Personalise your canoe with this simple Letsfixit ‘how to’ guide. Remember the “Four Cs”? You’ll feel much more Confident in a canoe if you are Comfortable and you feel you have sufficient Contact with the craft to Control it properly.
Modifications to the boat (known as “outfitting”) that improve contact, comfort, and control are important for flatwater as well as whitewater. Flatwater has a nasty habit of quickly ceasing to be flat, and of suddenly demanding optimum control. Winds can quickly increase and whip up choppy waves, and motorboat wakes are a fact of life.
Below, I outline comfort enhancers targeted at your rear end, knees, ankles, and back.
Any good paddling specialty store will stock a selection of the necessary canoe “outfitting” accessories and attachments. If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, the store should have technicians who can outfit the boat for you.
A Cushier Seat - Some seats are quite hard and uncomfortable for long-term sitting. Here's how to make things a bit more cush for your tush: Select cane mesh or webbing seats for resilient comfort. They'll be drier too, because splashes drain through. Mesh seats provide better drainage than bench seats. Take the bite out of hard seats with a purpose-made inflatable Therm-a-Rest style pad such as the Cascade Designs' Canoe Seat ($37) or Touring Seat ($46). Closed-cell pads, either purpose-made or simply cut from a piece of low-cost "blue camping foam mat" work well, too. Make the pad as small as possible so that splashes can't fall onto it and run under your bum. Or build your own soft, vented canoe seat to avoid "Boaters Bum" syndrome.
Pads for Knees - Knees become uncomfortable not just from too much bending, but also from contact with the hard bottom of the canoe. They also get wet and cold from bilge water in the bottom of the canoe. Do your knees one of the following favors: Kneepads made of flat sheets of closed-cell foam sheet glued to the bottom of the canoe provide cushioning and insulation. U-shape channel-type knee blocks obtainable from your paddling store are much better. These make it far easier to keep your knees spread — you aren't continually working and shifting to prevent them from sliding down into the bottom of the boat. With your knees held well out to the side and up a little, they stay drier, too.
Blocks for Ankles - Kneeling on a low seat forces your ankle to straighten to an excruciating"ballerina's pointed toe" position.
Ankle agony fixes: - Wear boat shoes with a more rigid sole. Adjust your seat higher to keep your ankle closer to a right angle. Buy or make ankle blocks — closed-cell foam pieces specially shaped to fit under the bend of the ankle to keep it raised and comfortable.
Back Relief - Canoe trips, with the portaging and paddling, can be hard on a back. And nothing spoils a trip like backache.
Spine survival fixes: - Kneeling is much easier on your back than sitting, which is the idea behind those special office"chairs" that put back pain sufferers into a kneeling position while working at a desk. Set your seat high enough for a comfortable knee angle, and fit good knee pads to allow comfortable long-term kneeling. If you stay seated, a backrest can help if its height provides support where you need it.