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 canoe and your opinions.

Solo learning curve
Is much different than a tandem canoe. To jump right in with no experience and expect to paddle 10 miles a day and enjoy it is questionable. The difficulty can easily be compounded by less-than-perfect weather.

Whoever is planning to paddle a solo canoe needs to know how to do it before the trip so it will be enjoyable. Practice and perhaps even instruction will pay benefits.

Ignore this advice if you choose a kayak as basic directional control is very easily learned in such a craft and requires much less skill than a solo canoe.

Canak and Prism
are the same hull. Using a double blade paddle in a solo canoe doesn’t require lots of practice, much like paddling a kayak.

Do you plan to do any portaging?

Andy’s right…
Never occurred to me that they might choose to use a kayak paddle with a solo canoe. Guess I’m just more of a traditionalist than I realized. (discussion of the merits of paddle types not required)

Prism may well be lighter and an open boat is generally easier to load and unload and carry on portages, but as he said I believe the hull shape in the water is the same so given the same type of paddle with each craft the portaging may become more important than the on water differences.

How do you plan to paddle?
I have never paddled a Canak so take my comments with a grain of salt.

If most of your paddling experience has been in a kayak, and you would be planning to use a double bladed paddle in either a Prism or a Canak then I suspect you might find the Canak slightly more comfortable on the water.

I am not certain that the sliding seat for the Canak shown in the Wenonah youtube video is much, if any lower than that which is usually installed in the Prism. You could check with Wenonah customer support to find out. But the Canak deck will certainly be somewhat lower than the sheerline of the Prism. The higher the seat and the higher the sheerline of a canoe, the longer a double bladed paddle needs to be able to reach the water and maneuver the paddle over and across the gunwales. And a longer paddle is always going to be heavier.

The Canak will shed wind somewhat better as a result of the deck and less windage. Opposing these potential advantages of the Canak is a bit less flexibility in packing and slightly more involved loading and unloading. You would need to be certain that any packs and gear you brought would be able to fit beneath the decks. Since you will have an inexperienced boater with you, efficiency on the water might not mean that much.

Kayaks are typically significantly more awkward to portage any distance than canoes. The portage yoke shown in the Canak video looks as if it would work well, but would involve a bit a fiddling to position and remove for each portage. If you choose the Canak I would be sure you have the portage yoke available.

more info
If I were to use a solo canoe I was probably going to use a kayak paddle. I still want to do the canak.

Will talk further with the outfitter to find out why he is suggesting the solo canoe or the canak.

And yes, we would have portages.

BWCA messageboard
There is a messageboard for the BWCA and a thread discusses the Canak in comparison with the Prism. Only one individual commenting had actually paddled it, and another had inspected it closely.

You may or may not find their comments helpful:

I see no benefit to a decked canoe …
… for relatively inexperienced paddlers paddling solo with kayak paddles on a lengthy trip with portages.

Open canoes are lighter, easier to load and unload, and easier to carry than decked canoes of a similar length.

The decks may be of some advantage in heavy wind and wave conditions, which, however, inexperienced paddlers may be smarter to sit out anyway.

Canak benefits
When you look at the Canak vs. a Prism, you are basically looking at a decked canoe vs. an open canoe.

The primary benefit of a deck or spray cover on a solo canoe is that it reduces the wind effect by a noticeable amount. It will also keep spray and the occasional bit of slop out of the boat.

If you are thinking of a kayak vs. the Canak/Prism, ease of portaging the Canak/Prism might be something to consider.

The pedestal seat will accept the pedestal-mounted portage yoke which is very quick to put on and take off, as well as comfortable to use.

I also find a canoe (or the Canak) easier to load/unload because I don’t have to break the gear down into small bags that will fit through the hatch.

An actual Canak owner…
I always love these Canak posts, because they always end up full of conclusions, opinions, and just simply wrong info, all from people that for the most part haven’t even seen one.

Seeing as how I am the only Canak owner that will likely be posting here, let me just clear a few things up.

I am not convinced that the hulls are the same between the Canak & the Prism. They come out of separate moulds, and they handle differently on the water. I haven’t had a chance to lay the two side by side to see the differences, but I’ll wager there is some. I believe this misconception started when Wenonah first released the Canak and the promo copy pushed the fact that it was “inspired” by the Prism, their #1 selling solo. But with Prisms being very rare in my neck of the woods, until I can crawl all over one next to my Canak noting the subtle differences I’ll stick with the “inspired” connotation.

The Canak will be easier to paddle with a double blade, if that’s the way you are going to go. But I paddle with a single and it paddles like a canoe, not like a kayak.

The seat height, and seat frame, is exactly the same between the two. The portaging yoke that clamps to the seat frame is the same. The only difference portaging is at 42lb my Canak is 8lb heavier than an Ultralight Prism, which is not an insignificant amount. That is the only real advantage the Prism has.

The “hatches” are huge by kayak standards, I can throw a 100L Woods Mason canoe pack into the back without figgling, the front is slightly tighter so you can’t fit two full size canoe packs in and be able to put the fabric hatch covers back on. But I’m not sure how well two full size packs would fit in an open Prism anyway.

The lack of windage is what makes the Canak, if you are going to be paddling bigger lakes the Canak can take anything you are going to run into on inland lakes.

As another benefit, the “cockpit” is very open, not very kayak like at all. But just tight enough to brace your knees on the rim instead of having to brace with your feet & legs. Over the long haul it gives a very confidence inspiring feeling of being connected to the boat and not wearing your legs out when you are giving it the gas.

Over all I am in love with my Canak and don’t see the need to get a second boat for small lake trips, I’d like it to be 10lbs lighter but I can live with a 40lb solo to port.

For your trip, why don’t you split the difference and get one Prism & one Canak? I’d lay real money down that you would be fighting over the Canak after a couple of days.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
That pretty much verifies my understanding of the Canak.

Now, if you could compare it to an Advantage, which I have paddled…

You can have two identical
hulls and different seat positions and there is a huge difference in performance.

For a true side by side test both boats must have identical seats and identical seat stations. Even the cant of a seat can vary. Both paddlers should have the same stance in the boat. Even seated in the same hull vs kneeling in the same hull makes a difference.

And the Prism can certainly have a spray cover, which does with far less weight what more solid deck does.

Canak vs Advantage
The Canak is slower, by a noticeable margin. It also feels roomier, even with a deck. They both turn around the same rate with offside edging, but the Canak feels much more solid on edge than the Advantage did with it’s gunnel at the water.

I do prefer a bar footrest instead of the kayak pegs in a Canak, but adjusting a bar on the water would be nigh impossible.

They both spear into chop, but the Canak won’t ship water.

I looked at picking up someone’s Advantage, but most of my paddling is on Lake Ontario and the Advantage just did not feel great in chop.

Deck & Cover
Except a deck does more than function as just a spray cover. The slab sided freeboard & high stems are cut down quite a bit. Paddle reach is cut down, better angle easier, better stroke mechanics achieved easier.

When I say windage is reduced, I mean it is reduced to a point where the guys in plastic SOT kayaks I fish with are blown around more.

And the seat in the Canak is the same as the Prism. At 8" off the floor I’m pretty sure it’s the same height too.

It’s not a sit on the floor Placid boat, you’re up sitting on a proper canoe seat in a proper canoe stance.

That’s why.

Though it doesn’t sound like it is going to be a very port intensive trip.

You don’t have to sit on the floor
Joe carries five seats of varying heights for Placid craft. True they are cut down in depth. My chief wondering is about hatch sizes and the ability to fit packs in the Canak. My usual Ostrom pack is a good deal bigger than a Woods Mason

My primary BWCA type craft is a Peregrine with spray cover that goes over a 30 l barrel and Ostrom Wabakimi Pack

For the ocean I do have decked craft.

How would the Canak do on Lake Superior?

Thanks for that feedback.
I owned an ultralight Advantage for a couple years, but sold it because it just wasn’t nimble enough for my current paddling preferences. It sounds like the Canak may not be turny enough for me, as well.

I suspect the Mini Canak would be more my size anyway, since I only day paddle and never have over 180 lbs total in a boat.

Video of Canak

I don’t like it. Others obviously do.

To me, it’s a gimmicky compromise. The decks add weight and waste space. They make it difficult to access gear while on the water and to store an extra paddle or two.

Worst, it’s not a kneeling canoe. I much prefer a hull specifically designed for kneeling, but that’s just me. If one wants to double blade, it doesn’t matter that much.

Decked canoes have never been very popular for fresh flat water paddling. They make more sense to me if they have a rudder. Then, they are really big water and wind resistant machines.

The idea of renting one decked and one open canoe is a good one. One trip isn’t going to be affected much either way by any reasonable hull, but over time paddlers build up preferences.


– Last Updated: Feb-13-14 7:55 AM EST –

I too like the Canak concept but I wish they would offer iit with a rudder and larger cockpit similar to the traditional decked canoes like seawind and monarch. They would be a good option for coastal cruising, In its current configuration, I prefer my solo canoe with cover to save weight.

Canak Packs
My Mason pack isn’t exactly squished in the back laying flat on the floor, so there’s definitely room for a bigger pack. If there’s nothing strapped to the sides a Wabakimi would probably fit.

The Slates have been on my “To-Paddle” list for awhile, and I’d be paddling the Canak without a second thought. It makes a great tripping alternative to a sea kayak. It would probably be at home in the Everglades as well.