Gear Selection

  • Kayaker with his gear

    A touring kayak is an ideal vessel for paddling the Missouri River.

  • A paddle boarder and a kayaker

    Paddle boards are becoming more popular for day trips on the river.

Most elements of boat selection and gear are up to the experience of the individual paddler. Paddle-camping is very similar to backpacking, with limited space and a premium on function in adverse conditions (a stove that still works, after becoming covered in wet sand for example).  A review of the substantial guides on backpacking is an excellent resource for river camping with a canoe or kayak. Bringing a change of clothes in a dry-bag is highly recommended. Dry clothes can make you feel 100% better after a long day on the river and could save your life in the event of an emergency. Note: Cell phone coverage on the river can be surprisingly good and so a waterproof case for your phone can be a good investment.

A touring kayak is an ideal vessel for paddling the Missouri River.  These boats are fairly fast and maneuverable and offer a lower profile to the wind than typical of a canoe.  However, kayaks shorter than 10 feet can be difficult to steer, as they tend to track to one side with every paddle stroke. Canoes can be a good choice due to increased storage space and the ability to access gear while on the river.  In comparison, many kayaks have closed storage compartments that require you to open them from shore.  Paddle boards are also proving more popular each year for day trips on the river

There is no one magical boat for the Missouri River; however it is a very good idea to check that your boat has floatation. This is often provided in the form of foam blocks in the bow and stern of a canoe, or a closed storage area with bulkhead on a kayak.  The current on the river is very strong and could easily take full control of a capsized boat that did not have some type of floatation. 

High-end composite and wooden boats are fine for the Missouri River, as the risk of hitting rocks can be minimized by staying clear of the wing dams or shore revetments.  Plastic boats offer the advantage of being both cheaper and resilient to abuse. Any good outdoor shop should be able to help you make a good boat selection.  Keep in mind that the canoe you may already have in the back yard will probably work just fine.  Finally, going down the Missouri River in an inner tube or small inflatable raft is truly a bad idea.  These vessels have severely limited directional control required to safely avoid barges, recreational boats or other hazards in the river.