5 Ways to Properly Lift a Canoe

Canoe Lifting Instructions

Canoeing is a great pastime that offers you many adventures and sights you would not otherwise experience, but the journey of getting the canoe to your destination can be a challenge if you do not prepare properly. Before you start your canoe trip, it is important to think about how far you need to carry your canoe, what other supplies you plan to bring and where you will enter the water. 

If you take the necessary steps to plan your trip, the rest is easy and fun. However, lifting and carrying your canoe can cause unforeseen problems. Knowing the proper techniques to lift a canoe is a necessary part of any canoe trip.

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Importance of Properly Lifting a Canoe

Practicing appropriate canoe lifting techniques is important for both beginners and experienced canoers for a variety of reasons. Improper canoe lifting can result in dangerous consequences for both you and the canoe.

Proper Lifting Prevents Injuries

One of the biggest dangers of lifting a canoe without experience is the chance that you could easily injure yourself. Hurting your back is one of the most common injuries when carrying a canoe incorrectly. When carrying a canoe properly, you should feel the strain in your legs, not in your back. A common mistake is placing the weight of the canoe on your back, which leaves you more susceptible to back injury. 

A similar risk of inappropriate canoe carrying is the danger of falling. If you have not practiced carrying a canoe and your first attempt takes place outside on rugged or wet terrain, it is easy to misstep and fall since you are not used to carrying and balancing the weight of a canoe. 

Proper Lifting Prevents Damage to the Canoe

Another risk of lifting a canoe without knowing proper techniques is that you increase your chances of damaging the canoe. Regardless of whether the canoe is wood, aluminum, plastic or composite, a drop from any height risks damage to it. This includes anything from smaller issues, such as scratched finishing and loose screws, to more significant problems like dents, holes, gouges, punctures and breaks. Not only can these damages prevent you from continuing your planned trip, but the repairs may end up being quite costly. 

Properly lifting a canoe is of great importance. By practicing the following techniques during all canoe trips, you will likely be successful in transporting your canoe and avoiding any serious injury or damage to your equipment. 

5 Ways to Properly Lift a Canoe

When practicing the proper lifting of a canoe, technique is more important than strength. This means that regardless of how much weight you can typically lift, if you practice the recommended canoe lifting techniques and begin practicing with lighter canoes and work your way up to heavier ones, it is possible to have a successful lift no matter your strength. 

Solo Canoe Carrying

Even though strength is not a major factor in canoe lifting, it still is best to practice carrying the canoe with more than one person. However, if you have no other option but to carry the canoe on your own, here are the best ways to do so: 

Lift One

This first lift that you can do on your own starts with you standing at the center of the canoe on the side that is the opposite of your dominant hand. Grab the closest gunwale with both hands and lift the canoe onto your thighs, ensuring that the weight of the canoe is now on your legs. You will then want to shimmy the canoe by rocking it back and forth and using your knee closest to the stern to lift the canoe until you can grab the other side, then continue lifting until you can duck under the gunwale. Position yourself so you face the bow of the canoe and the yoke rests on your shoulders. 

Lift Two

This lift is similar to the first lift with a few variations. This technique requires you to think of the way a pendulum works and mimic that motion, letting gravity guide the movements of the canoe. This lift is a great example of how technique is more important that strength. Start with your right hand on the yoke and lift the canoe onto your thighs using your leg muscles. Reach your left hand to the outside gunwale and move your right hand to the inside gunwale. This is where the idea of a pendulum comes into play. In a swift motion after reaching the inside gunwale, use the momentum from that movement and lift the canoe over your head, placing the yoke on your shoulders. 

Canoe Lift Number 2

Lift Three

Lift three works differently than the first two. Specifically, this technique starts with you standing at the bow. Grab the outside gunwale with your left hand and the inside one with your right. Lift the canoe up so that it rests like the structure of a lean-to. You then just need to move your body down to the yoke, adjust yourself so you are in a comfortable position to carry the canoe, and then you are ready to portage it. 

Carrying in Tandem

If possible, always try to have someone else there to help you carry your canoe. Even though two-person lifts are similar to one-person lifts, two-person lifts are advantageous because they take some of the strain off you and allow for easier movement and control of the canoe. That being said, make sure that both canoe carriers have practiced proper techniques and are in sync with each other to avoid any accidents.

Lift Four

The easiest way to lift a canoe with two people is the underhand lift. This simply requires two canoers, one at the bow and one at the stern on opposite sides of the canoe. Grab the gunwale (or the handle if the canoe has one) with the hand closest to the canoe. Then, lift the canoe at the same time to simply carry the canoe. This is best for short walks because it can potentially be dangerous and damage the bottom of the canoe if one or both carriers slips, falls or drops their side of the canoe. 

Lift Five

This technique is more difficult but is more closely related to solo lift techniques, specifically the first lift described in this list. For this lift, one canoer stands at the thwart at the bow and one at the thwart at the stern. In unison, you and the other person lifting the canoe will grab the gunwale with both hands and use your thighs to hoist the canoe above your heads. Once the canoe is above both of your heads, the person in front should walk their hands toward the front, resting the bow on their shoulders. The person closer to the back should use the stern thwart as if it were a yoke. This carry works best for when you only need to travel relatively short distances over flat terrain. This lift requires the person in the front of the canoe to act as the eyes and direct the carrier closer to the stern. Decide which end you should be on by considering height and ability in supporting the canoe. 

Canoe Lift Number 5

Other Tips for Canoe Trips

Just like with any adventure, canoe trips take some preparation to ensure that you have a good day on the water. No matter what level of canoer you are, there are certain things you should do to prepare and rules you should remember while on your trip.

1. Plan your trip ahead of time.

Map out exactly where you want to go and the different ways to get there. Choose a portage park that suits your skill level and capabilities. Do not push yourself to your limits early in the trip because you will need that energy later. Acknowledging where you are and how much farther you have to go is key in pacing yourself for an enjoyable trip. 

2. Practice with your canoe.

Practice carrying your canoe to make sure you can carry it the distance you need. If you plan to have two people carrying the canoe, practice your lifting technique together so you know how to distribute the weight of the canoe between the two of you. Another thing to practice is entering and exiting your canoe. Knowing what to expect ahead of time is important so there are no surprises leading up to your trip. 

3. Use sunscreen and bug spray.

Apply sunscreen and bug spray before you begin your journey. The sun reflects off water, so chances are you may get burnt on a day that may not even seem sunny. Also, while you carry your canoe, you can’t be certain what parts of you the canoe will shade, so it is better to put on sunscreen than to regret not wearing it later. The same thing goes for bug spray. You cannot guarantee when the bugs will bite, but if you’re near the water, they may be more prevalent than you think. 

Other Canoe Tips

4. Wear your life jacket when you’re in your canoe. 

Always wear a floatation device that fits you properly in the exact way as directed. Even advanced swimmers should wear a life jacket because you never know when an accident could happen, and a floatation device could save your life. Statistics show that almost 85% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident. When you get out of the water, it may be safer to remove your life jacket to carry your canoe, but don’t forget to put it back on before entering the water again.

5. Keep important personal items either at home or in a waterproof bag.

Don’t forget to keep any important personal items in a waterproof bag to prevent them from getting wet. Water can damage things like phones, money, keys and other important items, so you should be conscious of what you bring with you and where you stow it during your trip.

6. Take breaks intermittently throughout your trip. 

Both while carrying your canoe and when you are in the water, don’t forget to take breaks. It is better to stop and rest for a time than to overexert yourself, which can lead to heat exhaustion or dehydration. 

7. Bring snacks in case you are hungry or start to feel unwell.

Also, don’t forget to bring snacks and water for your trip. If you or others on the trip begin to feel tired or faint, you want to be prepared, and bringing high glycemic index snacks can help raise your blood sugar. Also, at the end of a long trip, a snack is a nice reward for a job well done. 

8. Bail out any water that may have gotten into the canoe.

Ridding the canoe of any extra weight is an important thing to do before attempting to lift it. Water specifically is heavier than many people realize, making the trek that much more strenuous if you do not bail out water that may have gotten into your canoe during the trip. Emptying the canoe of water and other heavy items can also help reduce the risk of injury from the unexpected weight or objects falling out of the canoe when you try to lift it. 

Canoe investment

Investing in Your Canoe 

There are a lot of tips and tricks regarding canoes that you can learn through research, but the best way to figure out what works best for you is to experience it. There are many ways to make your canoe trips easier and more enjoyable for you. 

Here at EZ Dock, we offer a variety of canoe products that can enhance your experience on the water. Some of the products we offer include Dock Packages, Dock Anchoring Systems and Dock Accessories. 

Our products are perfect for anyone interested in canoeing and who lives near the water. We can assure that all of our products are durable, ADA Accessible, eco-friendly and low maintenance. 

Check out our website to see some of our docks and accessories, and feel free to contact us with any questions.