What size canoe do I need?

-- Last Updated: Apr-23-10 2:40 AM EST --

I am looking for a canoe to fit my entire family in, which consists of 2 adults, a 12yo, a 5yo, and a 3yo. We will not be packing a lot of gear. We will be camping in one place and just using that as home base, just taking the canoe out on the lake to fish and to find a place on the shore somewhere to picnic. Our total combined body weight is less than 680lbs. 2 people will need seats and be up high to paddle, but the rest of the people will sit in the bottom on padding. What size canoe do you think we would need? I noticed that the Old Town Discovery 174 can hold like 1000lbs and is 3ft wide. Do you think this would work for us? What about a 17ft aluminum like Alumacraft or Grumman? We are OK with the 3yo sitting in the adult's or 12yo lap but would not prefer it. Also, can a canoe be strapped to the top of my Toyota sienna for transport? Any help would be very appreciated!

Thanks in advance, Kristin :D

If you have the bucks, take a look
At a Wenonah Minn.3 or Minn. 4



That’s a whole lot of people in a canoe. Bell makes a model named the Northshore, and it can be ordered with 4 seats. It’s 20 1/2 feet long and is about as big as you’ll find. The problem you’ll be facing is, kids grow and soon you’ll outgrow even that. How about 2 canoes? Two 16 footers, you could put an adult in each one…the 12 year is certainly old enough to be capable of some paddling up front with the youngest in between. The other boat can have the other adult, with the 5 year old up front. Even at 5, you can get them their “own” paddle, they’ll be thrilled and can be of some help paddling even if it’s not a lot. With the 2 boat idea, you can be in it longer, and everyone will be more comfortable as well as safer. Good luck!

O.T. Tripper XL
105 pounds plenty of room and they have been out so long you might find one used. Stable and surprisingly fast for such a barge. But if you really want a family bonding experience why not make your own Canoe? Call Al at the Northwest canoe shop and get some plans.They are helpful and building your own boat is an experience you will never forget.


Is there somewhere nearby that you can rent a canoe to see how you all fit? Even “test-sitting” would be helpful.

The Old Town “maximum loads” are ridiculously high. They’re what it can hold without sinking, not what’s comfortable or safe. The Bell website will give you much more realistic numbers for canoes of similar size. A 700-pound load is probably the upper limit for most 17’ canoes, especially if most of it is the seated paddlers.

Big canoe
I would look at something at least 20 feet long if you really want to put that many people in it.

Just be aware that it will be a handfull to portage and store, and there will be a somewhat limited market for resale when the kids grow out of it.

Two canoes
one adult and one 12 year old with little one in the middle.

Another adult with 5 year old in front and cooler in the middle.

paddle slowly and be patient with each other.

Otherwise I think the above post about the tripper XL or a row boat might be the best option.

Now and later
If you want to stay in the same canoe, I agree with those who said 18’+. However, the more commonly found used canoes such as Grummans will work for now, and you can get another in a couple of years when the kids are a bit bigger. These two canoes will be less expensive than one Wenonah Itasca, Clipper Mackenzie, OT Tripper, or similar.

Used, a Souris River Quetico 18’6" or a Clipper Sea Clipper would be good too.

yup, 2 canoes

– Last Updated: Apr-23-10 8:24 PM EST –

that's one badass yard sale if the 5 of you flip over.
Canoes stabilize to a certain point with weight, but then lose stability after that. Ignore the ratings, worse than worthless number.
Aaron started in bow at 5, was actually some help.

a dump might just make your whole family stars;-)…should the video come out good.


Al’s not here…
He’s retired. Sold it to another guy.

Minnesota 3
by wenonah, or an 18’ 6" Alumacraft would maybe work too. I saw a couple on Craigslist in ND…It’s a lot of people. Maybe a war canoe is what you need

Just thinking, I would bet that if you searched the local Old Town Dealers, you may find a pair of Guide 160’s in blems (new boats either minor scratched or hull discolorations). This way you’d be into 2 new 16’ boats, for about as cheap as it can get. Just a thought.

As to the Sienna
As to your roof rack - absolutely.

If you want a strong reliable system go with Thule or Yakima and get wide load bars. You will be able to put two canoes on for sure.

I have had three canoes on a Dodge Omni going 80mph, so it can be done.

Even with a less expensive rack, or foam blocks, if you use enough rope/straps the canoe won’t go anywhere.

If using foam blocks, I like to put webbing right through the vehicle for safety.

On another topic - with two canoes on flat water you can make a little catamaran. This could be really fun for camping, especially if you brought a sheet of plywood or similar.

Start with one 17-18 ft canoe
Something like an Old Town Tripper can often be found used and would have the capacity to carry all of you even though it would be a bit crowded. It would allow the whole family to get out on the lake for now. It would also be easier to handle than the larger canoes mentioned if there are occasions where just one or two people might go out and fish while the others hang around the campsite. If your family ends up wanting to spend much time on the water, I agree that sooner or later 2 canoes is the way to go.