Bailer: Believe it or not, most states require that you have a bailing device, even on a canoe. Most people who paddle, opt for the cut out bleach or milk jug, which is the lowest cost solution.
Signaling Device: Most states require that all watercraft carry a signaling device of some kind. For a canoe in most cases, a whistle is more than adequate. Compress air horns can be bought very inexpensively, and make a lot more noise, but will require you to put your paddle down.
Duct Tape: The handy person's secret weapon. A small roll of duct tape when touring can serve hundreds of purposes, including a temporary repair to a small hole or crack in your canoe.
Water: Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. You should always carry a fresh supply of water with you when paddling. Plan for one quart for each hour you are out. There are a number of companies that make hydration solutions specifically for canoes that attach to gunwales, thwarts, and seats.
Sunglasses: Sunlight is greatly amplified when it reflects off of the water. If you are not wearing sunglasses, your eyes will get very tired, and in very bright conditions it can be painful and damaging to your eyes. Good glacier glasses with side shields are idea, to protect you from all sides, and the glasses you select should block UVA and UVB rays. Quality sunglasses will cost between $60 and $200. Make sure to have a line or other strap around your glasses in case you capsize -- but make sure the line is weak enough that if you are caught on something underwater, you can break it or it will break on it's own.
Hat: You need a hat for the same reason you need sunglasses. The open water does not afford any shade, and a hat, even on a hot day will help keep you cool. You should choose a broad rimmed hat, like used for fishing to afford additional eye protection. Generally you should not buy an expensive hat, if you paddle a lot you will get very frustrated losing them to wind gusts.
Sunscreen and Lip Balm: Once again there is no shade on the open water. Make sure to get your hands and if you paddle barefoot, your feet. Also be sensitive to your nose, checks, and ears. You should also use lip balm, especially one with a sun screen. The combination of sun and wind can destroy your lips in a day.
Dry Bag: A dry bag is heavy plastic bag used to store goods you want to keep dry while you are paddling. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, although OutdoorPlaces.Com recommends yellow because it is easy to spot if your bag should ever get loose during a capsize. No dry bag is perfect, and in the event of a full immersion you should expect some water to seep in. Material that you absolutely must keep dry should be stored in plastic bags within your dry bag. Also make sure your dry bag is secured to your canoe. In the event your canoe capsizes, an unsecured dry bag can float away or worse, sink.
If you are doing a whitewater day trip or touring for a day, you should carry rain gear (not a poncho, you won't be able to paddle with a poncho on), a towel, a dry change of clothes, a small first aid kit, waterproof matches, survival blanket, if you paddle barefoot some footwear, and some high energy food. Traveling for a day is when most people get into trouble. Capsize and lose your paddles, have a storm come up, unexpected low water with an impossible portage, can turn a day trip into an overnight trip. Further, immersion in water, even as warm as 70 degrees can cause hypothermia, a potential lethal condition when the body's core temperature is cooled below 97 degrees. Also in selecting your clothes remember that cotton kills, and you should never paddle wearing jeans.
Knee Pads: Most people that paddle prefer doing it from a kneeling position. By kneeling you lower your center of gravity which makes the canoe more stable, and you can brace yourself better on the sides of the canoe. Kneeling on the floor of an aluminum canoe however, will grow painful fast. You should have some kind of padding to kneel on which will make the experience far more enjoyable.
Training: Unless your only aspirations are to paddle in a small frog pond, you should take a paddling training course from a reputable outfitter. Most courses last from one to three days, with the longer ones typically culminating in a practical application of what you have learned in flat and/or whitewater conditions. Most outfitters will provide you the equipment, so if you are thinking of investing in a canoe this can also serve as a good opportunity to test your commitment to the sport.
All told if you are thrifty, to buy a quality canoe with the proper equipment for two adults, it will cost you around $1,100 minimum. If you start to get into performance paddles, Kevlar boats, and high end PFD's you can easily creep into $2,500 and more.
You should not shudder at the thought of the expense. A quality canoe will offer you years of service, while a canoe of questionable materials may need to be replaced every couple of years. Comfortable, quality paddles will also last a long time, and provide for a more enjoyable experience.
Paddling is one of the best outdoor sports you can get involved in. It can take you to places where few have gone, can provide a ride wilder than the best roller coaster, and is an excellent source of exercise. A little careful research, deciding what you want to use your canoe for, and picking the features that meet your specific needs will result in a safe and enjoyable experience.
Glossary of terms and a clickable canoe...