Canoe Camping. Easier than you think.
It seems today that everyone is time poor in today’s world. As a consequence we often put off doing the things we love because we’ve convinced ourselves we won’t have enough time!
That seems to be the case with camping, especially that related to getting off the beaten track. The misconception seems to be that you need a fully kitted out 4WD and a large range of camping gear or a high tech backpack and ultra lightweight, space-age hiking gear. The perceived effort involved with this seems to stifle the urge to ‘just do it’ in a good many prospective campers.
Now whilst I must admit that these two options are great fun, there is another option that is somewhat simpler and accessible to most anyone: Canoe Camping. Loading a canoe and a bunch of gear on a car and getting on the water is easier than most people realize, here’s a list of reasons why I think that camping from a canoe is one of the most under rated experiences you can have with your family in the great outdoors.
The first reason is location. We are blessed in SE Queensland with a range of wonderful waterways with campgrounds located along their banks. With sites on the Upper Noosa River, Bribie Passage and many of the SEQwater reservoirs, we are truly spoiled for choice. Many of these locations are only accessible by boat or walking and as a consequence offer an experience somewhat different from the norm. Most of these destinations are prime locations for taking a canoe.
The second reason is carrying capacity. Unlike a kayak paddler or hiker, the canoe paddler is not obsessed with every kilogram going into their pack. Most 2 person canoes have a carrying capacity in excess of 300 kilograms which means that even with 2 burly blokes paddling you still have room for 100kg of gear! Gone is the worry of purchasing ultra-light tents and camp gear, or for that matter having to carry freeze dried foodstuffs. The canoe camper has the capacity to carry ample provisions, camp chairs, standard tents and even a few cold beverages.
Which leads to the third reason, cost. Not having to purchase expensive light weight gear significantly reduces the cost of camp gear. Most people have a basic camp setup stored somewhere in their back room. A canoe’s larger carrying capacity is usually more than adequate to carry the average setup, plus the cargo area in the centre of a canoe is like the tray of a Ute. The only limit is your imagination!
In addition canoes themselves are quite inexpensive when compared to other expedition watercraft. An average canoe suitable for camping will cost between $1500 – $2000, compared to an equivalent kayak which range from $2,000 and upwards. Carrying a canoe is also a simple matter. The best way to carry a canoe is upside down on standard roof bars, riding on its gunwales. No need for expensive cradles or tie downs and able to have gear stowed up inside the hull if you’re short of space.
The last reason is simplicity. That canoe design has remained largely unchanged for thousands of years is no big surprise. The secret to their effectiveness lies in their simplicity of design. An open top boat with enough beam to carry large loads and remain stable but with sleek enough lines to be powered easily by 1 or 2 paddlers (or more, if you consider the famous voyageur canoes of Canada). What this delivers to modern day paddlers wanting to get away from it all is a craft that is easy to paddle, can carry heaps of gear, is easy to load and unload, and is robust and most importantly versatile. What more could you want?
So back to our original problem of being time poor and making excuses for not getting outdoors enough, what is the solution? I believe it is the humble canoe.
With little effort and the most basic of skills a canoe can be carried to the water’s edge, loaded and paddled off to your next adventure. A typical canoe, of around 15 foot, long is easily managed by 2 adults or at a pinch an adult and child (from about age 10 upwards). The time for preparation for a canoe camping trip is less than that required for kayaking, hiking or mountain biking due to the capacity and versatility of the load area, and the with 2 paddlers working in tandem they eat up the kilometers along creeks, rivers and dams.
In fact there is only one thing better than camping with a canoe and that is camping with lots of canoes!