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Canoe Trips - FAQ

Canoe Trips - FAQ

This page contains some questions and answers regarding the canoe weekend. Since questions tend to repeat, I believe that browsing through this page should be useful. All the questions are genuine, although stripped from the names and politeness forms. The answers are not original, but rather kept up to date as more (or better quality) information comes along. Send e-mail to if you have a question that has not been covered here or if you have a better answer.

How much swimming skill do you think is needed for this trip? What if you can barely swim at all?

You don't need to swim, but I would advise you wearing a life jacket at all times when on the water. The river is quite peaceful and people don't fell off the canoe too often. If they do, they can usually hold on to the canoe, but you never know. There are rather few deep places and places with strong current, but I would not take a risk of being without a jacket if you cannot swim.

It sounds very interesting but I have no experience at all.

As Lao Tzu said, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." You need to start at some point to gain experience. It is not a difficult trip and you should be able to manage with no prior experience.

My wife and I want to join canoe trip, but we don't have any camping equipments. Could you tell me more details on how to rent camping equipment?

Most of the useful equipment, such as rope, plastic bags, or a flashlight is easy to find at home. There are two things that will require some organization: a tent and a sleeping bag. These two can be borrowed, rented, or bought.

Since I have my own equipment, I am not familiar with the rental market. One place that people used was Outdoor Experience in Shadyside, which was an excellent store for all kind of camping stuff, and had tents for rent. The store went out of business, regretfully. The prices of Friday to Monday rental (three days) were $18 for a two-person tent, $24 for a four-person tent, and $33 for a five-person tent. If you find a place that rents equipment, please let me know and I will post it here.

Sears, K-Mart, or Dunham Discount Sports both periodically run sales on tents. A simple 1-2 persons tent may sometimes cost you as much as a weekend rental (a very basic one or two person tent may cost as little as $20-$30). Outdoor Experience used to rent sleeping bags at $7 a day. In this case I strongly believe that it may be cheaper (at least in the long run - you can use a sleeping bag as a comforter even if you never go camping again) to buy a simple sleeping bag than to rent it. A simple sleeping bag should cost not more than $20-$30.

Another handy thing is something to cook your dinner on, but this is not necessary -- you can take something that you will just warm up at the fireplace. Fresh corn and potatoes are usually very easy to bake in a fireplace. People have brought many creative things with them: burritos (they can be warmed up at the fireplace after opening and the shells can be baked above the fire on a stick), bagels baked on the fireplace, hard-boiled eggs, cold Oriental noodles, beef and vegetables (onions, paprika, and champignons) for shish-kebab on a stick, and many others. In fact, very few people brought stoves with them and most people used the campfire to prepare their dinner.

We'd like to go on the canoeing trip. However, I have one question, concerning the size of the canoes. Since our children are young, they'll have to ride in the canoe with us. Is there room in these canoes for 2 adults and 2 children and also for 4 sleeping bags, a tent, and food? If not, how have people with more than 1 child managed?

The canoes are pretty large and can easily accommodate two adults and a lot of luggage. I will be going with three children this year (one adult). My wife and I went with two adults and two children before, but to make more room for the children to sit and move we gave some of our luggage to other people (when you go just with two adults, you have usually plenty of room). Anyway, I would suggest taking not too much stuff. When the weather is nice, you don't need much. Please, look at the checklist of things to bring for some ideas.

I have my own canoe, and had thought of bringing it with me rather than renting with the group. Could I do that?

Own canoe means some trouble. One of the participants took his own canoe in 1994, brought the canoe up the river himself leaving his car there for the weekend, and then asked somebody to give him a ride to his car on Sunday afternoon when everybody wanted to go home. It is possible that he did not ask the outfitter if they would transport his canoe for some small amount along with ours. Or, perhaps he did ask but they wanted too much for that. Another problem is that if the water level is low, you may damage the bottom of your canoe on the rocks -- the outfitter has quite robust aluminum canoes that can handle that. You might want to ask the outfitter whether they would be willing to transport your canoe with our group and for how much. Another downside of own canoes is that if we have rent less than eight canoes, we will be paying a higher rental rate ($25 plus tax instead of $20 plus tax a night per canoe, 1995 data).

I wondered if I need to buy firewood for the fire or will be make do with what we find in the forest.

Forget about bringing your own wood -- there is plenty of wood in the forest.

How do you keep the meat cool? We have a picnic box but that is just plastic.

Usually a cooler works best. We have been taking a large plastic cooler with us -- there is enough room for it in the canoe. With a couple of bags of ice cubes, the meat stays cool until Saturday night. Friday night we have a fireplace too, but there is usually less time and a half-ready dinner is the best solution.

by Tomek D Loboda and Mark Voortman