Big Boy's Canoe

Okay, I know you have heard this question before:

I am a big guy… about 6’ 275. I need to know which canoes are going to be the best at accommodating me. Not just weight ratios, but also comfort and stability. It will be an all purpose canoe, but probably most used in lakes and in BWCA. My co-pilot’s size is around 200#.

The other factor is cost. I know that canoe enthusiasts will point out that I have to spend the money to get a good quality canoe that will last, but there are also the practical realities of a budget in these times. I can’t drop $1400 on a canoe. Are there any less expensive options that would work?

Any help is appreciated!


maybe go used and look for something with capacity? Perhaps an Old Town Camper of Penobscot?

Big Boy’s Canoe

– Last Updated: Mar-18-10 2:26 PM EST –

If you can find a used We-no-nah (Itasca) go for it.
I am your size and my wife takes everything when
we paddle. Get away from it all is unknown to her.
The Itasca will carry it.

Big hauler

– Last Updated: Mar-19-10 8:24 AM EST –

Big load, comfort, stability, BWCA (and light enough for portaging), all round canoe, and less than $1400. Sounds to me like you need a used Wenonah Champlain. Go up to Spring Creek Outfitters in Mountain Iron and pick out one of their used kevlar Champlains. Be sure to take your bowman along and take it for a test drive before you put money down. I can easily load up to 750 lbs in mine. It's great for BWCA travel, excellent in rough water, and very good for large river travel (without rapids). But for an evening paddle at a local lake without a load, it wouldn't be my first choice of boats.

don’t overlook this canoe …

– Last Updated: Mar-18-10 8:41 PM EST –

...... as a mater of fact , "LOOK" for one used in nice condition .

the Old Town Tripper 172 (in Royalex preferably) :

One just ran out on eBay w/o a bid , the starting price was $ 300. bucks . I would have jumped that one without a second thought ... but it was in Florida for pick-up only . Probably not a very desired type canoe for Florida paddling .

For what you are wanting to do and occupant sizes , there is so much to be said about this canoe ... it is a long standing and much respected high volumn expedition class canoe .

Unfortunately too many will tell you an 80 lb. canoe is a beasty ... it is not , it's perfect !! ... I am probably much lighter than you , maybe older and weaker , and I love my 84 lb. canoe , it has it's definate advantages .

Used Wenonah Prism
You should be able to buy a Prism used on this site if you keep an I eye out. I’m close to your size and paddled a Prism for 2 seasons. It’s a great solo boat for a big guy.

Man has a co-pilot at 200#, no solo here
he needs a big volume tandem that is light enough for BWCA Portages. The Champlain mentioned earlier was designed just for this usage. If he was smaller than 275# witha 200# partner, the Spirit II would suit. But at his size the Champlain is the best hull.

The Itasca will haul the load, but the paddling stations are not as roomy as the Champlain.


Used is best
Avoid Coleman canoes, Pelican canoes, and other department store junk.

I have bought many fantastic canoes for under $1000, so go with used.

Royalex is fine for BWCA style tripping. It isn’t as fast, it is heavier, and it is far more durable than it needs to be, but if you aren’t racing and are able to carry the weight (and you are a big guy, so it shouldn’t be a problem) then royalex expedition boats would be fine.

Here is a list of big canoes you may find used:

The champlain, itasca, and tripper mentioned above

Clipper sea clipper

wenonah odysee

Grumman 18’

Novacraft prospector 17

I’d say anything 17’ or over, that isn’t designed for “cruising” or racing would be fine (avoid the Jensens and some early wenonahs that are based around efficiency not stability). That means anything that is at least 14" deep and at least 35" wide and at least 17’ long will do OK.

How about …
an Alaskan, they are tough as hell, carry tons of stuff and do a little of everything. Should be able to get one in your price range.

old town
you can’t go wrong with a old town discovery, It will do all and more. Alot of people on this site will look down there noses at a discovery, but i did two weeks on boundary waters and class two rapids solo in one and never had a problem. Plus, you can pass it on to your kids.

Penobscot 16’ with a kayak paddle
and a milk crate type seat just behind the center thwart

will do fine for you.

Champlain Hard To Beat

– Last Updated: Mar-20-10 3:34 AM EST –

I've spent probably 200+ days paddling in MN since 1984. MN canoeing will typically involve portaging, not just carries to and from a parking lot. I'm a big guy your size also, but my co-pilot is usually lighter; although, I have had a few 200lb friends paddle with me. And in Northern MN you're talking slick, rocky, Canadian shield landings. Lifting 80 lb canoes in those scenarios is asking for trouble. You DO NOT want to be portaging heavy boats like OT Discos et al that weigh much in excess of 70lbs. I have, so I'm talking from experience. I recall my last trip with my 78lb Mad River Revelation in 2003 (3 BWCAW trips with that boat). I wrenched my back and it hasn't been the same since. I'd not exceed 75lbs.

Darryl (Duluthmoose) and mr_canoehead have some good boats listed. I've paddled the Champlain and thought highly of it. Probably the best choice out there. Someone mentioned the Bell Alaskan. A bit more rocker, and broader bow than most flatwater boats need. It's more of a river boat. BUT, that said, I too think that boat is a good "Big boy" boat and worth a test paddle. And a good vertical stroke, plus learning the j-stroke will keep even a canoe with rocker in a straight line with a little practice. I'd also add that the Wenonah Spirit II at least warrants a test paddle. I've paddled one on a few trips with 200 lb co-pilots. Same with the royalex 16' Mad River Explorer. I'd recommend the Bell Northwoods and Souris Quetico 17 and 18, but they may be more difficult to find in your price range. We have a 16'6" Bell Northwind and works well for the wife and I. But, a bit more volume would be nice. Bell also makes an Eveningstar. Same length, but a few inches wider. I'm thinking THAT boat would also warant a look.

Also, just because a boat lists in the 2K range new, that doesn't put this a boat out of your range. You can find good boats on Craigslist, E-bay, and this site if you're persistent. And living in MN, you are more likely than most of us to find good boats. I recently picked up a boat that sells for $1700+ (Esquif Mistral) for $725, and put the first scratches on it myself. You'd be amazed at the number of people that buy high dollar boats, try it once or twice, and decide they want a speed boat instead!

Good luck! WW

Here’s a link to a Bell Alaskan in MN on Craigslist. WW