Canoeing

A New Addition to Our Fleet: The Nova Craft Prospector

By Uncle Dan

At the beginning of this season we replaced our old Voyager Prospector with a new red Nova Craft 16' Prospector (purchased from MEC). The boat was meant to be used primarily by our kids and it served its intended function remarkably well.  

Anna and Eva in the 16' Nova Craft Prospector.

The Nova Craft Prospector strikes a perfect balance between ease of maneuverability (due to its 2.5 inch rocker) and straight tracking on flat water (partly due to a full length keel). The kids liked the maneuverability when soloing the boat and when they were exploring islands or fishing.  They also appreciated the relatively straight tracking of the boat when we were on the flat water (on a recent trip we paddled for roughly 11 km on just the first lake.)

Josh soloing the Nova Craft Prospector.

The boat is exceptionally stable, which is important when it is primarily being used by kids. On numerous occasions (when the kids took it to go swimming, exploring, or fishing) the boat was filled to the gills with kids and the movement of the kids in the boat did not pose a noticeable problem; the boat handled considerable side-to-side wobble without ever coming close to tipping.

The Nova Craft Prospector is a very stable boat even when put to the test by energetic kids.

The symmetrical shape of the boat allows the boat to be paddled backwards as easily as forwards, which is useful when one wants to solo the canoe from the front seat facing the stern.  The absence of a thwart behind the front seat also makes this possible. 

Josh soloing the canoe sitting in the front seat facing towards the stern.

The 16' Nova Craft Prospector boasts a centre depth of 15 inches and a centre width of 36 inches.  The upper end of its load capacity is 1000 pounds.  We were able to comfortably fit two 60L barrels (with harnesses) side-by-side between the front seat and the yoke, and two small 30L barrels and some day bags between the back thwart and the yoke (see photo below).  There is also room under the seats for smaller items such as camera gear and water bottles.  The boat could easily handle all of the gear for two people going on a one- or two-week backcountry trip.

The loaded Nova Craft Prospector.

One of the features that I rather like about the Nova Craft Prospector is the relatively meaty aluminum gunwale design (you can get ash gunwales at an additional cost).  The solid gunwales make it easy to pick the boat up from the side and ensure that the seats, thwart and yoke are firmly attached.  We opted for the aluminum gunwales over the ash upgrade because the aluminum gunwales require less maintenance and have greater longevity when the canoe is stored outdoors.  

As you can see in the image below, the paddler of the Nova Craft Prospector sits relatively high above the waterline and so it is advisable to use a paddle with a slightly longer shaft.  The bow height of the Prospector is 23 inches, which is aesthetically appealing and useful when faced with large waves, but can be somewhat of a challenge in strong wind conditions.

Anna paddling the Prospector (left side of the image).   

In terms of build quality, I am happy to report that the Nova Craft Prospector has a solid and reliable build.  The boat is available in several layups (fiberglass or the new TuffStuff material amongst others).  While I would have preferred to go with the amazing TuffStuff, I decided to ultimately go with the much cheaper fiberglass version.  I gather that nowadays fiberglass boats are considered to be mostly cottage boats, primarily because of their weight, which makes them somewhat difficult to portage (the 16' fiberglass Prospector is about 68 pounds in comparison to the TuffStuff version which is about 54 pounds).  However, I don't mind carrying the extra weight on my shoulders when portaging, and the fiberglass version is much lighter on the wallet (which is important when your family has 7 people and the cost of camping gear is quite high).  On our last trip, I portaged the Prospector for a total of roughly 1.3 km and it wasn't really a problem.  Keep in mind that "back in the old days" most of the canoes were fiberglass and portaging a 65 pound canoe was a routine event.  While I would recommend that you go with the TuffStuff layup (or even another lighter layup such as the aramid lite or the blue steel layups) if you have the cash, if money is an issue, just hit the gym during the year to make sure that you are made out of tuff stuff before canoe season begins so you can carry the fiberglass version :).  The fiberglass version we purchased held up very well even though it made frequent (and sometimes somewhat careless) contact with rocky shores of the lakes in the Temagami region.  

If there was one thing I would ask the good folks at Nova Craft to change about the boat it would be the yoke.  The yoke included in this entry level boat is not really much of a yoke (it's more like a thwart), likely because, as I noted before, fiberglass boats are no longer meant for serious portaging.  However, a deep dish yoke would be really helpful for those of us backcountry trippers strapped for cash, especially given the weight of the boat.  In order to portage the boat, I had to resort to the old tried and true trick of lashing paddles between the yoke and the back thwart and carrying the boat on the cantilevered paddle blades (which was much more comfortable -- in fact, I actually like that better than the deep dish or contoured yokes on my other canoes).  While MEC sells a deep dish yoke (for about $100) you can install yourself, I found that the ends of that deep dish yoke were much narrower than the ends of the yoke included with the boat, and I worried that there would just not be enough "meat" on the outsides of the screws to securely hold the yoke in place when the boat is on my shoulders. Also, what's the point of going with a cheaper boat if you have to spend hundreds in post-purchase upgrades?   While I'm making suggestions, I should also mention that the kids complained a little about the comfort of the seats and the handles on the bow and stern; seats made from wide webbing would be preferred and more rounded handles would be much appreciated.  Again, seats made from wide webbing can be purchased at MEC, but at an extra cost.

All things considered, however, I give the fiberglass/aluminum-trim Nova Craft 16' Prospector two thumbs up!  It's a wonderful all-around backcountry canoe for the kids.

Tips for Backcountry Canoeing with Toddlers

By Auntie Shelley

Lisa and I both agree that the toddler stage is probably the most challenging when it comes to backcountry canoeing with kids.  I think I have experienced every possible variation of toddler backcountry canoeing – canoeing with “just” a toddler; canoeing with a toddler while pregnant; canoeing with a toddler and a baby; canoeing with a toddler and older kids.  Oh! and then there was that trip where our toddler came down with the stomach flu in the canoe. 

Over the years we’ve learned a few important things about taking toddlers into the backcountry, so here are ten tips for canoeing with toddlers.

 

#1 – Have Realistic Expectations

A successful trip with a toddler is all about managing expectations.  I’m going to be straight with you.  If you go on a trip with a toddler and expect to spend hours paddling blissfully while your toddler quietly sits in the front of the boat, you are going to be disappointed.  If you go on a trip expecting that you will get to relax, read a book, sit and enjoy your morning coffee while watching the mist rise off the lake, you are going to be really disappointed with your trip.   If your idea of a great trip includes grueling 3km uphill non-maintained portages then you’ll be disappointed.

Backcountry trips with toddlers are not particularly relaxing.  Heck, life with toddlers isn’t particularly relaxing.  And toddlers just aren’t able to keep up with a grueling kid-free pace either.  This isn’t to discourage you from taking your toddler into the backcountry, it’s just that I’ve learned over the years that I have to have realistic expectations about what a trip with a toddler will entail.

So what can you expect? 

Expect that your toddler will spend a lot of time hanging over the edge of the boat.  This means that you will spend a lot of time grabbing the handle of the toddler’s lifejacket in order to keep him or her from plunging head first into the drink. 

You will be travelling at a much slower pace.  We typically plan our trips based on the assumption that the person in the stern will be soloing.  If by some chance our little one falls asleep and we both get to paddle, it’s a bonus, but this way we are never left trying to make up for lost time when the person in the front ends up holding the toddler instead of a paddle.  Sure we don’t cover the same distances we used to, but that’s okay because we’ve set appropriate expectations ahead of time.

Portages will take a lot longer.  Let me say that again - portages will take A LOT longer.  One of you will need to keep an eye on that toddler while the other gets a serious workout.  Or you will have to trade off on toddler duty.  I have found that our toddlers typically don’t share our fervor to get all the gear from one side of the portage to the next as quickly as possible.  Sometimes those sneaky little kids even try to return gear back to where we just carried it from.  Portaging with a toddler is a lot like hiking with a toddler – slow.  And inevitably they will fill their diaper right at the moment you’ve loaded the boat and are ready to push off.

Oh, and that bucket of rocks that everyone recommends you take so you toddler can throw stones one-by-one into the water as you paddle: be prepared for him or her to dump the entire contents into the water within the first 5 minutes of your trip. 

 

#2 – Keep A Life Jacket on Your Toddler Most of the Time

Of course it’s just common sense that your toddler will wear a life jacket when in the boat, but we recommend that you keep it on them most of the time.  It is not uncommon for toddlers to dart off towards the water.  This is particularly important if you are at a site with a steep drop towards the water.  Our little ones also keep their life jackets on when we are portaging and on many occasions it has protected them when they have fallen on rocky terrain.  It also provides an extra layer of insulation on cold rainy days.  

 

#3 - Let Them Have Their Own Paddle

Our toddlers love to “help” paddle.  Let them get involved and encourage them to paddle.  We have found that they are more interested in holding a paddle than a bucket or toy boat.  They want to be like everyone else on the trip.  Just be prepared to fish that paddle out of the water repeatedly (and to get whacked in the head a couple of times).  

 

#4 – Candy is Your Friend

While I’m normally a granola crunching, local whole foods kind of girl, candy does have its place on a backcountry trip with a toddler.  Don’t be afraid to pull out a lollipop or some Smarties in order to get your child to sit quietly in one spot if you need them to or to get them through the last leg of a paddle.  Just remember to put said candy in the pocket of your lifejacket before you start paddling.  If it’s in the bottom of your food barrel it’s of no use (don’t ask me how I know that).

 

#5 – Be Selective when Choosing a Campsite

Campsite selection is crucial when toddlers are with you.  Sites with steep drops or slick rock at the water’s edge should be avoided if at all possible.  At this stage our favourite sites are always ones where the water access is level without a quick drop off.  Ideally your site will be relatively flat with some open space for running around.  You don’t want a site that is going to require hyper-vigilance the entire time you’re there. 

In general I would also say that this is not the time to be checking out new sites.  Since I find trips with toddlers to be fairly challenging, I like to stick with places we are familiar with.  We have a few favourite spots that we know have good water access.  Since we’ve been there before, we already know where we will put our tents and tarps which makes setting up camp relatively quick and easy.

This is not the type of water access you want when you're out with a toddler.

This is not the type of water access you want when you're out with a toddler.

 

#6 – Bring a Hammock

Toddlers love hammocks.  Hammocks make naptime easy.  Easy naptimes make moms happy.  See this post for more details.

Tired Grace in her ENO Hammock

Tired Grace in her ENO Hammock

 

#7 – Bring a Kid Sized Chair

We have this Kelty Kids chair and our toddlers love it.  Having a little chair just for your toddler makes mealtime easier.  Usually in the morning I make hot chocolate first.  Then the toddler gets to sit in the chair and drink hot chocolate while I make breakfast.  I have also found it useful when Dan and I need to work on something together.  I can have the toddler sit in the chair, give them a snack or a treat, and they are usually content to sit in the special chair while we get our work done.


#8 – Let them Get Involved as Much as Possible

Toddlers love to help out with everything - carrying wood, stacking wood, washing dishes, carrying water bottles, filling stuff sacks, etc.  Let them get involved.   Sure it will take extra time and you might have to do things over, but you’re setting the stage for future trips and fostering their enthusiasm.  Before you know it they will be old enough to collect the firewood and start the fire on their own.  If you really do your job right at some point you’ll have older kids who can make you coffee in the morning and portage your canoe.   The extra effort when they’re young will pay off when they get older.

Caleb prepping a tent site.

Caleb prepping a tent site.

 

#9 – Make the Main Thing the Main Thing

Over the years I’ve found that it helps if I continually remind myself why we’re bringing our little ones into the backcountry.  We’re doing it to spend quality time together as a family, to instill a love of nature, to set the stage for future trips, and yes, to groom them into really good portagers so they can carry our stuff for us when we’re old.

 

#10 – Remember, this too shall pass

While trips with toddlers are crazy, remember that toddlers only last for a season.  By the next year they will be preschoolers, and then it's a whole new adventure.



Gear Lists Updates

We've been going through our trip journals and putting together some gear lists.  Here are two new ones to check out.  

Gear List for Snowshoe Day Trip (with kids)

Uncle Dan's Gear List for Canoe Tripping is a comprehensive list of what we pack in terms of shelters/tents, packs/carriers, tools, canoe gear, nighttime gear, and gear for fun and relaxation.  Basically everything we bring with the exception of clothing, kitchen gear, and photo gear.

Let us know if you think we've forgotten anything!

The Backcountry Toddler

Wondering about taking your toddler into the backcountry?  Check out this video of 2 year old Grace on a 12 day canoe trip in the interior of Algonquin Provincial Park.  Even though it rained for 10 of the 12 days she had a blast.  

 

A big thank you to MEC for making the Newt Rain Suit.  Our trip would have been a bust without it.

In the video you will see our Swift Algonquin which is incredibly stable and a great family boat.  Dan made the cedar strip canoe using John Winters' Kipawa design (a design also carried by Swift).  

(And a special thanks to big sister Anna for the musical accompaniment to the video)

Why I recommend getting your first child into the backcountry as soon as possible

By Auntie Shelley

 

Let me start off by saying that this post is meant for experienced backcountry campers who are wondering how soon they can or should get their little ones out on a trip.  It is not meant for people who don’t have experience with wilderness tripping.  If you have never been on a backcountry trip then I would not recommend heading out into the backcountry with a baby.

 

4 month old Eva - already on her second backcountry trip

4 month old Eva - already on her second backcountry trip

Over the years we have met a number of couples who used to be avid outdoor adventurers until they had kids.  When they hear that we still head out on backcountry trips their response is usually along the lines of, “We used to love, insert – canoeing, camping, hiking, etc. – but then we had kids.” They proceed to tell us, with longing in their voices, how much they miss the backcountry.

 

We also meet a lot of people who don’t have kids yet and they want to know how we have managed to keep getting into the backcountry since becoming parents.  They are afraid that having kids will mean that they have to put wilderness tripping on hold for many years and they don't want it to be like this.

 

Recently I was thinking a bit about why we were able to keep getting out on extended canoe trips after having kids when many of our friends gave it up?  I think a big part of the reason was because we took Anna, our first child, out on a trip within her first year of life.  You can read more about that experience here.  I have noticed over the years that those who get their first child out on a trip within the first year to 18 months of life tend to keep up with their outdoor pursuits.

 

Eva hanging out with her Dad on Phillip Edward Island

Eva hanging out with her Dad on Phillip Edward Island

Here’s why I think the timing of that first trip matters.  If you’re an average couple, then somewhere around the time your first child hits 18-24 months of age, baby number 2 is going to be on the way.  Trying to get out on a first backcountry family trip with a toddler while mom is pregnant and exhausted is overwhelming. Chances are it just isn't going to happen.  Then the baby arrives and if you've never done it before, the logistics of a trip with a baby and a toddler/preschooler becomes even more overwhelming.  Not to mention the cost of outfitting those two little ones.  All too quickly two, three, maybe even four years have gone by and tripping just isn’t part of your life anymore.  If however, you get out with your first child right off the bat, when it comes time to add another kid it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.  You've slowly been building up your confidence and you’ve already got some gear in place.

 

Anna was three months old when we took her on her first trip.  Although it felt a bit crazy before we left, it really built my confidence.  When she was 18 months old we took her to Bowron Lakes in Northern BC.  We had also been on countless day hikes in the mountains in BC, so by the time Josh made his arrival we had a good sense of what it meant to be out in the wilderness with a very young child.  Sure there were some new logistical challenges, but because we’d already been building up to it slowly, it didn’t feel at all overwhelming.  Quite honestly however, if we hadn’t done those earlier trips with Anna, I think we would have ended up like many of our friends.  Longingly thinking about the days when we used to canoe, but never really getting back into it.

3 month old Cousin Caleb in Algonquin Park

3 month old Cousin Caleb in Algonquin Park

Depending on what type of backcountry trips you like to do (i.e. canoeing, hiking, etc.) there will be different challenges and logistical issues (we can talk more about that in the future), but I would encourage any outdoorsy couple that is starting a family to get back out there as soon as possible.  Sure you will have to make some changes to accommodate your little one, but don't let that hold you back.  The sooner you get out there the easier it will be.  

 

If you fall into that category of people who used to love the outdoors but fell away from it when you had kids, please don't let this post discourage you.  It is absolutely possible to get your kids out there and totally worth the effort.  I would encourage you to get back into it.  Depending on the ages of your children it might feel challenging, but don't let that deter you.  After all, isn't the challenge part of what outdoor adventure is all about?  And just think of all the cool new gear you'll get to buy!

 

As always, if you have any questions about the logistics of backcountry camping with kids feel free to post them in the comments or send us an email.

Camping With a Newborn? Seriously?

By Auntie Shelley

Backcountry Shelley.

Dan and I were outdoors people before we had kids.  Our shared love for the outdoors was one of the things that attracted us to each other and we both wanted to share this with our children.  So, when our first child Anna was born, we decided to take her out into the backcountry soon after.  Anna was born in April and by late July we had taken her on her first canoe trip in Algonquin Park. 

Auntie Shelley with baby Eva in the backcountry

As a new mom I was incredibly nervous about this trip.  The internet was in its infancy in those days and so I couldn’t rely on Google.  The few books that were available focused more on car camping and backpacking and barely mentioned infants.  And when I would mention to friends that we were going to take our newborn on a backcountry canoe trip, they would respond with raised eyebrows and question whether it was a good idea, or whether it was even possible, to take an infant into the wilderness. 

Auntie Shelley with baby Eva.

We decided on a short trip (two nights), which, when measured by our pre-kid standards, seemed like a joke.  We were used to going on much more rigorous trips.  Between the two of us we had experienced gruelling, uphill, non-maintained portages, bugs so thick you couldn’t fall asleep because of the noise, pouring rain that soaked everything, unexpected snow storms, rough waters and so on.  Our pre-child way of thinking was: “go big or stay home.”  Now, with our first newborn, we were thinking: “go small rather than stay home.”

My post-partum brain churned over every possible negative (and unlikely) outcome:  What if the canoe tips?  What if we hit really big waves?  What if it rains?  What if a bear comes into the campsite?  What if the temperature suddenly plummets and we all freeze in the middle of July?  This new anxiety about going into the backcountry wasn’t something that I expected when I became a mom.  I grew up in Northern Ontario and most of my childhood and teen years were spent on water and in the bush.  The sense of fear of the wilderness and the need to protect my child were new.

Dan, on the other hand, was much more relaxed about bringing an infant on a trip and patiently worked with me to relieve all of my anxieties.  So, what were my concerns and what did we do?

1. Water Safety

Water safety was probably my biggest concern.  We took several steps to deal with this one.  First, we found the smallest lifejacket possible.  In those days, Salus had not yet come out with their Baby Bijoux Vest, which is what we recommend now (see this post), so we were left with rather ill fitting alternatives.  The jacket we ended up using was serviceable but it didn’t fit as well as I would have hoped and I was still concerned.  Second, Dan assured me that when we got on the lake we would stay close to shore.  We wouldn’t go any further out than an easily swimmable distance in case I had to swim the baby to shore in the unlikely event that we capsized.  Third, we picked a small lake that we knew was most likely going to be calm.  Fourth, I decided that I would hold Anna the entire time and leave the paddling to Dan.  Finally, we decided to avoid taking routes that involved portages on this first trip to minimize time in transit.  This way we didn’t have to worry about portaging gear or being too far away from our car if an emergency did arise.  The lake we chose had a slowly moving river feeding into it and this meant that we could go on easy day trips if the weather was nice.  With these countermeasures in place I was able to worry less about water safety.

2. The Weather

Baby Eva napping in the backcountry.

We knew from experience that even when nice weather is in the forecast, weather systems can change quickly and unexpectedly.  Our trip was in July and although the forecast called for warm sunny weather I worried about an unexpected rainstorm and plummeting temperatures.  My ‘new mom’ fears on this topic came fast and furious and I could imagine a storm emerging out of nowhere throwing rain and hail at my baby and freezing her into a blue solid chunk of ice.   So what did we do?  Well, I packed extra fleece sleepers and base layers, and we picked up a fleece bunting suit.  I brought a raincoat for myself that was big enough that I could slip Anna underneath it, keeping her dry and warm against my body if necessary.  We also agreed that we wouldn’t travel if it was raining.  In addition, I packed a back-up bag of baby clothes, diapers, wipes, etc. and left it in the car; it was reassuring to know that it was there and that Dan could quickly paddle back and get it if it was needed.  As it turned out, the weather was fine and nobody froze. 

3. Night Time

I was also concerned about the baby being comfortable during the night because if the baby is not sleeping well, no one ends up sleeping well.  Fortunately, we already had a short ultralight Therm-a-rest® that was the perfect size for a baby.  I decided that I would wedge it up against my Therm-a-rest®, put down a fleece blanket that would cover both of our Therm-a-rests® and then cover both of us with my sleeping bag**.  Anna usually slept beside me at home so I was comfortable with the idea of co-sleeping in the tent.  We would also bring extra blankets just in case.  This arrangement ended up working out perfectly!

**Update - my friend Keeley gave me a good word of warning about this.  If you're sleeping bags have any type of draw string (mine didn't) then you will want to remove them so that there's no risk of it getting wrapped around your baby.  I also keep anything that could pose a suffocation threat on the far side of the tent.  The entire area around the baby is kept clear.

4. The Bugs

The mosquitoes and black flies can be pretty intense in the backcountry.  If you’ve never been in the backcountry in the summer, just take a look at the “blackfly song” below and you’ll get the idea.  So, I worried about Anna being “eaten alive” by bugs.  To address this concern, we planned our trip for the end of July when the bugs aren’t as bad in Northern Ontario.  I also decided to bring my brother’s extra large bug shirt with me so I could wear it with Anna with me inside the shirt.  And, I planned on nursing in the tent if things were really bad.  In the end the bugs were really mild that year and I didn’t even use the bug shirt. 

 

In hindsight I will admit that I dramatically over packed for that first trip, but I didn’t know what to expect and being over prepared helped alleviate my anxieties.  Even now I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to keeping our little ones dry and warm. 

In the end, our trip with our first child turned out to be a wonderful experience for all:  Anna was a happy camper and so were we.  It was different from our previous trips, but I learned new things that I didn’t expect.  I learned that canoeing with an infant wasn’t nearly as hard I thought it would be and that reassured me that I could share my love for the great outdoors with my new baby. I also learned that I was facing a new type of adventure.  An adventure where the battles would be less physical and more psychological; one where the challenge would be less about growing as an individual and more about growing as a family; one that would require me to learn how to put my own desires aside so that this new little person could grow up to love nature and outdoors as much as I do. 

Looking back 12 years, 5 kids, and countless trips later, I can’t believe I ever questioned whether or not it was a good idea, much less possible, to take an infant into the wilderness.   It’s definitely doable and truly rewarding for all.  But it can be hard.  We often think of ‘extreme’ sports as those that involve hurling oneself off a cliff with a thin piece of nylon or jumping out of a plane.  But if you really want to go extreme, try backcountry camping with five little kids.  Now that’s hardcore for all involved!

Kids grow up fast! Anna (11 years old in this photo) enjoying an early morning with baby sister Grace (1 year old) in the backcountry.

Review: Salus Bijoux Baby Vest (by Auntie Shelley)

Anna was 3 months old when we took her on her first canoe trip over 12 years ago.  Being a former lifeguard and a new mom, her safety around the water was a major concern for me.  Unfortunately, back then there weren’t really any lifejackets for infants.  The smallest one we could find was for kids weighing 22lbs.  We used it, but it was far from ideal.  She was not comfortable and was quite vocal about her displeasure.  I found it stressful because the jacket didn’t fit as snuggly as I would have liked and there was no easy way to nurse her with it on. 

By the time Eva was born (5 years later) Salus had introduced their Bijoux Baby Vest and it revolutionized our canoeing experience.  I have used it with our youngest three kids and I absolutely love it.  Auntie Lisa has used it with her youngest three and also loves it. 

Auntie Lisa holding Caleb who is wearing the Salus Bijoux  Baby Vest.

Baby Grace wearing the Salus Bijoux.

This jacket is for babies 9-25lbs and is manufactured right here in Canada.  According to the Salus website, “the front design ensures that baby turns face-up from a face-forward position. The collar cradles the head when lifted by the strap or while floating. Mesh harness and short front enhance comfort sitting upright, lying down, or in a baby carrier.”

The jacket is fully adjustable so that I can get it on the baby snuggly regardless of what the baby is wearing.  This was probably one of the biggest selling features for me because I don't have to worry about my baby popping out of the lifejacket accidentally.  The front padding stays in place and doesn’t ride up into the baby’s face, which means that a mom can easily nurse the baby while the baby is wearing the jacket.  It also has two little mesh pockets on the front, which are great for storing soothers or safety whistles.  The fabric feels thick and is durable, showing no signs of wear after 7 years of use.  The padded collar makes a nice headrest and the mesh back allows the baby to lie down comfortably.  There have been many trips where our little one would take a nice long nap in front of me in the canoe.  My babies never “complained” when wearing this lifejacket and regularly fell asleep with it on, so my guess is they find it quite comfortable.

I tested this jacket out at our local pool and am confident that it would keep my baby floating face-up should we ever capsize.  It should be noted that this lifejacket is not Transport Canada or Coast Guard approved, but my understanding is that this is because they don’t test/approve lifejackets for anyone under 22lbs, not because it doesn’t work.

While the price tag may seem a bit steep (it retails for about $79.99) I believe it has been well worth the money.  Ours still looks like new even though we’ve had ours for 7 years, it’s been through three kids (1-2 seasons per kid) and we have lent to several friends.  You can often find them on Kijiji or in consignment stores for $30-$50.

Overall I would give this product 5 stars out of 5.