Paddling Ethos

Our observations on west coast versus Algonquin paddling style


Rain attitude

West coast: Rain protection and avoidance of hypothermia are obsessions. Quality rain gear and spare clothes carried year-round.
Algonquin: Rain? Who cares? It probably won’t last long. Rain poncho: optional.


West coast: Quick-dry, GORE-TEX, Polartec fleece, and merino wool are the only fabrics permitted. Footwear: Teva-style river shoes or neoprene boots.
Algonquin: Cotton tee-shirt, plaid flannel jacket, and a ball cap are essentials. Footwear: old sneakers.


West coast: Dry bags in assorted sizes and colours. All gear fully waterproof, all the time.
Algonquin: Duluth pack, a heavy, traditional canvas pack designed to hold a huge amount of gear. Very wide, but squat in shape, allowing the wearer to carry a canoe over it, if he/she is strong enough. A water-resistant liner is optional.

Canoe accessories

West coast: Two painters (ropes attached to bow and stern for tying up or towing), bailer (cut from a bleach bottle), buoyant heaving line, boat sponge.
Algonquin: “You can have a piece of rope if it makes you feel better,” says the rental guy, when we ask for painters. He hands us a piece of curly, cheap polypropylene rope – yuk!


West coast: Carbon fibre paddles are popular, bent shaft for the bow, not overly long.
Algonquin: Wooden paddles, the longer and heavier the better.

Food storage

West coast: Metal food lockers are provided on many backcountry routes.
Algonquin: Food should be hung from a tree at least four metres (13 feet) off the ground and two metres (7 feet)  away from the tree trunk, using either the one-tree or two-tree method. A manly skill.


West coast: Splitting axe and/or a hatchet.
Algonquin: Folding bucksaw.


West coast: Repair kits for key items, redundancies (e.g., an extra teaspoon per person).
Algonquin: Minimalist (kitchen utensils: one spatula, one spoon, fork, and knife per person), except for fishing gear.


West coast: Shared sites are the norm on major routes, e.g., Bowron circuit, Murtle Lake.
Algonquin: Individual sites: one site per camping permit (maximum nine people per permit/site).