Best family canoe

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Table of Contents

Introduction

If you’re looking for a family canoe then you should read this article first. Going out on the water is a brilliant way to bond with loved ones and enjoy family time in a very exciting way. Canoeing is a very enjoyable, fun and exciting activity for young kids and “big kids” too.

The good thing about this activity is that you get fresh air, experience the environment, get fit and of course help build a passion in young kids that they may take further into their adult life. However, how do you take more than one passenger at a time, without having to invest in two canoes, or buy bigger ones as your children grow? Here are some examples of the best family canoes currently out there:

Family Canoe Review

1. Sun Dolphin Mackinaw 15.6ft Canoe

Material UV Stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene
Brand Sun Dolphin
Length 15 ft 6 inches
Type Double-Ended Family Canoe
Capacity 800 lbs
Colours Camo, Hazelnut or Navy

This is aimed at the family market, with a good amount of space for 3 people to climb in and either paddle together, have two paddlers and a passenger, or a strong paddler being at the back with two small passengers enjoying the ride.

The real advantage of this model is that there is space for personal storage on each seat, making life easier whilst on the water.

Things we like:

  • Great for families
  • Built-in coolers/dry storage
  • Drink holders in each seat
  • Bow/stern tie-down eyelets and decent transport handles
  • Rugged rub-rail – hard wearing against the more clumsy or inexperienced paddlers

2. Grumman Double-Ended .050 Canoe

Material Aluminium
Brand Grumman
Length 17 ft
Type Double-Ended Family Canoe
Capacity 660 lbs
Colours Bare, Olive Drab, Burgundy, Hunter Green and Insignia Blue

This is a brilliantly designed, stable, versatile and lightweight double-ended canoe, and a great choice even for a first time paddler.

It’s a very versatile canoe that can take on a challenging river or a glass-calm lake, whilst having enough space for multiple-users and still be light enough for you to rack it on your car by yourself.

Things we like:

  • Heavy duty, durable family canoe
  • Verstaile, excellent for canoe camping
  • Rugged, hard wearing rub-rail

3. Sun Dolphin Scout Elite SS

Material UV-Stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene
Brand Sun Dolphin
Length Length: 14 ft (4.27m)
Type Double-Ended Family Canoe
Capacity 765 lbs
Colours Hazelnut or Navy

This is almost a hybrid canoe, which uses aspects of a both double-ended and flat back canoe.

It’s trolling motor mount is a lot smaller than other models, with the boat’s hull having a traditional looking profile in the water. This does also incorporate rod and paddle holders within the design.

Things we like:

  • 3 x moulded in seats
  • Ample storage space in each seat
  • Built in cup holders.
  • Mount for option of trolling motor

4. Sun Dolphin Scout 14

Material T-Formex
Brand Sun Dolphin
Length Length: 14 ft (4.27m)
Type 3 person Canoe
Capacity 765 lbs
Colours Camo, Hazelnut or Navy

A shorter and more compact version of their Scout series. This design includes a protective rub-rail, which can withstand the bangs and more aggressive paddle skills that novice paddlers tend to have.

It is compact, but you can solo, tandem and carry passengers in this one flexible canoe.

Things we like:

  • Light-weight
  • Easy to manoeuvre when heavily laden.

5. Esquif Mallard

Material T-Formex
Brand Esquif
Length 12 foot (3.66m)
Type Square-Stern Canoe
Capacity 600 lbs
Colours Green or Camo

Do you want a smooth and quiet ride, whilst being able to comfortably explore secluded spots? This square-stern version of the Esquif Adventure canoe has a wider squared section at the rear, meaning you can bolt on a motor and cruise your way to the more hidden spots.

A good canoe for fishing or hunting. This is a sturdy cruiser, whilst still being small and very manoeuvrable.

Things we like:

  • Larger square-stern section, providing strength and stability when choosing to bolt on a trolling motor.
  • Great for fishing/hunting
  • Manoeuvrable

How to choose a family canoe

Your canoe choice can be determined by a variety of things that are dictated by your needs and your circumstances. Here are a few examples of questions for you to ask yourself which may help you along the road to making a decision:

  • How many people will be using the boat at one time (2, 3 or more)?
  • How many adults will be paddling with the kids?
  • How long will you spend on the water?
  • Is this going to be a regular activity to share with your family?
  • How big are your children?
  • What is your budget?

If you can answer some or all of these questions, and better still, come up with alternative questions of your own, you’ll be going into this review looking for criteria that’s specific for your family, and choosing the right option is going to be an easier experience.

Finding the Right Family Canoe

The good thing about a family canoe is the versatility of being able to have more than one person out on the water in one boat. The problem with this however, is that the seats tend to be fixed and often plastic, making it a slightly less comfortable ride. Another, very obvious thing to consider is; the bigger the boat – the heavier it is to carry.

Remember that small kids will struggle to carry heavy canoes and you will typically be the one to rack it on your car. If you want to take your kids out onto the water and would rather they not be in their own canoe, family-friendly models are your obvious choice and what we are going to look at here.

Bigger boats are not always the best choice. Remember that bigger boats are harder to manoeuvre on faster moving water, especially if your children are small and can’t paddle very well.

However, there is something to be said for investing in a canoe that you can all grow into, which may mean that it is harder to paddle to begin with, but you’ll have more space and won’t be banging each others’ paddles.

Getting the Best from your Canoe

The reality of buying a family canoe with very young children is that parents are going to be doing all the work and must be experienced enough to be comfortable with young children on board.

Also, strong enough to deal with portage or racking the canoe onto your vehicle. The great thing though, is that your children are going to have an incredible experience connecting with nature, regardless of their input.

Using your Canoe

There are techniques that allow all passengers to paddle at the same time, but it does depend on the canoe you are using, the size and strength of the paddlers and water type too. This will be a case of testing as you go to get the pattern right as you’re out on the water.

Some canoes have built in seats, rather than having to perch uncomfortably on the yoke, but some aren’t made for comfort e.g. some plastic moulded seats.

Pre-requisites

You MUST learn how to paddle efficiently. Not only will that create a higher level of safety whilst out on the water, but also lower risks of arguments and a less-enjoyable experience. You’re local sports centre may have events, you could have lessons or learn from more experience paddlers at your nearest canoe/kayak club.

You need to know that the canoe is right for you, so don’t just go for the lower costing ones, as they could be too heavy or not comfortable for you and the other passengers.

Conclusion

Choosing a family-friendly canoe does depend on your family’s needs and ideas behind what sort of trip/experience you want. Families may want to do different things, but they may find that they benefit from using the same canoe for different reasons. It’s important for you to really think ahead, think about the future and buy a canoe that your children can grow into and then maybe use on their own.

If you consider all your needs, you may find that a variety of canoe styles/designs may match your requirements. Buying a canoe made from lighter-materials may also be an advantage, as you will find it a lot smoother to paddle on the water (especially if you are the one doing all the hard work), and your kids will find it easier when helping you portage or rack the boat.

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