Inside Skinny

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Family Vacations, Summer 1996

Inside Skinny

Unlike whitewater rafting or even sea kayaking, where beginners go with outfitters who routinely provide personal flotation devices (PFDs), with canoe-camping it becomes incumbent upon you to buy your own. The reason: Canoeing is a sport that allows participants to quickly achieve a proficiency level adequate for venturing out sans guide. Ask for a Coast Guard-approved Type III canoeing PFD. Not only will it keep you afloat, but should you hit a rock and be knocked unconscious, it will support you in a face-up position until you're pulled out. Look for these, in both adult and children's sizes, at Eastern Mountain Sports (603-924-6154), REI (800-426-4840), or L.L. Bean (800-341-4341).

Like in-line hockey skates, canoe keels may or may not be rockered. Puckheads adjust wheel heights on their skates, making the middle two lower than the ones at each end. This technique, called rockering, enhances your ability to turn quickly--though speed suffers. The same is true of canoe keels: The more turned-up the ends, the greater the maneuverability, which is what the whitewater set looks for. Tourers, who want to eke as much speed as possible out of the calmer waters, tend to favor a straighter keel.

To get psyched for your upcoming trip, read the works of Canadian author and conservationist Bill Mason. Song of the Paddle is a comprehensive guide to canoeing, camping, and outdoor living; Path of the Paddle is the definitive illustrated guide to the art of canoeing. The latter includes a foreword written by former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, another canoe enthusiast. Your local bookstore probably carries these classics. If not, the publisher (Key Porter Books, Toronto) suggests that your bookstore order them for you.

Copyright 1996, Outside magazine

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