Canoe on RV?

Hi, My wife and I have paddled canoes all our life, both on major expeditions on North Country rivers and on the New England coastline. We are considering purchase of a Class B RV. Having owned a couple of small tow-behind campers we would like to not tow, if possible at this point in our lives. (when we did tow, we just put the canoe on the truck rack) However, we can’t figure out where to carry the canoe on an RV like the Class Bs. Our basic go to canoe is an Old Town Penobscot 16" Any experience or suggestions appreciated.

It is a long way up there. A lot of RVs are 10-11 feet off the ground. That is the awkward part.

I’ve seen it done, but it’s not common. The rack has to be bolted to the roof. You need space not blocked by air conditioners, antennas, skylights, vents, etc. The roof has to be rated to walk on and carry the weight of the canoe and rack. You have to be very aware of your new total height.

When lifting the canoe onto the roof you risk losing your balance, dropping the canoe, and damaging it when you fall onto it.

Much more common are popup tow-behinds. The canoe will be at optimal height for loading and unloading.

I have friends who spent the money ho have custom racks built of their motor homes, but it is like watching a high wire act when they load and unload it. Dangerous does not even cover it. RV’s are not ever the most solidly constructed things and I would not trust my bones to those cheap ladders that are screwed on to them. I would look in to a good quality inflatable that you can roll up and put in the storage at the bottom of the RV and leave the canoe at home.

You might want to look at the offerings from and The pakboat canoes get good reviews as decent, proper canoes but will take 30+ minutes to assemble so maybe a good choice if you plan to stay places for a few days. The seaeagle boats would be easier to quickly inflate but they only offer one canoe which may not be as nice as a real Penobscot, but some of their kayaks get good reviews as enjoyable boats if you’d consider switching over to the dark side.

As you already know, the class Bs aren’t as tall as other RVs. But your choices still remain the same. On the roof, inside, or tow behind.
On top, you’ll need to find the right rack, mounting, and ability to load and unload.
Inside, you’ll give up precious cargo space.
Have you considered a light weight kayak trailer (excuse me, canoe trailer) to tow behind? Sports Rig, Yakima, and Malone make some easy to handle trailers. These would also add to your cargo space, as paddling gear could be stored in the boat.
Not cheap, but neither are the other options. Definitely less expensive than a trip to the ER.

I struggled with the same issue when considering what Class B I would get. I had owned an older 22’ Class C and roof mounting a boat would have been impossible due to all the junk on the roof (air conditioner, exhaust vents, even a TV antenna (the unit was vintage 1977). Besides which the roof was too flimsy to reliably support a rack. That was not a problem for kayaks since I have 4 folding kayaks that travel in duffel bags. But since getting rid of the old Class C I have acquired a 13’ solo canoe .

I found the answer last month and bought a custom built unit based on a conventional 16’ box van. It still has the rear overhead door and pull out ramp so I can easily carry even my 15’ hard shell kayak or the canoe INSIDE the camper. The double bed folds up against the wall so there is plenty of clearance in the middle of the space. I know the kayak would fit under the bed if needed and the canoe might, but my plan would be to take the boat out at night and place it under or beside the camper.

This was a custom build by a guy in Salt Lake City but there are companies that make what are called “Toy haulers” in trailers – dont’ know if there are factory motorhomes with that rear loading function. It has a shower and flush toilet (back past the kitchenette), solar panels on the roof, an Onan generator, 3-way fridge, water heater, even a pull-out exterior gas grill recessed in the passenger side. The paneling is all birch plywood and the windows are UV tinted – he insulated it before paneling and it has a gas fired furnace. There is even a swamp cooler with exterior vent hidden in the cabinet above the dinette area. 50 gallon water and waste tanks. With the spoiler over the AC unit, the truck (a GMC Savana 3500 6 liter V8) gets 12 to 15 mpg.

(I have made new plainer curtains for this since the shots were taken including a divider for the bed area and to close off the door into the cab for privacy. I am building an extension for the built in sofa to be able to convert it to a guest bed. The jungle theme cushioned rear door is soon to be recovered in neutral off-white canvas.)

I also like how this can be used for daily hauling too . I will be able to transport plywood, drywall, deck lumber, etc. And even haul a motorcycle if I wanted (it has eyebolts installed in the floor.)

These basic vans can be had for under 10,000 with low miles and good maintenance used from fleet retirements. This one was once a Penske fleet truck! I like how the builder made everything simple and accessible for maintenance or future upgrades. The AC built into the front wall is brilliant and much cheaper to eventually replace if necessary with one from a home center for a couple hundred instead of $800 (plus the enormous hassle of installing those 100 pound plus roof units). Also this box will NEVER leak, unlike the roofs and walls of most factory motorhomes, which I am convinced are engineered to fail within 10 years to force people to buy new ones. I paid just over $20,000 for this. I couldn’t find a used factory Class B or small C for twice that that did not have troubling leakage issues already and I had been looking for several years.

The builder of this one doesn’t make them on a regular basis but it might not be that hard to find somebody who could duplicate something like this.


HI Willowleaf , Thank you so much. This is an eye-opener Do you think it would be possible to contact the individual in Salt Lake to at least get his advice and recommendations s

That is easily the best looking box truck conversion I have ever seen. Very nice indeed!

Here is a link to the builder’s site with his original post when mine was for sale. His specialty is restoring and then selling or renting classic tow behind trailers. If you look at this link he has another link (click the red “HERE”) to more info and another link there to a 13-minute You Tube video tour of my camper where he describes all the components and shows how they are installed.

He makes these trucks for his own use, camps in them for a couple of years, decides what he wants to add to a new one and then cleans up and sells the old one to finance the next model. He does all the work himself and says he feels he is getting too old to comfortably do these kinds of labor intensive builds. I suggested he should make videos as he builds the one he is working on now and then sell them and a package of information on building your own.

He is pretty busy and seems like a sort of quiet guy so I don’t know how he might feel about sharing a lot of conversations with people. But you could email him through the site. His rental and trailer sales business has blown up this year with people looking to vacation near home and wanting to travel (like I do) with their own habitation.

Photos of the new lighter curtains, which I think open it up a bit. And a new sunshade that gives it a bit of personality. (The junker parked behind it is my neighbor’s – she’s on notice that my lease with her is up on that space and it needs to go.)

Also, for anybody interested in specs, I had it weighed (for state registration purposes) and it is only 9,660. It has a heavy duty integral hitch and can haul up to 5,000 pounds beyond that so I could actually tow a small car with it, or my double kayak trailer.

I’ve already suggested to my bike touring friends that I could be their “sag wagon” for local overnight trips. Due to multiple broken bones in my arms over the years, I can’t bike for long distances any more (fortunately does not affect paddling) but it would be a fun way to join my buddies who still do that.


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