite anchors is only 4lb in weight and comes pre-strung with 60’ worth of line.
Not to mention that this anchor also comes in mesh travel bag for incredibly easy storage.
So if you plan on sipping wine, fishing for some bass, or simply want to enjoy some stationary time in a particular area – then a canoe anchor is well worth the investment.
9. Life Vests Should Never Be Overlooked – Not Matter How Old You Are
If you were a professional swimmer in high school, or simply took swimming lessons as a kid – there is absolutely no scenario that a controlled environment would ever prepare you mentally for a capsized canoe.
Life vests – no matter how annoying that they may feel and or fit – should always be at the top of your canoe accessories pack list whenever you hit the waters.
This is particularly important if you plan on canoeing with other people.
While they may claim that they are good swimmers, a simple tip of the boat may lead to an injury where you could be suddenly required to carry them all the way to the shore.
Clearly if you are in a local creek or river this may only be 50’, but if you are in the middle of a lake in the Adirondack mountain range – the above scenario could seem (and likely is) nearly impossible.
So don’t chance it and pick up a few life vests for all passengers!
10. Whistles Will Keep Yourself Safe From Boats, Animals, and More!
If for any reason a storm suddenly picks up that wasn’t initially within the planned forecast – you may be in a predicament that will leave you waiting several hours until it pasts (perhaps into the evening hours).
If you find yourself paddling your way back to the launch site in the dark, a whistle will be the only effective way to warn other boaters that you are in the water.
Chances are that you likely won’t have your canoe equipped with emergency/night time lighting – therefore a whistle will be a key weapon in your scenario.
Of course you could improvise with the flashlight on your phone – however, your hands will likely be pre-occupied paddling to get yourself back to safety.Beyond night time emergencies, whistles are a great way to make wilderness aware of your presence.
Since canoes make virtually no sound when cutting through the water, a whistle will at least give off a warning sign that you are in the vicinity so you don’t incidentally sneak up and scare an animal.
Most Important Part About Canoeing Isn’t Necessarily All The Accessories
While you can get decked out with all the above canoe accessories when hitting the waters, the key is to have an enjoyable time.
Whether it’s a chair that helps to support your back and increases your overall comfort, or perhaps an anchor that will allow you to fish or read a book for an extended period of time, many of the above accessories are meant to enhance your experience or provide you with the simple peace of mind so you can enjoy what hidden waterways have to offer.