If you are on the market for a new canoe, there’s a good chance you want something that’s truly your own. The problem is, developing a custom boat and having someone build it for you can be very expensive. So, what do you do if you are stuck with a standard canoe? Well, there are many ways you can make it your own. Today I’ll share some of my favorite canoe upgrades to give your old boat a face-lift, or make your new canoe one-of-a-kind.
At their very nature, canoes are one of the most basic modes of transport. Their simplicity is part of their appeal. But let’s be honest, canoes are not built for convenience or comfort.
Sometimes you have to sprinkle your own touches on a boat to make it more functional and comfortable, and the good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to customize your canoe and upgrade your paddling experience.
Some of My Favorite Canoe Upgrades
Whether you want to make your canoe a more serious fishing vessel or just want to make it easier to operate for longer stretches, here are some must-have accessories:
Getting the Seat Right
Needless to say, the seat is one of the most important aspects of canoe comfort. Most standard canoes will come with what is essentially a wooden beam that serves as the seat. Height and position can help aid in comfort, but a wooden plank is hardly conducive of comfort if you are on the water for a long time.
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to up your seat game. Firstly, it is possible to remove the seat and replace it with something more lightweight or comfortable. I also love third-party seat options that have a cushioned chair (sit backer) that you can strap to the seat beam. I use this one from GCI Outdoor on my canoe when I’m going on extended paddling trips or plan to be fishing for a while. Of course, having a padded chair that also supports your back is better than a wooden blank every time. Trust me, your rear will be grateful!
Imagine you’ve rowed into the middle of a beautiful lake and want to relax and take in the scenery. Maybe get some fishing done while you’re there. Every canoeist will share the pain of deciding what to do with the paddles. You can have paddle hooks that allow the paddles to hang in the water, but that’s not always ideal.
Another option is just putting the paddles in the boat, but that can be tricky if you have kids, dogs, or gear occupying your limited space. Instead, you invest in some simple paddle clamps (like these from Amazon) that allow you to store your paddles inside the boat along the hull.
This is one of my favorite canoe upgrades, and these items are super-simple to install. You can use basic metal screw-on clips that cost a couple of bucks to get the job done.
You can store single and double blade paddles and still have all the space of the inside of the boat. It will also allow you to store paddles when on dry land. More importantly, it means you won’t lose any paddles if you capsize.
Fishing Rod Clamps
Paddles won’t be the only long items in your canoe if you head out on a fishing trip.
If you hit some rapids, there is a chance loose fishing rods can be lost from your canoe. Having loose items lying around inside a canoe is never really a good idea. That’s why clamps like those for paddles are also perfect for storing fishing rods against the hull of the boat. They’re also handy for trolling while you paddle around a lake or pond. I have this one from HITORHIKE that I got on Amazon on my canoe, and it works great.
Fitting an Anchor
New canoes do not typically come with an anchor. If you are a serious and regular canoeist, having an anchor is something you should seriously consider. If you are fishing in a river or a lake, water currents can make you move great distances without ever paddling, hardly ideal if you have found the perfect fishing location.
Of course, anchors can help you stay in one place. If you have a large canoe you may need a pair of anchors to avoid the boat swinging in arcs on the water. It is worth noting anchors are not without issues, with weight being the biggest. There are lightweight options available but even so, pulling up an anchor from the river or lakebed is never a fun task.
Avoid Getting in the Water
You’re on the water because you love fishing or navigating a lake or river. However, in many ways, water is the worst enemy of the canoeist. Certainly, if you capsize you won’t be too thrilled about the water, especially if you’re paddling in early spring or late fall. Even if you don’t tip the boat, staying dry is an important thing. A day on a lake can be ruined if you happen to get wet!
Having some backup waterproof clothes is never a bad idea. Spare changes of clothes should be kept in drybags in case they accidentally fall in the water. Similarly, we live in an age where you could have several devices with you, such as smartphones, wearables, and GPS units. Keeping these items dry is also important.
Apple may tell you your iPhone is waterproof, but most smartphones don’t take well to sitting at the bottom of the lake until you can get out your goggles and dig it out of the mud. Besides, why risk it?
Buy some dry bags and special cases for your devices to ensure they can withstand the elements. I recommend getting one that’s a bright color (easy to spot), and clipping it to a bow or stern line in the boat with a carabiner.
You have a change of clothes and likely some luxuries, such as food and drinks that you are taking with you. Of course, if you are fishing you will also have your gear along for the ride.
As noted, you have limited space inside a canoe and you certainly don’t want items strewn loose inside the boat in case you swamp it. That’s where storage comes into play. Adding secure storage is one of the best canoe upgrades you can make.
Storage Options & Ideas
There are a couple of options. You could simply use a backpack and strap it to a space seat of the hull. That works, but I prefer something more permanent and elegant. Storage boxes can be attached to your canoe to bring some basic storage space and organization to your boat. Boxes can be stored anywhere, but perhaps the best option is under the seats where they are out of the way.
The important thing for any storage option is that it is properly secured inside the boat. If you have a tackle box, for example, you don’t want to lose all of your valuable lures to the bottom of the lake or river if you tip your canoe.
A Simple Trick
One of the simplest and most useful canoe upgrades I recommend is keeping a couple of thin lines of parachute cord with carabiners on board. These can be used to quickly clip onto your tackle box and other gear. It is an easy safety measure that offers peace of mind. I keep a couple of lengths of parachute cord in my canoe dry bag and before I head out on the water. On one end they have a loop so I can quickly attach them to the seat or thwart, and the other end has a carabiner that I can clip to my tackle box handle, cooler handle, etc. It’s a couple of bucks and takes no time to set up and break down, and I find them well worth having in my canoe.