Playing outside is our favorite thing to do. We Women’s Adventure gals spend most of our free time hiking, riding, running, or paddling, and our friends all consider us authorities in the outdoors. But even seasoned recreational adventurers like us need to be reminded of the basics sometimes. Being prepared and staying aware are the difference between having fun and being miserable in some cases. Which is why we’re publishing this series of tips for paddlers.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) assembled this list, urging safety as people get out on the water this season. In fact, NFCT encourages all you outdoor enthusiasts to be safety aware, whether you’re in the wilderness for a multi-day trip or at a trailhead before an afternoon hike. These recommendations are aimed at canoeists and kayakers on the 740-mile long water trail, but they are common sense tips for all boaters this season.
Life Jacket: Always wear a properly fitting life jacket or PFD (personal flotation device) when on the water. Always.
Prepare: Up-to-date maps and the ability to use them are essential, as are proper clothing for all conditions. Have a compass and know how to use it. (Using a GPS tracking device is convenient but should be a backup, not a sole source.)
Plan: Choose a conservative route that takes into account your own or your group’s ability, fitness, and experience. Be prepared with an alternative route and use it if you have to.
Share Your Plan: Tell your friends or family where you are going and how long you plan to be out. Sign in at register boxes when possible as these records can help in the event of an emergency. Establish a procedure to follow if you fail to check-in or show up when expected.
Stay Alert: It is far easier to avoid a dangerous situation than it is to get out of one. Keep a keen eye on the weather, as paddling conditions can change rapidly with even slight fluctuations in wind and rain. Scout rapids and be aware of dams that require a portage. Use extra caution if paddling alone.
Portage Safely: Use extreme caution when carrying gear or your boat across or along roads and in town. Be visible and give yourself more room to maneuver than you think you need.
Avoid Theft: Lock your vehicle at the trailhead and leave no valuables inside. When portaging, carry your passport, ID cards, car keys, and any valuables on your person at all times; do not leave these items unattended. If your portage involves multiple carries, avoid leaving your boat and gear in plain sight.
Don’t Rely on Your Cell Phone: There are intermittent locations and longer stretches of the NFCT or any wilderness where cell coverage does not yet exist.
Thanks to The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the longest paddling trail in the nation, for these tips! NFCT offers more resources and info at www.northernforestcanoetrail.org.