First Canoe Advice

Hello! This is my first time posting on this message board. I am looking to buy a canoe, My plan is to go on some small camping and fishing trips, on some local lakes/ponds/rivers. My cousin would also like me to go with him on a trip through Labyrinth canyon on the Green river in about a month and a half. I am about 6’4" and pushing 400 pounds (I’m working on it!) so I am much larger than your average person. I would prefer to go tandem with a friend or brother/sister in the front and me in the back, but I am concerned it would be very difficult to balance with a large weight discrepancy. I have some experience with a flat bottomed aluminum boat that we rowed, and I have been in a coleman scanoe with my cousin a couple times, but it was not very well balanced and I was in the front which made us very nose heavy. I’ve been looking at used canoes locally for a few weeks and have seen a large variety for sale, Old town saranacs, guides, discoverys, rogues, and stillwaters, Mad river explorers, various coleman canoes, grumman canoes, one bell canoe, and one wenonah. Anyone have a good recommendation? Would any of the ones I mentioned be a good fit for me? Thanks!

Preliminary Advice

– Last Updated: Jul-31-15 1:29 AM EST –

#1. Stay away from Rogue River, Coleman, Pelican, or any other cheap plastic boat.

#2. I think you will have the best luck with a boat of "fairly decent quality" that has traditional seats (not tractor seats). In such a boat, you can attach a seat at any location that you wish. If there's a large weight discrepancy between your and your paddling partner, the most effective way to balance the boat would be to put you in the front, but in a custom-positioned seat that's farther back than normal. This might require re-positioning one of the thwarts as well. The rear seat is normally quite close to the stern, providing more leverage for a lighter person to counterbalance your weight. Also, shift your camping gear more toward the rear as well, but leave the proverbial kitchen sink behind, as there's no reason to add to the gear load more than need be.

As a side note, it may be worth reinforcing the seat connections. The seat may be fine, but there've been a few times that I've seen heavily loaded canoe seats do one of two things: They can deform the sides of the hull due to downward force on the gunwales, or the seat-frame ends can split. Ask about ways to make everything more robust when the time comes. It's easy, and you don't need to worry about it right now.

Oh, here's another side note. If you get a symmetrical boat (same hull shape for the front half as the back half), that custom-positioned front seat for paddling with two people will also be an ideal solo-paddling seat if you paddle the boat while facing the other end.

Thank you for the quick response. Most of the canoes I’ve seen either have molded in plastic seats, or webbed seats that sort of attach to the top part of the canoe. I had kind of been leaning towards the molded plastic seats although I didn’t really think about trying to move the seat, but that makes a lot of sense. Also being able to go solo in a tandem canoe was something I was wondering about so using that front seat facing the rear as a solo seat seems perfect, like you mentioned. As far as reinforcing the seats, would it be as simple as fitting something sturdy under the seat? Like a block of wood or something? Or would there be more to it? Are there any brands you think I should look for specifically?

Partial to old town
The discovery (16.9?) is built like a brick SH and has the largest capacity of the boats you mentioned, although you would have to check the specs on the bell and wenonah to compare. it is also configured to allow for solo paddling turned around. It is a heavy boat compared to ,say a penobscot, but an extra 500 lbs of capacity may be worth the weight for you.

Buy a large capacity tripping canoe and plan to paddle it solo from amidships. An Old Towner Tripper or a 17-18 foot aluminum canoe would work fine for your first boat. The Green is a great trip. You will have tons of fun.

It may be easiest to use a long double blade (kayak)paddle.

MR Explorer
I’d go with the Exlporer (16 ft, not smaller). Nice and stable for fishing, and a real load monster for camping. It should handle your weight fine and trim it with a cooler, equipment or weights up front.

My two cents.
It really depends on how you want to use the canoe most of the time.

You said your plan is to go on some small camping and fishing trips on some local lakes, ponds, and rivers. Do you plan to do this paddling solo or paddling tandem most of the time?

If solo, you might want a solo canoe or a 16 foot tandem canoe that can be paddled turned around from the bow seat, and rent a canoe (with a shuttle) from an outfitter for the Green River trip.

If tandem, there are many quality canoes around. If keeping the cost low is a priority consider a used canoe in good shape. Also considering your size I would recommend a 17 foot canoe if you will be using it primarily for tandem paddling.

I would also echo Guideboatguy’s advice on avoiding Rogue River, Coleman, Pelican, or any other cheap plastic canoes.

Take a look at the classifieds here on for used canoes as a starting point for what’s generally available and pricing ranges.

might want to keep the OT Tripper in
the back of your mind. Demo it if possible at sometime, usually in the spring = demo times…

So I think I will be mostly using it tandem, although I would like the option to paddle solo if possible. The ones I’ve seen for sale locally that seem to fit what you guys have suggested would be like the old town discovery 169, saranac 160, mad river explorer, and maybe some of the 17-18’ aluminum canoes? Are all those good choices, or would one of them be better for me in your opinion? Also I’m mostly looking at used canoes in the $400-$700 range, when I go look at one are there any specific things I should look for? Thanks Again.

I’l keep an eye out
I’ve been mostly looking at used canoes, and haven’t seen an OT Tripper for sale used locally, but I will keep an eye out for one, Thanks.


– Last Updated: Jul-31-15 10:44 PM EST –

Of the canoes you mentioned, and considering your planned uses, the MR Explorer may be ideal. It can carry a heavy load, over 1,000 lbs. It's not too difficult to handle solo if you flip it around and paddle from the "front" seat. As with practically any canoe, considering your weight, you will need to front load it extensively, but it can handle the load.

Someone mentioned the OT Tripper and that would also be ideal for tandem trips, but it's going to be difficult to handle solo. Forget the OT Saranac. The OT Discovery 169 can also work, but it is a really heavy canoe. It won't be fun car topping it.

Also check out the Prospector. Many canoe mfrs. make (or made) a version of it (Wenonah, Nova Craft, Swift, Bell and a host of other mfrs past and present). It carries heavy loads easily and paddles well solo. Look for 17' Prospectors, but 16' will do OK as well.

looks like
the MR Ex and the OT D169 are the options near you. if the price is right on the MR grab it

an encounter
Wenonah encounter is your only choice

Dagger Legend
Hey guys, thank you for all the help on picking a first canoe! I’m still keeping an eye out for one of the canoes you guys mentioned. I just missed a great deal on a MR Explorer the other day. One canoe that I recently saw for sale is a Dagger Legend 16. I looked at the reviews for it, but there wasn’t much information. Does anyone have any idea if this canoe would be a good option for me? Thanks again!

Dagger Legend 16

– Last Updated: Aug-28-15 12:34 AM EST –

Back in about 2000 when I was looking for my first solo canoe I did a lot of research and settled on a Dagger Legend 16. At the time I thought we could use it as both a solo and a tandem. Unfortunately by the time I made my decision Dagger had stopped making canoes.

While I have never paddled one I believe it could be a good choice. About five years ago we canoed the San Juan River in Utah from Sand Island (near Bluff Utah) to Clay Hills Crossing. Its about 83 miles with class II rapids at normal flows. Our lead guide paddled a Dagger Legend 16 he set up with a center seat for solo paddling. He loved that canoe and wouldn't part with it for anything.

One of the Ozark Rendezvousers who posts on this board with the handle Wildernessweb had paddled a Dagger Reflection 16 for a while. He too had it set up with a center seat for solo paddling. You might want to contact him about this through this web site.

Here is the Dagger 1995 catalog if you want to look at the specs. Just copy the address into your browser's address bar and download the catalog

Thank You!
Awesome, thank you for the information. As a follow up question, one of the things I have read about the Legend is some people say it is difficult to paddle on flatwater. (From the amount of rocker I assume?) One of the things I want to do with it would be to go fishing on some local lakes, do you have any idea how it would be for that? The catalog you linked says it is good on lakes and very stable so it seems like it might work.

Sorry, but …
Sorry, but I told you all I know about the Dagger Legend 16 from my own experience.

You might want to check the reviews here on

Also if you Google “Dagger Legend 16 Canoe Reviews” you may find more information

Bought One!
Hey guys, thanks for all your advice! I found an Old Town Tripper today for a pretty good price and I bought it. Now I am going to see about reinforcing the seats a little and take it out this weekend.