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Properly Portaging Your Canoe

Technique is more important than sheer strength when lifting your canoe.

  • fig1.jpgStanding at the canoe’s center, rock the boat to generate enough momentum so that it’s sideways, with the top facing away from you.
  • fig2.jpgWith your right hand, reach over the boat and grab the center of the yoke. Then spin the canoe completely around toward your thighs.
  • As the canoe comes up, grab the top gunwale with your other hand.
  • fig3.jpgUsing your thighs to support the canoe (which is now facing you), move your other hand from the yoke to the bottom edge of the canoe.
  • Push the canoe up with your knee and snap it around your head.
  • fig4.jpgSettle the yoke on your shoulders—not your neck—and go on your merry way.

On the first portage, Michael Jokl was wearing sandals and almost twisted his ankle in the thick mud. Michael learned the hard way that while sandals are ideal at home, they don’t provide the necessary ankle support for doing a wilderness portage.

When carrying upwards of 80 pounds over mud, rocks and roots, you need sturdy boots with good traction. Matt Hidding’s swamp boots — or any jungle boot with a vulcanized sole — are ideal.

11 Comments on Properly Portaging Your Canoe

  1. In scouts you have a buddy. Your tips are great for the solo canoe adventurer but since there are two of you for scouts always tandem lift the canoe and save your energy for the actual portage. Also have your buddy walk with you so he can help you if there’s a need on the trail; he’ll also be there to help it off you at your destination. That is the “Properly” way to do it.

  2. Another Old Scout // October 4, 2010 at 8:09 pm // Reply

    Portage: pronounced por-táge — a French-Canadian verb. Loosely translated, it means to wear a canoe on your head while simultaneously hiking through the mud. In the southern United States, the word portage is a descriptor generally taken to mean a canoe does not make a very good hat.

  3. NewCanoePerson // June 2, 2009 at 11:41 am // Reply

    How do you know how to read the difficulty of a river to know that it would be best to portage around a difficult skill level of canoeing that is above a person’s own skill level? How do you portage a canoe and carry along a person’s own backpack and backpacking equipment?

  4. It helps if you have a PFD that has padding around the back of your neck, the canoe can rest on it and it will be more comfortable, also if you have a pack on it makes it a lot easier to balance the canoe.

  5. i like 2 canoe

  6. now how do you put it back on the ground

  7. sweet! also when setting the canoe back down at the end of the portage, walk right into the water so the canoe doesn’t have to go right down to the ground. its easier.

  8. stephanie // May 5, 2008 at 7:22 am // Reply

    it was cool how lo learn how to do that cause i came on this web site for a project and i got a 85% on it thanks for who did this web site.=)

  9. You will know you have portaging down when you run the portage one way with a canoe and Duluth pack on your back and then return carrying a strangers canoe to help them out. Of course I was 18 the last time I did it!

  10. Survivor12 // March 8, 2008 at 11:28 am // Reply

    Phew! It was nice knowing that the way that we usually do it is not as safe as it is this way! Thanks for saving us!

  11. I always thought the portaging of the canoe was hard. Thanks for the tip!

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