Since you’re here, I’m going to assume you’re the kind of parent who looks for ways to get their kids into the great outdoors. After all, it’s a great way to make memories that last a lifetime. But you’ve got to know the best kinds of canoe for family use. Let’s learn about the factors that you should consider for your family and particular situation.
To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of 5 questions to ask yourself when shopping for a family-friendly canoe.
But for those just looking for a quick description of what to look for, the best canoe for family use is a touring canoe. These canoes are larger and slightly deeper, with more storage capacity. This makes them ideal of adding extra seats for kids, and leaves room for a cooler and a pet.
I recommend choosing a touring canoe that offers solid construction, but is still light enough for you to carry (the exact weight that’s comfortable will depend upon how your family is constructed (one adult with a couple of kids? two adults?).
I grew up with two canoes in our household. The first was a 16′ Old Town Tripper Royalex canoe that was tough as nails (you couldn’t hurt it if you tried). It was amazing for our canoe camping trips where we ran some light rapids (imperfectly). My brother and I also used a 13′ fiberglass canoe that was extra wide and stable. It had foam flotation blocks bolted to the sides which made it nearly impossible to tip. We had to be more careful with the fiberglass canoe around rocks, stumps and other obstacles, but it was lightweight, which made it the perfect canoe to learn how to solo-portage through the woods. It rode high in the water, and I often fished from it alone with great results.
Keep reading to see all of the canoe-buyer questions I recommend you ask yourself. The answers to these questions should guide you to the perfect family canoe for your household.
1. Who in Your Family will Use the Canoe?
Think ahead! Before you start looking at canoe models and what materials they’re made from, it’s important to think about exactly who will be using the canoe.
This is especially true if you’re going to opt for a more expensive model. After all, you’ll want to use this investment for years to come.
Will you and your spouse be paddling with your kids at the same time? Or are you more likely to go as a solo parent with the kids?
Speaking of kids – how many will you take with you on the water? Are you thinking about adding any new members to the family?
Most canoes are built to carry 2-3 paddlers. It’s true, though, that when your kids are small, they can just join in as non-paddling sight-seers on the team!
But kids in a canoe must have the necessary safety equipment. And the adults need to have enough knowledge and experience to make sure that everyone stays safe.
2. Can you Easily Carry the Canoe to the Water?
In theory, the more people you want to take out on the water, the bigger your canoe will have to be. However, bigger canoes are generally heavier than smaller ones (depending on what material they’re made of).
Bigger vessels are also less agile in fast-moving water. But if you’re with the kids, you shouldn’t be on fast-moving water anyway!
If you’re a solo parent taking two young children out paddling, you might be the only person strong enough to do the carrying. This could make launching the canoe very difficult, as some canoes are absolutely impossible to pick up on your own.
If you’re a solo parent with a young family, getting a lightweight canoe should be a priority. You won’t be able to lift the watercraft and get it in the water if you don’t.
If you have a partner or older children to help with launching your canoe, then it’s a different story. In that case, you can choose a heavier model.
Just be sure that you’ve got the necessary manpower to get your vessel from land to the water, and then back onto the roof rack of your car again. If you don’t do this, canoeing will end up a Herculean task instead of a fun family activity.
3. Will the Canoe Accommodate Your Family in the Future?
Buying a canoe is an investment, and you want to be able to use it for years to come.
But remember, kids grow! So you need a canoe that’s not only perfect for right now but will be great for the coming years too.
Talk to experts at a local watersports store to find out which canoe is right for your family, or go to a rental shop nearby and test out a few different models with your family to find one that seems like a good fit for you.
4. Where and How Will You Use Your Canoe?
There is an implicit danger every time you go on the water. You don’t want to get too adventurous when your kids are in the canoe.
Keep this in mind as you choose where you will use your canoe. And remember that there are different kinds of canoes for different places and purposes.
We can find recreational, multi-purpose, and river canoes on the market.
- Recreational canoes are ideal for casual paddling on calm waters. Examples include tranquil lakes and gently flowing rivers. It would take a lot of effort to tip one of these over, even if you have boisterous kids. They’re also stable enough to let you do some fishing or take photos.
- Multi-purpose canoes are versatile enough to go almost anywhere – offering both stability and agility. They can handle the rush of whitewater and they offer good balance on slow-moving waters. These canoes tend to have greater storage capacity than recreational canoes, making them better for trips and paddlers who want to bring extra gear along.
- River canoes are the obvious choice for those who want to embark on adventures involving whitewater rapids and rivers. This canoe type is built for maneuverability and is tough enough to withstand some hard knocks.
Besides the type of water you’ll be paddling on, also think about how long you’ll be paddling on each trip. Getting a vessel with comfy seats and ample storage space is crucial for full-day trips or a long weekend tour.
5. Is Size and Weight or Stability and Maneuverability More Important?
There are several factors that impact a canoe’s weight and whether it’s easy to maneuver in the water. These include length, width, depth, and the material the canoe is made from.
Generally speaking, broader vessels are heavier and more stable, yet they’re less efficient when it comes to paddling. Narrower canoes are more easily tipped over, but they’re lighter, easier to manage in the water, and more efficient.
Longer canoes are slower to paddle at first, but they can outpace shorter canoes once you establish a good rhythm. Additionally, longer boats also translate into more space to keep your stuff, if you’ve got a lot of gear with you.
Longer canoes are also more stable when it comes to staying on course.
However, shorter canoes are lighter. Also, they’re not as prone to being blown off course by wind.
They can squeeze into smaller places and navigate narrower streams too, thanks to their size. Being lighter also makes them better for carrying to and from the water.
I advise getting a canoe that’s at least 17 feet long if you want something stable enough and with enough storage space to go touring.
When it comes to depth, a canoe with taller sides will essentially offer more protection from water entering the boat. Taller sides do result in canoes being more likely to be pushed around by winds, however.
Final Thoughts On Choosing the Best Canoe for Family Use
The most important message I want you to get here is that buying a canoe is a personal decision. And safety always comes first.
Canoeing is a great way to help your family enjoy the beauty and adventure of the great outdoors. But you’ve got to choose the right canoe, the watercraft that fits your family’s present and future needs.
Ask yourself all the questions I listed earlier, and you’ll be well on your way to choosing the perfect canoe.
Get ready to make wonderful family memories on the water!
The Life Jacket I Use and Recommend
In most states, wearing a life jacket or PFD is the law when you’re out on the water.
If you’re like me, you want a safe, effective PFD that doesn’t limit your range of movement when paddling. That’s why I highly recommend this one from Onyx.
It offers great range of motion, can keep me afloat in the water (I’m 6’2″), and it is very comfortable.
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