Become a Paddler – Buy a Boat!

boatI found families interested in canoeing, but most everyone did not own a boat and wanted to paddle at a place to rent boats.  But it is hard to coordinate with families and even harder to coordinate with families who do not own boats.  The best places to paddle, they don’t rent boats!

If you want to become a canoeist or kayaker, then it takes some equipment to do it.  There is a big initial investment, but after that, the investment is very little, as it is free to paddle on rivers.  You just need to drive there and go with other folks, who you meet on the river or join a paddling club.   Paddlers are a great bunch of people and love to talk about the sport and help new paddlers in the sport.  Half of my interest in paddling was because the people were so nice and it was fun to go do something enjoyable in the outdoors.

If you are interested in canoeing or kayaking, the only way to really do it is to buy a boat. Buy used, but get a boat.  Fall is a perfect time for buying a canoe. Outfitters sell their stock in the fall used.  Equipment tends to be cheaper in the fall, more expensive in the spring.

A canoe is a good place to start, because you can carry passengers and small children don’t want to paddle anyway.  As children get bigger, then you can add to your investment and buy another canoe or buy a kayak or two.

Basic Gear:

  • canoe
  • life vest for each family member
  • paddles
  • dry bag
  • straps or rope to tie on to car
  • roof rack or other method to carry canoe or kayak on your car

You should be able to get some of this stuff used: the canoe, paddles, and left vests.  Use craigslist, go to Value Village etc. Buy from outfitters.  You probably are not going to be able to get the dry bag or straps used (You don’t want to buy a used dry bag.).  You might be able to get foam for the car or roof racks used.

Start looking now, so you are all set for next spring.

Outfitters Selling Used Boats

Here is some information about buying from an outfitter this fall:

Front Royal Canoe starts selling their used canoes and kayaks on Sept 12, 2016
River and Trail Outfitters say check back about used sales in October 2016
Shenandoah River Outfitters is ready to sell their used boats to you now
Downriver Canoe Company has some used stuff, just call.

Craigslist – people sell boats all year around, and especially in the fall.
Austin Kayak – get on their mailing list and get 15% off coupons via email

I think every Labor Day sale, REI offers 20% off Yakima and Thule Racks. Maybe more than once a year.  If you are a member of REI, they send you a coupon to buy something at 20% off at least once a year. This year is was around Memorial Day.

In the spring Costco sells new life vests at a good price.

Sierra Trading Post has some good deals on dry bags now.  You can get a large bag for $17.

Read: Where to Buy Used Boats

Read: Buying a Used Canoe


Do not buy a canoe with lots of rocker unless you plan on doing exclusively whitewater.  I see people selling whitewater boats on craigslist without actually telling the buyer it is a whitewater boat.  Mohawk XL15 is a tandem whitewater boat.  It has lots of rocker.  Rocker explained.  Moderate rocker is OK, extreme rocker, is only good for whitewater.


Sorry I don’t have advice about buying used kayaks, there is so much variability that it would be hard to advise.  I would not buy a used whitewater kayak as your first boat unless you are sure you want to start whitewater kayaking.  They are not made for going in a straight line across a lake and will be very frustrating if you are not doing whitewater.  (Oh, I bought a used whitewater kayak when I first started boating, but I wanted to start whitewater kayaking.)

Advice for Families on Boats

I’ve corresponded with one single mom with multiple kids.  She says she could not pick up a canoe by herself to put it on the roof of a car.  I’ve actually thought about this a bit.  She could buy an inflatable kayak, also known as a “duckie”  or two.  (I have never seen these used, so it will be expensive.)

Another idea is to buy a canoe trailer.  I know this sounds like I’m talking about a big trailer, but I’m not.  I must say I peruse craigslist all the time looking to see what canoes people are selling.  But one thing I’ve seen this summer were 2 or 3 people who were selling canoes and a canoe trailer together.  The trailer is for a single canoe.  Usually they are selling the two together and they were reasonably priced. I don’t remember the price, but I thought this was a great idea. Of course you would need to get a hitch on your car, but that is pretty easy at U-Haul.

A trailer like this, but people sell them used with a canoe.  If you don’t like the canoe, just sell the canoe after you get the set and put your own selected canoe on it.

I was just talking with a fellow aging paddler today and mentioned a trailer and a canoe dolly as a way to solve the transportation problem as we age.  So why not start out with a trailer and a dolly?

So there are ways to enjoy the sport for the not so strong and as we age.  But if you want to paddle with your family or friends, then you need to own a boat.

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