Group Size

The size of group we pick depends on the type of experience we are looking for. There are a number of factors which come into play, and we have to weigh them against Be cautious about traveling in large groups!each other as we decide on the number of people to paddle with.

It is generally not a good idea to paddle in groups larger than eight individuals, and there are some sound reasons for this.

First, large groups place undue stress on campsites. It is difficult to accommodate groups much larger than eight on a single site. large groups cause damage and erosion to sites, whether that damage is intentional or not. Most sites have flat areas that are adequate for pitching two or three tents. Four can be a real stretch, and beyond that number, you're often out of luck.

In addition, large groups often mean noise and confusion. It is a lot of work to cook for and clean up after large groups, and it can be a big job to keep the huge amount of food and equipment required to support a big group organized.

Large groups also tend to be noisy, detracting from the experience of wilderness.

Six is a "perfect" group sizeA group of six paddlers traveling in three canoes is perfect. I say "perfect" with tongue planted firmly in cheek, since there is obviously no perfect size - it depends on a number of factors, but this is a really good group size. Six paddlers isn't just an arbitrary number. There are some sound reasons that it is almost an ideal group size.

First of all, six people can fit easily into two reasonably-sized tents without making anyone claustrophobic. If we know that there are some large sites along the route, we can probably get really decadent and bring along three tents.

Another reason is related to safety. If we somehow manage to lose or destroy one of our canoes, we can still make it out of the bush (albeit in a crowded fashion) by putting the six paddlers into two canoes. We may have to leave some gear behind, and it's going to be quite crowded, but at least it will get us home. A group of four paddlers in two canoes doesn't have this luxury. There's no way that you're going to make it back with four paddlers in one canoe (unless you throw all of the gear away).

A third reason is that six people should be able to camp at a site and leave it in almost as good condition as they found it. A group of six educated and concerned campers shouldn't "overstress" a site.

Fourth, a group of six people is a safe size. In the event of a capsize, we have one canoe to do the important job - getting the swimmers to shore, and another to begin to recover packs. We also have enough people to share in some fairly heavy work - such as getting a loaded canoe through a liftover. Six people should be able to carry a fully loaded canoe without anyone ending up with a slipped disc.

Finally, six people is a good size socially. The group is small enough that we're going to get to spend some time with everyone else in the group, but not so small that we're going to get sick of each other.

Large Groups ...

  • Are more likely to cause wear and tear on campsites.
  • Tend to be noisy, detracting from the experience of other paddling groups.
  • Can mean a big cleanup job at meal time.
  • May not fit on a single campsite because of a lack of good tent sites. 
  • May not be allowed in many Provincial and National Parks, since they often limit permissible group size.