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Paddling is fun! Make sure it is also safe, for your own sake and that of others. Here we present points for safe paddling and information about cold water. Last on the page are links for more information.

Safe route

Make sure you will be able to handle the place you are going to paddle with your knowledge and equipment, even in the event of capsize. 

  • Make choices where you avoid hazards. Waves, wind and flowing water can quickly put you in unwanted situations. Look ahead and go safe.
  • Check out the weather forecast and pay attention to the weather.
  • Take breaks and make sure there is a way out if you want to cancel in case something happens, or the weather turns.
  • Plan your trip and choice of route to ensure you reach your destination before dusk or darkness, unless you are prepared and have knowledge of paddling in darkness.
  • If paddling in bad light conditions or darkness it is important to have good navigation skills with map and compass. You need to be visible to others in darkness.

Safe equipment

Mobile phone, appropriate clothing and life jacket are basic equipment for each canoe trip.

  • Means of communication: Mobile phone in waterproof case even for short trips. It can save your life and that of others.
  • Life jacket: In the right size, properly fitted and with reflective details. Appropriate clothing: Protects against water and wind, even in the event of capsize.
  • The canoe: floats even when it is water-filled and is adapted for the conditions.
  • Paddle: reflective details on the paddle blade increases your visibility in darkness by others using directed sources of light.  
  • Extra change of clothing: Full dress in waterproof bag in case of capsize.
  • Water and Food: pack with a margin so you have energy to replenish when you need that little extra.
  • 1st aid: First aid bandage, plasters, tick pickers and sports-tape.
  • Source of light: to be lit when paddling in darkness. A lantern is the best choice, but a headlight will also work. Red light enables reading the map without blinding your company.


  • Do not paddle alone – two canoes can support each other in rescues and to call for help.
  • Notify friends or the canoe center when and where you are goin and when to be back.


  • Learn methods for self-rescue and how to rescue each other in the event of capsize.
  • Practice in safe conditions.
  • Self-rescues in open canoes are extremely difficult. Make sure to be two canoes and practice rescues together.

Good to know about cold water

Cold water is the biggest natural hazard in canoe-related deaths in Sweden. Already at 21 degrees the water is cold enough to cause hypothermia. Water directs heat from the body 25 times faster than air, it cools fast and the body´s functions deteriorate rapidly. Flowing water has an additional cooling effect (up to 250 times faster).

The following describes what is good to keep in mind when it comes to canoeing in cold conditions.

Prepare the Journey
Check water temperature and weather forecast before departure.
How far from land can you paddle and know that you can still swim back in the current temperature?
Select your route with a good safety margin.

Eat and drink
Fill up your body with energy-rich food and drink plenty of water.
Pack readily available carbohydrates.

Keep an eye on the group

  • Be aware of te mental and physical state of the members.

  • Help to continously assess each other´s behavoiurs in the group.

  • Notice cahanges in mood, introspection and decreased appetite.


About hypothermia

Hypothermia involves severe cooling of the body temperature. It is a dangerous condition that can occur quickly in Swedish waters.

Phase 1
Symptoms: Shivering, clumsiness, dropping sensation and control in hands/feet
Treatment: Take the person to heat and protect, change to dry clothes, give warm sweet drink, physical activation, stay in heat several hours.

Phase 2
Symptoms: Shivering, clumsiness, dropping sensation and control in hands/feet. And slurred speech, impaired judgement, introspection
Treatment: act if possible before this occurs
Take the person to heat and shelter, change to dry clothes, give warm sweet drink, physical activity, stay in heat several hours. Make sure that the person is doing the right things

Phase 3
Symptoms: Stops shiver, muscle stiffness
Treatment: Call 112. Take the person out of the water. Handle very gently with absolutely minimal movement. Apply insulating surface. Cover with blankets/clothes/sleeping bag.
Phase 4
Symptom: Unconscious, death
Treatment: Call 112. The person may still be alive. Investigate weak pulse and breathing (for 2 minutes). If necessary CPR.


Want to learn more?

Find training opportunities at www.kanot.com and approved canoe centres.

Information about paddling techniques, rescue methods and safe paddling are also described in the brochure "Advice and tips for canoe paddling" You can find it here: