Looking for a good, family canoe...

Hi there! New to the board! My husband and I have gone canoeing a few times, consider us beginners, although a long time ago I was a frequent whitewater canoer.

We’re looking to buy a family canoe - to hold 2 adults, 2 kids. Something to grow into, as we have one toddler and one on the way. We’re into wildlife, fishing and camping. Mid-range price that will last a long time. I’ve been trying to start my research, and looked at Old Town, but any recommendations/suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you!

With that load I would consider it safer to portage rather then risk little ones in snotty water. I would recommend an 18 foot Sundowner, 18 foot Champlain, 18 1/2 minn2( or preferably) a Minn3.All

are out there used in various conditions. All will handle mild rivers and big lakes.

Lakes, rivers, or both?

How heavy are you, and how much gear will you carry?


What canoes have you paddled, and what did you like/dislike about them?


– Last Updated: Jul-09-09 4:33 PM EST –

Mainly lakes, husband and I together are about 330 pounds. Not much gear at all if with kids, if just the 2 of us, camping gear for 5 days. It's been so long since I've canoed that I can't give you a list of what I've been in! This will be mainly for husband and I until kids get a bit older.

For two medium-sized adults plus gear on lakes, you have a lot of options. I’d suggest looking at the Wenonah and Bell websites – lots of good information there. The canoe classified ads on this site are a good place to shop.

Of the Old Towns, the RX Penobscots would be the best choice. I’m partial to Bells, but Wenonah makes some great lake boats, and there are many smaller builders (Vermont Canoe, Hemlock, etc.)who do fine work.

We’ve had great fun and luck with our
Old Town Penobscot 17. We got it as a wedding gift (a suggestion to my lazy-butt brothers who simply stuffed a check into an envelope along with a crude drawing of a canoe) and have since raised two kids in it. There are lighter and more refined choices but, for the money, I think it has served us flawlessly for eighteen years now. I consider it the Dodge Caravan of canoes.

Is the Old Town Tippy?
I am also looking for a family boat, I talked to a sales rep in one of the local stores and he claimed that the penda??? was really tippy. Is this a good canoe for a beginer?

it’s all relative

– Last Updated: Jul-10-09 4:05 PM EST –

To a beginner, the Penobscot would feel more "tippy" than something like the Camper. The Penobscot is narrower and has a more arched bottom than some of the other OT canoes. This makes it more efficient, but you do trade off some stability.

If you have no small-boat experience, it just takes time to get used to the boat moving under you. People tend to fall out of canoes because they tense up and fight the natural motions of the hull.

A good lesson or two could help improve your comfort level. Canoeing looks simple, but there are some basic skills that'll make it much more fun for everyone involved.

The Camper 16 would be my pick of OT's "Recreation" canoes. The Discoveries paddle OK but are just too heavy for me.

I suggested the Penobscot for the original poster because they had canoe experience and the kids were still in the future. Your situation may be different...

I've got a Bell Morningstar RX which has been very stable for our rowdy "kids":
If I were buying again, I'd probably get the Royalex Northwind for an extra foot of room.

Wenonah makes some nice family canoes -- the Spirit II would be a fine choice.

Recommendation and a suggestion
You can’t go wrong with the do-all Wenonah Spirit II as a family boat.

Also, I think folks coming here looking for a good first boat would do well by letting others know where they are located. The reason is that someone might know of a great used first canoe in your area.

Good luck and have fun, 'cause it really is

Family Canoe
The Wenonah Champlain, is a great family cruiser. Eventually you will need two canoes.

For example:
From the classifieds here:

(NY) Bell Royalex Northwind 16’6" Like new, only paddled 4 times. Burgundy, contour seats. located in western NY $950

(VA) Wenonah Adirondack 16ft Green Royalex. Good shape - wonderful tandem, but need to reduce garage fleet. Pictures available. $550 (New $1300)

(MO) Green, Bell Angler. Factory skid plates. Good family or novice canoe. Gently used. $750 and will deliver within 100 mile radius Piedmont, MO

(ME) 16ft. Old Town Camper. Late 80’s Oltonar, Red, scratches but no seriously deep gouges. caned seats. $500.00

I’ve paddled the Wenonah Norfolk before as a rental boat and I believe its comparable in price to the old town discovery.

In my opinion its a much nicer boat and would work well for your needs. It’s also in the less than 1000 dollar range which I believe was a consideration.

There are three levels of boats based on materials.

Poly boats like the Norfolk and Discovery

Royalex boats &

Composite boats.

The poly boats are the most value priced. I would stay away from coleman and pelican.

In the order of my preference on the poly boats.

Wenonah Norfolk

Nova Craft Prospector sp3

Mad River Explorer TT

Old Town Discovery



…used composite tandems…y/n?
18’ or more used composite = my $.01.

Here are just a few…

Wenonah Minn II/III, Champlain, Sundowner…etc.

Bell Northwoods & others…

MadRiver’s larger tandems…

*In Royalex = heavy: OT Tripper/Tripper_X

Any Royalex tandem version by Wenonah or Bell.


Two Ideas
Get a pair of Mad River Explorer 14 TT’s or get a Single Old Town Tripper XL. The 20 foot tripper XL will last a lifetime but when you are old grandparents you won’t be able to carry it. The shorter Explorers make pretty good solo boats if you are not in a hurry. You can each paddle one with a child in the front. And one of you could take both children in one while they are small.

With the BIG canoes it becomes everyone or no one. I strongly recommend two smaller canoes. Maybe even one small canoe to start with plans to buy another one soon.

Craigs list and the classifieds here are you friend!

Remember that the heavier the boat
the less use it tends to get unless you live on a lake.

Not true for big tandems that its everyone or no one. I have soloed an OT XL … Put that one in a candian style solo spin and everyone runs…its like a machine gone amok.

If you buy an oversized light canoe now beware the wind. I would buy what you need now and not what you might need.

Where do you live?