First Solo Canoe Trip? Tips to get you Started

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First solo canoe trip? While tandem canoeing is a great activity to do with your BFF or significant other, you won’t always be able to find a fellow canoer who is eager to hit the water with you. 


Solo canoeing can be fun because you get to go exactly where you want at your ideal pace. However, there are some changes you may want to make to your technique for the best experience possible. Here are some guidelines to follow when you’re canoeing alone.

First solo canoe trip

Flip your Canoe Around

Before you begin, you’ll want to switch the ends of your canoe around to make the stern (back) the new bow (front) and vice versa. This moves the stern and the place where you’ll be sitting further to the front. This will help to stabilize the canoe when there is less weight inside.


Warning: a sure way to tip a canoe is to sit in the stern with the bow raised out of the water, especially on a windy day. Aside from tipping a canoe on purpose (in canoe classes or for fun as a kid), the editor of this article has tipped only twice. Once was on a large lake in a storm and the other was while trying to paddle solo from the stern in a small creek. It is best to center the weight when solo, if you want to stay dry.

First Solo Canoe Trip - How to Pack

When you’re the only person in a two-person canoe, you need to be conscious of the fact that there is less weight in the boat. You need to compensate by packing more in the bow of the boat (what used to be the stern). Any gear you have, your cooler, and the like should be in the front of the boat to even things out more.


Solo Canoeing

Keeping yourself to the center of your boat will also increase your control over the boat. If you’re sitting all the way toward one end or another, you will be forcing the other end to come up, almost like you’re popping a wheelie with your boat. 


For you first solo canoe trip, you may want to add a center seat that snaps into your boat. Sitting in the center of your boat will further increase the canoe’s stability.

Solo Canoe Tips - Adjust your Strokes

Finding the right canoe strokes when you’re on your own can be a bit tricky. You have less power than you would if there were two people in the canoe paddling. There is no need to alternate which sides you’re paddling, unless an arm gets tired. 


Simply use the J-stroke on your strongest side and you should be able to avoid needless zig-zagging. If you prefer, you can also keep J-stroking on the same side until you get tired of it and then switch to the other side.

Start with Shorter Distances

This is more of a safety tip than a technique tip. When you have less manpower propelling your canoe, you are likely to get tired sooner. Because of that, plan accordingly. You’ll want to take trips of shorter distances when canoeing alone to avoid tiring out in the middle of your journey. If you’re still a canoeing beginner, it’s also ideal if you go somewhere you’ve explored before with another canoer.

Canoe on a lake

Keep Practicing

As frustrating as your first solo canoe trip might be, the best thing you can really do if you want to master the art of solo canoeing is simply to practice. The more solo excursions you go on, the better off you will be. If you aren’t seeing the results you want right away, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ll get there eventually!

Whether you’re with others or enjoying nature on your own, canoeing is such a fun activity. These solo canoe tips will help you make the most of your solo experience!



For additional canoe tips, including safety, visit the American Canoe Association website.

By OutdoorZ.Life Staff

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