At the end of November we are going an a 3 day canoeing trip with multiple obstacles where we have to get the canoe out of the water. As it is really cold at this time, we don't want to get wet boots/gear.

Are there any techniques or gear that can help us get out of the canoe without getting wet?

  • 5
    I assume dry suits are out of the question?
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 13:08
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    Any more info as to the nature of the obstacles? Where will you have to get out/in: beaches, brushes, rocks, ...?
    – user15958
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 14:54
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    Hi Gistiv! Are you interested in telling us where you're going, in case someone here has been and knows what it looks like? As @Jan Doggen said, more information would be helpful. I think the location would also help. Thanks! Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 19:21
  • Somewhere in the river "Regen" in Bavaria. But where we enter and where we leave is still not known as it is a surprise.
    – Gistiv
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 4:47
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    By your description I feel you may be going inappropriately equipped for a trip of this type at this time of year. Please consider taking equipment such that this question is not a significant consideration.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 14:09

6 Answers 6


Getting out is not the hard part. It is getting in and going again without getting wet.

To get out:

If the beach is large enough come in sideways, lean away from shore to as you beach. when the canoe touches bottom on the shore. sit upright and you should be well grounded and close enough to step from canoe to shore while staying dry.

If the landing is narrow, move people as far back as practical, beach the front (bow) and then walk to the front to get out. If two people, the one in the back stabilizes while the one in front gets out. then the when out the front person drags the front of the canoe farther on shore.

To get in reverse above, but as you are moving from stable shore to rocking boat, it takes a bit more practice.

You might want to go to a local lake and practice before your trip. Bring a change of clothes, just in case. This skill is best learned where getting wet and cold is not going to have a huge impact on the rest of your day or trip.

Additionally, roll up your pant legs before getting in or out, to keep them dry. Your bare leg dries faster then your pants. I usually wear water shoes that dry quickly if they do get wet rather then trying to wear heavy boots that will stay dry. Remember you may be swimming in whatever clothes and shoes you are wearing, so plan for both events.

I keep a change of shoes and socks (& clothes & towel) in my dry storage, in the canoe. In the event that I need to walk out (and/or for camp) I have dry shoes and socks appropriate for land, that will be dry even if the canoe is capsized.

  • 12
    "Remember you may be swimming in whatever clothes and shoes you are wearing, so plan for both events." This is a crucial observation! While staying dry may be a preference, one should never assume that it'll be possible. If you're wearing an outfit that becomes uncomfortable/difficult when wet, you're probably not adequately prepared for all eventualities of an excursion on water. Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 11:42
  • With two people, the first drags it farther up on shore with the other still in it, I presume? Does this scratch the boat?
    – rogerdpack
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 16:34
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    @rogerdpack Yes the first drags with the other still in it. Scratches... It depends. With the second person in the back the front is light, and you can pick it up and move several feet just barely touching the ground, damage would be similar to any easy running a shore. If you drag it a long ways up shore, against sharp things it is going to leave marks. If it is an expensive canoe that you don't want to get scratched. Your feet are going to get wet, unless there is a dock. No way around that. Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 18:02

Aside from waders, there's not much you can do to guarantee your feet will stay dry. No matter how high your waterproofing goes it won't help when you fall on your side from a rock shifting under foot (it's a rare exception that it doesn't happen to somebody each trip, and you need to be prepared for that somebody to be you). A method a lot of people employ is the wet shoe / dry shoe strategy, where you bring a pair of shoes that you plan on walking through water in and another pair that you only wear in the campsite. I prefer quick draining athletic shoes for my wet shoes and warmer waterproof hiking boots for my camp shoes, but preferences vary.

One important consideration is the material your canoe is made from. If it's a sturdier material like aluminum or fiberglass it might be acceptable to ram it onto the shore far enough that you can step out directly onto dry land, and launch similarly with a push start. With light weight canoes such as Kevlar you more or less have to step out into the water, as grinding the bottom of the canoe over any material risks leaving gouges in the hull. Of course this is highly dependent on the type of shoreline you expect to disembark from, steep drop-offs make it easier to pull the canoe right up to the shore without any scraping.


The guys in New Zealand make thermal underwear made from polypropylene - different material to the stuff that the fancy brands use. It's cheap, and it stays warm even when - not if - you get wet. Spent a couple of hours in a freezing NZ stream in a leaky wetsuit and two layers of that stuff: not a problem.

James Jenkins is right about bare legs = good, and heavy boots = bad , as I found out walking in Wales (UK). Boots are great until the water gets in - and it will - because then it can't get out and they take ages to dry.

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    And having camped for two weeks with a grand total of one hour of not raining, NOTHIGN beats clean dry socks and underwear in a ziplock bag or other water tight container...
    – ivanivan
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 18:05

Adding to previous answers:

If shore slope is shallow then beach head-on, otherwise come in sideways. For head-on approach, keep weight back to lift the bow, then shift weight forward after beaching. Use your paddle to give an extra leg of support, and use it as a push pole so that your walking forward doesn't un-beach the boat. Walk forward staying in the middle (along the keel line). You should be able to step onto dry land, then pull the canoe in a bit more and steady it so your mates can get out.


What kind of environment is the trip in? If you can find straight shores designed for mooring boats getting in and out dry should not be a problem. If the shores are all shallow and beach like the simplest solution would be to bring some rubber boots that can get wet.

It you can give any more details about what you're worried about, what your skill levels are, how many of you there are in what kind of canoe etc I can expand this answer.


When a canoe has one end on shore,it's unstable. It helps if one person squats with knees on either side of the bow while the first person steps in. At the end, the bowsman steps into the canoe and pushes off at the same time.

Approaching shore, try for a spot with few rocks, and hit the shore moving at about 1/2 speed. Bowsman steps out onto the shore.

Other trick I've used on very shallow shorelines:

  • Put a sizable log in the water perpendicular to shore as a makeshift dock.

  • Put one or more rocks as stepping stones into the water.

These two techniques don't help landing, but when you are landing for camp, you will have a fire soon.

A third option is to get a pair of divers boots. These are neoprene -- wet suit material, with a reasonable sole. Buy one size larger than your normal size and wear a pair of thick wool socks inside them. They will not keep your feet dry, but warm wet feet are quite tolerable. In Canada Mountain Equipment sells their own brand for these. Start here: https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5021-652/Moque-Boots-Low. Neoprene socks inside oversize runners also work.

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