Family Canoe Camping

Many parents would like to know how old a child should be before getting into a canoe. The truth is that it has more to do with parents’ canoe skills than the age of the child. If the parents are experienced canoeists then canoeing with one-year old would be safe and had been successfully done before.

The most important thing while taking your kids canoeing is the safety precautions.  It goes without saying that everybody in the canoe has to wear their PFD (Personal Floatation Device), aka life jacket.

Introduce your child to canoeing on calm water close to the shore. Later keep in mind: in the event of the upset can you get your child to the shore quickly? Can you climb back to the canoe and help others in without overturning it again?

If you intend to go on multi-day excursion, plan the distance and difficulty of the trip accordingly to the skills and willingness of the participants. Children will enjoy the trip only if you do. Obviously a distance you may travel with young kids will be limited. The number and distance of portages should be small as well. You do not want to discourage your family from canoeing forever by planning a gruelling trip with endless portages. Do not set a rigid schedule. Be flexible and let everyone enjoy themselves along the way even if it slows down the expedition.

It would be wise to make your trips shorter at first and then prepare for the longer one. It is also a good idea to take your children on the route you know well instead of venturing into the unknown. You will be safer if you already know the waters and the places to camp.

All the other advice applicable to camping still stands: bring enough clothing, food and bedding for everyone. Outdoor gear should be light and compact, since it has to be carried in a canoe. Fishing can be introduced at the same time as well and most kids enjoy it.

If you introduce your kids to canoeing at an early age and you make it fun for them, they will love it and with time they will become excellent canoeists themselves.