Ultimate Guide to Canoe Trip Planning and Execution - Phase II: Gear and Supplies Inventory


This is Phase II in our Ultimate Guide to Canoe Trip Planning and Execution. Phase I can be found here. In the upcoming weeks, we will add the following phases:

Phase III: Packing and Waterproofing

Phase IV: Execution

Phase V: Base Camp

Phase VI: Conclusion – Happy Campers


Now that you have chosen a route and marked the trip on your calendar, it’s time to gather the necessary gear and supplies for this ultimate canoe trip.


The next thing I like to do is make an inventory of all the things we need to bring on a trip. Here is a sample spreadsheet for a canoe trip we are currently planning: Canoe Camping Checklist. This file can be used as a template, and you can modify it according to your needs. In this post, I’ll take you through the noteworthy items on the list.


The first section lists all the personal basics, such as sleeping bags and toiletries. Along the top, you can insert the names of your group members.

Mr. Weatherbee is helping us with gear inventory.

Mr. Weatherbee is helping us with gear inventory.


Notes on Personal Items:

-          The right footwear can make or break a trip. If you are going on a trip that includes portages (hauling your gear and canoes along trails between lakes or around rapids), then you need good ankle support. You’ll also be using these same shoes to trudge along bogs and muddy terrain, as well as getting in and out of a canoe that’s already on water. Shoes that dry quickly and have good support are ideal. An old pair of sneakers will do in a pinch.

-          Depending on the time of year and the location of your trip, rain pants and jackets might be necessary. Make sure to check the weather leading up to your trip, and if possible, read trip reports for the same route. Sometimes a rainstorm can sneak up on you, and it’s a good idea to be prepared.

-          We have invested in waterproof Pelican cases to store our smartphones. Ziplock bags will also do. Double bag for extra measure! 


The second section lists communal items, with a place to indicate who owns or is willing to acquire these things. This is a good place to determine which of your group members will be responsible for bringing which items. Again, communicating with your party is key. And it is in this stage that you may even lose some members!


Notes on Communal Items:

Portage pack.

Portage pack.

-          Portage packs are large backpacks, larger than the type you bring on a backpacking trip, and are convenient for transporting a lot of gear over longer distances. As the name implies, these come in handy when you have to portage. If you’re going on a route that has no portages, then these big packs aren’t necessary. Just be sure to pack your stuff securely in as few bags as possible, in order to minimize the number of trips between your canoe and your base camp.

-          The small shovel, or trowel, is for digging “cat holes.” This is a subject that is unnecessarily delicate, because as we learned in childhood, EVERYBODY POOPS. So be kind and bury the stuff that comes out of your behind.


And finally, to the fun part of inventory management: FOOD!


Notes on Consumables:

-          Just like hiking or backpacking, canoeing can be a strenuous activity. You might be sitting there most of the time, but you’re expending more energy than you might think while paddling. Make sure to have snacks on hand, such as trail mix, beef jerky, energy/protein bars, etc.

-          On the first night of the trip, it’s easy to make an actual dinner. You can bring fresh ingredients in a cooler with ice, and this will hold up for a day or so. Throw a couple of beers in there, while you’re at it! If you don't want to bring a cooler you can freeze a hunk of meat and let it defrost in a pack on your first day.

-          When the ice melts and you’re out of fresh food, then freeze-dried meals are the way to go. We like to get the Mountain House brand. The game changer for us was bringing a small spice shaker and a bottle of hot sauce. Even the freeze-dried food becomes palatable after a long day of being out in the water!

-          We choose freeze-dried food because it packs light and is easy to make. All you need to do is add hot water. Plus, the trash it generates afterwards is minimal. Remember, you’re hauling your trash with you as you go.

-          For quick lunches on longer trips, we like to eat crackers and cheese with salami.

-          You know how many days and nights you’ll be on this trip, so plan out your meals carefully. Bring no more, and no less, than what you actually need. For light eaters, two people can split a typical (2-3 servings) freeze-dried food package. For regular or hearty eaters, reserve a packet for yourself per dinner.


Use this packing list, and edit it, multiple times:

1)      Determine what you have and what you still need

2)      Make lists for things you still need to acquire. One could be a grocery list of your consumables. Another could be a list of gear to purchase/rent/borrow.

3)      Circulate this list to your group members and determine who can bring what. Keep updating the list. Coordinating with the group is necessary to pulling this off smoothly. You may want to start an e-mail chain, or a Facebook group, or a Google drive, or all of the above!

4)      Check items off as you’re packing them.


And speaking of packing, that’s the topic for Phase III, coming soon!


Stick around for the following articles in our Ultimate Guide to Canoe Trip Planning and Execution:


Phase III: Packing and Waterproofing

Phase IV: Execution

Phase V: Base Camp

Phase VI: Conclusion – Happy Campers