Canadian Canoe Routes

Canoe size for small family
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Author:  DougS [ October 10th, 2006, 3:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Canoe size for small family


I've been looking at a lot of designs for building a wood strip canoe. For the most part, the intended use would be for lakes: some fishing, some short trips, maybe a longer trip or two.

For the near future, the canoe needs to hold myself, my wife, and my two small kids. My kids are small, they are 25lbs and 22lbs.

I can see some real benefits for building a 16' (or even a 15') canoe: strips would be cheaper and easier to get, my building space is tight for a 17'+ boat, storage is easier, the canoe would be lighter... I've also looked at some pictures of boats such as Bearmountain's Ranger 15'. There's no doubt that my kids could easily fit in the middle of the boat on either side of the yoke. Once the kids get bigger, trips for the whole family can be done with canoe + kayak.

I would be interested to hear other people's opinion on this. Is a 15' or 16' canoe just too small to use for our family? Would it be too small to have as an all-around canoe, keeping in mind that our combined body weight is only 320lbs (which is pretty low for a lot of canoe designs I believe)?


Author:  Jwinters [ October 10th, 2006, 4:29 pm ]
Post subject: 


I expect you will get a lot of advice here and it will be good advice. Usually people will recommend a specific boat that they like. It is important to recognise that these are always opinions and the people giving them may mean well but they will probably have different skills and objectives from you. No matter what boat you select you should keep in mind a couple of important points.

1. Your children will grow. Sometimes they grow frighteningly fast so if you plan to paddle with your children until they get bored or discover girls or boys you should get a larger boat than you need right now unless you don't mind buying new or additional boats on a regular basis.

2. Your combined weight is not all that low. Keep in mind that it is the total weight (boat, paddles, people, gear etc) that floats. This is called displacement. I won't bother getting on my soap box about that other than to say that the boat you buy should be designed for that displacement.

3. You will not notice any degradation in performance or handling In most receational boats so long as the boat is loaded within +10% -20% of the designed displacement.

4. If at all possible test some boats with everything and every body aboard and then test them with an additional 50 - 75 pounds just to see what it will be like a few years down the road.

5. The best thing you have going for you is that there are a lot of really nice boats out there and it is hard to go wrong anymore just so long as it is sized right for you.

The first paragraph also applies to me. :D

Author:  Kim Gass [ October 10th, 2006, 4:52 pm ]
Post subject: 

I agree with John.

Small children aren't like small packs because they always fail to stay put.

Most likely you will need a canoe that will accommodate your kids until they are about seven and ready to learn to paddle a canoe or kayak on their own. That makes them about (a guess) fifty or sixty moving pounds each.

If you are day tripping it probably wont matter much 15 or 16 feet but be sure the boat has good secondary stability. My 38 lb grandson spends alot of time hanging over the side. The boat is 36 inches wide and 15 feet long, a bathtub for sure but great for him as its stable for him to wander around a little.

You will be squashed with less than 16 feet on overnight trips. Again the kids will need freedom to move a little and room to "paddle". I am guessing if one wants to paddle , the other one will too. My grandson likes to "paddle" sometimes. He is three so he is not usually helpful but he is out of the way. :D

Author:  Red Lake Rob [ October 10th, 2006, 5:30 pm ]
Post subject: 

Nothing like apddling along and both kids leap to one side of the canoe going LOOK LOOK! while Mom and Dad are scrambling to keep the canoe from tipping becasue there is all of a sudden 60 pounds leaning over one side of the canoe.. :lol:

I saw a Quetico 18 at White Squall this weekend with a third seat. Looked awesome. Still prefer having 2 canoes though.

Maybe a smaller canoe with plans on a second one once they get older. When they get to 6 or so they will want to sit in the bow and pretend to paddle. Which translates into you paddling a tandem solo. This is where we are right now. 1 adult per canoe and 1 child. Plenty of room for all the gear. When we are just going for a short paddle we all fit just fine in either 16 foot boat.

The next stage will be both kids paddling their own canoe and Mom and Dad in the other one.

Either way, I would suggest at least a 16' for starters.

Author:  RHaslam [ October 10th, 2006, 7:02 pm ]
Post subject: 

The bigger the better in my opinion. The 20 foot quetico that i built last year is now barely adequate for myself, girlfriend and her two daughters. Both kids are around 70 pounds, and they do not like to sit side by side, much better to keep the peace to have them in a linear pattern. We had two barrels, one big seal line pack and a couple of small day packs the last time we went for an overnighter, and we were fairly well loaded. There was still lots of freeboard, and the performance of the canoe was great, but we were out of room inside the canoe. Small kids often means a lot of extra gear, especially this time of if i were you, build big. If i were to build the 20 footer again, I would widen it, which is what John Winters reccomended in the first place. And the reason for widening it would be to place the two kiddos side by side and still have some comfort space between them. Young kids are usually pretty good, but I think it's important to keep things comfortable and enjoyable for them during the indoctrination.

Author:  Dan Lindberg [ October 11th, 2006, 10:17 am ]
Post subject: 

Another opinion.

Years ago we took the kids on several canoe "campouts" using the old std 17' Grumman. They were probably in the 5-10 age range. The canoe was crowded but it worked. This was BW lake travel and we only went out in calm weather.

So for me/us, 17' would be a minimum length, with 18 or 18.5 better.


opps, double "push", sorry

Author:  Dan Lindberg [ October 11th, 2006, 10:17 am ]
Post subject: 

Another opinion.

Years ago we took the kids on several canoe "campouts" using the old std 17' Grumman. They were probably in the 5-10 age range. The canoe was crowded but it worked. This was BW lake travel and we only went out in calm weather.

So for me/us, 17' would be a minimum length, with 18 or 18.5 better.


Author:  Rolf Kraiker [ October 11th, 2006, 10:52 am ]
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Doug, if you can find a copy of Cradle to Canoe, there's a bunch of advice in it about fitting kids in canoes for camping. There's an excerpt from some of that at You want to make sure that the experience the kids have is fun and any purchasing decisions should begin with that in mind. We have both an Old Town Discovery 169 and an OT Tripper (very similar 17 ft canoes but made slight differently). That canoe was great when the kids were young. What was good about the design is that it was fairly flat bottomed which made finding place for the kids easy and it had a lot of initial stability which helps avoid any tipping concerns as the kids squirm. Here's a photo of the canoe at the end of a two week trip down the White River to Lk Superior Even if that had been my wife in the front seat (which was the case for most trips), there's still enough room for both our kids and her spread out enough that nobody's personal space gets invaded. We sometimes brought along two tupperware type stools that would nicely fit side by side in the bottom of the canoe mid-ship. That gave us the option of letting the kids sit side by side but it also meant we could move the seats to seperate the boys if they were getting tired of each other's company. When the kids got older, we bought a 12 ft OT Pack canoe. They were intended to be solo boats but I put a "stern" seat in ours. That way the kids could have their own canoe to paddle (and portage) if they chose to or one of the adults could paddle it solo if the kids got tired.

hope that's of some help.

Author:  DougS [ October 11th, 2006, 1:31 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks for all the ideas.

16' seems to be the minimum length I need and I generally agree with all of the comments above. Realistically I can see our family only going out for a couple hours at a time in the foreseable future. Once the kids get bigger (big news: at my son's 3 year check up yesterday he is now officially "on the chart" at the 3percentile!), I like the idea of paddling with 2 canoes or 1 canoe and 1 kayak.

So I think my canoe requirements ideally would be:
16'-17' in length
compromise between stability and maybe a bit of some speed
can be paddled solo or tandem

Three boats jump out at me: BM Freedom 17 and Bob's Special 16', along with GV Kipawa. This is going to be a tough decision!


Author:  Gail R [ October 11th, 2006, 2:01 pm ]
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my boats are 16.5 for flatwater and we still fit (barely) in a 16 ft for white water tripping BUT we have to be increasingly mindful of every pound of gear.
Family all in one boat.
If you like two boats then go that route...... it's good to have kids get use to paddling at a young age.
I wouldn't worry about that percentile eldest at 10 is still under the chart and the youngest is in the bottom 10% both are becoming compident solo white water paddlers....size has nothing to do with it
if you go the kayak route make sure the capacity of the canoe will handle all the gear without eating at your freeboard.....

Author:  Rolf Kraiker [ October 11th, 2006, 2:59 pm ]
Post subject: 

DougS wrote:
Three boats jump out at me: BM Freedom 17 and Bob's Special 16', along with GV Kipawa.

Doug, I'd suggest you rethink the Bob's Special. Any Bob's that's close to the original form isn't going to have a lot of carrying capacity and it's a pretty wet boat in waves. The last thing you want to be worrying about if you've got you family is swamping if a wind comes up while you're paddling. If you have the opportunity to "kick some tires" on different canoes before buying, bring along some stuff of known value that you can gradually add into a boat to simulate the load. 25 pound bags of potatoes or something like that would be ideal. The load capacity stated by manfacturers isn't always a reliable guide to what you can safely carry and you can't compare one company's specs against another. Actaually putting in the weight and using the canoe is the best way to figure out if you'll like it.

Author:  RHaslam [ October 11th, 2006, 3:33 pm ]
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I wouldn't go with the Kipawa for your intended least move up to the Winisk, the Quetico would be better. I built two winisks ina 17 foot have to go from one corner to the's tight but do-able. As much as I hate to recommend it, Rolf's Old Town Disco might be a good bet. I have a the same model, heavy as a pig, slow to paddle, but very stable and indistructable. You could probably pick up a good used one for about 300 bucks. Mine fits both kids side by side with lots of room left over.

Author:  Dan. [ October 11th, 2006, 10:11 pm ]
Post subject: 

I built a ranger last winter.

I LOVE IT!!!!!


You WILL hate it for your intended use.

I use it for solo flatwater playing, and for LIGHT tripping with my girlfreind.
With me and my dad (both of use are around the 210 mark) it is maxed out empty, maybe enough displacement for a weekend or so MAX.

It is very responsive. This means for playing it is great, for squirming kids it is SCARY. There is little secondary stability, that means it keeps me on my toes. With kids that means there is no pre-swim warning.

The Bob's is also a very similiar design, although it has a little less capacity if I remember correctly, it is not the right choice for your intended application.

Look at the temagami if the Winisk is not to your taste, or possible a 17' prospector if you prefer a traditional look.

TO the rest of you.. read the man's needs HE is not tripping and he wants to build it himself.

Where is the guy gonna get plans for a Disco?

Author:  .boB [ October 11th, 2006, 11:27 pm ]
Post subject: 

If your do any longer trips you can always rent a larger capacity canoe. Like this Old Town.


I took this photos July 2005 at Fort Selkirk on the Yukon River at 62°46'N. 137°23'W., just below the mouth of the Pelly River and about halfway between Whitehorse and Dawson City.

This German Family with two children was traveling alone. I don’t recall any details other than they were not in any hurry; I believe they'd been on the river for about a month. The fella mentioned that they had spent several days in a native fish camp cleaning fish and generally helping out and learning how to smoke salmon and that he’d smoked some of his freshly caught salmon. That’s the way to do it!

When the family paddled Five Fingers rapids & Rink rapids they arranged to have a local Kayaker from Carmacks accompany them... for the children’s Safety. Their tent was a large single pole TeePee style expedition tent that afforded lots of room and indoor campfires. In bad weather they could live totally inside.

Totally Awsome. I’ve never seen a canoe this loaded. There might be 6 inches free board.

Sorry about the over size photo.

Author:  Gail R [ October 12th, 2006, 7:14 am ]
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TO the rest of you.. read the man's needs HE is not tripping

Dan, our family started the same way....we (or at least I) had intended to do it as a weekend close to base camp sort of's hard to imagine when you look at kids in diapers that you'll be taking them out longer and farther than that. If I had bought a 15' boat or if I had bought the really beatiful but low capacity Bluewater I would have had to sell it the next year....16 ft is good for his need plus it will give him a year or two if/when he gets hooked on tripping.
True about the boat designs's gotta be something he can build

love that shot of the Germans.....

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