Advice on Canoe Selection

I’ve always been a kayak paddler…it’s what I learned on and have never really looked into canoes at all. However, on a recent extended weekend river and camping trip I was the only kayak in a group of 8. I was impressed at how manueverable the canoes were and how much lighter and easier to load (on and off the trucks as well as filling with gear) they were than my kayak. I’m not looking to ditch my 'yak…just wanting to branch out and open up some new possibilities.

Can I get some recommendations on an entry/intermediate level canoe? I suppose a true solo would be okay but I’m not opposed to a small/medium tandem that can be paddled solo (leaving my options open to bringing others along). As I mentioned above, weight is an important factor but also I don’t want to spend a bundle on a “starter” canoe (read “no high-end 30 lb compo$ite$”). I’ve seen numerous versions of royalex boats around 50 pounds (or less) and available in the $700 to $1000 range but what, in your opinion, supplies the most bang for the buck? Some that I’ve seen that I liked were Wenonah’s Argosy and Sandpiper and a few Mohawk models (the model names elude my brain at the moment). Mad River has some boats that, at least on paper, meet my specs but they seem to be on the heavier end of the spectrum.

Vital statistics: Male, 35, 5’8", 215lbs, mostly paddling coastal bayous, smaller lakes, small rivers and creeks with modest currents, occasionally ( afew times a year) a little Class I whitewater, short (1 to 3 days) camping trip, some fishing

I look forward to your replies! Thanks! BPS

Lotsa choices out thaar

– Last Updated: May-11-07 4:56 PM EST –

Some Royalex canoos dat ah' paddle/paddled over de years dat yer may consider...

(Still in production)
Mad River Guide (now Freedom Solo)- solo
Old Town Penobscot 16 - solo or tandem
Mohawk Oddessy - solo
Bell Yellowstone Solo - solo
Wenonah Royalex solos or Solo Plus.
After yer git some experience de various 16' Prospectors are suitable solo or tandem.

Canoos from NovaCraft, Esquif are good - but ah' haven't had de pleasure o' tryin' dem out me'self.

Consider used boats - ye kin' git some in decent shape fer less wampum.

This is jus' ta git de list started - ah'm sure lots ta follow...

Welcome ta de canoeist inner sanctum.


Wenonah Vagabond
It’ll handle all the (easy) conditions you described. Weighs about 40 lbs (list is higher, but the one we have is 38 lbs by actual measure). Should be available in the price range you suggest.

was my starter solo, light, inexpensive, fun to paddle.

Also look into used composites as mentioned.

Some others
Mohawk Solo 14, I like my Novacraft Supernova.

My suggestion, look for a quality boat between 13-15’ and a width of no more than 32" and weighs under 55lbs.

There are a lot of boats out there, have fun looking. Check out the classifieds–good boats there right now.

what is your location??? Perhaps you can get together with some other paddlers and try out some boats. I know at the Ozark Rendezvous we all paddle other boats when we take a break. It can be quite humorous especially when I climb in one!!

Been Paddling a Mad River Guide for
three years, mostly on the Current, Jacks Fork and Eleven Point in MO as well as the Buffalo in Arkansas. Class 1 rivers. Great canoe for overnites cause it hauls lots of gear and still turns with a load. Lots of fun in tight twisty runs. Not good in a wind and absolutly sucks for fishing. It starts turning around as soon as you pull the paddle out of the water.

Just got a Wenonah Vagabond. For fishing, flat water and day trips with the dog on the above mentioned rivers, it’s great. The Vagabond is probably my most versatile canoe and will get used the most. But… Check out the Mohawks.

Swift makes some nice solo canoes
as does Bell, though you are more likely to find used Wenonah canoes in your area.

Local dealers, Mohawk?
There is a local Wenonah dealer not far from here as well as a Bell dealer. The Mad River dealer isn’t far…a couple of hours.

Does Mohawk have a dealer network? There factory isn’t far from where my in-laws live. Has anyone been to their factory?

I see from their site that Mohawk only sells factory direct with facilities in Chattanooga (near the in-laws), TN and Ft Smith, AR. Can’t beat the pricing they are showing right now!

Mohawk canoes
I have owned/own a number of Mohawk canoes. I have a Probe 12, a Shaman and a 18 1/2’ WWIII built in the 70’s. Very happy with all of them. Also owned a Probe 14. Not so happy with that. Too slow. All these were built in their prior life. Can’t speak to their recent reincarnation.

Bell Magic
A lot depends on what you want to do. I paddle a QCC600 kayak that is very fast and efficient. I needed a boat to paddle weekend trips with my Labrador, so I looked for a similar style canoe. I found a Bell Magic solo in the classified. You can read my review along with others in the product review section. I am a proponent of light canoes and kayaks, they make paddling a lot more fun. I also bought a Wenona Jensen-18 that my wife, and my Lab do day trips and weekend trips. My review is also in the product reviews. My opinion is the kayaks and canoes both have there purpose and are like tools, you need both. Good luck

A few good ones…

– Last Updated: May-12-07 6:30 PM EST –

Mohawk Odyssey 14
I am not a fan of their R-84 layup, so I omitted the Mohawk Solo 14. Go Royalex.
This boat will take a beating, haul a heavy load, and is not as affected by the wind as much as the Guide. Fun boat to "mess around" in on a day float, or with a light load. It does not seem to require as much attentioin as the Guide & the Wildfire.

Mad River Guide/Freedom Solo
I am not a fan of the new IQ System.
The boat itself is one of my personal favorites; I love the manueverability. Will carry a lot of gear. As a day float boat, I would choose something else if wind was predicted. It will handle class 2 with ease, and can handle some low class 3.

Bell Wildfire/Yellowstone Solo
Another of my personal favorites.
Beautiful canoe.
Fine for class 1 & 2. Fun on day floats. Will carry enough gear for multi overnights, but
you can overload it.

Wenonah Vagabond
Lightweight, tracks well, easy to keep moving. I would not choose it for carrying a very heavy gear load on multi overnight trips, where water may be class 2. It will be a wet boat.

I have owned all 4 boats described above. When I decided to give one of them up; it was the Vagabond. My wife still owns hers. Had a Mohawk Solo 14 in R-84; got rid of it quick.

Out of your stated price range, but will add 2 others; both of which are beautiful, quality solo canoes. The Bell Merlin II & the Swift Osprey. Don't have a Merlin II yet, but do have an Osprey.

I "still" have not seen "any" photos of anyone doing a "real" class 3 in a Wildfire; even though some say they do.

As always; if possible, test paddle before you buy.