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RIP Dan Cooke

A big loss to the canoeing and camping community both as an individual and as a gear manufacturer. I wonder if anyone is available to continue his business.
As Glenn said, that's a big loss. I'd been wanting to order something from them for years, and finally did so a few weeks ago, a custom-sized seat pad. It's in the mail currently, so I'm hoping things will continue as is, at least for now.
I had the pleasure of borrowing one of his food packs years back for a trip and ordered one of my own immediately upon return. Last year I called to order a hybrid pack and had Dan on the phone for a brief spell and then ended up speaking with his son, I believe. For me it was like a brush with paddling fame. In respect to he & his craft I am sharing a photo of his gear in it's intended environment.

20240316_090913 cropped.jpg
On last summer's Dubawnt River trip, we used 12 of Dan's packs, two canoe covers, and a tundra tarp. He was well represented and appreciated.
We spoke at Canoecopia 2024 and it was evident he was unwell. I wish the family peace as they grapple with the holes left by his death.

I have many pieces of gear from his business legacy. All are very well thought out and of quality workmanship. I hope to see the continuation of his name through quality equipment for a niche hobby and not a slow fade to oblivion via purchase by an outdoors conglomerate.
I bought a bunch of dog mushing clothes from him when he and his wife were making them along with their line of canoeing gear, when they were based out of Grand Marais, Minnesota. I still wear some the cold weather gear in the winter, it’s still warm and looks like it was just recently made. Also loved the great travel rucksack pack that I use when traveling in Scandinavian, small enough to fit in overhead compartment on aircraft, big enough to live out of if you are a careful packer.
Many of us will surely be toasting him and his wife some rainy night snug and dry under the great tarps that they built for us. They will be missed.
In connection with this site's fundraisers, which used to be held annually, previous admins Robin, DougD and DaveO often held raffles of canoe-related items donated by members. Dan Cooke sometimes donated one of his expensive pieces of gear to our raffles.

In the 2020 fundraiser raffle, Dan generously offered to donate a 10'x12', 1.1 oz., silnylon tarp. I won the tarp in the raffle, and within three days Dan had sent a brand new multi-color tarp to my doorstep by priority mail. I never used or even opened this tarp because I already had the same tarp in green, and I eventually sold it to member @Mark Z.

CCS Tarp.jpg

The last thing Dan ever wrote me in our email exchanges was: "Best of luck as you weather the storms of life."
Sorry to hear this, my condolences to his family. While working at Canoecopia I helped him and his staff set up his booth several times.
Simply sad ! Conversed with Dan, a few times at The Spring events, Mid West Mtn, would put on.
As nice a guy as you could meet.
I will look at my CCS equipment differently, as a Part of Dan, will be with me, when I go camping and canoeing.
RIP Dan !
Dan Cooke's longtime friend Sue Plankis posted the following biographical tribute to Dan on the Curtis/Hemlock FB page. For those who can't read the whole thing for some reason, Dan died of brain cancer and his CCS business will continue on under his son, Nate.


Dan Cooke

Dan had brain cancer; diagnosed in early January 2023. In the evening of July 1 he peacefully passed in his Lino Lakes, Minnesota home on the shores of Marshan Lake while watching trip photos. He was only 68.

Dan was a FS instructor, twice. He decided to re-up his certification sometime in the early 2010’s. He taught at the Minneapolis’ Midwest Mountaineering Store’s Spring Expos. He enjoyed teaching informally at weekly gatherings on summer evenings on Twin Cities’ lakes to paddle and play with FS and other fun canoe activities. Dan enjoyed getting into the far end of a canoe, cheerfully paddling as the opposite end swung wildly through the air. Oh and backwards - his compound backstroke could out paddle many others going forward.

Dan enjoyed paddling his Bell Flashfire, yes a Flash, even though a Wildfire was on his canoe rack. He was most excited when he finally received his beautiful red Nakoma from the late Tom Mackenzie of Loon Works Canoes. He treasured that canoe. He would paddle and teach from it up at our annual Sawbill Lake fall gatherings of the MN Chapter of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association. He and I had great fun side-slipping in other’s tandem wood hulls.

Many of his canoes had snaps; snaps for the canoe spray skirts which he designed and sewed. He was a master at these canoe covers. In his craft-basement where his business Cooke Custom Sewing headquartered, imagine rafters filled, and I mean filled with rolls of paper patterns of dozens of canoe hulls so that he could make canoe skirts. And if someone wanted, they could drive to his MN home, he could pattern the cover, sew it and later install the snaps on the canoe. All while chatting happily about their upcoming, often northern Canadian wilderness canoe expeditions.

Other products came out of the business which he and his late wife Karen started in the 1980’s. Some of these products came on my canoe trip this summer on the Taltson River in the Canadian NWT. We had a CCS thwart bag with map case, a canoe seat and a barrel pack. Dan and company also sewed many other styles of packs for canoeing and hiking. And the packs’ details and quality were impeccable because Dan was an engineer. His aptitude seen not only in the final product but also came into play in the small tricks or tools he developed to put the products together.

Then there are the tarps. Dan engineered and sewed simple as well as bug screen tundra tarps. Bright and colorful, strong and waterproof. And this is where Dan as a teacher excelled again; he gave workshops on tarp setup at canoe expos, as well as Winter Camping Symposiums. Because you see, Dan played in the winter too. He and Karen designed and sewed anoraks, mukluks, pulk covers and tents for winter camping. Of late, Dan enjoyed his MN northwood winters when he joined his young god son and the family on their winter camping trips.

Now Dan was also a photographer. His house had stacks of books he had printed up with photos of their various trips. As well, the house walls were adorned with his photos blown up largely to fill frames and even as much as five foot long showing Karen looking out at the peaks of some mountains they had hiked.

Dan enjoyed the northwoods, especially the Boundary Waters. As a youth he guided for Adventurous Christian camp located off of the Gunflint Trail. This last decade he guided adults on solo canoe Bushcraft trips in the BWCA. Dan would head north in the shoulder seasons for his own solo canoe trips where he sometimes had to break ice to get in and out.

Dan and I got to do many day outings with the MN canoe gang, campouts and paddle weekends with canoe makers and the wooden canoe groups, and then some week-long trips we put together ourselves: on the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande River on the Mexican border where we reminisced with him of a previous trip we had done with his late wife Karen; a trip on Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone Park. These will remain fond memories.

I had hoped to visit Dan again once I got back from the NWT. But that was not to be; we got news while still in the bush.

Dan, you are wonderful and will be missed.



CCS business will continue with Dan’s son Nate at the helm.

~Sue Plankis~

Written on the shore of Nonacho Lake, NWT, Canada
I met Dan when he came to get his FS instructor certification when FS was still with the ACA. It was a bit perfunctory as I and the other IT’s knew he would be certified easily. His attitude towards learning was open and he generously shared his knowledge and fun personality.
His passing is a great loss to the paddling community. Best wishes to his family.