Top 10 Things To Take Canoeing

Whether you want a relaxing day on calm water or an exhilarating white water experience, canoeing or kayaking has something to offer everyone. Canoes are great for families and couples as they can fit two or three people and they can also carry larger loads making them perfect for overnight canoe and camping trips.
Here are our top 10 tips of what you need and should take when you venture onto the water!

1: Pick the right Canoe

The type of canoe you choose depends completely on what type of paddling you wish to do, how many people will be in the boat with you, and what level of paddler you are. General purpose canoes are perfect for people who want to paddle their local lake, pond or quiet river. Though these canoes do not have the performance features of more specialized canoes, their stability and versatility make them the right choice for families and newcomers to the sport of paddling!  Most modern canoes have inherent buoyancy built in during construction; however before venturing onto the water make sure you fasten in extra buoyancy at the ends of the canoe. E.g. airbags or buoyancy blocks. They will help prevent the canoe from completely sinking if swamped or capsized and they also make emptying a water logged canoe much easier.

2: Bring Paddles:

Canoe Paddles can be made from Wood or Aluminium shafts with plastic blades and are single-bladed. An open canoe paddle is measured by kneeling down and holding the paddle upside down just below the blade with the handle on the ground. If your arm is horizontal the paddle is a good length. Everyone knows you can’t canoe without a paddle therefore every canoeist should have one in their hand and an extra paddle with them secured in the canoe in case of an emergency.

3: Take your Buoyancy Aid:

A buoyancy aid should be worn for every canoeing activity; regardless of how well you can swim. It will help keep you afloat should you fall into the water. They fit like a vest and the modern designs ensure they do not restrict movement like old traditional lifejackets. Ensure the buoyancy aid fits correctly and has adequate buoyancy for your size – look for the CE certification mark to show that the buoyancy aid has been subjected to rigorous safety tests. Should you capsize it will keep you afloat and you can easily swim to help yourself. A buoyancy aid is probably the most important piece of safety kit you’ll invest in!

4: Bring a First aid kit:

Just remember whether you kayak, canoe, raft or participate in any other outdoor activities, you should always bring a first aid kit. You can purchase a ready made first aid kit or put one together yourself. Just make sure you check the kit regularly and replace any used or expired supplies. You may also want to take a first aid course so you will know how to use the contents of your kit.

5: Dry bag:

A dry bag is a type of bag which seals in a watertight manner. Using a dry bag will keep your belongings, first aid kit and sensitive equipment dry. Just make sure it is attached inside of the boat! When using one, it is vital to ensure the roll top closure is folded at least three times, to create a watertight seal.
6: Clothing – Get the right stuff!

Wearing and taking the correct clothing when canoeing will make a huge difference to your enjoyment on the water. Paddling in the colder winter months is just as enjoyable as the summer providing you wear the appropriate clothing. We advise customers who are coming canoeing with us to wear and bring the following: Wear warm comfortable clothing. Wool or polyester is ideal. Leave cotton clothing for the pub and no jeans! Wear trainers or boots you don’t mind getting wet (no sandals/flip flops). Bring a Warm hat and gloves, a spare fleece, and always bring Waterproofs (Trousers and Jacket with hood) that are actually waterproof! If you are planning a longer trip on the water, maybe an overnight adventure your kit list will be much longer!

7: Sun cream – you never know! Since you are completely exposed to the elements in canoes, it is always a good idea to bring along some extra sunscreen during the summer months.

8: Drinking water/Food and Snacks – Make sure you take plenty of drinking water – e.g. if you are heading out onto the water for a full day, take at least 2 litres (maybe more if it’s a scorching summers day!). A flask of a hot drink is a must by our books, but not a necessity. Regarding food/snacks, anything in a wrapper that you can stick in your buoyancy aid pocket is good. High energy bars, flapjacks, peanuts that kind of thing. Of course if you are on the water for a full day, take a full packed lunch box too.

9: A Camera. No explanation necessary!

10: Leave no trace – Last but certainly not least. The idea is simple – leave the places you enjoy as good as or better than you found them.

GO Activities Go Kayaking

There’s something about the Lake District that makes you hungry. Signs to Appleby, Scotch Corner, and of course the horizon littered by sheep and cows.

Luckily, when I was invited by Distant Horizons , a new supplier for GO Activities, to take come see them,  I was also offered lunch by the lake. I couldn’t drive quickly enough.

I show off my paddling skills in Ullswater

Distant Horizons was started in 1993, and the MD Jason Beverley who I met has been involved in outdoor activities for 25 years.

On meeting him, his enthusiasm for the outdoor was clear. Wearing Petzl and Mountain Hardwear gear he greeted me from a bona fide country house/office conversion, complete with 30 acres of land, farm dog (okay, a spaniel) and the pre requisite Land Rover.

I got out in my waterproofs after the drive and prepared to be popped into another small enclosed space- a tandem sea kayak for my day with Jason.

Jason reassured me after I asked ‘how cold is the water’ and ‘how likely is it I’ll capsize’ that I wouldn’t fall off the kayak ,and should it capsize (which was unlikely) he could rescue me in a jiffy.

I’d like to say that kayaking is all a chip off the old block, and that at the weekend I like nothing more than climbing, bouldering and extreme horse riding, but in reality, I represent a great portion of the UK that is alien to most of the outdoors. Having grown up away from hills, trees or much farmland, my outdoor skills are limited to say the least and the idea of just ‘hopping in a kayak’ or ‘booking a surfing weekend’ is naturally daunting.

I nervously explained this at my job interview, and as I prepared to be shunned, I was informed that I could in fact be a benefit. For every keen ghyll scrambler (a hobby involving leaping into cold water, feet first) there’s an Elaine who spends weekends shopping, looking over at the climbers, walkers and people with hobbies, just wondering what it’s like.

The idea of GO Activities is to make getting into the outdoors accessible, so even if you’re the type of person who would rather have a cup of tea and watch other people climb/scramble/capsize in cold UK waters, you get a choice to learn what these things are, and then to book an adventure!

Jason the MD shows me around

With this in mind, GO Outdoors’s  mantra of  ‘fun and adventure in the outdoors’ was repeated to myself in the mirror before setting off the Penrith over the wet Snakes Pass from Sheffield.

Welcomed with tea and allowed to use the on site facilities (which are gorgeous) and a after tickle with the farm dog, it was then time to see the boats! All the boats are made by Wilderness Systems in the USA and vary from 12 tandem sea kayaks 16 single seater kayaks, 8 sit on tops, and 16 open top or ‘Canadian style’ canoes. “ We can get 60 people out on the water at once- and that’s quite a sight!” Exclaims Jason. With a staff ratio of 1 to 5, the training is certainly impressive.

Jason also showed me around the rest of the area which includes 30 acres of land, a dedicated climbing, abseiling and dry tooling wall, a space for indoor archery and even circus training skills (more on this later). As a group you are met on site, rather than having to drive to a lake, where you will meet your team and be kitted out in your gear- Distant Horizons offer all the gear, from fleeces and waterproofs to wellies, hats and gloves. You can come prepared though with gear from GO Outdoors- I was wearing my Craghoppers Kiwi Stretch trousers, a North Ridge Pumori jacket and North Ridge Firefly e-Vent boots.

So onto the lake itself. Ullswater is beautiful, or it least it was once I arrived- I must have brought the weather with me. Kitted out in my waterproofs and wellies I was taught how to use the paddle and shown how the kayak works. Then I made my way into the boat, a graceful manoeuvre based on putting my bum on the side and sliding in with a thud (although the padded seat, plus 3 layers of clothing and my Hi Gear Overtrousers did keep me unharmed.)

With Jason in the back, we paddled Ullswater which is 7.5 miles each way, taking in sights like Helvellyn, Catseye Cam and the Sharrow Bay hotel where Nicole Kidman has stayed, as well as spending time looking for pike, swans, ducks and the deer that wander on the lakeside.

I asked Jason about his hobbies, which include, but aren’t limited to: telemark skiing, potholing, abseiling, as well as mountain climbs in the Himalayas, climbing in Thailand and more. It’s clear that Jason is a man who loves adventure and is really living his dream. He remembers being 10 years old, off on a ski trip with school to Cairngorm, and watching as big ‘bearded men climbers with tartan shirts’ wandering off into the mountains for winter climbing adventures. He knew at 10 that he wanted to work in the outdoors and nothing else.

I asked if he was scared of anything, after the idea of sleeping in a snow hole made me cold by proxy and ask him for gloves. “Not really.” Was the short answer. Jason told me about how he has worked hard to ensure all the kit is the best (even avoiding the company name to branded on the gear to avoid being ostentatious), and that his staff are well paid and happy. He is also keen to stress that the experiences Distant Horizons provide are  “for anyone, complete beginners to experts.” His passion is similar to ours ensuring the outdoors is open to anyone.

“My least favourite thing to hear is ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘lucky you, getting to do that’ or ‘I wish I could do that..’ you have the ability, you just need the inspiration. That’s why I like working with groups and doing team building out here, you can give someone a small mind shift and show them they are capable. We get people who have never jumped into open water doing lakeside cliff jumps really enjoying it.”

I saw the cliff, which wasn’t too daunting, but did look a bit cold. Luckily, before I was goaded to leap, it was time for a picnic. We moored up and Jason cooked lunch of soup and tea, as well as an array of fruit, crisps, cakes, chocolates, drinks and sandwiches. Jason told me that for larger groups, BBQ’s can be brought, but for our needs, it was out with the Trangia for the real experience.

A leisurely lunch!

As I wolfed down a millionaire shortbread and watched ramblers walk by and saw one of the oldest steam boats in the world trawl past us on the sun dappled lake I asked Jason what his plans for the future are.

Enthused about so many elements, it’s clear that Jason is a big people person. He told me about a group of circus skills trainers he had stay last year who he intends to get back to help teach groups. He is also running an adventure challenge, a race that combines orienteering, kayaking or even biking for groups. He plans to offer stop over tours for the Summer and Easter holiday where groups who have never even slept outdoors can spend a day kayaking, can moor up in a bivvi camp and can catch and cook fresh fish, before sleeping in the wilderness and heading home across the lake the next day.

Distant Horizons are also part of other events like the 3 lakes, a day of paddling Coniston water, Ullswater and Windermere, or training people before events, as well as taking people on trips to Nepal. They are also involved in offering activities for the Ullswater festival, and lake clean ups so Ullswater stays clean for locals.

After lunch it’s time to head back. As I paddle in shore, using my finest, newly learnt techniques, a local on a boat shouts ‘nice paddling!’ ‘Thank you!’ I say, chuffed with a grin and a flip of my hair.

‘She’s trying her best’ says Jason at the same time.

Oh. It looks like I might need a little more practice….

Elaine