I’ve learned a TON about traveling in the wilderness from books. Here are my top four wilderness canoeing books…
The Path of the Paddle, by Bill Mason
Bill Mason is a Canadian patron saint of canoeing, and this is the book that taught multiple generations of paddlers how to canoe. I took a copy of this book on my first self-planned canoe trip ever, wore it out, replaced it, and then wore that out too. I’m now on my third copy!
It covers everything from how to sit in the boat and make it go straight, to navigating difficult whitewater. Bill Mason’s love, enthusiasm, and reverence for the wilderness come across on every page and every photo.
It’s an absolute classic and it’s not an exaggeration that reading it changed my life forever.
A Dangerous River, by RM Patterson
This isn’t a how-to book but it might be one of the best-written canoeing adventure stories of all time. It’s the story of Patterson exploring the Nahanni River area in 1927, 1928, and 1929
RM Patterson was an adventurer, a skilled writer, and loved the North. If you read this book I guarantee you’ll start daydreaming about paddling the Nahanni.
Canoeing Wild Rivers, by Cliff Jacobson
If there’s a canonical guide to doing canoe expeditions in the Arctic then it’s “Canoeing Wild Rivers” by Cliff Jacobson.
This is yet another canoeing book that needed to be replaced because it was so well used. That’s OK because the latest version is even bigger and better than the original, and now has color photos.
Canoeing wild rivers impressed me so much that I invited Cliff Jacobson onto episode 138 of my podcast (the Strenuous Life Podcast) where he was a real gentleman. I love it when books you love turn out to have been written by people you really like too.
Beyond the Paddle, by Garrett Conover
This book is out of print but can still be found.
It covers very niche but very important topics for remote wilderness travel. As the subtitle suggests, it covers the ways you might travel in a canoe without paddling it, including lining downriver, tracking upstream, carrying your gear across long portages, and getting your boat across the ice during the shoulder season.
These skills can have a high cost to acquire through trial and error, so every tip, trick, or insight you can glean from other people is total, 100% worth it!