Clipper Packer or Hornbeck 14'

-- Last Updated: Mar-06-08 8:50 AM EST --

I am an avid kayaker and paddle almost every weekend. I recently took to paddling in Quetico and Algonquin PP in Ontario. On the larger lakes with under 1K in portages I use my kayak no problem with the knu-pak system, but for the small lakes with lots of short portages etc. I would like something easier to pick up and go.

Which one would you choose and why for my paddling needs? I wont be able to paddle either boat prior to purchase as the boat will need to be shipped.

Thank you for suggestions.

Choice “c” - none of the above
Check out Placid Boatworks reviews on p-net. They make great boats for your intended paddling.

Why would you not choose any of the two? Is there a reason?

look at the hull shapes
of the Hornbeck 14 and the RapidFire for example.

The Hornbeck is wide and stable and with cheeked ends to aid tracking for the novice double blader. It is somewhat slow. It is quite seaworthy in big waves.

The RapidFire is another animal…its maneuverable and will reward the skilled paddler with blazing speed. It too is quite seaworthy in big waves.

Peter Hornbeck makes a fine boat for his market…mostly light duty tripping at an attractive price. I have friends who have tripped for years with his Lost Pond. They keep their pack weight down and handle the boat with care, never dragging on the bottom, and paying attention to gunwale maintenance. The thwarts and rails on the Hornbecks are thinner than you usually find. One way to save weight but at a cost.

This philosophy has kept them tripping into their seventies in APP.

I have paddled some Hornbeck boats on day trips and they are OK. But not for me on an extended trip. Too middling in performance and middling in apparant durability.

But if thats what the pocket book allows go for it keeping these things in mind.

Clipper Packer.
The Packer has tumblehome and 24"wide (much narrower than the Hornbeck 14) and has a “normal” height canoe seat, rather than seat on the bottom, which means it paddles well with either a single blade canoe paddle or a double blade.

I’d pick the packer for my uses, but I don’t do the type of paddling that you do with lots of portages.

Search pnet archieves

Do a p-net archieve search: key words “pack canoes” all messages, on all forums. You will get more (and then some)opinions and data on selecting the very type of canoe you’re looking for.

My personal opinion: For me, it would be a compromise between weight, speed and seawothiness; and my personal choice would be the Placid Boatworks Rapidfire.

The Rapidfire is essentially a kayak without a deck (spray covers are available), designed and outfitted to be paddled with a two bladed paddle. If you plan to paddle a canoe Canadian style, then the Rapidfire may not be the boat for you. Get ahold of Charlie Wilson at Placid Boatworks and get his advice.

Also check also the paddling thread of the Adirdondack forum (

Check boat reviews on p-net, especially the reviews that are NOT a 10 out of 10.

Finally, I guess the two choices in your initial post aren’t necessarily “bad” boats, and for your intended use, especially with your experience paddling kayaks, a boat from Placid Boatworks would be another viable option.

Good luck.


The Packer
I think the Clipper Packer is underappreciated. C&K editor did a great review of it about 8-10 years ago I think. You can see it with an Adobe Reader at:

To me, it seems to be an efficient (but not fast) small man’s (140-170 lbs) touring and tripping canoe that offers good reach to the water (24" gunwale spread), manageable size (not too much weathercocking … especially with a load), excellent build quality and relatively low price with a GREAT bucket seat. Good with gear up to about 260 lbs (maybe 275). Not flashy … just a small, great performer. Perfect for portaging trips not requiring much river work.

Hemlock canoes
There are another options that you might consider. They would be the Nessmuk or the Nessmuk XL made by Hemlock Canoe which is located outside Rochester NY in a town called Hemlock NY.(

You are only a 3 hour drive to his shop. You could test paddle them any day if you call ahead. Thursday night demo night starts May 8th, is another option.

They are well made and fairly light, Nessmuk - 10’6" at 16lb for kevalar, Nessmuk XL 11’10" at 25lb for kevalar.

You have the advantage to test paddle his canoes not being to far away.


– Last Updated: Mar-06-08 1:48 PM EST –

I own a 10" 5" Hornbeck in kevlar and for the price and weight I don't think you can beat it.I have paddled the 12 and 14 and think the design works best in the 10'er.The 14 in particular felt slow and not all that stable either.That said If weight wasn't a big issue XL Hemlocks are great.If you can afford them Placid boats are the ultimate. I have paddled the Spitfire but not the Rapidfire.
Hope this helps some, Turtle

I am a 190Lbs 6’3" guy and my gear comes in at most at 50Lbs. I just dont think I will get that into a 10 or a 12 so the guys at Hornbeck told me to go with a 14 and I should be good to go.

Whats your size and how much gear do you bring with you?

Definitely the weight and most of all the price is what drives to the Hornbeck boats.

I tried
the Packer 2 weeks ago. It is a nice boat and a pleasure to paddle. If you dont want a longer boat this is a very good boat and in my opinion better than any canoe you sit in the bottom of. I would never buy a canoe with less tumblehome for solo canoeing. The Packer paddles well with both a single and a double blade paddle.

Paul K

I weighed 195 and had a 31# pack.I was surprised how well it handled the weight.I don’t mean to put down the longer Hornbecks,the 12 wasn’t bad,I just wasen’t as impressed as I am with the 12.Still great boats.Have you looked at the buyers guide on P-net?If you don’t have to have under 20#,Maybe a Bell Bucktail would be a possibility,I think they are reasonable.25# is still light.


Pack canoes

The Hornbeck canoes are fine canoes for what they are: light weight, good tracking and at a very reasonable price. However, they are quite slow and “hit the wall” hard if you try to go faster. I have owned and paddled similar Rushton inspired pack canoes built by Bart Hauthaway for 4 decades. If you ignore the slow speed they are most enjoyable for lilly dipping around a pond. While the least suitable for covering distance, the Hornbeck canoes are good canoes, with both the attributes and limitations noted above.

I feel the 10’ 6" Hornbeck Lost Pond paddles better than the 12’ and both paddle better than the 14’. Seem to me that as Hornbeck canoes stray from their Rushton inspiration I like paddling them less. Could be just me.

There are many more modern solo canoes, most designed by Dave Yost and built by a number of companies that would suit your needs better than a Hornbeck. Look at the Hemlock canoes (check weights), Bell Bucktail the Bell Wildfire or Merlin II (work better with single blade), Placid Boatworks Spitfire and my favorite, the Placid Boatworks Rapidfire. There are a few others that I’m aware of but haven’t paddled, so I’ll leave them out. Because the Rapidfire is the most expensive, I paddled it extensively before putting my $ where my mouth is and now am a happy owner. While the Rapidfire would be the best for your stated needs (in my opinion), it’s the most costly- you do get what you pay for. If finances are an issue, many of the other canoes mentioned will work for you.

I have never seen a Clipper Packer, so I won’t comment on it.

Have fun in your canoe quest. Paddling a “borrowed” cement tub, as I did as a fourteen year old delinquent, is better than not paddling!


Packer not a Pack boat
Apples and oranges.

Clippers packer has mid height, bucket seating for bent, single blade paddling.

It is also substantially wider than most solo pack canoes. With minimal rocker, It comes closest to WeNoNah’s Vagabond, Sawyer’s Autumn Mist or Bluewater’s Mist.

Ignoring the rocker issue, Packer could be compared to Bell’s Yellowstone or Wenonah’s Argosy.

While it might be converted or SO’d with a low seat just off the bottom for use with a double paddle, it doesn’t currently catalog that way. The tumblehome would help double paddle technique but the width would be detrimenmtal.

Clipper Packer
A friend is buying a Packer. We live within a day’s drive of Clipper Canoes in British Columbia. With all due respect for Mr. Wilson, I don’t understand the comment about width. The Packer is almost the same width as the Rapidfire and narrower than the 13’ Spitfire. I have paddled both of the latter and think they are great. But, as advertised, they are “sit-on-bottom, undecked kayaks”. My friend definitely wants to single blade from a proper seat height as she has in my Jensen Solitude and Wenonah Rendezvous.