Lighten Up! A Portaging Primer

A canoe afloat is a darting, agile delight, while a canoe ashore is a stone. But every canoe trip begins on dry land, so there’s no getting away from the need to heft that stone around, even if the distance involved is only a few yards. Old hands take this in stride, but beginners—and old hands returning to the sport after a long absence—sometimes find the enforced burden hard to bear. Still, there are ways around the difficulties. Which is why you might want to give Tamia three minutes of your time.

by Tamia Nelson | April 10, 2018

Paddling Article on

There’s a world of difference between a 35-pound pack canoe and a 105-pound freighter. Whatever your boat weighs, though, one thing’s for sure: There will be times when you wish it were lighter. And that’s especially true when you have to haul it around on land.

Begin by making things as easy for yourself as possible. Buy the lightest boat that’s strong enough to do what you want it to do—the lightest boat you can afford, that is. Then, whenever possible, get help, and resist the temptation to play the hero. Yes, we all like to think of ourselves as heirs to the traditions of the voyageurs, and it’s true that those hardy souls portaged heroic loads. But then a lot them died very young of things like heart attacks and strangulated hernias. Continue on our sibling site, Back in the Same Boat…

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For half a century, Tamia Nelson has been ranging far and wide by bike, boat, and on foot. A geologist by training, an artist since she could hold a pencil, a photographer since her uncle gave her a twin-lens reflex camera when she was 10, she's made her living as a writer and novelist for two decades. Avocationally her interests span natural history, social history, cooking, art, and self-powered outdoor pursuits, and she has broad experience in mountaineering, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and skiing.