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How To Lift And Carry A Canoe Properly | Duluth Pack

How to Lift and Carry a Canoe Properly

We talk a lot about being prepared for your canoe trip. Knowing what pack to bring is always important and making sure that you have a course planned out are some of the more obvious components of your excursion. One thing that often goes overlooked about your canoe trip is actually transporting your canoe. Sure, it becomes your main source of transportation when you get it in the water, but what happens if the water level is low and you need to move your canoe by land and portage? Don't worry, because today we're going to go over the basics of canoe lifting and carrying. 

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Most of us understand that canoes can be cumbersome to portage with if not versed in proper transportation techniques. Some of our readers have had the experience of moving a canoe from a car rack or trailer into the water. The process can sometimes be difficult and frustrating even if it is a short distance. Having additional help carrying a canoe can be great, but if there's a lack of coordination or communication, it can be difficult for everyone.

The first carrying technique is called group carrying and is done if you have more than two people helping you. This can be one of the easiest methods for short distance carrying and is perfect for launches. This carrying method involves using a simple underhand lift. With the closest hand, paddlers grab the closest gunwale of the canoe while facing the same way and lift upward. This technique is great because it distributes weight evenly and has a relatively low strain on paddlers. The downside of the group carries is that it requires wide paths. Narrow paths and sharp turns can limit the technique and required extra coordination which can be difficult the more people there are.

The next type of carrying is a two-person lift. This is another good short distance carry and is also very useful for storing canoes in higher locations such as car racks. One of the easier ways is for both paddlers to stand at opposite ends and on opposite sides of the canoe. Each person underhand grabs the closest gunwale (or handles if the canoe has them) and lifts. You can also do an overhead lift with two people to reduce shoulder and arm strain. The overhead is the better option for longer distances and makes it easier to maneuver on narrower paths. If possible, have the taller person carrying in the front to increase visibility form the tilt of the canoe. If you do plan on using this method often, considering adding padded yokes to ease shoulder strain.

We recommend these Made in the USA Spring Creek Manufacturing Canoe Seat Yokes.

The last way to carry a canoe is a single person carry. Believe it or not, this is considered to be the easiest of the carrying methods. It is perfect for long-distance carrying while offering the most maneuverability and takes up the least amount of space. The most difficult part about this carry is picking up the canoe by yourself, the lift should always be done with the help of other paddlers if possible.

If you’re alone and must lift the canoe by yourself, start with the canoe on the ground upside-down. Face in front of the bow side of the canoe and lift the bow up over your head, step inside and turn so that you are now facing the bow (the stern of the canoe should still be on the ground at this point). Carefully walk backward until you feel the carrying yoke resting on your shoulders. Now tilt the bow end of the canoe forward until the stern raises off the ground. Get the right balance of the canoe on your shoulders so you can see in front of you and you’re ready to go! Remember to keep your back straight and your knees bent while lifting to avoid strain.

These are some of the more basic carrying methods safe for beginners and experts alike. Duluth Pack has a long and extensive history with canoeing and takes pride in any opportunity to make people’s canoeing experience better. For ideas on what to bring on your canoe trip, visit our pack report page on the subject and be sure to check out our canoe packs on our website!

 Here is a step-by-step graphic to state how to properly lift a canoe pack:

Happy canoeing, friends!