The time change just happened, lakes are icing up in the north country and you can smell the snow coming. For many, that signals the end of the canoe tripping season. And it is a great time to show some love to our trusty portage packs, canoe barrels, paddles and canoes.
Canoe trip gear is costly, and getting into a maintenance routine will keep your prized possessions in great shape.
We’ve drawn on the expertise of others in the canoe industry for this blog.
Dennis, over at Canoehound Adventures recently led a great conversation with a canoe repair and storage expert and a paddle manufacturer.
So, we've incorporated on that expertise along with our own experience. Even with all our tripping experience, we learned a few new things. So check out Dennis’ YouTube link later in this article.
Portage Pack and Canoe Barrel Care
As for the care and maintenance of your canoe pack and barrel harness, there are some easy steps you can take before you store them for the winter. Obviously, we design nylon packs, but these tips work for the canvas and waterproof vinyl canoe packs as well.
There are two primary goals to helping your canoe packs last a very long time.
✅ Cleanliness is Key
Goal number one – keep your canoe pack and harness clean to prevent unnecessary wear and tear from sand and grit.
✅ Bone Dry!
Obviously, the second goal is to store them dry. (There is nothing worse than a moldy, musty pack.)
❄️The Winter Prep Routine❄️
Follow these steps, and your portage pack will last a very long time.
First, if possible, remove any parts you can (hip belt, shoulder strap, aluminum stays).
If you own an Ostrom pack, then these parts are removable. And we have videos on how to reassemble your pack or harness on our YouTube channel.
- Turn inside out and brush with a soft-bristle brush or whisk.
- Inspect for holes or fabric de-lamination. Mark any that need to be repaired.
- If very dirty, wash with mild soap (such as dish soap) and a soft cloth.
- Rinse well.
- Hang to dry completely.
Then turn the pack right-side-out and repeat the process.
👉 Be sure to check the high-stress areas like shoulder strap and hip belt attach-points, handles, and compression straps.
🌱 Beware of Dirt and Grit 🌱
Dirt and grit are one of your portage pack’s worst enemies. The sand from that gorgeous beach on your last canoe trip will wear down the fabric and seams and retain moisture. Even the soft dirt on that piney campsite can be abrasive.
So pay close attention to where the lid, shoulder straps, and side compression straps attach.
Use a soft brush, or even a toothpick or toothbrush to really get in there and remove the dirt from the creases.
High and Dry!
After all that TLC, store your canoe pack and barrel harness off the floor with good air circulation. Hanging is the best option if you can.
How to Store Your Canoes & Paddles
Dennis, over at Canoehound Adventures just hosted an excellent show on getting canoes, paddles and canoe trip gear ready to store for the winter. He interviewed well-respected gear manufacturers and paddling experts.
Here are some highlights. FYI, there are so many more details in his "Camping Gear Storage & Maintenance Tips" video at www.canoehoundadventures.com. (Full disclosure, we are a proud sponsor of this show.)
🛶How to store your Canoe for the winter🛶
Warning! The canoe storage picture in this section of the blog is NOT a great example of how to store your canoes outside. We’ll tell you why in a minute. (They are not ours, by the way.)
First, here are some basic points from Dan, Lead Repair Technician at Nova Craft Canoe.
He was excellent! We’ve been storing canoes for decades, and we picked up a few tips. We strongly recommend you watch the Canoehound video replay for the details.
Here is some basic advice.
🔹Wash your canoe with dish soap
🔹Check for wear and address any areas where the fabric (e.g., spectra, fibreglass) is showing through the gel coat.
🔹Apply a UV protectant suitable for the canoe’s material.
🔹Store your canoe upside down on the gunwales, off the ground, protected from heavy snow load.
🔹For those lucky enough to own a Royalex canoe with wood gunwales…loosen the gunwale screws (this allows the canoe to expand and contract.)
How many of you store canoes outside under a tarp?
Interestingly, Dan from Nova Craft advised against laying a tarp directly on the canoe because the materials “may not play nice together”. So, food for thought.
So…let’s critique how the canoes are stored in the photo below. (FYI, we built the racks, but they are not our canoes.)
The canoes are definitely stored upside down on the gunwales and well off the ground. So that’s a good thing.
As well, tarps protect from the sun.
(The sun and UV damage are your canoe’s arch nemesis. Covering your canoes stored outside and applying a UV protectant will keep your canoe from becoming brittle and untrustworthy.)
However, the tarps are tight on the canoes and that might cause issues long-term.
As well, there is no protection if it is a heavy snow year. Canoes can cave in under a heavy snow load.
So, check out Canoehound's "Camping Gear Storage and Maintenance Tips" video for more info.
🛶Canoe Paddle Maintenance🛶
Again, Dennis at Canoehound Adventures brought in an expert. Mike from Badger Paddles gave specific advice on how to maintain and store both oiled and varnished canoe paddles.
🔹For oiled paddles, clean up the tip with 220 grit sandpaper. Oil the whole paddle, then buff quickly with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Wipe the paddle down and hang for the winter.
🔹For varnished paddles, sand down any bare spots with 100-200 grit and then re-varnish. Double-check whether the original coating is water-based or oil-based.
There are many more details here. So check them out.
The Truth About Gear Maintenance
Your canoe trip gear gets really stressed on trip! Even with the best care, your packs, paddles and canoes are exposed to sun, rain, sleet (maybe not sleet) and grit.
Take the time for these easy-to-do maintenance tips and your gear will last a long time.
Reach out anytime if you have questions about maintaining your canoe packs and barrel harnesses.
Enjoy your winter!
Bill & Anne