Wilderness Canoe Outfitting for Whitewater


Don’t worry, the video footage of my canoe dumping and wrapping around a boulder is from another trip. I used this as an example in the video because, thankfully, we didn’t wrap a boat on this trip! You’ll see we come pretty damn close though.

Long, technical, boulder-ridden runs, with no shortage of large standing waves are the norm on the Adlatok

Long, technical, boulder-ridden runs, with no shortage of large standing waves are the norm on the Adlatok. And a couple of the longer Class IIs go on for a mile or more. On a wilderness whitewater trip, losing a boat can be devastating. To help prevent this from happening, we include these items in our canoe outfitting gear list.

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Expedition Grade Canoes: You’ll need a canoe that can wrap around a mid-river boulder and then bounce back to shape. With Royalex off the market, we chose to go with a new expedition grade canoe material by Nova Craft, called Tuff Stuff. An all-around hull design like the Prospector is our choice for longer wilderness trips.

Spray Decks: A tough fabric spray deck will shed most of the water you’d otherwise take in while running big standing waves, meaning you’re less likely to swamp and you can run larger rapids. Plus, it’ll hold down your gear.

Canoe spray deck: Bugs sold separately.
Canoe spray deck: Bugs sold separately.

Pulleys: Keep these on your body. If you dump and pin your canoe, it’ll be hard to get at them if they are in your boat. A three-to-one rescue pulley system will un-pin most any boat. We also carried a traction pulley. As with all rescue equipment, its imperative that you learn how to use it, and practice frequently.

Throw Bags: Great for throwing at a river-bound person in a rescue, but I find I used them more often to grab ahold of and swim to shore after a dump. Of course you’ll want to tie the rope end of the throw bag to your tow handle first. This is the rescue I preform in the video. Get a throw bag with at least a 50-foot-long rope.

Air Bags: Secure your canoe flotation bags into your bow and stern with 8mm rope and a singe strap. They’ll make you less likely to tip when you fill with water. They’ll also make your canoe float higher in the water if you do dump, enabling you to bring it in to shore easier. Plus, they’ll make it less likely for your swamped canoe to wrap.

It was in the white water section that we had our slowest day of travel, only making it a mile-and-a-half after two insanely tough, borderline impenetrable, bushwhack portages. To boot, the black flies were so bad this day, I killed 52 with a single clap in the air.

Each Wednesday, C&K will release a new episode of Lessons From the Trail, presented by Nova Craft Canoe and Brunton, makers of the TruArc compass.

How tough is Tuff Stuff? You be the judge.

The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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