Canoe Beginner Advice


Fantastic site. I’m on the verge of buying my first canoe, but need some help. Several questions within; therefore, anything you can do would be greatly appreciated.

  1. I have a 2005 Toyota Tacoma, 6ft bed, crew cab. Can anyone outline the exact accesories I need to carry a 14.5-16 canoe on the roof? I figure I could let the canoe hang out the bed strapped down, but that is not desirable. I figure if I want to get it home, I need to get the carry assesories to do so first.

  2. I want to fish on still water lakes and take extended camp trips down class II-IV rivers, carry some camp gear and my significant other. I want to be able paddle when I want and attach a trolling motor at other times. I’ve boiled my selection down to this:

    Mad River Explorer KX, RX, TT


    Old Town Osprey

  3. I want the material to be durable and last, and I want to be able to easily carry the canoe by myself. With many materials to choose from, where do I go?

  4. Length is also debatable. I want something that I can handle in tricky situations but it seems if I go to short, I lose space.

    I think it comes down to choosing a canoe that accomodates most of my needs and still fits the size of my wallet, but I wanted to get this experienced crews recommendation.

  5. Would love to get it used. Anyone surrounding WV that has a great good/great condition canoe that matches these needs, I’d love to talk to you.

    Thanks for time and support.



Get a O.T. Penobscot 16


I can carry
my Dagger Reflection 15 in the back of my 6.5’ bed pickup, but I have to tie the forward end down(balance) and use a giant sponge on the tailgate to keep from banging up the canoe. Going over bumpy roads makes me feel sad for the canoe because it’s bouncing up and down in the truck. This year I bought a Swift dumoine, a little over 16’ long, and knew I needed a rack. Bought one from U.S. Racks($300, made in China, go figure). Can’t decide your canoe for you, check out all you can find, your desires are quite varied, class 4 and a trolling motor…Both my canoes are Royalex, holds up pretty well bouncing off the occasional rocks( I paddle to class 3, class 4 is waterfalls). My Dagger is 54 pounds the Swift in royalex light is 64, which is as heavy as I care to have.

Hate to echo the warnings and cautions from others but…can’t help myself.

I owned a MR Explorer in royalex layup (MRX). A great high volume very stable boat. Used mine for fishing lakes and rivers and it did well at both. Took through class II with a good bow paddler and through pretty big waves and chop with no complaints.

On flatwater it is a beast. It will serve you well but don’t plan on easy 10 mile days. The boat will do it but is not the most efficient or graceful for flatwater.

For WW at class III and IV you need some exceptional paddlers in a tandem. It is by no means a condemnation of the boat but be aware that this is not a water condition to be taken lightly.

As far as material/layup is concerned, royalex will take all the abuse thrown at it. Roto-molded plastic and FB do a good job as well. ALL are heavy. The MRX is 72-75 lbs. Ok for car-topping and short carries but hell for any moderate or better portages.

For racks/hauling gear in the pick-up. Others may disagree but IMO get racks that attach only to the bed (not the bed and cab). The cab and bed are independant and twist and turn differentially. This may not hurt the hull but certainly does not help it. Having racks at cab height offers less loss of storage for gear in the bed though makes you get the boat “up” for transport.

I have no recommendations for “the boat” you are searching for but don’t think there is “one” best for all the jobs. I own a Hemlock Eagle as a tandem and have used it on big waves and chop with a full gear load and was happy. It has enough manueuverability that I wouldn’t hestitate to take a class II with a good partner but beyond that I have no experience in tandem canoe.

Consider your most likely purpose and go accordingly, the future will hold other decisions which will undoubtedly include additional boats. This is a truism, I have 3 and counting and I’m low on the boat count.

Hope this helps


Hesitant to respond…

– Last Updated: Mar-28-06 12:20 AM EST –

I saw your post shortly after it was posted, and was hesitant to respond.

Let's review........

1.You have yourself listed as a "beginner" in your profile, and say this is your "first" canoe.

2.You want a canoe you can paddle, or use with a trolling motor.

3.You want a canoe you can use on lakes to fish, or run class II thru class IV whitewater.(See #1).

You want a canoe made of durable material but ideally it is light in weight and fits the size of your wallet(you don't want to spend too much).

You want a canoe that is not too short, and not too long; tracks on the lakes & spins on a dime for the class IV.

You want a canoe you can use on "extended" trips; to carry you, gear for an extended trip, and a significant other.

What experience this significant other might have is left to our imagination.

I am of the opinion that your expectations are unrealistic. I don't believe there is such a canoe. If there is; you as a beginner have no business getting into it, and attempting either class 3 or class 4 whitewater, with a significant other, who in all probability is also a beginner.

If you downscale some of your expectations to something a little more realistic; fishing on lakes & doing some class 1 and class 2, I think you can find exactly what you're looking for in a canoe. Can probably find several canoes available here in pnet classifieds that would fit your needs. You might survive long enough to someday give class 3 & class 4 whitewater a go; after you have more paddling experience, a suitable boat & gear for whitewater, and perhaps some training.


P.S. Forget the Old Town Osprey!

If you’re just starting out, forget…
…whitewater for the time being. Get more experience, take a class, join a club, read. I agree with others tht you may be looking for a universal canoe, which doesn’t exist. I’d suggest getting any 15-17’ used canoe you can find, use it for a season, then move to what you’ll know you want. You & your S.O. may find you’d be happier in separate solo boats, which has its advantages. I carry a 14’6" canoe in a 6’bed + 2’ tailgate, firmly tied forward, and it works. Another alternative is an L-shaped support in a 2" hitch receiver if you have one. Look up Extend-a-Truck on this site under accessories. I believe Harbor Freight sells a similar one cheaper. If you don’t have a canopy, or don’t absolutely need the space for other purposes, a pickup bed is much easier to lift into/out of than any roofhigh rig. Suppose you sprain an ankle or arm-can your S.O. lift it alone?

I have been schooled
Thanks for the eye openers and advice.

Looks like I need to be more realistic with my ventures. Glad I asked, or may have been empowered to go off a waterfall (not really).

I’m going to take your advice and redirect my thinking. I am really hungary to jump into the world of paddling, which is great, but it appears I need to start right by learning the trade skills, gaining the needed experience, and be practical.

Thanks again for your sound advice and eye opener.

Glad I found this site.

Good !!!

– Last Updated: Mar-28-06 11:46 AM EST –

Good!!!! You understood what we were trying to tell you, and you understood that we weren't trying to put you down, or curb your enthusiasm.
Everyone who posted advice started as beginners; no sin in that. We hope you find the right boat, and are out on the water, having a blast, real soon!

A good example of being realistic follows......
If you do a little research; you'll soon find out that the idea of doing class 3 and class 4 whitewater in a tandem canoe can be a fairly dangerous proposition for the unprepared. With the right experience, training, boat, and equipment, it can be done fairly safely. But you're going to have to pay........A tandem canoe to use on class 3 & 4 whitewater is going to need flotation bags, and a lace kit to secure them. The paddlers are going to need quality pfds, and helmets. Ideally, the boat will be outfitted with saddles, thigh straps, and footpegs for both paddlers. Then there is the question of whether you need river shoes, wetsuit, drysuit, etc? By the time you outfit a tandem canoe, and 2 paddlers to take on serious whitewater; you have spent the equivalent (or much more) of a decent, used, tandem canoe that you could use on lakes for fishing, and class 1 & class 2 river trips with gear & your significant other.

Tandem canoes designed for class 3 & class 4 whitewater will not typically be the best canoe for lakes, and flat water paddling. I think a good example might be the Dagger Caption; great tandem whitewater canoe, but not a canoe a lot of people would pick to run flatwater, or go fishing. On the other hand; one of the boats you mentioned (Old Town Osprey) would be totally out of place on whitewater; unless you want to spend a lot of time swimming, pulling it off of boulders, & bailing water. Trust me; you don't!

Somewhere in between those 2 extremes is the boat you're looking for, if you are realistic. Keep looking; you'll find it.

Good luck,

White water
I’ll bet their are some very active whitewater clubs in your area. While I don’t recommend taking your boat out into white water, maybe you could arrange to help the local club and begin to get some pointers.

Class 4 is not warranted for a typical open canoe. Class 3 is doable by experienced paddlers with float bags tied into the boat and maybe an electric bilge pump.

Class 2 rivers with an occasional class three drop can be very fun in an open canoe.

Sweepers on any river can easily kill you.

Joining a whitewater club will help you advance quickly especially if there is one with canoeists in it.

For your nice summation and considerable experience. This sort of advice was invaluable when I found P-net and with direction and a fair amount of genuine and wise advice I was able to focus and adapt over the years. Still consider myself a novice but with a long time to learn that’s not a bad thing.