Take a Family Canoe and Camping Trip

It’s the perfect time of year for a canoe trip



A canoe packed with camp gear and ready for departure

They are great adventures on their own, but put canoeing and camping together and you have the makings for some remarkable memories. A trip of this kind will take a little more planning than a paddle around a pond or your typical weekend of car camping. If you aren’t a seasoned paddler, lessons can be had for a good deal, and the rest is a matter of doing your research and a little planning and thoughtful packing beforehand.

Not sure where to go? There are endless resources, online and in guidebooks to help you plan your destination and choose what to (and what not to) pack for gear. Scott Edwards, who runs a small canoe sales and paddling instruction business from his garage and an old barn in North Haverhill, NH, has a blog that details many of his excursions here in NH and the Northeast. No matter what part of the state you are planning to paddle and camp, he’s probably got a recommendation for you.

September is an ideal time in New Hampshire to test a canoe camping adventure, and as Scott notes on his site, “Late summer and fall are my favorite time of the year for paddling. The bugs are gone and so are most of the crowds. As the season progresses the temperature cools off, the sky becomes a deeper shade of blue and the air is crisp and clear.” While he provides descriptions of some of his favorite destinations, Scott recommends “picking up a Vermont or New Hampshire Gazetteer published by the DeLorme Mapping Company for approximately $10. It has relatively detailed water classifications and suggested trips.”

Fact New Hampshire is home to Section 7 of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT), a 740-mile marked canoeing trail extending from Old Forge in the Adirondacks of New York to Fort Kent, Maine. The NH section travels three rivers: the Connecticut, the Upper Ammonoosuc and Androscoggin. The route passes through the Great North Woods on the northern edge of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains.


Gear Box

Highly portable, lightweight (under 10 lbs.) and able to withstand the elements, this High Peak South Col backpacking tent ($199.95) will not leave you out in the cold.

One-person mess kit ($22.85) has all the essentials for your overnight or weekend trip.

Canoe Camping Vermont and New Hampshire Rivers: A Guide to 600 Miles of Rivers for a Day, Weekend, or Week of Canoeing($15.05) provides you with maps, launch sites and all the info you could need for overnight canoeing trips in New Hampshire and Vermont.

This Kodiak Deck Bag ($69.95) is perfect for keeping maps, clothes or any small electronics dry. It’s completely watertight and made from PVC-free nylon.

There are loads of options for canoe styles and the prices vary greatly. If you have the means, the Spirit II, 17-foot Tandem from Wenonah ($1,499 featuring Royalex, with standard equipment) is an ideal choice. Both efficient and maneuverable, the Spirit II becomes even more stable when loaded.


Expert Scott Edwards
courtesy Photo

Expert Advice

Scott Edwards, a high school teacher, has lived in New Hampshire for more than 25 years. He says he was “born in a canoe,” spending a good deal of his youth hiking, canoeing and fishing. For a short time he worked as a licensed Adirondack guide. Starting in 1992, Scott and his family created “Hemlock Pete’s” (the name given to him by his grandfather shortly after his birth) canoe and custom-made paddle business, run from their North Haverhill home. Scott also offers paddling instructions. For more information visit hpcanoes.com.

What level of experience should someone have before taking an overnight or longer trip, and how should they plan? I would say just match your experience with the excursion you have planned.  For example, don’t head out on a month-long trip to Labrador for your first venture. There are tons of things to think about when planning a trip. Location/route, food, camp supplies, clothing, first aid, transportation, navigation, etc. The biggest item to have in your chest of supplies is common sense, and some general knowledge of the outdoors. I would include in this list an awareness of low-impact camping.  Remember, backpackers take only pictures and leave only footprints.  Canoeists take only pictures and leave only whirlpools, just for a moment. I would suggest getting a book like the “Complete Wilderness Paddler” by Davidson/Rugge.

What should people look for when shopping for or renting a canoe? It really depends on how you plan to use it. Solo or tandem? Whitewater, flat water or a combination of both?  Do you want a stable platform for fishing or a more maneuverable, versatile hull design?  Again, some research is in order here.  Check out the Wenonah Canoe website link, “How to Choose the Right Canoe for You,” wenonah.com/resources/index.php.

What are some of the gear essentials paddlers and campers should have on hand for their trip? Recommended safety precautions? Proper clothing (no cotton), quick-dry materials, wool or fleece. PFDs, paddles and a spare, cooking equipment, tents, sleeping bags (stay away from down), proper footwear, tarps including one for the fire, food that supplies lots of calories, sunglasses and sun protection, be it sunscreen and/or clothing to cover you up. Unlike backpacking, a canoe affords you the ability to take a few more things with you. Don’t go overboard however — you won’t need to drill holes in your toothbrush to save weight.

Do you have some favorite spots you like to canoe to and then camp? Yes, there are many places in the Adirondacks of NY, northern NH and Maine. We have many places locally an hour or less from home. The Connecticut River is the most prominent. I find it to be a very scenic and not terribly crowded. Just pull out a map and you will have plenty of choices.

What is your favorite thing about canoeing and camping here in New Hampshire? Good question. I do not think it matters whether it is NH or any other location. The chance to get outdoors, smell the fresh air and be totally self-sufficient does it for me. To end a perfect day is to hear loons calling to each other at sunset.

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