First used solo canoe for a newbie - shopping during a lockdown

I’m starting a new thread - you all have been incredibly helpful and I’ve learned a tremendous amount. I appreciate you teaching me and bearing with my uninformed questions - particularly since much of what I am asking is subjective and - in ordinary times - could be accomplished by physically inspecting and even test paddling a bunch of canoes. That is not happening for quite a while due to virus lockdown.

For my budget (under$1000) and use case - 60 y/o, 5’9", 170-175ish, slow rivers and lakes, exercise, relaxation, fishing, unlikely to be tripping. Haven’t paddled in years so a relative novice (not much beyond J-stroking), will likely use double-bladed. My two competing concerns other than budget are primary stability and weight - I want to not worry too much about swimming while fishing (while sitting) and I want to easily be able to car top. I’ve narrowed it down to two options given the lack of used solo canoes that are reasonably close or shippable. I’m leaning very hard to Option 2 for weight savings but would love some feedback.

Option 1 is the LL Bean Royal River 13 (edited for proper name) in T-formex. Lots of info about it, the pro is primary stability, the con is weight. Stats - * Dimensions: 13’ x 31".* Stern depth: 15".* Center depth: 12".* Bow depth: 5.5".

  • Weight: 47 lb.

Option 2 - and the focus of this post - is the custom Kevlar built by a guy in Pennsylvania who isn’t a commercial builder. The guy selling it used is super nice but not into conveying all the details I’d like. Its 12’4", 28" wide (unsure at what point), 11" deep, some rocker (“not flat”), original seat was foam pad on bottom, custom sliding seat leaves approximately 8" between seat and hull. Original weight before adding seat and rails was 23 lbs, unsure of current weight.

So I’m going to post the photos I have and hope you guys can give some opinions and answer questions like how would you describe (i) hull shape ( Flat, round, shallow arch,) (ii) sides (tumblehome, flared, straight), and (iii) rocker. By looking at, can you hazard a guess at waterline width and other factors that might impact primary stability.

Other question – to improve stability, how tough for an amateur with little to no woodworking skills to redo the seat to lower the center of gravity and increase stability while maintaining a high enough seat for “old man” comfort. It looks like the seat is not traditionally hung with vertical drops but instead has horizontal wood blocks that bracket the rail.

Thanks for anything you have to offer - I figure that everybody has some downtime now and hope everybody is staying healthy.

Good looking boat. Photos are deceptive but it appears to have enough width for good stability

I agree with string, the custom boat appears to be well made. I’d describe the hull as a shallow arch with slight tumble home and a little rocker…all good and kind of typical for a pack boat. It is indeed hard to,tell from pics but I’d guess that 28" is the water.ine width. In any case it appears to be a light construction so you’d want to plan on “wet” entries meaning making sure the boat is fully floating before you get in. If your shorelines are rocky you’d want to be careful. With the LL Bean you’d never worry about rocks and you could get in when it’s partially supported in land.

One thing I’d be leery about is the new high seating position because it’s such a huge vertical change especially in a small boat. You may need to go all the way back to a floor mounted seat to get the stability you want. There are good floor mounted seats available. To lower the current set-up 4 inches you could use the kit below from Ed’s. Personally the framework on that sliding seat looks a bit weak…with a long front to rear span with minimal support (those horizontal pieces in the middle aren’t going to add much vertical strength) so lowering the current y set-up and adding seat drops might weaken an already marginal set-up (and it still may not be low enough for stability). Anyway, you’d also have the option of mounting a fixed solo seat in a lower position…fixed seats stiffen up the boat a bit and that wouldn’t hurt on a boat with lightweight construction. You could use the same seat drops from Ed’s and just buy a solo seat and trim it to the correct width and drill a few holes, it’s easy.

Just my thoughts.

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Exellent information, thanks very much. Couple follow-ups:

  1. Can you elaborate on what you mean by a floor mounted seat?
    Do you mean the foam pad directly on the bottom. Or something like this Wenonah in the photo? I’d really like to maintain the ability to shift my seating position - sit, kneel, legs bent, legs straight - to help my (relatively) old bones not get too stiff. But I am concerned about constantly swimming - I don’t generally mind getting wet but it would get old quick, especially since some of the rivers I’ll be on won’t be the cleanest water.

  2. Totally subjective question, especially without knowing me - -am I too focused on weight? I think I’m hearing that the LL Bean would have much greater primary stability, have far more comfortable seating (for me), and be more durable. The cost for that is about 20+ pounds. I don’t plan on a lot of portaging, and I’m not too worried about getting it from the car to the water’s edge. But taking it on and off the car gives me a lot of pause. Be nice to try before I buy but I don’t think that is happening.

  3. From what you can see of the construction of the custom canoe, and what you know of the LL Bean, would you expect any major differences in performance and, if so, what?

Again, you guys are really a tremendous asset – thanks.


You have the right advisor in TomL. He is a serious canoe guy.
Any canoe made for mass market is going to be tough and stable, and probably relatively slow.
Performance is in the expectations of the paddler.

On the pack canoes the seat is often mounted on the floor with only an inch or two or rise. Take a look at Placid boats:

The Wenonah seat is high for efficiency with a racing style hit & switch stroke with a bent shaft.

For your noted use case I’d go with the River Runner. The Kevlar hull will need more attention during launch & landing is likely to be a bit more “lively” on the water which isn’t a real good idea for fishing.

Those Placid seats have a lot of variation in height. Low Medium and High I have the Low and the Medium nests over it. I think the high has the seat some three or four inches off the floor.

The seat that is current in the Kevlar boat is problematic. Hung seats usually require a belly band of extra Kevlar or better Carbon and I am not seeing that but I am seeing some foam strips in front of the seat. Unsure if they are under the seat. Foam is used for stiffness. You can also install minicell foam pillars to keep the bottom from flexing up if it does.

Personally I would lower the seat and get the Kevlar. But I tend to buy canoes with the intent to keep them for twenty years and want to be able to use them then.

All good info and very much appreciated, particularly the comments directly addressing fishing and “liveliness.”

But I’m still conflicted and it is primarily about the weight. I’d consider myself of average fitness and strength - I’m in the gym regularly (or was prior to the lockdown!) and while I do some strength training I’m no weightlifter - and I’ve got a bit of a wonky spine and shoulder (as many 60 y/o’s do).

In trying to duplicate the canoe lifting experience (given the inability to go check them out at retail) I’m picking up a barbell to about head height and then holding it out horizontally as if I’m trying to set it on a car I’m standing next to. Of course, the barbell is perfectly balanced and easy to handle. But still, I find a huge difference between a 30lb bar and a 50lb bar.

Any further insights appreciated.

BTW, I screwed up the name of the LL Bean - it is the Royal River. Here is a link –

I was thinking about a floor mounted seat like the ones posted by rival51. In any case you’ll have to practice getting in and out and all options will seem pretty low. For sure the T-formex boat will be more forgiving for entry/exit since the seat is higher plus you’d have the option of getting in and out when the boat is partially supported and stabilized on the shoreline.

I think the weight question is hard to answer and quite personal. I have five solos and all are well under 47 pounds and I recently sold a 45 pounder partly because I didn’t enjoy loading it. I’m about your age and a little taller and I work out quite a bit but I also have some joint pain and for me the vertical lift is a bit painful even though I’ve got the strength. It may well be no problem for you or it may be a real consideration…it’s hard to comment. I’m lifting onto a 4-Runner with a rack so I’m on tiptoes with the boat fully over my head. Lower cars are easier. You just have to lift and get the far side gunwale on the edge of the rack and then you can “walk” the boat on the rest of the way. Maybe the owner would let you try loading the boat on your vehicle. If it’s “not too bad” then you are fine since it will get easier with practice. If it’s a big hassle then you may end up using the boat less if you hate loading it. I grab solos by the front thwart and rear of the seat and load onto the side of the vehicle. All that said I do have a 50 pound tandem that I can load fairly easily and if I bought a kayak I wouldn’t hesitate to get 47-50 pounder.

If you can figure out if the weight is OK for you I agree that the T-formex boat is ideally suited to your stated use plan. The Kevlar boat will be more efficient and less stable and likely to need some seat modifications.

Overall it seems like they are both good choices for you.

A key personal question for me is which will get me on the water and having fun soonest? There are a finite number of paddling days available to an individual except right now you may have some time to get ready.

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string has a point about choice. If you decide you’re not in a hurry there are probably other options out there you might find to be better boats for what your’re after for the long run. Here’s one example:

I’d want to learn more about the seller and boat condition but for $1200 it seems like a reasonable price for such a lightweight canoe. Wenonah makes some nice boats. If it seems like too far to go to buy a canoe, see if you can split the distance with the seller. I’ve driven a canoe to a buyer so the transaction would be easier.


I don’t like Kevlar boats as I have punched a few holes through them in Arizona rocky lakes and rivers.
That said, I love my Old Town Pack-12 canoe. It is stable, short enough to turn anywhere, loads enough gear for a week, is light enough for me to load on the roof and I can easily drop my seat to wherever I want it.
One suggestion, I got a bunch of those interlocking foam pads and ran them along the floor of my canoe. They keep the bottom dry, provides comfort for my dog, soft place for my knees when I have to drop-n-paddle in rough water and provide a soft pad for when I camp on rocks.

Depends on your use of course. I had a Placid carbon fiber canoe that weighted 30 lbs. It was wonderful, but I damaged it twice on unseen obstacles . It also had wood gunnels and I got tired of the maintenance.

I have always had trucks with caps. With the roof rack none have ever been able to fit into a seven foot tall garage.( then there was the time we got into the garage below Boston Common and then could not get out with boats!)

So they are all a lift. When I was 60 I could load a 65 lb solo ( A Raven…RX and thick RX!) from the rear of the truck getting the bow supported then climbing a small stepladder and shoving the boat forward
Now at 73 that ain’t happening with a 65 lb boat!

But do try end loading rather than side loading.

The used boat options should really open up soon as Spring arrives. Your $1000 budget should be more than enough to get a nice boat that fits your needs. You could also consider a recreational sit on top kayak since they are stable and you plan to use a double blade paddle…there are even more used kayaks than canoes. Could still be hard to find a light one.

I don’t know how LL Bean gets away with charging $1499 for that boat. Even at $1000 used it seems expensive to me.

Thanks again for all the good info. I really want to move quickly on this as I’d like to get outside without a ton of people around - and the river seems like a good place to do that. I’m surprised by the very few solo canoes available within a hundred miles of Chicago, perhaps the listings will pick up as the weather warms.

As for the LL Bean, I agree its expensive new at $1499 but - to my untrained eye - it seems priced in line with the market. The Wenonah Fusion in Tuf-Weave (the same boat and similar material, 3 lb lighter is over $2000; the Old Town Next is $400 less but weighs 12 lbs more ) As for how much depreciation in a used but good condition canoe a couple years old - I have no idea. Is 33% too little? What is a fair depreciation rate in today’s market?

I did think about a kayak. But the weight issue as well as not having a seat in which I can alter position regularly made me lean toward canoe – plus I just like the looks of a canoe so much more.

Again, thanks for all the input. And, if any of you guys have a canoe to sell in IL, Southern WI, or Western MI – let me know!!!

Keep your eyes on Craigslist & Facebook marketplace. Here’s one in Grand Rapids Michigan.

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33% depreciation is normal plus I bet the seller would take $900 or maybe $800 cash.

I swear there was a T-Formex Fusion for $900 on Madison craigslist yesterday and it looked new.

If Lone Rock is close enough for you (30 min west of Madison) I suggest that you call Carl at Carl’s Paddlin and ask him what used boats he has that may fit your needs. He has lots of used canoes…like hundreds. He also had some Wenonah blems when I saw him last Fall (blemished new boats at a discount). He’s near water and you’d be able to test paddle if you like. He’d be happy to talk with you and you will enjoy talking to him. 608-583-2405. I’ve purchased quite a few canoes from Carl…you could mention that Tom form Michigan recommended that you call him.

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Wanted to circle back - I ended up with a Wenonah Fusion in T-formex. Unfortunately, I haven’t been out yet. It started raining hard the day I got the canoe and my local river went from about 3.5 feet to 14 feet in 72 hours. I’m thinking that would be a bit too interesting for a maiden voyage for a novice. But, hopefully, things calm down soon and I get out.

Wanted to say that you guys were a helpful and knowledgable bunch - much appreciated.

Good choice staying off a flood stage river. One of my primary goals when I go out is to NOT be an article in the news.