Canoe camping is a great way to explore areas that are accessibly more difficult for motorists and walkers to reach thus giving one a sense of freedom from the crowds and even enhancing a sense of wildness. Of course, we must all abide by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) and access areas responsibly and act responsibly. For more info on the SOAC click on the link: https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/
That’s the serious bit out of the way!
Canoe camping is a fun and effective way of enhancing your basic campcraft, bushcraft and survival skills whether you are on your own, with your kids or with an expedition team. Whether it is an overnighter or a multi-day trip, one of the main fundamentals of camp craft is creating shelter and that is what we are going to look at in this article along with creating sleeping quarters. There are a variety of methods out there and obviously we are restricted to what equipment we have and what environmental resources are available onsite. Also, the beauty of canoeing is that you can carry a fair bit of gear.
I reckon most folk will have used tents at some point, so I won’t go into that too much as it is pretty much self-explanatory. Tents are highly effective as they are generally quick and easy to erect especially when the ground surface is suitable. They are ideal in both summer and winter conditions providing the tent can cope with heavy snowfall and wind. Many brands and models out there so choose wisely!
The picture above is taken from an island on Loch Ba, Rannoch Moor. Two-man tent on a nice flat firm area of grass. Ideal! Note the shiny new Wenonah Prospector 15 on her maiden voyage!
Hammocks too are effective but only when there are enough trees to accommodate your airborne chrysalis. However, it does take practice to set up and align so ensuring equal anchor height, centring the hammock body and is at chair height. This is best practiced at home so when you are on that highly planned expedition you are slick and not tied up in knots and material!
In Scotland it is advisable to equip your hammock with a midge net of some sort, some hammocks do come with midge netting that hangs directly over the ridge line, so you are not smothered by annoying material. At the end of the day you will want something to keep those midges at bay, especially if there is no breeze!
To insulate the hammock, karrimats/thermarest can be used at the base so allowing the sleeping bag to rest on but they can slip throughout the night if you have a habit of tossing and turning. I personally do not use the karrimat method anymore and have opted for an underslung down duvet. Wow …what a difference, especially more so in winter where less folk are keen to use hammocks. Really warm and toasty, making it a great investment. These are attached by elastic chord and the trick is not to have the duvet so close to the underside of the hammock so when onboard you can settle into the hammock and not compress the down filling so maintaining the trapped warm air. The picture above was taken from an island on Loch Awe during the summer. The tent is a one-man tent that was set up for our dog and weighs the same as a gore-tex bivi bag. We used our kneeling mats to insulate the base of the tent because we love our dog!! Or maybe I’m just too soft!!
A handy addition to the camping arsenal is tarps. A typical tarp measures 3m x 3m and provide an abundance of uses from providing shelter, hiding and keeping kit dry and can be set up as a communal sail.
These can be used in conjunction with tents, bivis and hammocks, and even on their own. This picture demonstrates their use with a hammock set up where there are many trees, making it an ideal set up. Again, we have a tent set up for our dog. This picture was taken from an island on Loch Maree. A stunning place to visit.
A tent and tarp combo are useful where the tarp can be utilised as a communal cooking, sitting, drying area. A favourite if there are others on your trip. The back of the tarp provides protection from the wind and obviously the top provides protection from the rain. Having this set up raises one’s spirits as you have the choice of sitting outside and not stuck in a tent plus cooking in a tent is highly dangerous especially if the porch area is minimal. The picture opposite was taken during a River Spey decent. Certainly, plenty of wild camping sites here and on this occasion, it was outside of the fishing season!
As in the picture above, trees are useful making tarp set up a doddle but there will be times where there are no trees and a wee bit of ingenuity may be required. The next pic below is a typical example. Canoe poles, tarp guy lines, para chord and rocks! That set up withstood a steady force 4 gusting 5!
A handy and efficient set up I like is setting up a canoe on its side and wrapping half the tarp over the back of the canoe and bringing the rest over and supporting it with poles. The poles are attached by the tarp guy lines with a clove hitch and the guy lines anchored to the ground like that of tents. The edge of the tarp has loops so the centre loops can be attached to the lacing of the canoe, one end a small karabiner and the other a prussick loop to stretch the tarp out. This is great if you are doing lightweight solo trips. All you need really is a bivi bag for wind resistance, sleeping bag and karrimat for insulation from the ground. Sorted!
The picture above was during an overnight trip on Loch Voil outside of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park wild camping restrictions. Here is a handy link for more info on the camping restrictions: https://www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/things-to-do/camping/campingbyelaws/
The picture opposite was my combined cooking, chilling out and wildlife hide on Rannoch Moor. From there I could observe Eagles, Short-eared Owls and Black Throated Divers and not a single soul in sight!!
I’m sure there are a million combinations for setting up tarps so why not invest in one and have fun exploring setting one up! If there are any aspiring British Canoeing Guides out there, I’m sure this is pretty much the kind of thing that is worth doing and exploring.
I’m hoping this has sparked an interest for future overnight and multi-day adventures and if anyone requires more info on these set ups, give me a shout. Happy paddling folks.