Need Advice on Family Canoe

We are looking to buy a used canoe to daytrip on our local (nonwhitewater) river with minimal portages necessary. We have 2 adults and 2 boys, 10 and 13. Our total body weight is about 520 pounds. We don’t want anything too big because we want to be able to transport on top of our minivan and store it in the garage. Is a 16’ Mad River Explorer TT big enough for the four of us? (We won’t have much gear.) We were also looking at an old school Grumman 17’ aluminum. (The Explorer looks more comfortable to me.)Any advice would be welcome. Thanks.

It’s a good start
But really a canoe is best for 1,2, or three people. The weight shouldn’t be a problem but I don’t know where you’ll fit everyone.

Maybe a 16tt and a 14tt would be a good combination.

I’ll second

– Last Updated: Feb-13-08 4:43 AM EST –

that second canoe. At 10 and 13 I'd think your boys would want a seat of their own, if not a canoe of their own.4 is going to be rough on the 2 without a seat/paddle/input.Maybe start with 1 to see who likes it, then go from there. My just turned 14 year old loves it, thus he has 2 canoes of his own, one for poling, one for WW.

Two Canoes is a Great Idea
I have an Old Town Discovery 169 which is plenty big enough for me, my wife and two girls - 10 and 12.

We’ve had a lot of fun with it and it works ok, but as others have mentioned - the kids get bored because even though they have paddles, they aren’t in the fun positions - front and back.

We end up taking turns - 2 on shore fishing, 2 in the boat to make it fun.

I just bought one rec kayak and am looking for another rec - possibly a tandem so everyone can have fun paddling.

Weight and Length
2 Canoes is a good suggestion, but 2 Mad River TT canoes is a big load (170+lbs.) for most racks and a lot of weight to get overhead onto a van rack. The length is not a problem on the van, better if the canoe is longer than the vehicle. The end ropes will pull in toward the van, front and back, and keep the canoe from moving forward or rearward.

If you must start with one canoe, go at least 17’ in length and use good drop in seats for the two extra paddlers. The Old Town molded drop-in is very rigid, and flat. It allows smaller paddlers to move toward the gunwales and reach the water with a more vertical stroke.

I started out in family canoeing in a similar situation and while the kids were young all 4 went with me in one canoe, a Wenonah 17’ Spirit.

We added another canoe to the fleet very quickly, about the time the older 2 boys were teenagers. Fiberglass hulls quickly gave way to Kevlar when Dad found out how much help he got from the youngsters at the end of a paddling day. They would bring the gear up the bank to the van and then find food and reasons not to come back for the canoes.

An 80# canoe is manageable with strong shoulders when you are fresh,but a real struggle when you are tired and need to carry uphill from the water. The comfortable weight level for most people is between 50 and 60#. And the heavier and more difficult the canoe is to carry and load, the less it gets used.


I agree with those who suggested 2 canoes, but if that’s not an option, the MR Explorer TT or the regular RX Explorer would be pretty good for what you want.

The Wenonah Spirit II might also be a good choice.

Definitely get drop in seats for the kids so they don’t have to sit on the floor.

I’d say
Two tweens stuck in the middle of a canoe sounds like a recipe for boredom and bickering. If you can swing it, I’d suggest one tandem canoe and two rec kayaks. That gives you a lot of flexibility when the dynamics of your group change. Your oldest is old enough to handle a kayak himself, and the younger one may be too(or soon will be). You can swap out who uses what craft to keep things interesting