Best canoe/kayak for solo with dogs?

-- Last Updated: Aug-31-10 2:05 PM EST --

Hi everyone... This is my first post here. As a kid, I was pretty active on the water (canoeing, kayaking, sailing), and I really want to get back into it. I live in north central Florida so there are ample choices of slow-moving waters to paddle on. I'm mainly interested in recreational trips, maybe working up to a day trip. So... I have some funds to get a canoe or kayak of my own. It seems that the choices are endless!

I have some factors to consider in my decision. I am female, in my 20s and I'm 5'5" and weigh 120 lb. I need something that I can comfortably carry and lift onto my SUV. Also, I have two 25 lb. dogs that I want to take with me on the water. I have not yet trained them their paddling manners but it's something I'd like to work on over the next months to year.

The two main styles I'm considering are canoe and sit-on-top kayak. Seeing that there are gators down here, I think we'd all be more comfortable in a canoe or even a hybrid kayak. There's a used Old Town Pack canoe on Craigslist close to where I live. It really caught my eye and I've emailed the seller, but not gotten a response. Would this be a good choice for us? I guess I'd like to consider something in the 10-12' range, with as much stability as possible for my dogs. They're well behaved but... you know.

I'd appreciate any tidbits and suggestions you all can provide. Thanks so much, and I have to say I'm so happy I've found this site and forum!

Sit in
I would recommend a sit in or canoe with dogs. With a sit on top, there is no boundary to contain your dogs. I would suspect that without that wall boundary your dogs may be more inclined to jump in the water.

I take my 85lb lab in my tandem Wilderness System 145 all the time and he does great in it. this boat is probably a little two big/heavy for you however.

That’s a tough
order to fill. I built a 12’ solo canoe to do the same thing as you, take small recreational trips with my (40 lb) dog. I worked with a designer to come up with a boat that would fit the bill. Paddling with a dog is not easy, it takes some getting used to, as the mutt tends to wander around the boat. When she’s laying down, she’s usually leaning on one side, which makes it a pain to paddle. And she’s only laying down 20% of the time…she tends to circle around. A lot. We’re working on it, but it’s not as enjoyable and relaxing as when I’m paddling alone.

I don’t see how you could possibly paddle with both dogs at the same time unless they’re really mellow and remain in a sit or lay-down mode. Especially in alligator infested waters!!!

My advice would be to get a solo canoe (easier for you to load/unload) with a flat bottom (for stability) and plan on paddling alone. Maybe take the dogs out, one at a time, and see how it feels…but don’t count on them being paddling companions, they may not be as eager to be in the boat as you are.

Thank you both for your replies. I’d love to take my dogs with me (because I love to take them everywhere!) but I realize it might not be the best for me or them. One of my dogs doesn’t like to even ride in the car, and the other one does well with everything and is more outgoing. I agree that the most peaceful situation would be myself alone, without the dogs.

If it’s just me, no dogs, would that change your recommendations? I love the classic look and light weight of the Old Town pack, but do I really need a 12’ boat for just me? Would something like a small hybrid kayak do better on the shallow waters here in Florida?

Length and canoe vs kayak
Once you are paddling again, you will find out that a boat that’s 12 feet long is hardly too big for “just you”. You CAN go smaller, especially with a sit-inside kayak, but the boat will be pokey, and maybe that’s okay.

A friend of mine who’s about the same size as you has a sit-in kayak that is about 13 feet long, and a nice solo canoe that’s 14 feet long. Both boats are perfect for her, whether paddling on a daytrip or with camping gear. She also paddles mostly quiet waters, and sometimes on creeks that are quite twisty-turny.

I’d recommend that you not go any shorter than 12 feet. The Old Town Pack is not a bad boat for what you want to do, but there are plenty of others that are a little sleeker (and a little longer) that “might” be better, depending on what constitutes the best boat for you.

As to choosing a canoe or a kayak, that could depend on a lot of things. A kayak is easier to paddle in the wind. A canoe is easier to get in and out of where access to shore/water is difficult. A canoe takes a lot more practice to get “reasonably good” at paddling (assuming the use of a traditional canoe paddle instead of a double-blade), while you can just “get in the kayak and go” and you’ll get where you’re going right from the start. A canoe offers a few different seating options and you can even switch on the fly. A decent plastic kayak is cheaper than a decent canoe. A good canoe is lighter than a good kayak of similar size. This list could go on and on.

What a great post-- thank you! I understand what you’re saying about getting a longer boat. It really has been a while since I paddled. My main concern with a longer boat is that I’m still able to hoist it up onto my Rav4 with as little awkwardness as possible.

My budget is about $800, less if I can help it. Even though I’m looking for something lightweight and portable, I do prefer the higher walls of a canoe opposed to a kayak, where I might be sitting in water the whole time. I’ve tried to read as many reviews as possible on this site.

Next year I’ll be moving to the Tampa area and would love something I could take out on the ocean, not for wave riding but for quieter areas. I discovered the Hobie Mirage Sport and I think it’s the coolest thing ever, maybe not for the streams but more for ocean use. I also like the Native Ultimate 12 and, again, the Old Town Pack. The basic Hobie kayaks (Maui, Lanai, etc.) seem nice too but wet butts seem to be a recurring theme in the reviews.

Pamlico 145
it may be heavy for you but it’ll be a safe roomy boat for the three of you

Dagger Tupelo
I am presently selling my Dagger Tupelo small solo canoe here on Check out the reviews and contact me for pictures. Its a great superlight royalite boat.

Longer boats are easier to car top
because they can be slid up on top. The 10 and 12 footers are so short that they tend to slide off before you have the nose up on any part of the rack, or whatever prop you are using. As you get longer than that you can prop the bow up there, then slide the rest of it up. That way you are never holding the full weight.

The harder ones to handle can be the shorter ones, because they do actually have to be lifted.

You may want a kayak cart to get them from the car to the launch, but there are lots and the basic ones are fairly cheap.

That said, if the dogs are still in the picture I’d say canoe. I know fairly healthy young guys who have made a mess of their backs hauling tandem kayaks up and down - they are just plain heavy.

I guess a lot of it depends on your paddling destinations and intentions. If all you want to do is poke around and just relax then a short, fat little 12 foot canoe would probably suit you fine.

If on the other hand you want to actually cover some miles and maybe use it as a form of exercise I’d be looking for a longer canoe in the 15-16’ range.

You’re dogs are pretty lightweight so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but if you put both dogs in front you’ll need some weight in the back end to balance things out. If they’re fairly well behaved (not bouncing around or trying to jump out) even a skinnier canoe should be fine. It will seem a little tippy at first but you’ll get used to it.

If you want to paddle on swampy type waters with tight quarters you’ll probably want to go to the shorter end of the spectrum.

I think if you keep an eye out for used boats you’ll be able to find something that will work. And if it doesn’t work you can probably resell it for what you paid (or more!) if you got a good deal and then get something that works better.


go standard 16’ solo canoe(composite)
A used, composite(ultralight kevlar/something-else) 16’[+] solo canoe = under 40lbs. Realize that once on the density of water 40lbs will fly…with a half-trained paddler with a couple dogs. Get some material, foam or blankets to cover hull floor for them to get good traction on as well as something comfortable to lie on.

Doesn’t have to be over 30" wide, just that length will stabilize any shifting of weight(ie movement).


I was faced with the same decision
although only one dog. Paddled my 65 pound pit bull in a 12’ Pungo with me and it is too tight. Also, 50 pounds in front of you causes the boat to plow a little, making it harder to steer. I paddled the Native Ultimate 12 and 14 with my dog a few times and it was great for that job. Not sure how strong you are, but the 12 footer should be ok. On flat water the Ultimate is fine, has great seats, and is stable enough for my daughter to stand in. I also tried a couple of tandems like the one mentioned, but they are heavy and not very fun to paddle in wind. I went with a Wenonah Solo Plus for dog paddling days. It’s 16’, BUT I’m 6’2" 265. You might want to look at other solo canoes. Go to a local outfitter, look at some new ones (avoid Dick’s, all their canoes are HEAVY and for the most part worth what you pay for them.)and see if you can rent a couple of different boats before you buy. After learning a little bit, look around at used boats. I picked mine up used for $500 bucks and a long car ride adventure. It’s in great shape, mahogany trim, tuffweave, and paddles nicely. 25 lb dogs make tasty snacks for gators, and I’ve paddled among gators so make sure you paddle a couple of times with the dogs BEFORE exposing them to gator country.

Good luck.

No gators for us!
Thanks for the recommendations, everyone. :slight_smile: I definitely plan on going out a few times on my own to get my skills back before even thinking about bringing the dogs. Even then, I’ll probably take one at a time, placed at my feet with a lifevest and leash on, so that I can easily grab him/her if necessary. I do NOT want any in-water encounters with gators!

One of my dogs is so placid that I thought it might work best to put him right behind me, with the girl in front, and that way the weight distribution is more even and the two of them aren’t able to squirm around each other so much.

I realize that this might all be a wishful thought and that I’ll never be able to take the dogs with me. If so, I’ll be bummed but it won’t be the end of the world.

I’m definitely at a crossroads as to making a decision on exactly what I want in a boat. I spent some time today looking at the lightweight Wenonahs (Wee Lassie, Fusion, etc.) and they seem pricey but cool. I can’t decide on a Hobie Sport (sans dogs) or a solo canoe. I literally wrote down the pluses of each, haha.

The Hobie seems fun, has the added bonus of pedals, is shorter in length (and might fit into my SUV if I put the front seat down), can sail if you add that option (super cool!), seems stable and dry, and could be fun on the ocean too.

A solo canoe (such as a 12-14’ Wenonah or Old Town Pack) would have advantages such as: adding a trolling motor if desired, relatively light-weight, could fit the dogs if they behave, and more classic appearance.

I’ve definitely got the paddling bug, though, because kayaks and canoes of various sizes filled my dreams last night. (!)

A little over an hour away, there’s a good dealer that sells both Hobies and Old Towns (not sure about the other canoe brands), and you can test any of the models on the water. I have the afternoon off on Friday so I think that’s what I’ll do. Honestly, I have no idea what weight I can comfortably lift, so I’ll try a few boats and that might play pretty strongly into what I end up getting.

Again, thank you all so much for your help. The suggestions have been wonderful!

You’ve an issue. You are so small that only a few solo canoes are sized for you to dominate. Then you’re adding two, not one, self mobile hull de-stabilizers.

I would forget the OT Pack, it is a horribly outfitted hull, and the Tupelo might be fine except for the dogs.

At your size you want to minimize width to reduce wetted area, think skin friction, and we’d prefer some tumblehome to improve your ability to present a verticle psddleshaft. And, you need a composite hull to keep weight down to a reasonable carry / car-top lift.

Your price point locks you into a used hull. Start looking for a Wenonah Sandpiper or Vagabond, a Bell Flashfire, a Mad River Liberty or Slipper, or a Curtis Vagabond. [Stream of consciousness, not rank order.]

Starting out, you’ll want a double blade paddle because all forward motion and directionality issue are solved thereby. But the benefits of the single stick blade may toll you later.

bon chance! charlie

Higher budget
Cool, thanks :slight_smile:

As I’ve gone over figures today, I think my budget can be a bit more… $1500 or so. If I can stay lower, that’d be nice, but if it’s a matter of getting something that’s already in good shape and will last a LONG time, I’m willing to put more money into it. I anticipate being able to use this at least every two weeks, maybe even weekly, so it’ll definitely be put to good solid use. :slight_smile:

Has anyone read about the Wenonah Fusion? I try to look youtube videos and reviews of each boat that’s recommended to me, but I’ve found relatively little about this one. The size and weight seem ideal.

Update after demo
Well I drove 1.5 hr to the Hobie dealer. I expected them to have a lot of other boats to try but they had mostly Hobies. I tried the Sport and, while I liked it a LOT, I balked and went home with no boat (but with the $1600 still in my checking account).

I can actually fit a Hobie Sport into my Rav4 if I put the 2nd row of seats down and lay the front passenger seat back. That’s a nice option.

At 48 lb., this thing was actually too heavy for my comfort. Being 9.5 feet long, it was plenty long enough for me. I think I can forget about the hassle of taking my dogs on the water unless I have either a featherlight boat or one all ready to use on the water. Launching just by myself is tough enough. I probably spent about an hour and a half just trying the thing out: picking it up, moving it around, launching it, trying it on and in my car, etc. The guy at the dealer was very nice and patient with me. I still feel that it’s an overpriced boat. He was a very pushy salesperson, but luckily they didn’t have it in the color I want (Ivory dune) so that was my excuse for saying no. Oh, that and the fact that $1600 is a LOT of money for me to spend. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much money on anything other than housing or a car.

Tomorrow I’m renting a kayak with my boyfriend and going out on the river. I think that’ll give me an idea of how badly I want a boat for myself, or if I’m ok to just rent.

Since your are looking at reasonably light weight (so it isn’t too hard to get up on top of the vehicle) and enough capacity for you and two dogs, a solo canoe is probably going to be a really good option. The absence of a deck will cut a few pounds off of the weight and it will also give you a bit more flexibility as to where you put the dogs. I’d suggest looking at something a bit bigger than the Pack because that would give you more options.

Some possibilities are:

-Mohawk Solo 13, 36 lbs. in Royalite

-Wenonah Fusion (13’), 30 or 32 lbs. in one of the lighter layups if you can find one used (so it will fit in your budget)

-Wenonah Vagabond, 40 lbs. or lighter in composite, buying used might put the lighter layups into your price range.

-Bell Merlin II if you can find one used in your price range.

-Bell Wildfire composite in you can find one used in your price range.

-sometimes some of the old Sawyers pop up for sale. Depending on the weight, some of them might work for you.

Please keep used boats in mind - over the past couple of years there have been several nice ones for sale in Florida and surrounding states.

Good luck!

Dogs in boats are great ! It means they
aren’t running around parks, forcing their “friendliness” on complete strangers.

Try to be friendly like a dog if you’re a kid or, worse yet, a man, and see what happens to you.

Bought the Sport
I went to another dealer today that had the color I was looking for. I was pretty much sold on the spot, and purchased it. It’s been a long day (and drive), and rained the whole way home, but it’s here!!! I’m going to take it out tomorrow morning. :slight_smile:

I haven’t completely abandoned the hope of taking my dogs boating. I think I’ll have to wait until I move to Tampa Bay, where I can probably use my dad’s fishing boat out on the open water. Knowing my dogs, I think it’s just too dangerous to take them on the tiny rivers here with the gators.

Congratulations on the new boat. There’s nothing like being out on the water.