Advice on my first solo canoe - OT Discovery 119 or?

I haven’t paddled in decades but spent a lot of time in my youth canoe camping on Michigan rivers. Looking to get back into canoeing but a totally different use case. My plan is just to putter around on small rivers and small lakes in the greater Chicago area. I might do a little fishing.

I’m 60, 5’9", 170, reasonably fit but a bit creaky in the shoulders and back with some old hand injuries that act up sometimes.

I’m looking for light and stable, and, inexpensive - yes, I understand that would be the holy grail. I’m considering a double-bladed paddle. I likely will sit the majority of the time and kneel more for the change-up in position than for stability or power. And I will be tossing it up on the car by myself (maybe using one of those roller devices that attach to rear window to assist)

Three options:

  1. Old Town Discovery 119, new from REI @ $700 + tax
  2. LL Bean Royal River, T-formex, but customized with a web seat and no foot brace - used @ $1000
  3. A custom kevlar pack canoe (12’4", 25ish lbs, 28"width) with a web seat placed really high, like almost flush with the gunwales - used @750

Love to get any thoughts you all might have.


I can’t speak about the other two but I have a Disco 119 and use it pretty much the same way you intend to use yours. It has worked nicely for me. It is a tad on the heavy side for what it is at a little under fifty pounds. But I am 73 and have no trouble loading it on top of a Jeep Cherokee.

I am happy with the way it handles. I use a double paddle when I want to move along and use a single paddle when not in a hurry and want to maneuver in tight spaces or on a winding river. I mostly sit and replaced the plastic seat with a web seat.

You should be able to get one used for well under $700.

Thanks Bill, much appreciated. Question - you say you swapped seats in the Disco 119 to a web seat. But the Disco 119 on the REI website shows that it comes with a web seat. Is that something new.

Hi, Matt with Offshore/Paddling Warehouse up in Lake Bluff here (by default, we’re the last specialty paddling shop left in the Chicago area ;-). The Disco 119 is a viable choice, but at your size (relatively light in the paddling world), you also should check out the new Northstar ADK LT pack canoe, a 10 foot pack canoe which is designed to be used with a long kayak paddle. At 24 pounds, it removes worries about being able to load by yourself, and it has more than enough capacity for a guy your size. At $1295, it’s more expensive than the OT (which we also sell), but the trend these days is to go as light as you can, since ain’t none of us getting any younger. Feel free to PM me here if you have any other questions or would like to do a video chat on short solos.

Mine is actually the Dick’s Sporting Goods version called a Guide 119. Same canoe but it had a plastic seat in it.

Hi Matt - great info, thanks. That Northstar looks fantastic but how do you think the staiblity will compare to the OT – 28" vs 32.5" is a pretty big difference in width. My sense of balance isn’t the greatest - not terrible but I’m no gymnast - and I will want to do a bit of fishing.

So I have a Hornbeck custom kevlar pack canoe – 12’ x 26" wide, @25 lbs. At 5’3" @145 lbs, I sit on a foam seat near the midship. For me, it is very stable. My intended use is pretty much as you describe – small pond and river fishing. I can easily carry this canoe, two fishing rods, double blade paddle, and a bit of tackle down a hundred yard path that leads to the launch at my favorite fishing pond. Love it.

That kevlar pack canoe that is third on your list seems to have the same idea. But, I can’t imagine it will feel as stable sitting on seat that is almost flush with the gunwales. But, it depends what you are used to. But at $750, I think that is a good price (barring holes in the hull) for a kevlar pack canoe. It’s less than 50% of my new Hornbeck.



Sing - thanks very much. I agree that the high seat on the kevlar pack likely will hurt stability. And I’m not sure I want to go with the true pack seating - foam pad on the bottom. I think having somewhat of a raised seat will allow me to change up my leg postions - stretching/bending legs - better and avoid cramping from being in the same position for too long.

Lots of variables and I’m not really in a position to test paddle - particularly given the pandemic. So your info - and everybody else’s - is all the more valuable.

Here is a photo of the custom pack - looks like a great boat for a highly experienced, lightweight paddler with superb balance. Unfortunately, that does not describe me!!

HI Bill,
Because the seat is mounted on the floor, vs hung from the gunwales, the lower center of gravity makes up for the narrower beam. If you wanted to go out with yourself plus another 80-100 pounds worth of gear, we’d recommend looking at either the 12 foot version of the ADK or a more traditional short solo like the Disco 119, but if you don’t need that extra capacity, a boat like the ADK LT is a nice little package.

Looks to me like you have the option to drop the seat lower by screwing the seat crossbars underneath the rails. Even a drop of an inch or so makes a huge difference in stability.

It is a sweet looking pack canoe.


Anybody have any comment on the Royal River. I hear that it’s actually a WeNoNah Fusion renamed for LL Bean. I haven’t seen a lot about the fusion.

I have been looking for a Disco119 and haven’t seen one for under new selling price and some of them are 15 y.o. Share your sources, please :)))

I shopped for mine early last fall. At the time Dick’s was selling it for $599. I actually found mine on Craigslist. It didn’t have a mark on it. I paid $400 for it. I honestly don’t know if that was a good price for a used one or not but I am satisfied with what I got. It really was like new.

From what I’ve seen, that was a very good price. Going to keep on looking!

Disco 119’s come different trim levels ways depending on where you buy them as the dealers used to be able to select the options. The lower priced ones used to have a the old style plastic seat and I have also seen them with the plastic seat with the backrest. It has also been sold with both cane and web seats over the years.

Hi - have you looked at the Nova Craft Trapper 12? A very nice short solo - moves along nicely but with good stability. 45lbs in Fiberglass, drops to 38lbs in the Nova Craft TuffStuff layup. Based on the Chestnut Canoe Trapper built in the early 1900’s for outdoors folks in the Adirondacks. Good space for stuff if you need. Raised boot lace seats high enough for me to get my size 12’s under when kneeling. Can be double bladed paddled (a common way to paddle in the Adirondacks back in the day). If you want to really splurge for the 29lb Aramid Light version, make sure you ask for the long seat drops. The standard drops place the seat pretty high - right below the gunwales. Good reviews. Just a thought.