Canak vs solo canoe

We are going Boundary Water Canoeing Mid August (6 days/5 night-10-14 miles per day). I (Jen) have done Boundary Waters before and kayaked Apostle Islands and my husband (300lb) has done several 100 mile canoe trips. Our son (26) has canoe and kayak experience but not as much. The 4th in our group, 22 year old female with no experience. We had asked about kayaks for two of us to trade off on and a canoe for two.

We have never done a solo canoe or a canak. We had asked about a kayak (son is set on doing). Outfitter suggested the canaks first. Now he thought that a solo canoe (prism) would work better.

Looking for those of you that have experience using a canak and a solo in Boundary Waters and your opinions.

Just to show BWCA behavior in a

The Canaks would be less subject to wind. Otherwise, I think it is a matter of what kind of paddle each person prefers, and what boat goes best with that paddle.

I have watched that video of the canaks numerous times and really wanted to take that. Just not sure about a solo canoe. Thanks,

Haven’t paddled a Prism, but
I think you might be seated a bit higher, and would feel it to be a bit twitchier. The Prism is the type of canoe that wants to be paddled fairly hard. The Canuks are fast enough if you want fast, but are likely to feel better about casual paddling too. You have to guess the designer’s goals to guess the behavior of the boats.

If you’re lucky, people who have paddled one or the other will come along, recognize what I say as stupid, and offer better feedback.

Sometimes you need to take these questions to the Advice, Suggestions, and General Help forum. The Wilderness forum isn’t visited as often.

I have paddled a Prism some. I have never paddled, or even seen a Canak outside of photos and videos.

The Prism is a fairly hard-tracking boat, meaning it would rather go straight than turn, which is fine for the Boundary Waters type of paddling experience. It is a pretty efficient hull with a lot of carrying capacity which makes it a favored solo tripping boat, especially now that the original Bell Magic is no longer available new. I find the Prism quite stable with the seat in its stock position, but I have been paddling canoes for a long time, and what feels comfortably stable to me might not to you. The stability of many canoes improves with a load and I suspect the Prism would not be an exception.

Just judging by the appearance of the sliding seat of the Canak in the video my guess is that you would be sitting very slightly lower in the Canank than the Prism but not much. Most of the Prisms I have seen have been set up with a relatively low sliding tractor seat of the same type and are intended to be paddled from a seated (rather than kneeling) position.

Kayaks paddled with a double bladed paddle are typically more efficient out on the water than canoes (with similar dimensions and hull design) paddled with single bladed paddles. Part of this is due to the higher paddle cadence typically achieved with a double bladed paddle and the fact that with a double blade it is not necessary to waste time and energy on correction strokes to go straight. Another part of it is that kayaks do not stick up as high out of the water as most canoes so they have less windage to be acted on by adverse winds. Covering most of the open area of the boat with a deck also reduces the effect of the wind, and this is why many canoe trippers fit a removable nylon spray cover over their boats.

If you are concerned about being able to control a solo canoe be aware that you can certainly paddle one with a double bladed paddle like a kayak. A double bladed paddle works a bit better in a kayak due to the typically lower seat position and the lower deck height to maneuver the paddle across and over but it works well for many. And you can paddle the solo canoe using a single bladed paddles switching sides every few strokes, like in the Canak video.

I doubt that you would find an enormous difference in paddling a Prism versus a Canak unless the wind really came up, and if you have an inexperienced boater on the trip, you probably don’t want to be on the water if that happens.

Do you think I would be able to kneel to paddle in the Prism? I tend to paddle kneeling when in a canoe.


– Last Updated: Feb-05-14 11:34 AM EST –

Most all of the Prisms I have seen have had the sliding bucket seat of the type shown in the Canak video. It was possible to order Prisms with optional wood-framed caned seats, however.

Most people do not find the sliding tractor seats very suitable for kneeling. They are usually mounted too low to maintain a comfortable kneeling position for any length of time and the front edge of the tractor seat is rather sharp and uncomfortable cutting into your thighs and backside more than a radiused wood seat frame.

There is usually not enough clearance under the seat for your feet, forcing your feet to the outside of the seat edges, which is often not optimal.

If you rent a Prism and want to paddle it kneeling, see if the outfitter has one available with a cane seat suspended from the gunwales. Better still if the seat surface is canted a little with the front seat frame a tad lower than the rear seat frame. Also, bring along some knee pads or a kneeling pad, or ask if you can rent one from the outfitter.

Paddling a prism
I have paddled a Prism a great deal and it is a nice handling boat. It tracks well and I have no trouble running class 2 whitewater with it. I can turn it much better than many people on this forum seem to believe one can.

It is not a good canoe to handle in a strong wind.

I don’t like to paddle any of my canoes in a strong wind and the Prism is about as hard to handle in a stiff wind as any of my 8 canoes.

I am now doing a lot of photography from a canoe and the Prism is great for this as long as it is reasonable calm.

I paddle from a sitting position in a tractor seat. Paddling from a kneeling position is nearly impossible with this type of seat.

Canak vs Prism
I believe that the Canak is based on a trimmed down version of the Prism. I have not paddled a Prism but have spent almost 30 years paddling the Wenonah Advantage, on large Adirondack lakes in 2-3 foot whitecaps. I have not been out on the Boundary Waters. Last year I purchased a Canak and love it. It is a very stable boat. Because of the deck and the trimmed down sides it does offer less wind resistance than the Prism. I believe loaded down it will be a fairly stable boat. The Canak also tracks very well. A lot of it depends upon the paddler’s ability and use of common sense. It sounds like a great trip,enjoy!

Man up
Canoe. Don’t be a whimp. canoe is history and … Are you a whimp?

I Vote for the Canak
I have used both in the boundary waters and prefer the Canak. It is more stable, wind resistant and faster than the Prism. For paddles, I would take both a double blade and a bent shaft. They both have their places in this boat. I really liked the large hatches for the portage packs. A Canak can be rented from Piragis (Ely) or Seagull Outfitters (Gunflint.)