Family Canoe

Hi All…first, I just want to thank everyone for the great posts and sharing all of their knowledge…I’ve been “lurking” for awhile now and really find this message board informative and helpful.

I grew up canoeing with my Dad and this upcoming season, I’m getting my Family (wife, 2 boys–ages 6 & 4, and the family dog) out on a canoe for 2-3 night camp trips (to start) on slow-medium rivers (no plans for whitewater) and lakes, etc. I currently do not own a canoe and my previous experience as a youth w/canoeing has been with the cheaper variety (sorry Coleman!), so I want to spend alittle money and have a nicer, higher performance canoe for my Family.

I realize this topic has been discussed multiple times on the board; but I have to ask you all a question: what is the best Family canoe? I’ve done alot of research and have narrrowed my choice to either the We-no-nah Champlain or the Old Town Tripper 172 BUT am leaning HEAVILY toward the We-no-nah in Royalex for the following reasons:

  • extra 1’ of length will be helpful but I think still managable
  • about 5lbs lighter than the OT
  • availability; I’m thinking of buying a lightly used canoe; there are several Champlains for sale within a reasonable driving distance for appx. $1000 (I’d like to stay in the $1000-$1500 price point)…

    Any thoughts on how well the Champlain would do for me?

    One question may be why Royalex? Besides cost, I don’t expect to do alot of portages but perhaps more importantly, as I get my family into canoeing, I envision alot of bumps, drops, running up on shore, young boys filling it with sand/rocks, etc., I’m going to be FAR less concerned (and thus more fun for me) when those moments happen with a tough $1000 canoe than a $2500 kevlar canoe that may not be as durable…so I need a bit of a horse…I think I can live with the weight for a few years (although within reason, i.e. the barge Tripper XL is out!). Thoughts? :slight_smile:

    Also, I am planning ahead; my wife has NEVER canoed before, so I’m thinking the Champlain, although may be tight for all of us + dog and camp gear would work for us for a few seasons and then, assuming we continue, we will either need to look at adding a 2nd, shorter canoe and put my wife in the stern and I could continue to paddle, or maybe buying 2 more shorter boats and selling the Champlain or hanging on to it to pass it on to the boys when they get older (I like that option better).

    THX in advance for your comments!

I don’t recall whether the Champlain is
available in Tufweave, but if so, you will get a very durable, slightly lighter, stiffer, slightly faster version of the Champlain than if you get the Royalex version. Even the Kevlar Flexcore layup is able to stand up to the minor abuse you describe. Royalex isn’t necessary if you aren’t going to do whitewater.

Probably so, but initial cost,
availability, and storage situation may also be factors for consideration.

would be my suggestion. I have one in the ultralight layup and it has been the perfect canoe for my wife and i and our 6 and 7 yr old sons. it tracks well and turns better than any other 18 ft canoe i have paddled. buy the used one and get on the water.

Mr Green

sliding seat
The Champlain is the big volume 18’ Wenonah. It will take your load and be very forgiving with new paddlers and kids aboard. I would lean towards a composite hull instead of the royalex. There is no durability problem with the instances you describe. I have a nearly 30 year old cross-rib kevlar Wenonah Spirit that has thousands of miles on it. And scratches from rock and shore encounters, twenty years of Scout Camp, and even being dragged loaded over beaver dams. Not a hole or leak in the hull. An 80# canoe grows old very quickly. Both the Tripper and Champlain will suit your purpose, but the extra length of the Champlain, the sharper bow and narrower bow seat position, translate to much easier paddling,especially for the smaller paddlers.

No matter which layup you buy, make sure to install a sliding bow seat if the canoe does not have one. Being able to slide the bow seat forward to a position where the width of the hull matches the width of the paddler helps so much in attaining a good paddle stroke. With the smaller paddlers it eases the work load; they don’t have to hold the paddle away from their shouldlers and can keep a vertical stroke near their body.

If your dog is large or long legged, keep him home till you are comfortable with the family in the canoe. A moving dog with the body above the gunwale is much more of a challenge than two kids moving about. And few inexperienced dogs sit for any length of time in the wet bilge of a canoe.

Getting your family out on the water in a canoe is one of the best things your can do with them, for so many reasons.


family canoe
Hello. Like you i started with old Grummans and cheap “plastic” canoes. The first time we rented a Wennonah Sundowner we never went back. You cannot go wrong with the Wennonah. It will track straight, handle people and equipment well and even do well on big windy lakes. The Champlain has a little rocker so turning will not be as hard as in a Sundowner or Jensen. Excellent advice offered from other posts; I would like to add: get kid sized paddles for the kids. If they feel they are helping they will not get bored. Also try and get a drop in seat so at least one of them can really help paddle. You are making the right choice on getting a quality canoe. Don’t forget quality pfd’s for the kids and dog. Good luck.

Richard P.

Bell Northwind
I would urge you to have a close look at a Bell Northwind. It’s the family boat I’ve chosen after over a year of hemming and hawing. Dont forget that you will take the boat out by yourself…you just will, so being bale to paddle it solo is something you’ll want to be able to do, even if rarely. The Northwind is plenty long, stable, and even comes with a kneeling thwart installed should you want some alone time. It’s a very nice boat. Previously I had narrowed down to the Tripper or the Penobscott. Red leftovers can be found brand new for just under $1000 for the Northwind. Worth a quick look anyway.

Thanks to all for…
your awesome insight and advice! To the poster suggesting the Bell Northwoods, thank you! I’ve seriously looked at that one and the S.R. Q18.5…however, cost and availability used are issues for me. I live in ND where Wenonahs are available everywhere right next door in MN and from all the looking I’ve done, a Bell or S.R. will be a solid grande more than a Wenonah Champlain (used or new comparisons)…so with the help of this forum, my mind is made up on the Champlain…BUT I think one of those two are something to look at a few years down the road if my young boys are lovin the canoeing and I want to invest more in it (I LOVE how the Bell canoes look)! :slight_smile:

Side note…I’ve thought more about tuff-weave over Royalex but can’t find used anywhere would have to go new…a used or new factory 2nd Royalex is in $900-$1000 range where the tuff-weave new is $1779…anyone with thoughts on this? I’m willing to spend the extra $$$ if its worth losing about 14lbs in weight (which has some merit since I’ll be throwing the canoe on top of my truck topper rack) and picking out my options/colors but keep in mind durability is my #1 issue. THX again…this forum is outstanding!

Bell Northwind
I would go with the Northwind. I love mine and use it in similar a manor as what you are talking about. The Bell factory is basically on the boarder of Wisconsin and Minnesota and you could pick it up from there. I really think that you will find it is worth the extra time and effort.

Good Luck.

Go 2
I’d suggest you go with two shorter boats now. 2 adults, 2 kids, a dog and camping equipment will be beyond cramped even in an 18 ft canoe.

I think you should go with 2 shorter ones right now and get your wife out and teach her how to handle one.

With 2 boats you’ll have flexibility. If only you and one of the boys goes out, or should you decide to take a solo paddle now and then the shorter boat would be far easier to handle.

Stay the course with the Champlain
it will carry your load and be very forgiving in rough water and with passenger movement. With the inexperience of your wife, having her paddle a separate canoe with a youngster is inviting disaster. At the very best she will work very hard to cover even short distances. Leave the second canoe for later. The Champlain can remain the big hauler and you can add a smaller tandem when the kids grow.


Go for Royalex

– Last Updated: Jan-11-11 11:45 PM EST –

In your own words Durability is the primary concern, If your doin' family canoeing in a composite you will be repairing it. Royalex will stand up to shallow rocky rivers , running ashore( not recommended in any canoe, pull in parallel to shore) being stored outside with minimal care ( UV protectant ) and whatever abuse the kids will dish out. The Champlain is a good boat for what you want to do and you seem well informed. I agree with plaidpaddler that two boats would be ill- advised until you spend some time paddling , and if you want to solo the Champlain, just learn to canoe pole !!

Family canoes

– Last Updated: Jan-14-11 7:55 PM EST –

There's very good info/opinion in all the posts here. Allow me to offer one other suggestion, sort of "same church, different pew." Having had the opportunity to paddle all of the boats in the discussion here, I would encourage you to add the Wenonah Boundary Waters model to your list. It is a foot shorter than the Champlain and approximately the same width. It is a symmetrical hull (or quite close), with 20 inch bow and stern, 2 inches shorter in the bow than the Champlain, which can be a darned big sail for an inexperienced bow paddler to deal with in a big wind (though it will keep them dryer in big water.) The two areas that really shine in the Boundary Waters (again, this is in comparison to the Champlain) are 1) really terrific initial stability (this is a super "kids and dogs" boat and a wonderful fishing platform) and 2) the ability to solo the boat from the bow seat "backwards" with a water-filled drybag in the bow to bring the hull level. And if you can swing the money, I agree with those that push for the composite boats, simply for the lightness. Paddle On!

Feedback and Advice
has been AWESOME! Gavin & Mckenn are giving me something to think about with other canoe options…and I really appreciate their input but I really don’t want to give up a foot or more of length…I think I’ll need it as my boys get alittle older. I definately need to stick w/one canoe for the first few seasons…no way could or should I introduce my wife to canoeing with responsibility for her own canoe…that was captured earlier as a “recipe for disaster” and would be unfair to her. :slight_smile:

Although I don’t really want a 75-lbs canoe (tuff-weave would be great–but can’t find in the used market); with everything said I think I’m going to proceed with the Champlain in Royalex…run it for a few seasons, and if my wife and boys are loving it and appreciate canoeing like I hope; we’ll either add another or buy two shorter (and lighter) canoes…the Champlain would always be there to pass it along in the family…