Canoes, kayaks, hire, guiding and coaching.

Trip Planning Advice


Which waterway should we choose?

If you are a complete beginner, choose a placid waterway, such as Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, or book one of our 'Water Awareness Days'on which you will learn how to recogise and avoid common river hazards.

If you have some experience, a good understanding of common river hazards, and can confidently steer your canoe in moving water to avoid hazards, most of the Wye below Glasbury and many stretches of the Severn will offer enjoyable but more challenging water at Grade 1+, but note that there are short sections of Grade 2 water on the Wye and a Grade 3+ rapid on the Severn near Ironbridge.

For information on the skills and experience needed for the various waterways, see our Guidance for Canoe Hire page.


How far will we be able to paddle?

Unless you are experienced, we recommend that you do not attempt more than 10-15 miles per day. Take into account the time of year, as you will need to complete the distance more quickly when there are less daylight hours. Our web pages for each river list the camp sites, B&B's etc which are beside the river, with distances between. Make sure that you can comfortably reach your overnight stopping points.

It is advisable to pre-book your accommodation, including camp sites, in advance. At peak times, it may be full, at off-peak times, it may be closed!

Do not expect to be able to camp anywhere other than recognised sites. Many landowners object strongly to trespass.


What do we need to Take?

You need to be self-sufficient on the river. Make sure you have personal clothing to deal with a change in the weather. including waterproof jacket and trousers; and spare warm clothing (even in summer). For day trips take spare food and drink.

On extended trips, take enough food for the whole trip. Even where shops, inns, etc are listed, they may have unexpected closing times, so don't rely on them as your only source of food and drink. Check in advance with pubs if you are planning a pub meal. Most camp sites do NOT have shops. Make sure you have sufficient fuel for camping stoves - you are unlikely to be able to buy fuel once you have set off on your trip.

Please DO NOT take glass bottles, jars etc. on the river. They are likely to break and if they do, they are a danger to you, other river users and wildlife.

Plan for disposal of refuse. There are very few places in rural areas where refuse can be disposed of. Take sufficient bags for refuse (preferably environmentally-friendly plastic) and be prepared to take your refuse away. Please recycle where possible. If your local authority provides disposal sacs for recycling, consider bringing some with you.

Remember all personal requisites: medication, sunscreen, insect repellent...


Be prepared for the unexpected!

There are many places where mobile 'phones do not work.

Make sure you know the direction of the nearest road, 'phone box etc, from each section along the river. Check which OS maps you will need for your trip. Some sections of water need more than one.

Make sure you have secure waterproof containers for mobile 'phones, electronic car keys etc.

Are you insured? Backwaters has public liability insurance, but personal insurance for clients is NOT included, and participation is at your own risk. We recommend that clients take out insurance for travel, cancellation and personal accident. This independent online guide to travel insurance may be of help.


Have a question? Check our Frequently Asked Questions page, or feel free to Contact Us!



Rivers change constantly and may rise rapidly in wet weather. Where rapids or weirs are marked, these are the particularly significant ones. There may be numerous small rapids, weirs and other hazards along the route; you are advised to be sure of your ability before hiring canoes and/or kayaks, and to proceed on the river with due caution. Much of the river is remote and hire is completely unsupervised. You are responsible for your own safety on the river. If you are unsure of your ability, a River Awareness Day may be of interest to you. Other, larger, craft will be operating on some sections along the river. Canoeists should be aware of the Waterways Code. Current River Levels are available for key points along the waterways. Please see the route planner for the waterway you are thinking of travelling. Click here for a Met Office 5-day forecast for your holiday area.