Canoecopia: World’s Largest Paddlesport Expo

Desperately searching for signs of spring? I think many of us in the Midwest are right there with you! Snowdrifts around here are so high, the streets already feel like an August corn maze in Iowa. And, another snowstorm is on the way! Our tandem kayak, Kupendana, hangs on the garage wall right above the snowblower’s winter parking spot, waiting patiently for some attention. Gene and I are more anxious, but have found the perfect treatment for our spring fever: Canoecopia, the world’s largest paddlesport expo!

Need a paddle? Come find out what’s new in paddle equipment and what will work best for your paddling style.

On March 8-10, paddle enthusiasts of all kinds will gather at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Hundreds of vendors will display boats, SUPs, paddles, fishing gear, paddle clothes and supplies. Over 180 speakers are set to offer presentations on everything from beautiful paddle locales, land ethics and safety to skills such as choosing equipment, paddle techniques, packing, cooking and photography. Over at the Clarion Hotel there will even be pool demonstrations of kayak rescues, paddle strokes and Greenland Style Rolling.


We discovered Canoecopia the spring before we launched on our kayak service trip in 2013. I’m not sure why we didn’t know about it before that – you’d think if the world’s largest anything¬†were right in your backyard, you’d know about it. But a fellow paddler recommended it, so not knowing what to expect, off we went.

I was happy to meet Sue – my ex-roommate who helps organize yearly trips called The Great River Rumble.

Our first time, we made the rookie mistake of assuming we’d be able to see everything in one day. Glassy-eyed, we navigated our way through hundreds of exhibits, trying with limited success to focus on what we still needed for our upcoming trip. We picked up some paddle grips and splurged on a pop-up sail, but most of the time was spent learning about the newest and greatest boats, paddles, clothing and supplies, and talking to outfitters, guides, and paddlers about the experiences they could offer. We didn’t even realize how many expert presenters were scheduled throughout the three-day event to offer information about things it wouldn’t have hurt us to know.

Sharing stories and dreams with our Pygmy Boats family (John Lockwood at right)



We were delighted to find that Pygmy Boats had a booth, and stopped by to meet John Lockwood, founder and owner of the company whose kit we used to build the tandem wooden kayak we planned to paddle the length of the Mississippi River. We also met adventurers who shared stories and tips from their journeys. One of the most memorable discussions was with a couple of guys who had tried three times to paddle the Mississippi, giving up each time due to “irreconcilable differences”. We laughed about it at the time, but their experiences prompted us to set some ground rules to be sure we didn’t suffer the same fate!

Gene meets author Kenny Salwey, modern-day, self-proclaimed “river rat”


In subsequent years, we learned to check the program or the website in advance, planning the presentations we wanted to attend and leaving plenty of time to see everything we wanted to see. We’ve gathered information on destinations that have become dreams for next adventures, listened to presenters share their stories and skills, and met authors who have written books on paddling topics. You can see the lists of this year’s presenters and exhibitors at

I think this would look good on me. Fishing, anyone?


This year, Gene and I are excited to be among the list of presenters. We’ll show some pictures of our service journey on the Mississippi and Tennessee/Tombigbee Waterway and share the process we used to dehydrate and vacuum pack one-pot nutritious meals for five months on the water. We’ll explain how we used Priority Mail to send ourselves boxes of food along the way and how we made a pot cozy to conserve cooking fuel while rehydrating meals. Our presentations will be on Friday, Mar. 8th at 6:30 PM and Saturday Mar. 9th at 9:30 AM. Please feel free to join us – we’d love to have your friendly faces in the room!


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2 thoughts on “Canoecopia: World’s Largest Paddlesport Expo

  1. Elden Hartman

    I enjoyed your presentation at Canoecopia. I was particularly impressed that your trip had a service component, and how you made it more than a recreational trip. I had a couple of questions about the pot cozy you made. I wanted to look at it but did not have a chance. All the youTube videos I have found on the topic make theirs out of Reflectix. Is there any particular reason why you decided to make yours out of closed cell foam from an old yoga mat? And you mentioned you made it two layers thick. Did you just made a lid with sides to cover the cozy around the pot? I have been hearing Cliff Jacobson for years talking about sewing pot cozies, but since sewing is not one of my skills, that did not seem practical. But I could definitely make one out of Reflectix or a yoga mat material and duct tape or reflective tape.The idea of saving all that fuel and fuel canister weight has me sold. I usually cook one-pot meals for groups of six to eight on my trips, so I normally have to use two pots.

    • So glad you enjoyed hearing about our trip, Elden. Reflectix is very popular, and I’m sure very effective for pot cozies. We chose to try closed cell foam before buying Reflectix for two reasons: we already had it on a shelf in the garage (one less trip expense), and the closed cell foam seemed like it would be more durable for a trip of several months. The foam we used was 3/8″ thick. We traced the bottom of the pot for the base (1 layer thick) and wrapped the circumference of the pot for the sides. (as shown in the videos) The height of the cozy is 9/8″ greater than the height of the pot and cover, to allow 3/8″ for the single layer base and 6/8″ for two top layers (both of which fit snugly inside the edges – not around the outside.) I think a top that fit over the sides would also work just fine. We did need to cut a slot around the handle mechanism on the side of the pot so we could lower the pot into the cozy using the handle, and also made customized slots in the top circles of foam to fit snugly around the finger grip on the top of the pot, ensuring that the foam was in close contact with the surface of the pot and the lid all around.

      We tested it in a couple of ways before we launched. We boiled water, put it in the cozy and measured the temp of the water to make sure it would stay hot for at least 20 minutes, and we also made a few dehydrated meals at home to dial in our procedures and times. The cozy saved us lots of fuel and time.I can’t imagine cooking without it! It also lasted the entire trip. We’ve even used it for several other camping trips during the last few years.

      I wish you the best with your cozy construction and with your trips. I’d love to hear about what you decide to do and how it works. If you’d like to send pictures, you can send them to Have fun! Barb

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