Old School Paddling Gear

Peter Marshall
Peter Marshall traveled for 50 days across Labrador using a wooden canoe, homemade boots and other throwback gear.


The spicy aroma of spar varnish on a cedar canvas canoe pervades my days. On the river it wafts from the hull. The tang grows more pungent when I flip the canoe overhead to portage, and even when the canoe is put away for the night the scent lingers in the campsite. I’m delighted by this smell as much as I’m rapt with the rhythm of traveling with my beautiful Chestnut Prospector — the way it cuts through the water and comes alive in rapids, balances on my shoulders, commands admiring gazes from all angles, and, most importantly, focuses my care and attention. The same goes for my homemade wooden grub box—a “wannigan” in tripper-speak—and canvas tent, which heats up like a sauna when its sheet metal stove glows red on an autumn night. This is practical gear, comfortable and not too heavy when properly made. A Swedish axe produces firewood, clears portages and imbues a sense of invincibility: With it I could carve a new paddle if things go sideways. I cook over an open fire—another sensory experience. – CM

Vintage Homemade Paddling gear
“Part of me thinks I can’t use this stuff because it’s so beautiful. But that’s the point-to use it.” – Peter Marshall Pete Mcbride / Getty Images
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The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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