Canoeing and Bushcraft
The strong link between canoeing and bushcraft has been around for generations. Initially relied upon as a main mode of transport, canoeing for many indigenous people was a part of daily life. Often made out of birch bark, or expertly carved out of logs, traditional canoes are a far cry from the modern canoes we use today.
Some native tribes had to travel great distances along waterways in search of food or to transport goods so bushcraft skills were essential to enable them to thrive on such journeys. Many skills such as fire lighting, trapping and providing shelter were common everyday skills to them in their home environment but they also needed to transport such tools and skills on a smaller scale. This is key for successful bushcraft on such journeys.
Bringing it forward to the modern day, we now do these journeys for pleasure rather than necessity, but some of the fundamentals remain the same. Pack light and pack the essentials, but it’s also about skills too. Skills in both bushcraft and paddling grow with the journey.
Combining canoeing and bushcraft can expand your horizons and opens the doors to many new adventures. Getting to see many places that aren’t accessible by foot only water makes the adventure extra special. Even exploring areas you may be familiar with on foot can be so different when explored on the water. It is one of the best ways to de-stress, slow down and connect with nature. While on the water you are moving along more peacefully and are less likely to disturb the wildlife. Not only is this better for the environment but it gives so many great opportunities to see wildlife that you’d never otherwise spot. Many of these creatures are easily spooked or easily missed so this calmer quieter method of exploring increases your chance of having some amazing wildlife encounters.
Many of our Canadian canoe expeditions take place in Scotland on the beautiful River Spey or the incredible Great Glen. The Scottish wildlife never fails to amaze us with some incredible sights, from Ospreys to Buzzards, Red Deer to Red Squirrels, Otters and Pine Martens, they all look spectacular to see out in their natural habitats.
We also take expeditions to Sweden with its incredible landscapes, abundance of wild blueberries and beautiful wildlife, canoeing and wild camping is a great way to visit this amazing country too.
Canoeing for a day can be great, but canoeing for longer periods allows you to explore further and find some amazing wild camping spots, many that you’d never discover on foot. After a great day paddling, pulling your canoe up on to the bank and setting up camp for the night is part of the joy of the journey.
As well as ensuring it is a safe spot to camp, make sure it’s a beautiful one too, after all you want to put your feet up and enjoy the scenery that nature has to offer.
Having made sure there is no risk of flooding or soggy sleeping bags, set up your bed for the night, light your fire and start cooking. On expeditions we always advise to take food rather than relying on foraging for food along your journey. You may be able to make the most of a few foraged berries or herbs, but be sure you know what you are eating and don’t take them all as the wildlife need some too. Don’t underestimate how much food you will need, paddling all day burns calories and you won’t enjoy the journey if you are hungry and your energy is depleted.
Make sure your shelter is adequate too, the weather can change rapidly overnight, so just because it’s dry when you set up camp don’t cut corners on your shelter just because you are tired from a days paddling.
For me one of the best bits of a canoe trip is waking up in my hammock and watching the sun rise and listening to the wildlife as the dawn chorus starts, this is the time that nature seems to burst in to life.
You may often feel a reluctance to emerge from your warm sleeping bag, but lighting a campfire to cook breakfast and make coffee makes it that little bit easier. Once fuelled from a campfire breakfast and your kit packed away, make sure you you have left the camping spot without litter, hopefully how you found it. For the safety of the wildlife, the protection of the environment as well as the respect of fellow adventurers.
Then it’s time to push your canoe back in to the river and continue your adventure.