Best Solo Canoe for the money?

I have been kayaking the last couple of years, but I have a new puppy that loves the water, so I am thinking about getting a solo canoe.

I run rivers mostly with my friends (nothing over a 3)and some of them can be a bit shallow. I am 6’2" and weigh a bit over 200lbs. I would also like to start going on multiple day camping trips as well.

I would like a boat that is manuverable for tighter rivers and stream, but will still hold a good amount of gear. I have looked at the Mad River Freedom (14’) and the Old Town Pack (12’). Any advice from anyone who has experience with either? Are there any other boats I should look at (without breaking the bank)?

Right now there is a Mad River Guide

– Last Updated: Mar-22-11 3:23 PM EST –

... in Florida for sale here in the pnet classifieds. That would be a great boat for your use and an excellent bang for your bucks.

I don't know how far that is from you. It's not my boat and I don't know the seller.

MR Guide (now Freedom Solo)

– Last Updated: Mar-22-11 9:28 PM EST –

be a very good all round boat. Very maneuverabool, tracks reasonably well, great secondary stability an' can carry a good load. Bagged out it'll do CIII wit a skilled pilot. Dats de canoo ah' paddle 90% o' de time.

Now, de OT Pack.... well ah' had one fer a while years ago an' let me put it ta yer dis a'way - weez didn't git along too well so weez parted company. One o' de few boats ah' actual sold an' didn't regret doin' so. Ta me it waar like paddlin' an' inner tube. Ah' kind'a liked it de foyst few times out, but de more ah' ta know's it de more ah' got ta dislike it (kind'a like me ex-squaw).
Yer much better off wit de MR in me not-so-humble oopinioon. So dats me tale, Pilgrim.


Wenonah Argosy
I think under your circumstances you should check out the Wenonah Argosy in royalex. Check the reviews and Wenonah website. I own one and it is a fantastic canoe for my purposes which are about exactly the same as yours. I think I saw one recently advertised for $450 on craigslist somewhere here in the southeast. Good luck.

OT Pack
is not a boat for class III and certainly not for carrying a load for multiday trips. Write that one off.

The MR mentioned by others is a great choice. Also consider a Bell Wildfire which may be a tad wet if you want to play class III, but will get through if you’re talking just getting down the river. On anything less and on twisty streams it excels. Great all 'round boat.

Go to and look
over the selection. Not pictured is the Patriot, a solo version of the AC/DC. The Patriot is similar to the Mad River Guide/Solo (I own a Guide), but much lighter. Price will be about $1400 plus shipping. S-glass outside, Kevlar inside, ash gunwales. Strong enough to last and very repairable.

sounds like a good one

Wish we had some pics and specs

Is there an echo in here?

– Last Updated: Mar-22-11 5:51 PM EST –

It may sound like an echo when I post my "opinions".

If I were you, and it was in a reasoable driving distance; I'd be checking out that Mad River Guide in Florida. The Vermont made Guides were better quality than the Freedom Solo, and the sellers have it priced right, if it is in decent condition.

Other opinions of mine, based on my preception of the OP's wants/needs:

OT Pack: Forget about it..........

Wenonah Argosy or Bell Wildfire/Yellowstone Solo:
I wouldn't personally be running anything that is rated as a solid class III in either one of those canoes. Class II; no problem. Especially I would not be running any class III that had any sizeable drops; both of those boat's bows will crash dive like a submarine on sizeable drops.
I'm not saying you can't do class III in either boat, but why would you want too?
I have found the Guide/Freedom Solo to be more manueverable carrying a load than either the Wildfire/Freedom Solo, or the Argosy. I also think the Guide would be more capable on class III than the other two.

I have owned & paddled a Wildfire, Argosy, MR Guide, and MR Freedom Solo. I sold the Freedom Solo, and the Argosy.
Will never own an OT Pack.

Do consider the Mohawk Odyssey; I think it is an option to seriously consider.


P.S. Been asking for "over" 5 years & haven't seen em me your photos of a Bell Yellowstone Solo running some "solid" class 3s.

You said about the old town pack I would recommend it.

I have a Pack and Steve is right
about the Pack and Class 3. No way. I portage everything above class 2 and some class 2 I find a better way around.

Freedom Solo versus Pack

– Last Updated: Mar-22-11 7:15 PM EST –

Between those two boats, it's a no-brainer. Choose the Freedom Solo. The Old Town Pack is made for a purpose, and for that purpose it is fine, but that purpose is very different from yours. The Freedom Solo is perfect for mild whitewater but it cruises nicely on the flats as well, with or without a load of gear. It's not the only boat you might consider, but I'd feel pretty safe putting it near the top of the list.

For what it's worth, I have a sweet, spunky little rowboat that's the same length as the Old Town Pack, but a few inches wider. I weigh less than 170, and simply throwing in minimal gear for a quick overnight trip transforms that boat from handling lightly and crisply to being more like a cargo ship when underway. I love that little boat and it gets the job done for light-duty trips like that but it really "feels" every extra pound you put on board. It makes sense that the Pack, being narrower, would settle a little deeper in the water and most likely have the handling deteriorate a bit more for a given weight of gear. Since you weigh more than I do to start with and are planning to take more than an ultra-light gear load, you'd be pushing the limits with the Pack on calm water, and be totally beyond its capability if doing whitewater.

used canoe
The best solo canoe for the money is always going to be a used canoe, so I would try to determine the parameters that best suit your needs (in terms of length, maneuverability, carrying capacity, and hull material) and then see what is available within acceptable driving distance of where you live.

If you are serious about running rapids up to Class III in shallow streams, you probably want a Royalex boat, and if you want to have enough carrying capacity for overnight trips you probably want a boat at least 13 feet in length. More length will give more load capacity and possibly more speed, but will result in less maneuverability.

Some of the older circa early 1990s whitewater OC1 designs might fit your needs for river running and camping, but they will be no speed demons on flat water of slack water pools.

One additional thought - “Class III”

– Last Updated: Mar-22-11 9:42 PM EST –

That's good advice. A used canoe is always "best for the money". What I want to address though is the whitewater-class thing.

What I see much more often than not when a person looking for basic advice talks about rapids "up to Class III", is that they are really talking about fairly easy stuff that average paddlers can do in ordinary canoes, NOT solid Class III whitewater. The fact that river websites, rental services and guidebooks routinely rate an easy Class-II drop that finishes up in a quiet pool as "Class-III" may be what contributes to this (I expect that in serious whitewater country, this mis-rating of rapids is less common). Only the original poster would be able to fill in the details to see if that's the case here. So, to the original poster: If you look at the rapids you intend to paddle and can easily envision the need to eliminate most of the empty space in the hull with air bags just to get rhough without swamping, then take pblanc's advice about what kind of boat you might consider for Class III. If you can envision ordinary canoes negotiating those rapids without a really great risk of getting swamped, your range of boat choices becomes a lot greater (if your boat is not likely to be helpless unless packed full with airbags or covered with very secure decking, the rapids probably are not Class III).

I agree…
and good description of “real” class 3.

If buying a new canoe and price is important, I agree with Bob, the Mohawk Odyssey might be a very good choice.

Mohawk Odyssey
I agree with you and Bob too. That’s the boat I use the most in moving water. Just to clarify though, we are talking about the Odyssey 14, not the Odyssey 15. The two models are more different than the one-foot length difference would suggest.

I would not want to take my MR Guide
through even an easy class 3 (Nanty Pattons Run) much less a real 3 like Lesser Wesser. The boat is simply going to fill up.

Patton’s run/Lesser Wesser

– Last Updated: Mar-23-11 3:44 PM EST –

Well, if you had to use either a Guide, a Pack, a Yellowstone Solo, or an Argosy; which would you choose?

In the hands of the right paddler any of them could do it, but which would you prefer to take if you had to choose one?

I did the Nanty from the Powerhouse to the footbridge at NOC 4 times in an Odyssey 14. Dumped once, downstream of Lesser Wesser on my 3rd of 4 runs. Pattons wasn't a problem.
Also did the French Broad from Barnard to the take out below Frank Bells a couple of times(no swims) in the same Odyssey. Yep! I did some bailing.
If an Odyssey will do it, a Guide will; even though neither is ideal by any means.
I'd rather have been paddling my Outrage X, Probe 12, or Probe 12 II, but I didn't own them then.


Old Town Pack
I just get a kick out of everytime the Old Town Pack is mentioned, and then all the Pack experts come out of the woodwork and tell you to avoid it like it’s an infected plaque rat. Almost all of these experts have never even owned one. I would listen to FE’s advice against the Pack because he has experience in one and then discount the others. Like comparing the 33lb. Pack to a 170lb. row boat? Since I own one I’ll give you my take on the Old Town Pack. It’s a fun little boat that you can do a lot with. They’re inexpensive, very light, and durable. Yeah, they of course dont excel at everything but that’s not what they’re designed to do. I think the Pack is really designed as something light to get out to marshes, creeks, and ponds for fishing, hunting, and trapping. I dont even know what class1 vs class3 whitewater is…but I’ve had mine in rivers with whitecaps and did fine…nothing crazy again it’s not a whitewater boat. I’ve even taken it in the Piscatagua river and fished for stripers…I use it a lot on ponds for fishing. Last year for the first time I poled it up a brook and it was a blast. I duck hunt and trap out of it, and usually take it out exploring. I use it on some local lakes with boat traffic and wind chop and have never had a problem. A friend who owns a kayak comes with me just out playing around and fishing neither of us are faster or slower than the other. Yeah, I do use mine for things outside it’s comfort range like trolling trout flies across a choppy lake. I would say, try one out and see for yourself if it’ll do the job you’re hoping. If not try out a Mad River solo as a comparison. I’m not sure if you’re a hunter but the flat bottom on the Pack makes it better suited if you bring along a duck dog with you.

Bell Rockstar
I am about 210 pounds and six foot. The agrosy and yellowstone were a little to small for me, and when you add a reasonable amount of gear I was pushing the weight limit. I bought the rockstar and love it. It has plenty of room, maneuverability is top notch I can turn on a dime and it is not dead weight in the open sections. A lot of people here will bash the rockstar, and I am not sure why. I have taken it on small twisty fast moving creeks, to week long trips on slow moving large rivers. For someone who is a little larger, and wants room to occasionally carry gear the rockstar fits the bill.

If one runs a river with one or more Class III rapids which have Class II sneak routes, or portages all the Class IIIs then one isn’t really paddling Class III water even if the river is “Class III”. And there is a world of difference, as Eric points out, between a relatively short Class III with a good recovery pool at the end of the drop, and a relatively long Class III, or set of closely-spaced Class IIIs.

Many canoes that make excellent day tripping or overnight canoe camping boats for moving water, like the Yellowstone Solo, Swift Osprey, Wenonah Argosy, etc, are not well-suited for running any real whitewater.

As Bob pointed out, the fine, narrow bows of these boats knife into standing waves and submarine going over drops, where a whitewater boat with relatively blunt, full ends and more rocker will ride over them. Some of these designs have considerable tumblehome, not a very desirable feature in a whitewater boat. And the stems of these longer, less-rockered boats, especially the stern stem, takes a beating going over rocky ledges.

That’s not to say that a very skilled paddler couldn’t run Class III rapids in something like a Swift Osprey, but it would require good boat control and a knowledge of the boat’s limitations.