Canoe Trailer/Trunk




Nope, not something to carry a canoe, but something the canoe carries.

This weekend my family and I are going on a two day, one night camping trip down the Saco River. Mum was going to purchase an inflatable rowboat(~$30) and trail it behind the canoe for storage; Five of us in three kayaks and one canoe doesn't leave much room for supplies. As soon as i heard that I started thinking, and came up with a (in my opinion) much more functional and durable solution.

This was documented as I built but, as I said, the trip isn't until this weekend. So I'll post pictures of it in action Sunday or Monday.

Update: We're back from our trip, so check step 8 for pictures of the trunk in use.

Step 1: Plan It, Start It

Make a sketch, it helps. Obviously, I planned my trailer around the dimensions of the thirty gallon barrels I had.

First, I found the center of the ends; Conveniently there were lines in the plastic already. Draw an axis in the center, grab a protractor (or eyeball it, like me) and make lines from the center to the edges at a forty-five degree angle.
Then I drew the lines as straight as I could over all the bumps and lips of the end, over onto the sides. Do the same thing on both ends of both barrels. Pay attention to which direction you draw the lines so that they line up.

The whole angles bit isn't necessary, but it makes the two halves of the final result close to the same.

Step 2: Draw Some More Lines..

You need to find some sort of straight-edge, a board for example. Use this straight-edge to connect the lines you extended to the sides of the barrel. Do this twice to each barrel. Refer to the pictures.

Measure in 6 inches from each end of each line on each barrel. Make a little tick mark.

Now find something to create a straight line on a curved surface. Try using a dog leash. Connect the tick marks to make a rectangle on each barrel roughly 15" x 17"

Step 3: CUT!

Use your weapon of choice to remove that foul rectangle. Just be sure to keep the rectangle as perfect as possible, for we will use it later. It may help to scribble at one point in and out of the rectangle, and to number the rectangle to its barrel for later.

I chose a Sawz-all for the curved lines. A circular/skill saw began the flat cuts before the greedy sawz-all took over.

Now we have created, and removed the doors to our trailer's storage.

These barrels once contained flavoring syrup for flavored water at Poland Springs, so they need to be rinsed well.

Step 4: Create Supports

After the barrels dry, the construction begins.

The lines one the barrels ran the length of the sides too, which is nice. There is also a raised ring around the barrel. These make for excellent markers for drilling matching holes. 'X' marks the sport, so drill twice on each barrel. Clean up the holes with a utility knife.

Get two rather large bolts, two washers, a locking washer and the matching nut. Two ratchets are very useful as well. Proceed to fasten the two barrels together.

Step 5: Rear Support

Grab some of the scrap wood you used for a straight-edge, cut it so it's length is equal to the width of our trailer.

Mark the center of the board. (These measurements I just came up with as I went.) Going both ways from center, mark five inches out, then mark ten inches out from there. Make corresponding marks on the back of the trailer, along the center line.

Acquire four more bolts, eight washers, four locking washers and four nuts.

Drill holes large enough for the bolts at the points marked. Then take a paddle bit at least as wide and the washers you plan to use, and drill in a bit. Drill holes into the back of the trailer barrels too.

Attach the board to the barrels. Use the ratchets to tighten.

Step 6: Doors and Such

By now you've already tidied up the edges of the doors and door frames, right? Good.

Now we need four hinges, two metal pieces, and a handful of nuts and bolts (or rivets, which I also used).

I cut, punched, drilled, and filed a single piece of scrap metal into two, which will each create a lip to stop the doors from going inside the barrels. Mark and drill the barrel and rivet the piece inside.

I marked, drilled and attached the hinges to the barrel first, then the door.

At the front and back of each barrel I also attached conduit holders to tie and bungee things down.

If you haven't realized yet, this is all just random bits from the garage.

Step 7: Hitch

Drill and cut into the top of the lip at the front of each barrel. Tie one end of a rope, a few meters long, to each hole you just made. DONE!

Weight Capacity:
-One gallon of water weighs 8.34lbs
-Thirty gallons weigh 250.2lbs
-Sixty(both barrels) gallons weigh 500.4lbs
-The entire trailer, assembled weighs 30lbs

So this should be able to hold roughly 470lbs of your stuff above water.
(Actually, slightly less because water can get in through the doors. But very close to that.)

Hey! Your sketch looks different than the final result!
Yes, I know. After I got this far I felt it was sturdy and strong enough without the braces on top.

Step 8: In the Field

First thing I did before we even left, was to drill and cut tie on spots to the bottom of the barrel fronts. I did this to try to decrease drag by pulling it out of rather than into the water.

After we filled the trunk up, we sealed the doors with duct tape before (actually after, but should've before) tying down other things.

BONUS! Once camp was set up, the trunk can be stood on end and used as a kitchen/counter-top.

If we use this again next summer, which we probably will, I'd like to use a third barrel to create a new set of doors larger than the opening. The small metal piece that kept the door from closing was something to watch out for when we packed and unpacked because everything was in plastic bags. I also want to alter somehow the front end so that it doesn't plow through the water so much, more curve and less flat.
More tie ons and a small platform between the barrels were two more ideas we came up with on the trip.

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    19 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 8

    Much like booyah71 says, try turning the barrels so the side of the barrel is now the bow or front of the trailer/trunk. This would mimic a barge in that the drag is reduced by the curvature of the barrel.

    PVC Pipe can easily be heated and molded for the front to help with drag. Get the largest diamiter pipe you can find, and mold it to the shape you want and bolt it to the front.


    9 years ago on Step 8

    Great idea
      You might try looking for a style of plastic barrel that has tapered ends. ( I have one I use for hauling water to my garden.  It is dark gray in color.
       If none of the Garden center places near you, have barrels, there is one in Concord, that carries a pretty good assortment.
      From that you might be able to make a "bow" at least for the front of each barrel, and have enough to make your larger doors.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    One solution would be to have the two barrels end-to-end, like a long sausage... that would cut down on the drag.  Unfortunately, you'd need some kind of outriggers to keep the barrels from tipping over/rolling...


    9 years ago on Step 8

    I really liked this idea and I have a pair of suggestions I hope will help.

    1. You could get a piece of sheet plastic and form it to the barrel using a heat gun before cutting to get a door. Add neoprene to the edges & use a clamp system to hold it & you have a waterproofed, gasketed door. Just test prior to use ; )

    2. Using similar plastic and a marine grade plastic epoxy, wouldn't be possible to create a V-hull front shape to attach to the barrel?


    9 years ago on Step 8

    My husband had this same idea and was able to get 3 of these barrels from the shipyard he works for. We were not going to drag them (because it's way too much stress with all the paddling. As you discovered, the drag is horrible) but he wanted to use them as storage inside the canoe. They fit, but they really took up WAY too much room, so that idea went out the window. If you figure out a way to pull them behind the canoe so that gliding is optimal, please update this instructable. It really is a great idea. Thank you!

    If you were to ballast the trailing end (Stern?!)of this thing until the forward end (Bow?....LOL) was clear of the water I'd bet this would pull easier. Use a loose head drum. That's the proper term for one that the lid comes off. Then ballast the stern and it'd work like a charm. Get a cheap ahkio type sled. Ahkios are plastic sleds that is a bowl of plastic upswept on one end. These sell for 15 or 20 buck in the winter here. 3 bucks on clearance when it doesn't snow that year.


    10 years ago on Step 8

    Maybe you could pull it from the round side instead to create less drag...

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    nah, I've pulled some barrels like this behind canoe's like that, it still is a LOT of drag, and it surges so you can't get the canoe to glide. it must be pretty hard to paddle with it like this too.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Ya, it did end up creating quite a bit of drag the way we pulled it. A better way to pull it would have been backwards, but sideways would probably be best. But since we weren't in a hurry on our trip, it wasn't that big of an issue.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    You can save your self a lot of trouble if you cut out the side of the door the hinge will go on first, install the hinge, then cut the other 3 sides. Your door will be perfectly aligned then. In this case, you probably need to put them on with self tapping screws first, and then go back and swap out to nuts and bolts.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Really like your canoe trailer/trunk. Have you used it yet this year?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Bolt some timber slats onto the cut edges to make sure they don't flex too much. I want to come along on your trip. What a pity I'm not in the USA. ;-)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    If you made several of these, bolted together in a line, you wouldn't need the proper canoe or kayaks at all, just fill alternating barrels with people and luggage...

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is a good emergency improvisation. I once cut this same sort of barrel to make a pond, and cut it just how you have, but with a wider opening. From my experience with that, the long cut edges will in fact start to bend and go out of shape. Seeing as this is only a temporary measure to last for a short while, it should be fine. What if you cut yet another barrel to make a bow for each tub to help defeat drag. Like the front of a sled.

    1 reply