Buying first canoe. Any Help?

Hi all,

I am looking to buy my first canoe for family outings. Mostly day trips on calm lakes and rivers and maybe some overnight trips. It would be my wife, 2 daughters and maybe my Labrador retriever if possible. They all may not go at the same time but… Anyhow, I know choosing a canoe is a personal thing but just wanted some input from anyone. I have been looking at Old Town brand but not sure I want to put 1000 bucks into my first canoe. Any advice?

Look For Used

– Last Updated: Jun-12-05 9:35 PM EST –

We've gotten several excellent deals by buying used - canoes are pretty easy to check out, as you can see any damage, etc., quite easily. There's a classified section on that should give you some idea of prices - usually 50% or less of original cost. As far as designs go, there's a thousand out there - if it's your family's first, I'd suggest looking for something in the 16' range with a fairly flat bottom. If you have any friends who are canoeists, they can probably advise you on a particular boat. You might also check whether there are any paddling clubs in your area - if you can get in touch with one, members might be able to give you some advice, or even know of boats for sale. Once you've got a candidate, try a post here, asking for reaction to that particular canoe; there's bound to be someone who's owned and paddled one. And finally, I wouldn't buy anything without paddling it first.

You can pick up a used Grumman for
a few hundred dollars. They need no maintenance, are hard to tip over and float without additional floatation bags.


Sounds like you need two
I’d get two mad river explorer 14 tt canoes. One for you and one for the wife. it will make everything much easier and will cost about the same as any canoe that is rated for 4 people and a dog.

Two smaller boats are aslo much easier to load on the car and carry to the launch as well.

I think you could get two Explore 14 tt’s for about $1000 but and old Town tripper XL will cost you closer to $2000

Old Town Guide $500
Why not get an Old Town Guide 14.7 long?? Great canoe for $500 or less new. As long as you and a partner can lift 75 pounds up on your vehicle you should be all set.

That canoe can handle a lot. I’ve even taken it in Lake Michigan waves.

points of order
#1 - Take everything you read on this message board with a pound of salt, as there are way too many yuppie wannabes that delight in telling others how to spend (waste?) their money;

#2 - for a beginner, test paddles are a waste of time as you don’t have any experience – and thus a frame of reference – to compare anything to; and,

#3 - keep in mind that whatever you buy will be your first canoe and not your perfect – or last – canoe; so,

#4 - buy the first thing that catches your eye that you think you can afford so long as it isn’t a Coleman – or another similar barge – masquerading as an “affordable” canoe.

As a point of reference my fifth canoe appears to be my perfect canoe. I bought it on a cold and rainy day this past winter because my spouse said it was “pretty” and she also declared that she’d “always wanted a Bell …”. Call it pure luck, but in the end I also learned that our first canoe (an Old Town Discovery 164) was close to being perfect (at one-half the price!) and is still a joy to paddle. Then again, there’s a lot to be said for having all five canoes hanging from the rafters of my shop, with each one addressing a particular need.

Which brings us to point

#5 - Despite what I wrote in #1, my experience shows that when buying a canoe the yuppies might be right as you truly get what you pay for.

If I had to rank all five of my canoes in order of satisfaction, their ranked order pretty much follows their MSRPs.

Isn’t capitalism great?

My first
canoe is a Grumman 17’. I got it used at a Kayak shop for $300. It easily holds myself, my wife and two kids. I’ve had it for about two months now and I like it very well. So far, the biggest problem I see with it is the nut paddling it!!

How big are your daughters? Dog?
Won’t ask about the wife. :slight_smile: If you could get the most suitable canoe, how much money could you spend? (not want to spend) Remember you need to buy 5 PFDs, paddles, cartopping stuff, something to use as a drybag.

How much have you paddled, what and where? This will help us figure out a few more things.

The suggestion to buy used is good. Where are you located and what lakes/rivers do you want to paddle?

Will you usually have everybody with you? How often do you plan on using the boat?

It is possible to buy without trying and be satisfied, but you might want to try a few things before you make the purchase.

Wenonah Spirit II
I dropped $1000.00 on my Wenonah Spirit II, and have never looked back! I have had that canoe packed with three kids, a dog, a large cooler, a duluth pack, and the wife. I never had a problem with heavy loads in the boundary waters, or very light loads on solo river trips. This canoe is very versatile $1000.00 may seem like a lot for your first canoe, but you will only have to buy it once for years of paddling enjoyment. Good luck with you purchase.


Paddle it first
Find a dealer who has a Demo Day or will let you paddle first. Then try as many as you can.

The problem when people tell you what model to buy (because that’s what they bought)is that their body weights and paddling styles all vary. And doubtful they will match yours. Plus, how many of us admit that we bought a boat we don’t like?

So, paddle as many as you can…then buy.

Because it’s your first canoe, paddling
demos may not be that informative. I still have nearly all the boats I’ve purchased in 32 years, and I never demoed a single one before purchasing. Not a single one has turned out to be a mistake. While you are new to canoeing, the trick is to focus on boats with well-established reputations, like the Spirit II or the Old Town Tripper or Penobscot.