4 seater, reasonable price?

I am very new to paddling - been kayaking a handful of times. I am a single mom to 3 daughters with special needs. None of them would be able to kayak alone probably ever. I have recently moved where we are near lovely estuaries and intercoastal waters. I need to get more in shape and we all need to get outdoors more.
Is there a kayak, or similar that could seat the 4 of us? Not only that but I will be the sole paddler and the only one to load/unload therefore lighter is better as is ease of use. Is there such a beast? Oh yeah, the price needs to also be reasonable. I’d love to hear any suggestions for us.

I would think a canoe would be a better bet, but a talented builder could make a 4 place kayak.
Here is a link to look at a canoe that would work, but may not be what you’d like:

Anything large enough to hold 4 people is not going to be very light. So the project would need to come with a cart. I would also suggest a trailer to tow it instead of trying to load it on top of a car or truck. But working with only 1/2 the weight at any time makes moving heavier boats much simpler. That’s why I’d suggest the cart and trailer. With wheel under it, and rollers to help you load and unload you are going to be lifting 1/2 the weight only. And with a trailers you’d only need to bring it up about 2 feet, such a canoe of kayak would be manageable. But keep in mind what ever you’d use needs to be safe and have some margin of floatation with your body weight and the weight of all 3 girls plus all gear. That means a lot of length or width or maybe both. Such a craft can’t be made very light weight. So my guess is the weight of the kayak or canoe is going to be in excess of 90-100 pounds. Klepper in Germany makes one, but I don’t know the cost of the weight.


What happens with 3 special needs children in a rescue situation with one adult? An adult that is probably not well versed in self rescue for themselves.


I applaud your enthusiasm and wanting to get your daughters on the water. It is great that you have enjoyed kayaking.

However, as a matter of basic safety I cannot recommend that anyone get on the water without the capability to handle a capsize safely. A ratio of one potentially capable person to three who may not be is a combination that IMO should never be in a boat together.

That is even if everyone can swim decently and has a good PFD and is dressed to be warm in case of a swim. That is too many people for one rescuer to get out of the water quickly.

My cut, just based on the information provided, would be no more than one of your daughters at a time, with you with them in a tandem craft, and in very quiet waters away from any tidal influences. You don’t say where you are but odds are the tidal influences/currents may be a very present thing in that area.

The only tandem craft that would also fit your weight requirements would probably be a canoe anyway, a tandem pack canoe where stability is a bit easier. Such craft need to stay away from coastal conditions.

The other option might be something like a traditional dory, that you row, and could keep at anchor during the warm season.

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Well we all would wear floatation devices. The girls all can swim. Lastly am I supposed to stay confined to home because something might happen? I understand the need to be prudent and smart about it but to discount it all together seems a bit closed minded.

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Your original post did not indicate anything about their swimming ability.

As above there is not an easily apparent craft that can handle 4 people and can also be handled by you without assistance. Kayaks typically do not exist as four seaters and canoes up to that are also very heavy. That is why I suggested something like a dory that could be rowed and left at anchor during the season if you could find a marina or moorage. All you would have to do with that is get it in and out of the water at the beginning and end of the season.

There are inflatables but I don’t know of any that are built for four people short of river rafts. Which are expensive and can be quite unwieldy. Assuming the girls are not all extremely young - there is no information to gauge total weight.

There are options if you can consider a different arrangement than four of you in the same craft, which would preserve safety as well as get you on the water. If you hold on it having to be all four - I am personally not seeing a craft that fits your criteria, even without the rescue considerations.

On the last I agree with Paddledog52’s sentiment. Getting into a boat - any boat - with responsibility for others of diminished cognitive or physical capacity is not something to be done without accounting thoroughly for risks.

But price is likely to be a stopper anyway. I just tried to dig up the price of the quad folder that was added above by Klepper. I was unaware they had one. Weight 81 pounds which actually seems a bit odd considering the weight of their doubles, but maybe. More to the point, the doubles come in at over 5100 bucks so the additional features for two more paddlers pull this into more than the price of hard shell kayaks.

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Thank you for taking the time to reply. Yes I am aware of the risks. This isn’t something I am “set” on doing - it was just an idea as we all love the water and I thought this might be fun for all of us. I really don’t have anyone to come with or watch the girls much so generally we are a “party of 4”.

Pakboat of Sweden makes a 17’ folding canoe (PakCanoe 170) which is available through their US distributor in New Hampshire. The 170 has a capacity of 910 pounds and weighs 56 pounds, easily handled by one person for loading (see attached catalog information).

Ally Canoe, another Scandinavian brand made by Bergans of Norway, makes similar models including an 18’ one. The Ally 18 has the same 910 pound capacity and only weighs 47 pounds. I was able to set up an Ally 18 by myself in 45 minutes this summer while helping someone sell a used one they had inherited from an estate. (Pakboat designer Alv Elverson worked for Ally before starting his own company).

I’ve owned 4 Pakboat kayak models including two that have the same frame and skin design as the canoes. Assembly is straightforward and takes about 40 minutes once you are familiar with the steps if done alone – first time might take you 90 minutes. You don’t need to fold the boat down after each use, just open the valves on the inflatable side sponsons that tighten the skin and add buoyancy. The boats can be carried on a roof rack and also stored set up.

I believe the seats can be placed in different locations inside the hull and extra seats can be added in the longer models. I know that is true in the larger Ally canoes.

They are very durable craft and have been used for decades by outfitter guides on remote rugged rivers, even on whitewater, because they can be packed down in a duffel and brought in on a float plane. Folding skin-on-frame boats are very stable and comfortable even in rough water because they absorb wave force and flex to go up over waves rather than being buffeted by them.

Price for a new PakCanoe 170 is around $2500 and of course, being fold down boats they can be shipped anywhere by regular freight. The Ally 18 is $2200 but I think you have to have it shipped from the UK which would add import fees and shipping costs.

It is sometimes possible to find used ones. The Ally 18 I helped find a new home last summer sold for $300 but the new owner was going to have to pay about $300 to order new seats since the originals were missing. The boat had a lot of small patches (the rugged rubber hulls can be easily patched and reinforced, just like whitewater rafts). The buyer was planning to use it as a cargo canoe on a kayaking expedition in the Alaskan arctic.

The Wenonah Minnesota 4 can handle four people. There are some other large canoes over 18 feet that could probably handle four people with no gear by adding some seats.

I agree that having one able bodied paddler with 3 children that aren’t presents some serious safety and propulsion issues. With a Minn 4 you can seat 4 people. Recruit another adult to help you paddle and to be available in the event of a rescue. Take turns with your kids. If you take 2 adults and 2 kids at a time, then you have one adult per kid in the event of a capsize, rescue or emergency. Life jackets and dress for immersion.

How old are the girls?

Water you will be in is?

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I admit that more information about the capacity of the children would be helpful. Have you had them out in boats of any kind before and are they comfortable on and in the water?

You say that they can swim. If they can swim it does seem that they should also be able to paddle a bit, no? Even very small children can usually handle a paddle and copy the movements of an adult. Even if they are not providing substantial propulsion, keeping them engaged in the movement can help with balance and tracking for the main paddler.

A double bladed kayak paddle can be easier in a canoe for beginners, kids and people with challenges – a single blade requires more skill and dexterity.

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Also, Grabner of Germany makes a 4 person inflatable canoe that weighs 66 pounds and can be set up in under 15 minutes.

But at $3600 probably far over your budget. I notice they will finance at $166 at month (but that is close to a car payment and a lot for a boat you might not use a lot).

One thing about kayaks and canoes is that you can always sell them eventually and get a pretty good percentage of your money back, 50% to 70% depending on condition and desirability of the model.

A lot of good advice and ideas from other respondents, so I won’t repeat those.

What is a “reasonable” price? As you can see from the other responses, you have a difficult ask, and like most things in life that are difficult they come at a cost.

If your goal is to get out and enjoy the water perhaps you might look beyond paddle and even rowing craft, and look into sailing. USA Sailing has adaptive programs and probably have a lot of ideas how you can reach your goal (probably not cheap).

Edit to add: Esquif Canoe does make larger “sporting” canoes that can powered with a small outboard that would probably get you out on the water and overcome propulsion shortcomings with one paddler and three passengers.

Off topic, but when was the last time you bought a car? I think the average car payment is north of $400 nowadays.


We would be in salt water - quiet estuaries, mangroves. No open ocean or anywhere with waves but some intercoastalThey are 17, 12, 12 and weigh between 60 - 95 lbs. 2 are physically capable of paddling but could not be depended on to do so - more likely to refuse or give up and float away hence causing me more problems.

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Of course not. And I applaud you for seeking guidance on paddling with your girls. Responsible paddlers go out on the water with an understanding of risks and how to mitigate them. We prepare and practice rescues in case the worst happens, so that we know what we will do if and when it does. This is something you will need to do if you paddle, with or without your children, regardless of the type of water you paddle.

My advice would be to take them out with you one at a time, at least at first, to see how they each respond to paddling as well as to any trouble that might arise. Each will have their own reaction to paddling. One or more may absolutely hate it, or love it. Practice what you would do in case of capsize, or sudden high wind, or equipment failure, or injury.

As a mother and an experienced paddler, I personally wouldn’t go with a ratio of less than one adult per child. And I’d look at lightweight pack canoes - wide and stable.


I think it’s a solid move reaching out for advice.
I will say that if I had 3 special needs children, I would want to find a way to take them paddlling. I am a fairly experienced paddler, and that gives me some ability to recognize some challenges of having 1 paddler in a boat with 3 others. The big thing is arranging yourself and the others around you in a position where you can still exercise meaningful control over the boat. Tandem+ paddleboats are mostly designed with 2+ active paddlers in mind, vs. a single person paddling. So you will experience challenges that a boat with 2 or more active paddlers may not recognize. With calm weather, I think there would be a way to make a go of some options. With wind, arranging the weight distribution in the boat becomes even more important, along with understanding how that boat will behave for you in different winds and currents with your arranged load and only one paddler. You want to make sure you can handle it before you put yourself in a situation where you have to handle it. With you being very new to paddling yourself, I think it may be a good idea to find someone to come along with you.
You might find some luck looking into a local paddling club. For instance, if you randomly happened to be around Charleston, SC, my wife and I would likely be happy to help you safely introduce yourselves to your new hobby. You could potentially arrange occasional group outings with you and your daughters in mind. For instance, my wife and I could bring a tandem canoe and a tandem kayak to help you let your children experience this, and I imagine there may be others as part of something like Lowcountry Paddlers or other club options that may have members willing to help you. You may be able to experience different types of paddlecraft, or get to demo a few options before settling on anything for yourself. And having even one experienced person in a solo kayak with a tow rope along with you could change a difficult situation where you’re experiencing unexpected challenges controlling and progressing your boat, into a simple learning experience done the easy way.
I wish you luck, and I hope y’all find a safe and fun way to experience the joys of paddling.


Re-reading the posts above I was struck that the most sensible thing you could do in the short term is to make a bunch of new friends from the local folks around you who paddle or row boats. Some areas it’s easy. (Where I live It’s not! I had to make my own paddling friends by baiting them to try my kayaks and get them hooked. But it’s worked well. I have made 10 new converts in just 9 months, and 6 of the 10 now have their own kayaks. Of those 6, 5 were kayaks I bought on Craigslist and re-sold to them for what they cost me to get. So by doing instead of just talking I now have a good handful of paddling buddies in a place that when I started, I had only my wife.)

You didn’t tell us what state you are in. That would be a good start.

Also go to Craigslist in your state or nearby states and type in Canoe and Kayak and see what is around you that may be easy and inexpensive to start with. That’s how I got all but 3 of my kayaks. 2 were bought by my wife new when we started and my Chatham17 was bought from a man I corresponded with who is an elk hunter as I am. I have bought and re-sold 5 others to friends who are now paddling partners for myself and my wife. I intend to get 4-5 more in the time between now and April of next year. I can find none in Wyoming, but I have found a few in Montana and Colorado.

If you live in an area that has a lot of paddlers, go meet them. Row-boaters, kayakers and canoers. Some will probably be delighted to have you and your girls as new friends. And in so doing you get connected, and you also reduce or eliminate much of the danger of being alone on your outings.

I believe the Biblical principal “To have a friend you should first be a friend” So going out to meet new friends in the paddling community in your state and close by is well worth the time you’ll spend doing it. Church groups are the best place I have found to start new interest groups, and a LOT of families love to have other families to go do fun things with. Friends are well worth having any place you go, and there is security in numbers.
It may lead you to good deals too.


In my park of Florida, Tampa, there are several associations that help with adaptive paddlers.

Adaptive is the key word here, it covers all of those who at potentially at risk with physical situations. The county has an office to help put events together. They have tied in some church groups, hospitals, and scouts.

I would start there, not with a big canoe. Though I love kayaks, I would recommend something more along the lines of a Jon boat and trolling motor, if you want to go it alone.

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Part of Florida, excuse me.