Decisions, decisions...

So I’m going to purchase a canoe. I’ve canoed SOME. I would consider myself a novice…maybe a little better than that. Owned boats my whole life though, every size and shape. This will be my first canoe PURCHASE. So many choices. Problem is…not many stocking dealers around me. Most are 90-100 miles or more away. And of course what they have on hand is at most 1 or 2 canoes. So I am hoping to get help and advice HERE. I’ve researched myself to death but there isn’t anything that beats hands-on experience. Mostly the canoe will be used for river/lake backwater and going down some of the flowing rivers/creeks in the area. No real whitewater. Nature viewing, photography, picnicking, day trips, maybe even an overnight. Almost always will be tandem paddling.

Budget? Around $1000. Maybe a little more if need be.

I’ve kind of narrowed my “list” to the canoes below. Mostly it’s a combination of what’s available in the area and what I THINK best suits my uses. I am open to other canoes of course. I would appreciate any feedback you may have.

Old Town Discovery 169- To me, this looks like the most bang for the buck. Maybe a little heavy?

Old Town Guide 160- Another bang for the buck. Fixed seats? Heavy? Hmmm…

Old Town Penobscot- Wasn’t on my list at first BUT…it’s one that seems to be on dealers shelves. Available in Royalex for more $$.

Old Town Camper 16- Seems to be an old favorite. Available in Royalex. A little out of my budget but doable if worth it.

Mad River Journey 167- looks very similar to the Old Town Discovery.

Wenonah Spirit II- Of course the most expensive canoe on my list. Would be a stretch.

Is “three layer polyethylene” as durable as Royalex? I know Royalex is lighter. Do you think Royalex is worth $500 to $700 over the polyethylene?

So what do you think? I know I may have been a little long-winded. I appreciate you help and advice!

Boat choices

– Last Updated: May-13-15 10:23 AM EST –

Obviously, you do not plan on paddling solo; based on the boats you've chosen as possibilities.

Is that true?

Any kids going out with the adults?

Nice to know info. for those giving you advice, or input.

Speaking for myself; I'd say make your first boat a decent condition, cheaper than new, used canoe.
Get your learning period done, try to recoup most of your money by selling the used boat you bought, and then go for the new canoe. In the interim period between buying, using, and selling that used cane; paddle every tandem canoe you can, when, and wherever you can.

If you know little to nothing about canoes, and you buy a fairly expensive new canoe; you could end up with a wall decoration you seldom use.
If you decide on a model of canoe to buy, based on advice you get; try to find a used one...........Pnet, and craiglist are 2 places to see what's available on the used market.


I love my penny, lighter than the discovery very versatile , I mostly just solo mine anymore

Check out a Wenonah Jensen

– Last Updated: May-13-15 11:17 AM EST –

I would personally recommend a Wenonah Jensen 17 or 18. I just searched and there are 4 for sale for between $800-1000 all over the country. You don't say where you are (or maybe I missed it) but the Jensens are in CA, MN, IL, and NY, so they're all across the country. They come up for sale semi-regularly all over if you're not close to one of those too.

The Jensen is an all around hull that will perform well for what you want. Its relatively fast but still stable. Its low profile is nice ergonomically (bow paddler dont have to lift the paddle as much to switch sides) and the low profile performs well in the wind. The shallow arch bottom is mostly considered to be the best all around hull shape as well.

Even in the heaviest layup, fiberglass or (tuff-weave as they call it) its only 60lbs. There is a kevlar one for sale for $850 which is a steal.

A Jensen 17 in tuff-weave was my first boat and I never regretted it for a second. It is a beginner friendly boat, but also leaves you plenty of room to grow your skills with the boat. It's in a different league than any of the Old towns and a much funner boat than a Spirit II (Jensen has a 32" waterline vs 36" on the spirit II)

the only reason to possibly not get one would be if you require a very high primary stability boat (I mean, the Jensen IS a high stability boat, but some people prefer a flat bottom boat because it has higher initial stability, for fishing, kids, or photography, although a rounded bottom boat performs better in waves and better overall)

Anyways, check out a Jensen or see if you can paddle one in your area. I bought mine sight unseen and was not disappointed.

JackL will probably agree too

that the used market is good for first time buyers. Around here Guides and Discoverys come up regularly on craigslist for $300-400. I bought a Guide 7-8 years ago for $350 and sold it a couple of weeks ago for $300. It was bomb proof, didn’t require a whole lot of care in storage, and got me on the water. If you find you use it a lot, then start thinking about an upgrade.

Of those on your list,
I would say that the Camper is the least desirable - performance wise. The Penobscot will likely never bore you, but it may seem tippy at first if you’re used to flat bottoms. A Spirit 2 is a great all-around tandem with big capacity, but can be a bit of a handful in the wind.

The poly OT boats are more resistant to abrasion than royalex, but heavier and don’t hold their shape as well over time. If you can stand the weight though, a decent used Discovery 169 at a good price is a very good way to start.

Keep your eyes open for a used Mad River Malicite or Explorer, as well.

I agree
with Steve, the discovery may be the ubiquitous entry level canoe these days, but the capacity is around 1100 lbs and the weight is around 80lbs. the OP says he might do an occasional overnight, so the capacity is more than he will need. the penobscot weighs around 50 lbs and has a capacity of 750 lbs, plenty for the OP’s needs, that tippyness is secondary stability, it is definitely a more nimble boat than the discovery, so I will add another clearly biased pitch for the penobscot

Oh - I am also biased for 16’ P’scot…
…but some people find it a little intimidating compared to wider and/or flatter tandems. I should have added that of the OP’s list, that would be my first choice for tandem or solo on flat water.

Right on !
We have two ultraligt Jensen 17’s out of Kevlar and a Penobscot 16 out of roylex.

If I could only have one canoe, it would be a Jensen 17 out of Kevlar.

If you and your partner are fairly large get one that is 18 feet long.

Jack L

my choices
Of the boats you listed, my first choice would probably be the Wenonah Spirit II by a narrow margin. I assume you are talking about the Royalex version. The Spirit II is a good jack of all trades design.

A close second would be the Royalex OT Penobscot. All the rest are less desirable IMO although the rotomolded three-layer poly Disco 169 is a serviceable, though heavy, design.

In my opinion, Royalex is well worth the additional cost over a three-layer poly boat. The weight differential is more substantial than it might seem on paper. It becomes even more significant every year you get older. When it comes to tandem boats, the weight difference can easily mean a boat you can portage alone, or lift to cartop by yourself, versus one you cannot.

And it isn’t just the weight difference. Three layer poly canoes tend to deform over time and are much harder to repair successfully than Royalex boats.

By the way, I agree the Wenonah Jensen is an outstanding tandem, but not one you mentioned in your query.


– Last Updated: May-13-15 7:36 PM EST –

used canoes for sale craigslist

and 2 pages here at Padnet

spend $1500-2000 for a light Kevlar composite…
with floatation.

Thanks for the replies!
Thanks for the great replies! I’ll try to address some of the comments…

Solo vs tandem- MOSTLY tandem BUT…. I might get the hang of solo canoeing and enjoy it. So, solo is a possibility but for now mostly tandem.

Kids- on an occasion, YES. But mostly two adults.

Buyiing used- I live in Northern Alabama. Not a lot of used canoes around here. I look at craigslist DAILY. There IS a used Penobscot 16 Royalex in my area. I plan on checking it out this weekend.

OT Penobscot- Hmmm. Seems to have quite a following. In addition to the above used Penobscot, the one REAL canoe dealer in my area(about 100 miles away) has both a 16 and 17 ft Penobscot in Royalex. You like the 16 or 17 footer?

Wenonah Jensen 17/18- I guess this canoe isn’t a current model as its not on their web page so I didn’t know know about it. No used ones around here so I can’t consider it.

Kevlar/Royalex- Okay. So it sounds as if I should pony up. I agree I’m not getting any younger. Probably a good idea.

Other Royalex canoes- My “local” canoe dealer has several other canoes available in Royalex for now. Those being OT Camper 15/16, OT Pack RX, Penobscot 16/17, and most all Wenonah canoes.

So far- Looks as if the OT Penobscot and Wenonah Spirit II may be the preferred canoes so far.

Have you looked at Terrapin? Went there once and they had a bunch of boats on hand. Unfortunately, they won’t let you paddle them, but at least you can take a look.

Re: the Camper

– Last Updated: May-14-15 2:32 PM EST –

Not a bad canoe, but it's flat bottom - while it may give confidence for a novice on flat water - is a limiting factor as your paddling improves and you want to get more adventurous. It gets blown around by the wind easier than anything else I've been in, including the Prospector which is famous for that. OTOH, I have experienced no other canoe that does better in extremely shallow water - but you would have to be a poler to appreciate that.

If your dealer has a Wenonah Aurora or Adirondack, you should also consider those.

Penobscot 17
I’d like to report that I once owned a 16’ Penobscot which I was not fond of for tandem paddling. It seemed too small, lacking in volume and therefore sluggish. It was OK as a solo.

As luck would have it, a few weeks ago a 17’ Penobscot showed up in our local classifieds at a price that I could not resist. I bought the thing and I’ve been pleasantly surprised ever since. It is just enough bigger with enough added volume that it sits higher and moves better with two people in it. If you choose a Penobscot, I’d opt for the 17 footer for the uses that you’ve described.


get away …save a couple more sheckels, look after the market is an organized way. You are in the middle of canoe country.

Lucky Dude !

I’m down at Florida’s south end, cannot give away a royalex canoe.

two questions
1. what are your intended uses?

2. Have you checked the classifieds in this site?

Terrapin- YES that is THE dealer in my area! About 120 miles away or so. When I show up at their door, I’ll more than likely drive away with a canoe!

OT Camper 16 RX- I’m still considering it. Terrapin has a couple in Royalex as WELL as the Wenonah Aurora and Adirondack.

Canoeing country- Yeah there ARE some great places to canoe around here. But very FEW places to actually look at/buy canoes. I’ve just about convinced myself to go ahead and get off my wallet and get something nice.

16/17 Penobscot- I had just about decided that IF I go the Penobscot route, to get the 17 footer. You comments helped with that.

Uses- For the MOST part backwater, creeks, and rivers that run into the Tennessee River. So backwater and sloughs off of the Tennessee River…photography/nature/picnicking. Maybe a run down the Buffalo or Elk River or Shoal Creek. Nothing major. Mostly tandem.

Classified/Craigs list/etc- I look ALL the time!

I’ve decided to spend the money for a Royalex or Tuf-Weave Flex-core boat. If I bought right now it would be a OT Camper 16 RX or Penobscot 17 RX OR one of the Royalex Wenonah canoes with the Spirit II at the head of the list.

Old Town Saranac
I bought an Old Town Saranac 160 and I cant brag enough about it. First it only weighs 48 lbs so loading and unloading is a breeze with two people. Second, Padded seats with adjustable Backrests. It also has a Dry Storage container built in to the center console which also has a pop up storage. There are 2 Cup Holders and 2 Rod Holders. The retail price for this one I believe is $749 but I bought a scratch and dent boat and paid $549. I have taken it on 4 trips ranging from 1 to 8 hours and have been very comfortable in this boat. I also have a bad back and the Backrest is a life saver. Have fun with whatever you buy.

Camper again
Of the canoes you listed, the Camper is outclassed by all the others (including any Tuff Weave boat I can think of). IMO, you should not be considering the Camper unless you have something specific about it in mind that the others won’t do.

I had a Camper. It was good for what it excelled at (flat, calm, and especially shallow water, with no wind and no desire for speed), but not so good for anything else. Unless you are planning on never really getting comfortable in a canoe with good performance, the Camper will eventually bore you.