Float Trip Essentials: What to Bring on a Canoe Trip

A river, a canoe, and you—what could be better? Float trips are a popular summertime activity, and a little bit of preparation can make them even more enjoyable. Here are the top things that you should bring to make your next float trip fun and hassle-free.

Personal Flotation Vest

Safety is important in the outdoors and each member of your trip should have a flotation vest that is U.S. Coast Guard approved. Children should wear their life vest at all times when on the water. At a minimum, adults should have a flotation device within easy reach in the boat. However, parents can set a good example for their kids by wearing their vest when boating.

First Aid Kit

Injuries sometimes happen outdoors and you should bring a first aid kit in case something unforeseen happens. At a minimum, your first aid kit should include cleansing wipes, antibiotic ointment, sterile dressings and adhesive bandages.

Sun Protection

Even on an overcast day, expect to be exposed to plenty of solar UV radiation. Beat the sun with sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and high-SPF waterproof sunscreen. Don’t forget your ears and the part in your hair—you can get burned anywhere. Protect your skin so you can enjoy the sun.

Insect Repellant

Nothing ruins a beautiful day on the river like getting devoured by mosquitoes. Insect repellant spray or lotion will keep the bugs off, and citronella candles will add another layer of protection when you stop to relax by the water.

Food and Beverages

Most float trips are all-day affairs, and without some sustenance, those last few hours can really lose their charm. A medium-sized cooler with beverages and food that needs to be kept cold will fit easily in a canoe, and you can get creative with picnic ideas. Many float trip destinations don’t allow glass bottles or containers, so opt for plastic or aluminum containers.

The Clothes on Your Back

Your swimsuit should be the foundation for your float trip fashion statement. Even if you’re not planning to swim, canoes capsize easily, and you’ll be much more comfortable in gear that’s made to get wet. Keep that in mind when choosing your top layers—denim shorts and cotton tee shirts might seem comfortable, but when you’re damp and sweaty, lightweight, breathable fabrics are best. Choose water socks or sandals with a heel strap for your footwear. Flip-flops are lightweight and comfortable, but they can slip off in the water and float away.

Towels and Picnic Blankets

Some of the best moments on a float trip can happen when you’re not actually floating. Be ready to stake out a sunny beach or a nice spot under a shade tree, when you’re ready to take a break from paddling. Pack large beach towels and picnic blankets in waterproof bags, so they’ll be dry even if your canoe tips over.


If the first thing you do after every event or vacation is post photos online to share with friends, you’ll want to be sure that you don’t forget your camera. A waterproof digital model is an ideal option for quick pics, but a traditional film camera or phone camera will also do the trick. If you bring a camera that is not waterproof, keep it sealed in a protective plastic bag while you’re not using it.

Toilet Paper

There are no restrooms on the river, and if you’re going to be spending hours communing with nature, it’s best to be prepared for her call. A roll of toilet paper in a watertight bag or container will ensure that you have all of the comforts of home while you’re out in the wild.

Like any trip outdoors, preparedness is important to your enjoyment and safety during a canoe trip. Bring everything you will need – and nothing more – and be sure to pack out everything you bring. With a little advance planning, a canoe trip can be fun and memorable experience for the whole family.