Canoedling (sic)

One of the most fulfilling ways you can adventure with a 4×4 is to link your travels with those in a canoe. I use my Land Rovers to get as far into the wilderness as I can – and a canoe is a perfect way of doing exactly the same thing, in almost complete silence. If you camp up on a lake shore or river bank you can drop a canoe into the water and see the world from a very different perspective. It’s also handy extra mobility if you have a roof tent and your truck stays in camp! Seeing a Land Rover rolling up the motorway with a canoe or two strapped on the roof always makes me smile – someone is intent on doing something adventurous 🙂

The road to Skye with a Mad River Explorer

            There are five main types of canoe to consider if you want to take one away with your 4×4 – a Canadian canoe, a kayak, a sea kayak, a sit-on or an inflatable. Each has merits and suits different situations. A Canadian canoe, sometimes called an open canoe, is the stereotypical explorers’ canoe of North American stories. Biggish, very tough, capable of carrying heavy loads for long distances in rough water, they are solid workhorses – if Land Rover made a canoe, this would be it. A kayak is a slimmer, (usually) sharp-nosed and agile boat originally from the Canadian Arctic. Many designs are used by those who love to paddle rough water and rapids. Sea kayaks are larger, more long-range versions of this, intended for long distances on the open sea. They are excellent for island-hopping expeditions as they can carry a reasonable amount of camping kit. Sit-on canoes are basically moulded plastic kayak-type boats which are mainly intended for fun and for fishing. Lastly, inflatables are what they sound like – kayak designs which can stow in a relatively smallish space (compared, at least, to a full size canoe) and are handy for short trips in reasonably calm water. Making a choice between the types is very much down to what you want to use them for.

Glen Etive with a pair of Old Town Discoveries

            My own linking of Land Rovers and canoes has mainly been with Canadians – of the various models, the Old Town Discovery 169 is a perfect fit for exploring rivers, lakes and lochs in the UK and further afield. At seventeen feet long it seats three easily with kit, but it’s a big old beast, and needs fastening securely to the roof rack or roof bars of your vehicle. Getting it up there can be a chore, especially on your own, and roof racks with rollers on the rear (as used for carrying ladders) can make life easier. It’s perfectly possible to lash a canoe onto the roof on top of a roof tent – you might need to protect them from each other with some pieces of packing foam. Sea kayaks are another popular option for 4×4 owners; they allow access to the myriad of small islands off the west coast of Scotland, for example. One of the most amazing experiences of my life was camping with my Defender near Applecross in the Highlands and taking a sea kayak out into the Inner Sound, the stretch of sea between the islands of Raasay and the mainland. I was paddling along when I was overtaken by a six-foot tall black fin atop a creature the size of a bus…. an orca, only a few feet from my (suddenly very small) sea kayak. The huge mammal rolled onto his side to look at me, and I looked into a melon-sized eye which looked back at me, right into my own eyes– a humbling experience. Sea kayaks aren’t for everyone though, and for family holidays or exploring lakes and rivers a Canadian canoe is probably the most common choice.

Mad River Explorer with falling snow 🙂

            Of course, safety is a big deal when considering canoes, especially for 4×4 owners who fancy dabbling in a quick canoodle and have never done it before. Canoeing courses are an excellent idea, and it goes without saying that being able to swim is also sensible! Buoyancy vests are a must-have. A British Waterways Licence is a worthwhile thing to invest in if you paddle in the UK – it gives access to the 500 miles of inland waterways in the UK. Go to for information about this and other important areas like insurance.

            It’s impossible, here, to give anything other than the briefest of glimpses into the world of adventures possible with your 4×4 and a canoe. There are however plenty of books on Canoe Camping and no less an authority than Land Rover lover Ray Mears has a lot to say on canoe trips in his various books and TV series. If you are stuck for a UK-based family holiday with your vehicle, involving a canoe is a worthwhile way to make a trip different!


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