10 of the Best Canoe Modifications You Can Make Today

best canoe modifications

When it comes to outfitting canoes, the modifications made tend to vary from person to person. However, there are a few modifications you can make quickly and easily that will greatly improve your canoe’s performance and help you get the most from your time on the water.

10 Canoe Modifications To Make Your Paddling Better

Below are some of the best canoe modifications that you can make to your boat:

  1. Lace the canoe.
  2. Add grab loops.
  3. Put airbags in the canoe.
  4. Add a kneeling thwart.
  5. Add a painter line.
  6. Install comfortable seats.
  7. Add an anchor.
  8. Attach outriggers.
  9. Add paddings.
  10. Install comfortable yokes.

Lacing the canoe adds extra functionality to the boat

Lacing a canoe is a simple and quick way to add extra extra functionality to the boat.

It is one of the first additions you should make when outfitting your canoe.

Adding lacing to a canoe gives you the option to attach things to your boat.

It is important for you to lace the canoe from end to end just so you have strong attachment points for when you put the airbags in the bow and stern of the canoe.

Usually, this is done by drilling equidistant holes around your canoe then inserting the rope like you would a shoe lace.

It is advised to get at least a rope that is 5 millimeters thick.

When you fit in your airbags the lacing makes sure that your airbags are secured and will not have a tendency of popping out of the canoe.

These ropes are also helpful if you need to secure other stuff that you think you would need for the canoe trip.

Grab loops give the canoe extra security

Grab loops are ropes that are tied on the bow and stern of the canoe.

A grab loop is usually just a small, but fairly thick, rope that has a loop big enough to attach a hook, secure painters, or to serve as tie-off points for rescue ropes or tow lines.

Another purpose for a grab loop is as a … well … “grab” point.

This grab point gives you something to on to during portage.

The grab loop makes it easier to carry the canoe securely because you have something to grab on to.

So, if your canoe does not have grab loops yet, you can attach these handy pieces of rope simply and quickly.

Start by drilling holes through the hull just a little bit below the deck plates and tie the knot off by using a fisherman’s knot or double fisherman’s knot.

Put airbags in the canoe for added safety

Airbags are usually installed in the bow and the stern of the canoe.

Airbags are usually secured by roping them against the lacing and then tying them to the bottom of the boat using a D-strap.

Usually, the size of the airbag that you are going to need depends on the space you are willing to give up in your canoe.

If you are opting to go canoeing on your own, then it would be best to fit bigger airbags because you have the space to do so.

If however, you plan on going with a friend or your dog then it would be best to install airbags that are smaller because you do not want to have a cramped space in the canoe.

Whatever sized airbags that you install they should be monitored, especially on hot days, because airbags have the tendency to pop due to extreme heat.

You can avoid this by deflating them a tad bit on really hot days.

Add a kneeling thwart for increased stability

When it comes to canoeing, paddlers will either sit upright in a normal boating position or they will reduce their center of gravity by paddling in a kneeling position.

Kneeling not only lowers your center of gravity thus increasing the stability of the boat but it also gives you much more control over the canoe.

The problem with paddling in a kneeling position is that it becomes extremely uncomfortable if done over long periods time without any support.

Therefore, adding a kneeling thwart is important because it adds comfort to your knees when you are canoeing.

The location for a kneeling thwart is based on your personal paddling position but is very easy to use and install as you can see in the video below.

Add pads for extra comfort

In addition to a kneeling thwart you can add more comfort by adding canoe pads to the bottom of the boat.

This helps because you would not easily feel uncomfortable after a few hours of kneeling.

As well as comfort the padding also helps you to create some resistance when you are paddling.

With padding you will not slip as much and will create more resistance against the paddle resulting in a better efficiency with your paddling.

If you do not want to add pads a great alternative for this is to wear knee pads.

Using knee pads mean you still have extra padding for your knees without the trouble of installing and maintaining pads in the canoe.

Add a painter line for lining & towing

The main purpose of a painter line is for lining the canoe, but it is also useful when towing the canoe and can also be used to ‘walk’ your canoe through shorelines.

A painter line is just a strip of rope that is around three-fourths of the canoe’s length.

This is made shorter to avoid the rope becoming tangled.

Usually, a painter line is tied to the grab loops of the canoe.

At the end of the painter line you can loop it into an overhand knot.

Install seats for a more comfortable better ride

If you are someone who prefers sitting down rather than kneeling when canoeing, then it is a must that you replace the seats that are built in the canoe with more comfortable versions.

You can simply add seats if there are none already.

There are a wide variety of designs you can choose from that are readily available in the marketplace.

Alternatively you can can opt to use a boat seat cushion on an existing seat.

You can go the whole hog and install seats with backs.

However, a simple and easy to make seat modification, that is extremely comfortable, is to add simple canoe seats as shown in the video below.

Add an anchor

Anchors are an essential piece of kit for every boat, even a canoe, especially if you are an angler.

An anchor helps to keep the canoe stay put while you do some fishing and it also helps you have extra resistance when you are fighting the force of a large fish.

There is a lot of variety of anchors that are readily available in stores as well as online.

If you do not want to spend a lot of money on a good anchor, you can easily make a DIY anchor at home.

Attach outriggers for better stability & more functionality

Another way to keep your canoe stable is to add outriggers.

Outriggers give a canoe much more stability in choppy waters and can even help keep the canoe afloat if it takes on a little bit of water.

Outriggers are essentially used to stop the boat from rocking from side to side.

Outrigger canoe riding a wave
Outrigger canoe riding a wave

Many canoes that are used in the ocean are fitted with outriggers (see our guide to canoeing in the ocean).

There are a lot of videos on the internet showing you how to make DIY outriggers using PVC pipes but they are available in stores.

We have a detailed article about attaching canoe outriggers that you may want to read.

Add a comfortable yoke

The yoke of the canoe is the cross beam located at the center of the canoe.

This usually has a curved indentation at the center so that it is comfortable for the canoeist to carry the boat.

The yoke rests on the shoulders of the person carrying the canoe.

canoe portage yoke
Canoe portage yoke

So, it is important to have a really comfortable yoke especially when there are long walks that you have to endure when you have to portage your canoe.

Some people also add portage pads to the yoke to create a softer surface where the yoke meets their shoulders.

Final thoughts

All of the above modifications have their place and can help make your canoe trips more fun.

However, it is important that you do not overdo canoe outfitting because you only limited space in a canoe.

It would be best if you smartly outfit your canoe based on the activities that you personal do in your canoe so you can keep your canoe lightweight and simple.

Remember that you can always remove most of the modifications that are mentioned above once you have added them.

So you can change the modifications you make to your canoe based on the activities you are engaged in.

Likewise, you can alternative between mods testing out each one until you find the right modifications for a specific activity.

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