Gear To Bring Portaging: PFD

What To Look For:

You need to find a PFD that fits properly. It should be snug, and not be able to rise above the head and should allow comfortable breathing. Once you zip, strap and/or buckle it up, you should be able to paddle unrestricted. Put it on and mock paddle, making sure you can move with ease and it doesn’t chafe or hurt. Modern jackets have a “V” shape to them, so that you don’t feel restricted and feel like your just wearing a puffy jacket.

Why You Need It:

You need a PFD – period. And wear it – always. I know, you’re a manly man and an Olympic swimmer who can still manage to portage all day, get surprised and fall out of the boat, getting knocked on the head by a rock in a strong current or rapids and still be able to swim yourself out of that situation. Well it will be easier to do in a PFD, and if you buy a bright yellow one, everyone will be able to see your great swimming skills more easily. Buy a pink one with glitters to show off your fashion sense, or a dark one and paint a skull on it to show what a rebel you are if you must. Just wear it.

How You Can Live Without It:

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Gear To Bring Portaging: Paddles

What To Look For:

Having a paddle is just as important as having a canoe, and there are almost as many paddle options as there are for canoes. Don’t sweat the details though, you just need a good canoe paddle that will hold up through the trip. Ideally, your paddle should be the proper size for you height. Here’s the good news: Generally, paddles come with the cost of the canoe rental, and the outfitters will help you find the right size.

Why You Need It:

Paddling with your hands, while possible and certainly more of a workout, is not as efficient – to say the least.

How You Can Live Without It:

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Gear To Bring Portaging: The Canoe

After reserving your campsite, getting your canoe will be your next most important task.

What To Look For:

If you have one, well, your done. Consider though, the right type of canoe for portaging.

Why You Need It:

Without a canoe, you’ll exhaust yourself swimming.

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What is the Right Type of Canoe?

A friend of mine was once offered a free canoe. Why is it that such a theoretically positive word always winds up being a negative one? Even in the 1960’s – which is when it was probably built – it would not have been considered a great boat, let alone one to hoist on your shoulders into the back country. We decided to take it on a trip anyway – it was free after all. Turns out it didn’t lie in the water very well. With gear and two paddlers, it sunk down with only about an inch of clearing, making even the smallest wave a threat to swamp. Even after moving gear to the other boat in our group, it was still a nightmare because it felt as though even one shift of weight would send it over, and it was heavy and awkward to carry. It had a sad little center thwart with shoulder pads for portaging, but they didn’t do much, but the real problem was that you couldn’t get it to balance properly. Did I mention it was heavy? We managed to get this thing through the trip, including a horrible 2,200m portage. Our next trip with this thing was a practice run one afternoon close to home, where we managed to tip this thing over in a shallow river. You can only imagine my horror when after traversing some pretty big lakes on our last trip, we discovered that this thing sunk like a stone with even a small amount of water. If it had actually tipped on our trip… well I don’t want to think about that.

I won’t tell you here what specific kind of canoe to bring, but you should consider a couple of things:

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