Such a thing as a gear pontoon?

Hi All,

Getting back into canoeing now that I have a young family. First trip is coming up in June. Spent the last few hours trying to figure out the best way to haul 2 adults, 2 kids, and camping equipment.

What I’ve learned so far from these forums:

  • Towing is a lot of work. The boat / raft being towed moves around a lot, causes jerkiness, etc. Can be done, but a pain.

  • Get a bigger boat. This isn’t an option for me, at least at first.

  • Bring less stuff. We are already bringing very little stuff. (I’ve done lots of light traveling.) A barrel for food, a barrel for bedding, a barrel for clothing, and a tent.

    It’s a short trip to a base camp and we’ll be hugging the shore the whole way. So the first trip = the experiment / test for longer trips.

    But I was wondering if anyone had ever come across a pontoon designed to hold gear? Struck me that having a fixed part of the boat (rather than something being towed) rigged out of the way of the paddles might do the trick.


you’re asking about an outrigger, which have been used on boats for a long time. And sure, I can see how one could attach same, and use the space between the outrigger arms for storage, but I don’t know of anyone who makes this device.

Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.



– Last Updated: May-25-14 11:46 AM EST –

You didn't say anything about the age & approximate weight of your 2 kids, your weight, and your wife's weight.

Also not noted: approximate weight of gear?

Also not noted: what length canoe do you own?

Also, not clearly noted: your paddling venue?

Have you ever test paddled the canoe with your wife & the 2 kids aboard for any distance?

Bottom line: I think you're going to have an overloaded canoe, and that will likely increase the possibility that everyone, plus your gear, will end up in the water.
Everyone has good quality pfds I hope?

Sounds to me like a second canoe would be of great benefit in dealing with your proposed load of people & gear. Perhaps you could find a decently priced, used canoe, or use a rented, or borrowed canoe?

I'd forget about using a pontoon/outrigger as a gear storage locker. It will add weight to your already heavy load; it will have be waterproof, and it will have to be attached to the canoe somehow.

If semi permanently mounted on your canoe, the outrigger may damage your canoe if you encounter any obstacles with the outrigger. Do you have a vehicle set up to haul a canoe and an outrigger?

If the outrigger is not waterproof, and takes on water; the canoe will probably be a bear to paddle.
The outrigger may act as a lever; causing the canoe to tilt/lean towards the outrigger side. Canoe may become unstable, or at least difficult to contol. It the outrigger is holed; your gear/food/clothes will end up soaked.

Not saying don't go, but I think you need to adapt your plans to the issues stated. Major concern should be safety of the kids, which I suspect are young.


Barrels are fashionable right now, but
more can be gotten into a family canoe, more easily, by using soft packs.

I think we need to talk specifically about what canoe you’re using.

Great advice
theBob has lots of great advice, especially asking that you clarify WHAT canoe you presently have which you are considering to fit 2 adults, 2 kids and days of camping gear in? Also WHAT is the body of water you are to be paddling in? I wouldn’t even consider it unless you have a good 18+ ft expedition type canoe.

However the idea of using a outrigger that doubles as a storage bin is rather intriguing. Perception used to make (and I have a pair) hard plastic canoe-end flotation tanks with waterproof spin-lids to double as storage. The concept of a similar design as an outrigger/pontoon COULD absolutely have its place in the paddling world. As Bob noted, it would certainly have to be a well designed waterproof unit that only gets loaded with lightweight gear so as not to effect the handling characteristics of the canoe,… say bedding, freeze-dried food packages, light clothing, etc. In unrestricted open-water where maneuvering and obstacle dodging are not a concern, this is certainly feasible and possibly very beneficial. HMMMM! Interesting.

By the time you got through …
screwing around with the cost of a special outrigger/pontoon and then trying to paddle it loaded, you would do much better to just get a bigger canoe.

If they are just toddlers, I see no problem with outfitting them with good PFD’s and just loading them and all the gear in a 17 or 18 foot canoe.

Think small on the gear.

Also think smart on the wind and weather.

From a father of eight kids who always had to improvise. They were just talking last night around our camp fire of the fun they used to have camping

Jack L

Thanks, all!
Good advice and glad to hear the outrigger idea has at least a few supporters. =)

Bob: Appreciate the detailed reply. I’m large at 6’4", 230. Wife is 5’6", 150. Kids are 6 and 3.

The canoe is an old family canoe, which I believe is ~18’. We’re not going to invest in a new one unless/until we prove to ourselves that we’re going to do this often.

We have taken many practice paddles at the pond in the family farm. Route is also very tame and very short. We’re going from the boat launch to site 404:

Have the appropriate PDFs and will hug the shore. Canoed and camped a lot as a youth, but it’s been 15+ years so am relearning.

Take a look at Easy Riders system
for outriggers mounted on canoes. This will give you some ideas on how it can be done. Most outriggers I have seen are only for flotation so you may be building something to get what you want.

If you are not afraid of trying some fiberglass work, building one out of mohagony/luan plywood with a resin/glass outside would get the job done. You would need to carefully figure out how much weight and gear could be carried in the outrigger but its doable.

When he tells us what canoe he’s
dealing with, we’ll be able to see whether there is a capacity issue. But my opinion on outriggers and outrigger pods is that they are practical only on open water. Even an intricate lake shoreline can make an outrigger canoe setup look quite clumsy.