Canoe Camping With British Canoeing

Combine outdoor activities by packing your camping kit and taking to the water...

Time in a canoe gives you a whole new view of your surroundings but sometimes one day just isn’t enough. A canoe camping trip is the perfect way to extend your time outdoors.


To help you plan your first foray into canoe camping and make sure your trip is a success, British Canoeing have put together a few pointers.


Right Place, Right Time, Right Adventure

©Wiliam Horsley

It is important you choose an area with plenty of campsite options. You will probably want to travel between ten and twenty miles a day, so plan your site distances carefully. It is worth contacting sites in advance to ensure they have space for you.


Check the weather forecast well in advance of your trip and be flexible with your dates to avoid periods of heavy rain. Rain can take some fun out of your trip and affect water levels. You can check current river levels here.


Wherever and whenever you decide to take your trip make sure it is within your capabilities and allow time for any unexpected delays.



Most waterways require a licence for you to paddle on them. British Canoeing membership gives you access to 5000 km of waterways. You can find out more about it here.

Get Your Gear Ready

©irstie MacMillan

An open canoe can carry quite a load, but don’t overdo it. There will be times you will have to carry your boat on and off the water.


It is important to wear a well fitting buoyancy aid when on the water. Check your boat and paddles are in good condition and make sure you have clothing suitable for the conditions. Take extra thermal layers, a hat, gloves and wet-weather gear. But let’s not be negative about this; get your sunscreen packed too!


Your camping equipment is just as important. You will probably sleep like a log after a hard day’s paddle but an inflatable sleeping mat and the right sleeping bag will certainly help.


Keep a head torch and matches at the top of one of your bags. If you arrive at camp as it gets dark it will be the first thing that you’ll need in order to find everything else.



Make a note of the gear you use and don’t use during your trip. This allows you to plan and pack more efficiently for future trips.

Engine Fuel

In a canoe you are the engine and it’s important you stay well fuelled. Cooking on an open fire is fun but use a fire box to protect the ground. If you opt for a camping stove make sure you have enough fuel with you.


A cold-box or bag is useful and make sure you have enough fresh water with you. River water is fine for washing in, but it’s not always OK to drink.


Finally don’t forget the tea bags and some hearty food. You will deserve a cuppa and a good meal after a day in the boat.



When sitting around the campfire use your canoes as a windbreak.

Get In Trim

©Bryan Sutherland

No, we don’t mean you need to go on a diet – trim is the word we use for ensuring you distribute weight evenly in your canoe.


Pack all your gear into dry bags or barrels, keeping an essentials bag close to hand. A large dry bag, with carry straps, to carry all the equipment needed for canoe camping and a smaller bag for daytime equipment are usually sufficient.


As a rule, trim the canoe front heavy when heading into a head wind, stern heavy for a following wind and level for fair weather. Pack the larger dry bags into the middle and remember to tie everything down!


Take your loaded boat on a test paddle before setting out on your trip. This way you can check the balance of your canoe and get a feel for paddling in a heavier craft.

More Infomation

The Canoe Camping Club is a national club for touring canoeists and have regular meets.

The Camping and Caravanning club published this article on their best campsites for canoeing and kayaking.


For further advice on getting started on the water, places to paddle, safety and much more visit the British Canoeing website:



In Partnership With British Canoeing


British Canoeing is the national governing body for canoeing and kayaking in the United Kingdom.


The purpose of British Canoeing is to; Inspire people to pursue a passion for paddling; for health, enjoyment, friendship, challenge and achievement.

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