A wannigan is a traditional piece of gear that is used to pack fragile equipment or used as a grub box on canoe trips. It is
nothing more then a wooden box, and can be any size or shape that is needed. It is carried with a
tumpline or a pack
board. You may wonder why on earth you would want to carry a wooden box on a canoe trip. My answer to that is,
because it’s functional. Here are some reasons why;

  1. I hate cooking out of a bag. I seem to spend half my time digging around trying to find what I’m looking for. A
    wannigan keeps everything organized and accessible.   
  2. It gives me a comfortable seat. I haven’t met a log or rock that I really liked, or happened to be lying right where I
    need it.
  3. Provides me with a table and a flat surface in the woods is prime real estate.
  4. It fits nicely in the canoe.  Built to the dimensions of your canoe it will fit perfect and keep the center of gravity low.
  5. It's easy to pack via the tumpline or fits nicely on a pack board.

To build a very simple but classy wannigan you will need;
  • 4 ’x 4’ sheet of ¼ in. plywood.  I like birch because it has a nice finish.
  • 8’ board of 1” x 12” pine.  Find the straightest piece you can find.
  • 8’ stick of 1” x 2” pine.
  • 24   ¾”  brass or stainless steel screws.
  • 14   1 ¼  brass or stainless steel screws.
  • All weather glue.  I use Titebond 3.

We will be building a 24” x 14” x 11” wannigan (inside dimensions), and is a great all around size. It holds my kitchen
supplies and one week worth of food, unless you are traveling with a teenager, then you will be lucky to make it to the first
campsite. Adjust the size that will fit your boat or situation best.
Building A Simple Wannigan
Cut out all pieces

  1. Start with the 1 x 12.  Cut out one 24 inch piece, that will be the bottom and two 14 inch pieces, that will be the ends.
  2. Next, for the sides cut two 14" x 25 ½" pieces from the plywood. (Note - if you are using a 4’ x 4’ sheet of plywood
    make your second 14” cut on the short edge. So when you are done you will have a 34 x 34” piece of plywood
    leftover for the lid.)
  3. Finally cut two pieces 11 ¾ inches from your 1 x 2 for your side handles and two pieces 24 inches long for top
    supports. (Note -  you can rip one 24” piece in half to get your two pieces, which I prefer to do.)

We will look at lid options later.   

Start with the 24" bottom, the two 14" sides, and the two 24" top supports. Butt the two side pieces up to the bottom piece and clamp. Then add the two side
supports. Use a counter sink bit to drill 3 holes in each bottom edge and one in each top corner of the side support. Fasten it with 1¼ screws.  (
Note - The
secrete to a good strong box that will last for years is to use a premium wood glue. Make sure to put plenty of glue on every joint. It is OK if glue squeezes out,
that is a good sign that you used enough. Just wipe up the excess with a damp rag.

Next, add the two side panels. Put the box on its side and glue all four edges. Place the side panel  on and secure with three  ¾” screws on each sided and three
across the top and bottom. Be sure to counter sink all screw heads. Do the same for the other side. You now have your wannigan.

Before you can go further you need to come up with a lid design. Your style will dictate where you will place the handles. The pictures shows a few examples of
what you can do.

When you have  designed your lid, add the two handles using glue and  two 1 ¼ screws.  I made a slip over lid so I placed my handle just below the bottom of the
lid . If you want a lid that just sits on top or a hinging lid, make the handle even with the top of the box. After the handles are attached and the lid is made, finish
the wannigan by sanding all the sharp edges and corners. Then give it two good coats of Spar Marine varnish.

After it is dry, you can add a seal if you would like or just leave it plain. Then load it up, secure the lid, add your
tumpline, and your off.

A beautiful wannigan and tumpline built
by Giles, United Kingdom.

"The wannigan is one of the most useful
things I have."

Great Job Giles!
Assemble The Box
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