Big Guy + Medium Girl wants to Canoe

Hello All,

My husband and I are looking to get into canoeing. My husband is 6’2, about 330lbs and I’m 5’6, about 230. We have been doing a lot of research but cant decide what model canoe (manufacturer/material/length) will be best for us, especially considering our weight.

We are looking to view wildlife, paddle lakes, rivers and even some whitewater (not extreme though!). We are an active couple, who scuba dive, hike, swim, etc. Canoeing looks both romantic and fun and we think itd be a great venue into camping.

We went to test out an Old Town 147 and while I felt perfectly comfortable, my husband felt a little tight-like his knees were in his chest.

We’ve also looked at a 17 foot Grumman-in great condition, but heavy as all get out!

Any advice from someone who has experience being big and canoeing or if you just know someone big who canoes and can offer help, it’d be much appreciated.

Also, because we are knew to this, we havent been able to decide what the best material for our canoe should be. After reading a little on aluminum, I think I’d rather not deal with the cons of a Grumman(hot/cold metal, the noise, the possible sinking if it turns over)… So any comments addressing this would be helpful too.

Please explain why you think what you think. No one-line solutions. I really want to understand, to learn about this sport.

Thanks so much for reading this and Thanks-two more times to all who respond!

~Corona Love

You both need to lose about 100 lbs
You’ll be healthier, happier, and able to find a boat that floats you both.


Ah’d go wit a least a 17 footer…

– Last Updated: Jul-20-10 12:21 PM EST –

Royalex or maybe even poly fer wat yer plannin' on doin'. Yer talkin' almost 600 lbs. o' people an' who knows wat cargo ye plan on haulin' - so figger on ye be haulin' 700-800 lbs.+. Dat be lotsa weight fer anything less than a 17 wit concoyns fer safety an' handlin'.


I’d recommend two light, wide kayaks
Something like lightweight Poke Boats.

Think about it. If you like scuba diving, hiking and swimming, how much would you like those activities if you had to do them while welded to your spouse by a heavy 17’rigid bar. That’s tandem canoeing.

Others may offer different perspectives.

Yes, 17’ is what I was thinking
The Guide 147 we tried had like a 900lbs capacity, but my husband height seemed to play to much a factor, so longer is defintaly better.

And Royalex is supposed to be really good, right? Does it matter what manufacturer you have, or go just look solely for this material?..

Any company suggestions?

Good Point Abt The Kayaks
It’s something we’ve definately considered. I think the tandem canoeing idea came up because we were looking to get into something that bring us closer together. Because of the height and weight, kayaking may turn out to the best option, nevertheless. I’m sure it’d be more fun, esp. with whitewater.

I suggest a big Souris River or maybe
the new Mad River 186. The Souris 18s are relatively full in the ends, and the marked Swedeform of the MR 186 will also make it easier for you to get the seats positioned for proper trim. They’re relatively light boats, and they will sit fairly light with your starting boat load of about 550 pounds. You’ll still have margin for camping gear.

The Grumann
sounds like an excellent choice for you. It is not a whitewater boat, but it is practically indestructible and should meet your other needs nicely.

tandem canoes
If you were able to paddle an Old Town Guide 147, not fall out of it, and not get in a fight with each other, the two of you might just be made for tandem canoeing.

You might look at the Esquif Prospecteur 17 (Royalex) which would give you sufficient capacity, acceptable flatwater cruising speed, and good performance on mild or even moderate whitewater.

Some Initial Thoughts
As to Royalex being “really good”, it might be better to say that it’s a really good compromise between durability and light weight. It’s far better for most uses than polyethylene, which is quite a bit heavier and more prone to permenant warping, but on the other hand, poly is cheaper and tougher. If you expect the boat to take some hits on rocks, Royalex is usually a good choice. For more info on hull materials, check out the “Guidelines” section on this website.

Aluminum canoes shouldn’t sink. They have a big block of foam in each floatation “tank”, so they might even float higher when swamped than a typical Royalex or composite canoe (Royalex boats have no floatation but the material itself floats, and composite boats often have extremely tiny float tanks).

There are probably several different models that would work well for you, but off the top of my head, I’d say that a Wenonah Spirit II in Royalex would be a good choice. It’s a nice general-purpose tandem that will carry quite a load, but it’s not a “pig” on the water like a number of “cheap” tandems I could name. A Nova Craft Prospector, the 17-foot model, comes to mind too, though it will take a little more practice to make it go where you want it to. Finally, I’m sure that almost any major canoe maker has a model that will do the job.

Bring you closer together?
Are you talking physically, emotionally, spiritually?

I can only deal with the physical. In a tandem canoe the bow person will never see the stern person, and the stern person will only see the bow person’s backside about 14’ away. Hard to even talk that way without shouting.

In kayaks you can paddle right next to each other and chat naturally. But you also have the freedom to move off and do your own thing.

You won’t be paddling whitewater without training and group support, whether it be in kayaks or canoes. Tandem whitewater canoe, when people actually did it, was the second leading cause of divorce after alcohol abuse.

Excellent Infomation!
Good point about the shouting and only seeing the back of the person.

I must find the article on tandem whitewater canoeing. As a therapist that just sounds like an interesting read.

I’m really starting to wonder if kayaking wouldn’t be more adventurous to being with anyway. I’m guessing your thoughts hold for tandem kayaking as well? :slight_smile:

I liked the idea of “tripping” in the canoe-that and staying fairly dry.

I appreciate your feedback, you’ve given me a lot to consider.

Tandem Canoeing
Yes, I felt great in the 147, his long legs felt cramped though. A longer craft may provide some breathing room.

I know you said no one liners , but …

– Last Updated: Jul-20-10 3:07 PM EST –

...... seriously , for what you want from the canoe I would try to have a good look at the Old Town Tripper 172 (17'class) in Royalex .

It's a nice high volumn canoe in Roylex that weighs about 80 lbs. . It's not a go fast canoe but is "extremely" versatile . You won't be going fast anyway (which is arguably unreletive in canoes) .

You may be able to find one on the used market , they pop up from time to time (for very good prices too) . Even though the OT Tripper 172 is an older design (still offered new today) , it is still considered a great tandem canoe , especially for mountain rivers .

The Tripper 172 is an Expedition class canoe , and has proven itself to be so (highly regarded) , a very good thing !!

Even though your body weights are heavy , you and your husband have a "very good" trim for a tandem ... him being heavier in the stern and you being lighter in the bow . You just need a longer and more volumness boat ... the Tripper 172 is one that will work very well for you ... a number of other brands/models out there also .

I wouldn't let the 80 lbs. of the Tripper deter me , although some other Royalex canoes of that length may be a little lighter , the Tripper is a tad heavier for good reason , it's made to be tough and take it .

In a higher volumn canoe such as the Tripper , your husband could set on standard square throw cushion to raise him up some if he feels that will make his leg bend more comfortable . I do that often because I have long legs and the little bit that it raises me up makes a big difference to me .

In any case get a Royalex canoe , higher volumn model in at least 17' length .

ps., ... just found this , see the Tripper 172 in action with a couple a large guys , still plenty of boat left in the rough stuff ,

Tandem kayaking? Shoot me first.
No one does that. If they do, they soon stop.

There are decent arguments for experienced paddlers to paddle tandem canoe. There are hardly any arguments for tandem kayak.

A tandem canoe can actually be carried by a guy who still has testosterone. Tandem kayaks are so heavy and klutzy and unbalanceable that you will soon come to hate the idea of carrying and cartopping it.

Another point about a tandem boat vs. two solo boats. In a tandem, if you tip over you BOTH are in the drink and have to figure out some way to save your collective hides. In two solo boats, if one tips over the other person can do the rescue.

BTW, I am a committed open canoeist. But I don’t think they are for everyone or even for most casual paddlers.

Don’t take anyone’s internet typings as gospel. Find a large dealer who has a good variety of canoes and kayaks. Try paddling a tandem canoe, two solo canoes, two sit-in kayaks, and two sit-on-top kayaks. Form your own realistic opinion.

You’re off on the right foot…

– Last Updated: Jul-20-10 2:29 PM EST – asking questions.

I've been through quite a few tandem canoes (used and new) over the last few years, and I've done a lot of research and shopping.

At your size and experience level, something with plenty of volume and stability will make things more enjoyable. IMO, you shouldn't worry much about speed right now.

As mentioned above, 17 feet is probably a good place to start. Something with plenty of depth (say - 14 to 15 inches at the center), about 36" wide, with full ends. Look for a shallow arch or shallow "vee" hull. These features will help make it easy to feel comfortable in the boat.

You might think you want a flat bottom canoe because it feels more stable at first, and that is okay if you buy used at a price that you can recoup when you are ready to move into something that performs better. But if you find that you like canoeing, you will be happier with a boat with a more rounded bottom. The flat bottom is fine for flat water (although it's slow), but put a little wave action or riffle in the mix and the shallow arch or "vee" will feel more stable. Two reasons for this - 1) the flat bottom tries to conform with whatever the surface of the water is doing and 2) the more rounded hulls tend to firm up as they roll to one side and resist tipping the farther they are leaned, at least to a point far beyond what the typical flat-bottom canoe can stand, where the flat-bottoms generally resist rolling until they quickly hit the point of no return and flip over.

Here are some other things to think about...

As long as you can lift the boat to whatever will haul it without straining yourselves and portages aren't an issue, the weight isn't the most important issue. There are several good canoe carts on the market that will help you get the boat to and from the water if your access isn't too steep or gnarly. One of my canoes is 75lbs. I like to put it directly on the cart, load all my gear in the boat, and make one trip to the water. My canoe cart fits in the boat, so I just take it with me.

If your mate feels cramped in a boat of 17' or more in length, have him relax a little and try a different posture. Get the knees down some, or alternate one knee up at a time with the other leg extended. The ability to shift around is one of the advantages of a canoe over a kayak. Also - If he doesn't have any knee problems, he can try kneeling. This will also give him more control of the boat and allow better torso rotation for paddling.

I am assuming (risky, I know) that your hubby has been sitting in the stern seat with you in front, since he is heavier. If not, he would be better off there with more leg room and because it's usually better (except going against a headwind) to be a little stern-heavy than bow-heavy.

Speaking of that...if you find that your end of the boat is being lifted noticeably higher because of the disparity in weight, you can and should adjust that by moving or adding weight to your or away from his end. Having the canoe trimmed evenly bow to stern will actually make the boat more stable and efficient.


the biggest drawback to aluminum, IMO, is it's tendency to stick to rocks rather than slide off them. If you won't be doing any rocky rivers, that may not be a problem to you. Most aluminum canoes are a bit heavy for length, compared to some royalex and most current composite canoes, but as I mentioned - that can be dealt with if your demands allow it. Aluminum is noisy and tends to collect whatever the ambient temperature is and magnify it.

Having said that - at the right price (I see them running between $200 and $300 in very good shape) aluminum may be a good option. They don't need to be stored indoors or even under cover to last many decades. Since they all (as far as I've seen) have a protruding keel, they should be easy to make them track straight and are less susceptible to being blown about by the breezes - both good attributes if you will be mainly on lakes and ponds. Aluminum canoes don't tend to "oil-can" ("oil-canning" robs energy from your forward motion).

Single-layer plastic (poly) hulls are lower-priced and heavier than their royalex counterparts. They are harder to damage and harder to repair, and sometimes they get warped by heat and sun. Some of them need internal framework to keep their shape under normal use (stay away from those, IMO).

Royalex (abs laminate)is the "middle-of-the-road" for canoe hull materials. It is moderate in weight (typically ~72lbs for the current crop of 17-footers), moderately stiff, and pretty resilient when bashed on rocks. It is easier to damage than poly but easier to repair. It shows scratches and gouges in the outer skin easily, but survives catastrophic encounters with river boulders better than composites and better than some (but not all) poly boats. There seems to be a wider choice of canoe hull designs in royalex than any other material.

Composites (glass, kevlar) can have finer lines and stiffer hulls, and therefore tend to be faster and more efficient than similar hulls in royalex or poly. They are often lighter to much lighter than aluminum - and in the case of kevlar, much lighter even than royalex "lite". There are issues that you should learn to be aware of when looking at used composite boats, which might not be obvious - but they tend to be better boats than their plastic counterparts, IMO. Small damages are easier to repair than the plastics, but the composites can't be retrieved from catastrophe (such as wrapping around a boulder) like the plastics sometimes can.

Used prices on canoes (in my area, anyway) run around half the price of new, in good shape (a little more for exceptionally good ones), for plastic and composite boats. Aluminum canoes, as I mentioned, tend to run considerably less. Plastics and composites will lose further value as they age. The aluminum canoes tend to bottom-out around that ~$250 range and hold there as long as they are not made a complete mess.

At your size and on easy water, I wouldn't be afraid to try a use 17' or larger Grumman aluminum canoe. But I would recommend something like a 17' Nova Craft Prospector or a Wenonah Spirit II. You might do fine in a (16') Mad River Explorer. The Old Town Tripper or 17' Penobscot would be good options. A Bell Northwind would be a very nice option. Those are all examples of popular and competent hulls to look at, that won't bust your budget on the used market and are easy to re-sell at a moderate price if you choose to upgrade. You may find others that are similar, and worth considering, that I am not familiar with.

Ahhh, Glen…
…Have you never had your S/O turn around and face you from the bow seat while you paddle her around the lake and entertain her with small-talk?

Such a shame…

Corona - a tandem canoe will not bring you together if you are not already there - or going there. Most likely, it will enhance whatever your current status already is in your relationship. Maybe better, maybe worse - you need to think about that. For me and my wife, it’s for the better - but I’ve sen others headed down that “worse” river. If it ain’t bein’ fun for both of you - jump ship immediately and try the kayaks!

Being a big person myself I feel I can answer this.

You will want something around 17’ long. No shorter than 16…

You may want to move the seats a bit. you can move the stern seat forward a little that will get the bigger weight closer to the center. Kind of a like a big person and small person on a teeter totter. It balances the boat. Brand… all are fine, but I would HIGHLY recommend staying away from the Coleman’s etc. The boats with the aluminum tubes running down the middle.

There are many great boat makers out there. Just read the review section on this site. Don’t take the responses and gospel, just try and get a feel for the boat from what is written, then go shopping!

Yeah, g2d…
…but good luck finding a used one.

Advisors, take into account that the
canoe has to handle 560# plus load. That actually rules out a lot of suggested 17 foot tandems. Boat makers quote 6" freeboard capacities of 1000# or more for 17’ canoes, but that’s just fantasy. If these folks want to go canoe camping in the future, they need a boat that is stable and well-behaved with a load approaching 700#. Our OT Tripper would not have done the job.

I think they should save their pennies and consult with Wenonah, Bell, Souris River when they’re ready. In the meantime, I suggest renting 17 footers and trying out canoeing with light lunch.