12' Pack Canoes?

Hi, I’m new to the board and need some advice. Have used a Mad River Malecite (62 lbs) for my solo canoeing for over 30 years and need to downsize to something smaller and lighter. The issue is not on the water but in the handling to and from the car.

Most of my canoeing is generally on the Great Lakes/Georgian Bay and prefer bigger water. I do pick and choose my days. Tried kayaking but really prefer canoes. I do like the position flexibility of canoes where I can use either a kayak (sit) or a canoe (kneel) paddle.

Anyone have any experience the the various 12’ pack canoes like the Hemlock Nessmuk XL or the Placid Spitfire. Looking for a canoe (sub 35 lbs) that can handle big water yet at the same time I can use as a light tripper. In trip mode the combined paddler and gear would be easily under 200lbs with a weeks worth of food.

Have you considered a traditional solo?

– Last Updated: Nov-04-09 2:02 PM EST –

Since you enjoy being able to use a standard canoe seat for either sitting or kneeling, I wonder if a pack canoe is really the way to go. Sitting barely off of the floor and using a double-blade paddle is the norm with pack canoes. Also, if you can handle a Malecite by yourself, a traditional solo canoe should be a huge step up in performance, and some of them are pretty light.

For example, my Bell Merlin II weighs 31 pounds (I think the advertised weight is one or two pounds heavier), and it will cruise pretty nicely with the load you propose, but with a little to a lot more margin of safety in big water than most 12-foot pack canoes. There are several solo canoes with similar weight and capabilities, with the "best" one depending on what you consider to be the best compromise among various strengths and weaknesses.

I dont think you are looking for a pack
canoe either strictly speaking…just a lightweight solo.

The only pack canoes that I can think of that can be outfitted for kneeling or sitting (with a traditional type of canoe seat) are the RapidFire and the SpitFire as they can be reinforced with an extra belly band.

But those two canoes are quite a bit narrower than the boat g2d has.

I actually find the RapidFire better in big water (Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of Maine)than the Merlin II but that is more due to my sitting on the bottom in the RF and kneeling in the MerlinII. The latter is wider, allowing more boat roll from waves under me without throwing myself off balance. I think if I knelt in the Rapid on ocean rollers I would always be on the brink of exiting.

If you wish to sit or kneel try a traditional light weight solo.

Hemlock makes the Kestrel and Peregrine. I outfitted my Peregrine with a full length two piece spray cover for those occasional deep waves… Paddling with a spray cover in itself requires you check that you can exit easily (I have a Cooke Custom Sewing cover that does allow that)

Swifts Osprey is a good wave shredder with a flared bow and is good for big water. Tommy C1 can probably give a better review as he has paddled it on big water.

These boats and others are available in layups around 30 lbs.

Sorting out, will it work

– Last Updated: Nov-04-09 6:18 PM EST –

Thanks for your input.

It was about the time I bought the Malecite that the solo canoe approach was gaining momentum.

One of the reasons I was looking at 12' canoes is that this size will fit in my van. Super simple and convenient; open the doors and slide it in and you're done, no cartopping required. I do this now with my Folbot Aleut (12' w/30" beam).

Another reason for initially looking at the 12's is with one inside the van I can keep the boat clean of salt/snow glop when traveling in the winter. I four season paddle currently with my Aleut as there is often open water available in the winter. Late fall through early spring are the best because there is no pleasureboat traffic. Yes, I wear a drysuit. Canoeing during a heavy snow (w/light winds) is fantastic.

I also want the option of using a kayak paddle because a local river has a 3-4mph current and the stroke rate has to be kept rather high when paddling against the current. This suits the kayak paddle more than the typical canoe paddle.

One thing I'm not sure of is how a 12' canoe will feel with a given beam and whether or not it is workable for what I would like to do. I've seem them as wide as 36" down to 28". Because I have to sit in the Aleut I can't feel the boat like I can when I am kneeling in my Malecite. I also find the Aleut rather sluggish which I'm sure is a length/beam thing.

Thanks again for your input as I sort this out.

an OT Pack
is a bit of a slug…but would fit in the van.

Its beamy which with its length makes it in the slug category.

You can kneel in it.

Or perhaps the OT Discovery. It comes in sit in the bottom version now but you can hang a seat in it. People do paddle it kneeling. Its in the I am not a speedster category too.

Pity you cant go to 13 feet…more opportunities. FlashFire for one…its a nice responsive boat that will not bore you.


If you want to kneel and sit a pack canoe is not for you because they are dedicated to low seating - just a few inches off the bottom. If you accept that seating position you will need shorter single blade paddles, ~ 46-47", but the boat will paddle just fine.

You didn’t say how tall you are or what you weigh, but triangulation, food plus gear for a week and still well under 200 means you are in a 125-135 window. [Height is harder to figure - you didn’t mention apple picking or painting your house.]

Placid’s SpitFire is the only 12 ft pack with tumblehome, which will help with the single blade action. It can be laminated and outfitted to kneel if you so order it; extra belly bands and center diamond, and a cane seat dropped from the rails.

Lincoln Canoe Hideaway
12’-3" long and 31.5" wide at the rails. 32 or 50 pounds.

Why just 12 ft?

– Last Updated: Nov-04-09 8:29 PM EST –

If you want to play in big water, suggest you consider PBW Rapidfire.

It weighs in at 25 lbs to 30 lbs, and combined with a spray deck, has certainly proved to be seaworthy.


Center Diamond
My Swift Saranac 14.6 in C/K with Carbon on the outside has those diamond swatches down the center line is that for strength?

RapidFire and Kestrel
RapidFire can be laminated and Rigged for kneeling, and Hemlock’s Kestrel already is. Both are Yost designs, ~ 15 ft by 27.5 in wide, ~25-30lbs, and both would offer a smaller paddler better speed and a little more stability than SpitFire or any other pack canoe, but they won’t fit in that van.

The diamonds I referred to are 45- 58" square fabric sections centered on the diagonal to reinforce canoe center and seat position in Bell’s Black/Gold, Placid boatwork’s and Colden Canoe’s proprietary laminations.


Carrying Place Chemaunis
12’ x 32". Available in rib/canvas or cedar strip epoxy.

Millbrook Rival
12’2" x 28" x 15". 28 lbs.

Originally a WW design.

If it weren’t for the length limitation,
I would have suggested the Millbrook Patriot. 14’ 6", a solo version of the AC/DC. Rival is a great WW pocket cruiser but still hard to use on big lakes.

Kaz of Millbrook may still have a Swamp Hen on sale. A downriver WW racing boat, low rocker but kinda maneuverable.

Bell is coming out apparantly with a 12 foot pack boat…the Dragonfly. Dont know anything about it though.

They were selling it at trade shows this fall: no stripper, plug or mold made at the time. No, it is not a DY design.

Wonder how it will differ from Bucktail?
Hopefully a little rocker and tumblehome.

yeah, but…

– Last Updated: Nov-07-09 12:40 PM EST –

A DY redesign of BuckTail with tumblehome, rocker and finer lines already exists in the Placid SpitFire. And, remember, in a pack canoe designed for low seated paddlers with double sticks, too much stern rocker is not a good thing, as many carry that blade behind their body, finishing each forward stroke with a sweep.

It’ll probably be less than $3k.

– Last Updated: Nov-07-09 8:49 AM EST –

And available at relatively local dealers for test paddle.

Apples and other fruit

– Last Updated: Nov-07-09 12:07 PM EST –

Bell's hand laid Black/Gold Bucktail with ash trim lists for $2675, $100 more than Placid's infused SpitFire at $2595, and Spit has cherry trim and two tone gel and an extra Kevlar blanket to build beam thickness.

Comparing similar products, apples to apples, the Bucktail is higher priced than SpitFire which has several added value features. Aluminum rails and an inferior laminate brings the BuckTail price down significantly, but that's an orange, not an apple.