Canoe Upgrade Help Needed

I paddle a 16’ Old Town Camper. Royalex, 65 pounds. I am able to lift it myself and place it on top of my car but I am getting older and in the future (perhaps the near future) the weight will be a deterrent.
I paddle almost exclusively solo sitting in the bow seat facing backwards. I use an extra dry bag half filled with water as ballast behind the stern seat. Day trips, lightly loaded.
I live in South Florida and paddle the rivers and intracoastal waterway. There can be gators, snakes, or sharks in the water so the Campers great initial stability is a very important factor for me in considering a light weight replacement.
I also spend quite a bit of time exploring the mangrove tunnels and the shallow waters near oyster beds so durability is also important. I don’t want a canoe that I have to baby.
I would appreciate any suggestions for canoe with the following attributes:
Very Stable when lightly loaded
Light weight
The Swift Algonquin 16 looks like it might work but based on some images online the bow seat tips forward a little so when I sit backward this would be a problem.

1 Like

I’m not hearing any performance complaints about your 16’ Old Town so I’d say trailer, lower car or better loading system and rack. Lighter is probably not as stable and heavy is preferable if gators and sharks decide to attack.

I use a Novacraft Bob Special 15’ in Tuff Stuff for very similar environments, and have used it in the Okefenokee for a camping trip. It does scratch, but I don’t baby it nor do I have to. It isn’t super lightweight at 50lbs, but it isn’t too bad.

I have an OT 14’7” tandem that with a few hours of work I turned into a solo that’s kind of like a pack boat. My 147 is poly and maybe 20 pounds heavier and I’m 68 lacking the strength I once had. I would love a Royalex boat but couldn’t find one when I was looking here.

Moving the seat to the center and slightly lower made a huge difference in stability being at the widest point of the boat. I use a double blade and trim is perfect without adding a bunch of ballast.

To get it on and off the roof I built a DIY ladder thing that lets me walk the boat up a little at a time and never having to take the full weight. Lots of people have offered to help me load and when I tell them I got it they hang around to watch.

I don’t want to talk you out of a new boat but the one you have is pretty bullet proof and sounds like other than a couple problems suits your needs.

1 Like

I have a neighbor with a 12’ Nova Craft Trapper Solo in their “Tuff Stuff” hull (an Innegra/basalt composite). It replaced an older 3-layer poly OT Discovery that he gave to his son. Also, he fishes standing up (he’s no ballerina) so primary stability seems quite good. It weighs 40 lbs according to Nova Craft.

Bud, That is a very clever lift design. How do you get from the cat to the water? Do you use a wheeled trolley?
I am conflicted about getting a new canoe. As Plittleone suggested, I am happy with the Camper on the water. It is not pretty so a scratch from sliding over a mangrove root is not a big deal.
I wonder if I would be as adventurous in a shinney new canoe.
Best case would be finding a well-used light weight stable canoe but I have not been able to find one yet.

Here is the kayak dolly I use. It is strong enough that at the car I place a large cooler and all our day gear inside then we set her OT 10’ rec-kayak on top along with the paddles for both boats. I use 2 hook ended cam straps to hold the dolly to the cart and then a third to keep her kayak on tight. I have grab loops on each end and to them I add a loop extender (short loop of rope) She grabs the front loop and I get the back one and off we go. It is really nice not tying up the ramp like others do running back and forth to the car for things. Once to the water we have the boats in and dolly folded up and stashed behind my seat in just a couple minutes. We are paddling quick and not wore out.

The dolly can be left on from taking it from the rack at home and putting it on the car if I want.

Here is a pic of that and how the boat rides with my less than light old body aboard another showing how I reconfigured the thwarts for the seat move.

I bought the canoe during covid with hopes of us both going tandem in it. That was a disaster and all her girl friends have OT rec-kayaks and she sometimes wanted to go with them. I tried everything to solo in it keeping it a tandem and nothing worked too great. I was ready to get rid of it and buy a solo and the fact I only paid 150 bucks for it I figured what did I have to loose ripping it apart. Now I’m really glad I did.


I forgot to mention. After a few years of exploring waters where we live I’m so glad in some ways the canoe was cheap and pre scratched and tough as nails. If I had my dream canoe something like a Swift pack boat that was super light and a work of art I would have trouble launching it when we hit shallow rocky sections of our river I don’t know what I would do. There is a lot to say for something you are not afraid to use hard.


Thanks for the advise, I use my Camper “hard” and it takes it no problem. I am leaning towards keeping it and figuring out how to deal with the weight. You tips will be helpful towards that end.
Happy paddling.

1 Like

The Camper is a great all around canoe. I suggest keeping it for areas that may be hard on your hull or when you need a tandem.

If finances and space are not an issue, consider a dedicated solo. Some of them are crazy light! Test paddle a few if you can.

A durable stable Royalex tandem and a light solo would make great combination.

You can’t have too many canoes right?

I did get a chance to test paddle a Wenonah Vagabond but I found it too “tippy”. I tried to convince myself that I would get used to it but at the end of the day I decided against it.
Are there any lightweight solo canoes that have initial stability similar to the Camper?

Have a look at the Nova Craft Trapper.

I’m not going to suggest any particular boat for you, but I will suggest that you try out some smaller canoes than 16’. They are more maneuverable and fun to paddle. You should keep your current boat for times when you need a double, and get a solo for the times you are out by yourself.

1 Like

The Wenonah Prism has massive primary stability. It’s the solo they use for rental fleets. Wenonah rates it 9/10 for stability vs 7.5/10 for Vagabond. Great photography boat. It has a very different feel from a Camper, it’s far less maneuverable but has far more glide. It’s worth trying one if you can.

The Swift Prospector 14 also has massive stability. It’s an extremely friendly solo that seems like a great choice for you. They also make a “pack” version that will be even more stable since you sit in the floor; there’s a used one in the classifieds.

Based on the specs that Nova Craft Trapper looks like a good choice too.

1 Like

Thanks for all the advice and suggestions. I will look for opportunities to test paddle some of these, unfortunately South Florida is Kayak country and there are not many quality canoe distributors around.


You have been paddling your OT camper 16 solo all along. So you should be the best judge if it is too much in length for you and the style of paddling you do. I will say when I was first paddling my 14’7” OT from the Bow seat sitting backwards it felt like I had more canoe than I could handle. When I moved to the center seat that all changed. More stability and way less problem with the wind. If you are inclined to modify your canoe and switch to a double blade I would start with a milk crate for a seat and a cheap double blade if you can find one around 240-260cm. length. I took a cheap 2 piece and made an extender. Don’t spend a lot for a paddle until you know if you will like it.

I still carry a single as a spare if I know I’m going to get into tight spots.

I am curious, do you us a double blade because the canoe is wider at the center where you paddle after the modification? I paddle in the mangrove tunnels on about half of my trips and the double blade would be difficult to handle in there. Here a pic of a typical tunnel around here.

I am pretty comfortable paddling from the bow seat. I usually paddle 100 strokes on the right side and then 100 strokes on the left side. J stroke and sometimes the Indian stroke.
If it is really windy I change over to 3-4 strokes right, 3-4 strokes left but I try to avoid that.

1 Like

Partly because of the canoe width as it doesn’t have the tumblehome hull shape the pack boats mostly have. It also for me is a much more powerful and efficient method on open water in the wind. I do single blade in areas like you show but with my seat centered it is not as easy. A center bench seat would be fine you will just be leaning a little similar to kneeling in the center.

What I did was lengthen a shorter kayak paddle by adding about 12” in the center. If I leave that extension on that one half is a good single blade length. What my plan is to make a Tee handle to snap on to the longer half. Would be easy then to do both with one paddle.

In your tunnel I can see where a shorter boat might be better as well.

There is a 15’ canoe by Pinetree Canoes Ltd. in Barrie/Orillia. They are from the 1970s, but only weigh 50 pounds. This is the right weight and easily can continue to solo.

Model is called an “Abatibi”, produced in the early to mid 1970s. In fact, recently there was one for sale in the USA.

Good luck,