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2/27/2019 7:14 pm  #18

Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

I'm a bit late to the thread, but here's another data point:
- My canoe is a Souris River Tranquility solo canoe.  It has a sliding seat, and removable yoke.  I used the removable yoke my first trip and never again.  Putting it on and taking it off several times in a day was tedious, plus it weighs several pounds.  Now I portage the canoe by sliding the seat to the center of gravity of the canoe, strap my life jacket around the seat and rest the seat on my head.  If it's a short portage, sliding the seat is enough.  If it's a long or tricky portage I can lock the seat into place quickly so the canoe doesn't slide.  Total time to transition to and from carrying is less than a minute.  The canoe is light (even with paddles, sail and fishing rods strapped into it) enough that I can carry it this way for very long distances (several KMs) without a break.  I can adjust the balance by shifting the canoe forward or backward on my head, or sliding my paddle forward or backwards.  Since the canoe is resting on my head it is much higher than if it were resting on my shoulders so you still have a good view during the portage.  I only miss what is directly above me.
- I bring both a double blade (extra long) and single blade paddle.  The double blade is used most of the time, and I travel pretty quick.  The canoe tracks very straight so long distances into or across the wind are not difficult.  It's windy rivers and creeks where I have to work.  I've added Velcro paddle mounts to the canoe for both paddles.  The single blade paddle usually just stays strapped in until I want it.  The double blade quickly straps in/out when I transition.
- I single carry pretty much every portage.  Everything fits into my pack, or is strapped into the canoe.  I have netting on my canoe deck where I can keep a water bottle, map, sail, and other small items.  They stay in the netting during the portage.  The exceptions are very short portages (<20m) where I just couldn't be bothered to strap everything into the canoe.

Some tips:
- Start short and easy.  Base camp and do some day trip portages.  Or pick a trip where you have a few short portages where if you need to double or triple carry you have time to work it out.  It takes a few portages to figure out a system that works best for you, and a trip or two to refine things further.  If you are bringing your own canoe you can figure out any rigging you need ahead of time, and test-carry the canoe.
- Keep meals simple and flexible.   I make my own dehydrated food, so dinners are as complicated as boiling water.  I use a cozy system for cooking to keep fuel weight to a minimum.  My pot fits my dinner.  I eat it out of the pot.  Everything else can be eaten hot or cold.  I usually bring muesli for breakfast which I could heat up into oatmeal or just eat cold as cereal.
- Measure as much as you can. I use a bike GPS to log my trips.  After the trip I can figure out my average paddling speed, average portaging speed, and average transition time.  I use this to plan my next trip.  I've also weighed every piece of gear, so I can figure out exactly how heavy my pack is going to be.  I keep track of things I've brought but never used, and then I stop bringing them,  A lighter pack makes all the difference when portaging.


2/28/2019 9:21 pm  #19

Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

I nearly always do solo trips. Trippy’s advice on page one could’ve been written by me. Total agreement.

My two cents re: double carry. Packs first, canoe second. Lets  you see more, see all obstacles, like lowhanging branches etc, before you bash the canoe on them.

@trillium.  Yes I saw Becky Mason in the pool in that prospector canoe. What a master class. Complete control.

@up the Creek I had the pleasure of paddling a tranquility in Quetico last summer. It’s a great flatwater boat. Lucky you! Also jealous of Barry’s Bell (Magic?) canoe.

Edited for spelling.

Last edited by Methye (3/04/2019 7:13 am)


2/28/2019 10:04 pm  #20

Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

Methye wrote:

I nearly always do solo trips. Trippy’s advice on page one could’ve been written by me. Total agreement.

My two cents re: double carry. Packs first, canoe second. Let’s you see more, see all obstacles, like lowhanging branches etc, before you bash the canoe on them.

Thanks. I tried to mention the most important general topics to focus on. I think everyone has given great advice, but personally I don't think that things like measuring your speed with GPS is an essential first-solo activity. Save those smaller things for your 2nd or 3rd solo. First solo should be about safety and comfort above all else.

One thing I forgot to mention, bring headphones and/or earplugs! If you're the type of person that gets nervous about bears being at your campsite (and I'd be very surprised if anyone wasn't nervous about this on their first solo!), sleeping with decent ear plugs will help a lot with nighttime anxiety, and will make the overall experience much more comfortable. I see this as one of those 'essentials' for a first time solo. The way I tent to describe it when I talk about travelling solo is like this... when you're outside of the tent and you hear a sound, you look and see an acorn that fell from the tree, or a squirrel rummaging around. No big deal. But when you're inside the tent and you hear that same sound, your mind starts to wander and think of the worst case scenario. And every noise sounds louder than it is. Dull that noise, get a good sleep, and over time the nighttime paranoia will slowly subside.

Oh, and bring a SPOT or InReach if possible

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3/04/2019 12:47 pm  #21

Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

I've only soloed a couple of times.  The first time was actually a hiking trip, and that didn't go well, the next two were canoe trips, one went well, the other went pretty well.

Lessons learned:  from the hiking trip, well for one thing, hiking isn't for me.  It is like an endless portage.  Secondly, the Boogey Man is there and he is very real.  He is also only in your head, which makes it worse.  On that trip I was very aware that I couldn't see what was behind me, and it plagued me.  When there was silence, it was ridiculously quiet, and that didn't help.  Once I arrived in my little camp and set up my tent....hey there wasn't much to do.  I think I brought a book, but didn't feel like reading.  Got a bit bored, but mostly - I just felt so limited in my vision, what is behind me.  I cut a four-day trip down to a two day trip because of that unease which I call the Boogey Man.  Canoe trip as opposed to hiking cured that for me, not always "trapped" in the woods, lots of open space to be in, and an added decade of age-related-semi-maturity helped as well.

Second trip - this trip was terrific.  Traveled day one, base camp day two, returned day three.  I had multiple plans in place for day two, so I had something to do.  That was key.  A book I wanted to get into, side trips I wanted to make, little videos I wanted to make to show cub scouts.  I got a little bored late in the day on day two, but was fine.  On an island too, so that helps keep the boogey man away.  He can swim I bet, but he didn't want to. 

Third trip - I bit off more than I could chew.  It was too challenging a trip for me.  Turned a four day trip into a three day trip that ticked me off a little because I did not get to say mission accomplished.  But the weather was awesome and overall a good trip.  It just bugs me that I had to recognize my limits. I have limits???  Nuts.

So - bite off what you can chew.  Make sure you have some side-activities planned that you are excited about doing. Plan it to the very best of your abilities.

In addition - Have a way to reach out with you.  Somebody suggested a Spot or other GPS device like that, and I recommend that.  Let them know at home you are ok - it makes you feel ok too.  Follow your very vest camping/packing rules, such as make sure your first aid kit is right at the top of the pack, and that it is complete.  Have a little extra food, you never know when you'll be wind bound.  Take a little extra clothing - just in case.  Everything that happens is up to you alone to deal with, so come prepared, watch your step, be wary of taking unnecessary chances on trails, have fun.  Run around naked in the campsite screaming and jumping.  I didn't do it, but if somebody else from this website sees you do that it will make a great story that I'm sure we will all enjoy. 


3/05/2019 11:25 am  #22

Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

Been soloing now for over 10 years.  I don't go on really long portages to get to my destination due to age now.  One thing I must stress is be very careful in all camping or canoeing movements you do.  Help could be a long way away.
I always make two trips across the portage and have my two paddles strapped in the canoe, along with my life jacket and fishing rod and reel.  One thing I have noticed over the years that it is very tiresome to carry a packsack and something in your hands.  You need your hands free in case something happens on the portage and you lose your balance and fall or almost fall.  This has happened to me many times by tripping over a rock and or some roots, etc. on the portage.

I always put extra weight of some kind in the front of a canoe (even a heavy flat rock) for stability.  Being old core, I never use kayak paddles.  As someone mentioned earlier in this post, go to a lake that is close to where you started from just in case you really decide you don't like to solo.  It is a different beast from having a buddy with you, especially at night.

Personally, now that I have done it for many year, soloing is something I look forward to.  Have a great trip!

Last edited by boknows (3/05/2019 11:29 am)


3/05/2019 3:42 pm  #23

Re: Advice for a first time SOLO canoe-tripper?

I have solo tripped in both a tandem and a solo canoe. Swift Prospector 16 and a Swift Osprey solo canoe. I use a single blade in both, although I have seen people use a kayak paddle in the Osprey.

I sit in the bow seat facing the stern seat when paddling solo in the Prospector and find I have a lot more control over it if I am kneeling a bit closer to center, but not at center. The Osprey has a sliding seat which allows me to adjust myself over the center of the canoe and take into account the weight and placement of my gear.

As for portages, do what you find most comfortable for yourself. I lash my paddles to the front of the canoe and my bail bucket safety kit and life jacket to the back. They sort of offset each other weight wise. With my Osprey, I let my SeaLine pack slip back a bit on my shoulders, taking the weight on my hips. This lets the canoe rest across my shoulders and the pack, which allows me to walk without holding the canoe if need be.

Safety First should go without saying. There is no one there to carry your carcass out of the woods.

NEVER be too proud to call a trip off early. If something is not working correctly, you are not enjoying yourself, things are not going as planned, or you need to start doing things that make you uncomfortable, then call it a trip. It could literally come down to living to paddle another day. Been there, done that, still paddling.

Bring a book to read in the evening. That is the time when I have found most people get turned off with solo tripping. There is no one there to talk to so they don't know what to do with themselves. Bring an evening activity.


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