Canoe for small family and pulling with bicycle?

I have never owned a canoe before so this will be my first. It has to be big enough for 2 small adults and 1-2 kids as well as some gear. I am leaning towards 16’ because I know we will fit, but the pulling weight may become an issue with a bike. My neighbour has a 14’ canoe that us 2 small adults and toddler fit into easily with space for gear but it is a cheapo 70lb canoe.

The biggest thing I am stuck on is if I want carbon fiber. Like I said, I’ve never owned a canoe and can really only afford one canoe that will cost a couple grand. I need lightweight but I also will not sacrifice durability as much as possible. For example, my bicycle is chromoly steel and that is all I will ever use. I know carbon fiber is lighter, but it’s potential to fail catastrophically makes it useless to me. Are carbon fiber canoes the same deal? I live in Canada and have been thinking of the prospector 16’ from Novacraft in tuffstuff expedition. This would be about 62lbs (supposedly). I have seen a few videos of their blue steel canoes which look gorgeous and are like 50lbs but I have never seen videos about their durability. I will mostly be doing flat water, MAYBE great lakes if weather is calm and I have learned how to canoe but we do have some rivers here too. If a blue steel canoe can fail catastrophically by hitting a small rock then I am not interested.

Could a 15’ tuffstuff expedition prospector work for a small family as well? To cut on weight? It would be nice if I could get a 16’ canoe that is like 34" wide rather than 36" (prospector) to cut on weight and get to 60lbs or less. The trailer that I use for general daily use that I made is about 55lbs. I know SwiftCanoe is light too but they say they are stiff and brittle?

TL;DR I need a fairly light but durable canoe that can withstand small hits on rocks for a small family which I am pulling with a bicycle.

An all carbon canoe will be quite fragile. You want a carbon/Kevlar weave for some durability.

When you move to ultralight, how you get in and out matters. No beaching it and stepping in from shore. You walk into the water and get in like a hammock.

Smooth rocks aren’t a problem, but hitting something sharp and with speed will not be good


I agree with Mike. I don’t know that carbon fiber is that delicate. I had one CF canoe that took several hard shots from unseen obstacles, once down to the cloth.
I think it hurt my feelings more than the boat.
A material like Wenonah’s Tuffweave is durable and fairly light weight.

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I have an old 16’ prospector made with the Blue Steel fabric. It has not been as strong as I would have thought. It has a couple of repaired cracks from being dropped empty. It has never failed “catastrophically”. If I were looking to buy another, and strength was high on the list, I would put up with the extra weight and go for the tuffstuff.

The canoe itself is well suited for your intended uses.


AFIK, there is nothing fragile about Swift canoes. Friends have a Swift Prospector 16’ in Kevlar Fusion (beautiful boat). Swift’s catalog shows that at 38 lbs. The Novacraft layups to the best of my knowledge are designed for abuse. They came up with the Tuffstuff layup to take the same, if not more, abuse as did royalex. You do need to take care with the ultra-light canoes like the solo canoes that weigh in the 9 - 18lb range. Strength will relate to more than just the fabric. Resin type and how it is applied is important.

Since you are in Canada, Swift and Novacraft are good choices. Also take a look at Esquif’s boats and, maybe, Clipper.

The Nova Craft Pal is 16 feet, 34 inches wide and 52 pounds in TuffStuff and should fit your planned use better than a Prospector.

Swifts are not brittle…I’ve had 4. Outfitters use their lighter kevlar lay-up for rentals…same as Wenonah. They can take punishment.

Souris River is a fine Canadian brand and their Quetico 16 would also fit your needs perfectly. They are versatile and light and have a great reputation for durability so if you want a 42 pound boat much more than a 52 pound boat don’t let the light weight worry you.

You’ll need much more than well-developed paddling skills to paddle on the Great Lakes; you’ll need knowledge and experience with weather forecasts, wind (even a gentle wind blowing away from shore can be deadly), cold water (60-65 or below…so pretty much year round), flotation devices, communication devices, and rescue…plus solid swimming ability for everyone. I have all of that and don’t take canoes on The Lake. Lots of ways to quickly get into serious trouble. If you get to the point where you are thinking about doing it I hope you ask more questions on this forum.

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Can you elaborate on “pulling a canoe with a bicycle”?

With a small family?

I’m not a canoer but when looking for a new kayak I did look at the Sportspals canoes. Freedom Canoe and Kayak carry them. They are aluminum and relatively light and safe for a family. They come in many sizes and stern shapes. I would’ve gotten one if I could’ve talked my hubs into trying canoeing. I did get a new kayak though. I have seen many old Grummans on Kijiji so apparently aluminum is fairly tough.