How to Make a Canoe Stable

Canoeing has been a favorite outdoor recreation for centuries and is one of the most peaceful ways to enjoy nature. However, that peace can be short-lived if your canoe tips and you find yourself floating downriver alongside your gear. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to prevent your canoe from tipping. Help keep yourself and your gear safe and dry by learning how to make your canoe stable.

Canoe Stability Guidelines

Consider the canoe itself. In general, the flatter and wider the bottom of your canoe is, the more stability it will have. Keep this in mind when renting a canoe, or if you are in the market to buy a canoe and are concerned about stability.

Pack your canoe with even weight distribution in mind. Stow large, heavy items such as packed coolers, tents, and cooking gear low and in the center of the canoe. Stow small, light items equally in the bow and stern areas. If you are canoeing solo, also stow enough weight in the bow to compensate for your weight in the stern.

Safely board your canoe. It is just as easy to tip a canoe while entering it near the shore as it is in open water. The "Fieldbook of the Boyscouts of America" advises, "...have one person hold the craft steady while the bowman gets in first. Place your hands on opposite gunwales for support and keep your weight centered and low while moving gracefully into the canoe."

Check your packed canoe for stability on the water. Once your canoe is fully loaded and the passengers are on board, make sure the canoe sits levelly in the water. If it does not, adjust your gear accordingly until the canoe floats levelly.

Preserve stability while afloat by limiting movement on board. Avoid leaning over the sides of the canoe or standing suddenly. If you must get up for something, crouch low with your hands on opposite gunwales and stay in the center of the canoe as you slowly move. If at all possible, steer your canoe to shore so that you can move about safely without the worry of tipping.

Tie two or more canoes together, side by side, for even greater stability. This should be done only if the waterway is calm and wide enough, and you plan on leisurely floating.


  • Each passenger in a canoe must wear a Personal Flotation Device.


  • Keep items needed frequently, such as sun block and drinking water, within arm's reach in the canoe so you will not have to stand up to get them. Tie down your gear in the canoe so it will not float away if your canoe tips.

About the Author

Aja Rivers is a New England native who has been writing professionally for nine years. Her poetry has appeared in "Tiger’s Eye: A Journal of Poetry," "Main Channel Voices" and "The Aurorean." She has an associate's degree in science from Cape Cod Community College and a paralegal certificate from Gloucester County College. Rivers is also a certified all-breed dog groomer.