Canoeing is about more than just canoes! There's safety equipment, paddles, navigation tools, and clothing that go along with them. The canoes themselves can be quite varied in types, from cedar-strip to plastic. It can be confusing to have so many options, so I've distilled that down for you here so you have the basics you need to get started.
What kinds of canoes are there and how can I pick between them? I've done my best to provide a well-researched section to help you make a smart choice for you. There's no best canoe, but they is probably a best one for you and your trip! Maybe you don't want to have to worry about breaking it, or you don't want to have to sweat too hard when lifting it. There's a right canoe for your particular trip, and I'll help you choose it.
You need to have some basic safety equipment to stay safe on the water. Mostly just a whistle, a flotation device, and a bailer. There's variation here too of course, I have a fancy PFD that looks stylish and inflates! Depending on your location some of these items will be legally required, but regardless all of it is legitimately important.
You're going to be paddling fresh water lakes, but that doesn't mean you can drink the water!
The tools you need to get from A to B. Maps, compasses, and GPS units. You absolutely must have a good-quality map! Waterproof is ideal, but you can always just use large sandwich bags and creative folding to get the same result. You need to know how to navigate with a map, and it's not trivial. GPS units are good to have as well, but if you rely on them and they stop working, you could end up in the middle of nowhere with no sense of how you got there!