Good first Canoe?

Looking for advice on a good first canoe. Requirements include need space for two adults and a kid. We will be on flat water and primarily teaching my son how to fish. Any thoughts to what is a good first canoe? Been looking at Old Town Discovery 158, Old Town Penobscot 164, Nova Craft Muskoka (fiberglass)and Esquif Huron 15. Ideally I like the cost of the Old Towns but they are heavy. Just trying to avoid buying the wrong canoe.

check your local Craigslist. There are many good canoes out there for less than a new Old Town. OT is a good brand but for three of you the Pen 174 would be best. That kid is going to grow…

Hi, Newtocanoe,

I agree with kayakmedic in that a longer canoe will probably be better suited for you over time. A 15 to 16 ft canoe can work but something in the 17 ft range will have more room for a passenger and gear and typically have better glide performance. Consider canoes designed for general touring / tripping as they are designed with a good balance of stability for hauling a load and efficient speed for longer distances. While you may not have plans for a back country paddling trip, you’ll appreciate the efficiency of a touring canoe.

Weight is largely dependent on what a canoe is made of. On the heavier side are Royalex, T-Formex, and polyethylene while on the lighter side are Kevlar and carbon cloth. But canoes made of fiberglass (or similar) cloth can be considerably lighter than plastic and priced lower than a Kevlar boat. Carrying and loading / unloading a canoe that weighs over 70 lbs isn’t fun. Ideally the weight would be closer to 50 lbs using Kevlar cloth but canoes made with fiberglass cloth can weigh a reasonable +/-60 lbs.

Because the cost of canoes have gone way up in price the past few years, especially those made of composite materials and quality layups, buying a used boat is a great way to get started. You may have to drive a ways to pick up a canoe if there’s nothing available locally but you’ll have more options to choose from.

Have fun in your quest!


It’s really helpful to know how much weight the canoe needs to carry.

A 16 footer like the Muskoka or the Esquif Huron 16 could be ideal for your needs if your total load is under around 450. I have friends with an Avalon and it seems like a fine boat too.

You’re already conscious of boat weight. That’s smart since it can directly affect how often you use the boat. Do you know if you can manage a 65 pounder? It would be great if you could just try lifting and loading someone’s canoe. If 55-65 pounds feels too heavy then you can shop for a lighter used canoe. And I think you may find a 15 footer tight on space with three people in it even if the boat can handle your load.

Thanks for all the great feedback so far. Total boat weight would be below 350 to 450lbs for a few years until the little guy gets older. There is an Old Town Canadienne 17 for sale that could work. It’s old though, close to 30 years. Anyone have an opinion on that model? It’s the fiberglass model with skid strips on it already. I’m assuming the bow and stern are probably a little torn up. Hence the skids. As far as lifting, I lifted a Discovery 158 in a store. It was not fun, but thought I would be able to get it on the vehicle.

The Canadienne is a classic. I have several canoe more than thirty years old. A Wenonah Odyssey, a Swift Heron and a Curtis Nomad and a Mad River Monarch from the late 80’s. A sea kayak from 1993.

The moral is that boats well stored do not suffer from age related problems. I know a few people paddling some old Old Towns from the early 80s on wilderness trips and one has a Canadienne for remote trips.

If that Canadienne 17 is in good shape that would be a great first canoe. From what I can tell it might weigh upwards of 70 lbs in fiberglass, which isn’t great but it’s manageable when you’re younger. :smile:

I own a fiberglass canoe that I bought used with 35 years on it and it’s in good shape. I use it on a regular basis and have full confidence in that old canoe. If a quality built fiberglass canoe has been taken care of it should still have some miles on it. It certainly sounds like it’s worth a look.

Thanks all. A second Canadienne just went up for sale made of Kevlar. Sounds like the owner took great care of it. Waiting for a response to go see it. If I get one, I will share a picture of my new used boat! Used market is almost as competitive as the housing market right now.


Good for a first canoe to be used.
I think you need at least 16 feet, 17 would be better and 18 is not too much.
For fishing a little beamier boat is good, say at least 35-36 inches.
A little rocker for easy maneuvering.
Fiberglass or kevlar would be the best material.


Who would of thought there’d be a demand for used canoes and old records. :laughing:

For your needs even a light weight aluminum 17 footer would do nicely. I see them used for < $400 and they don’t deteriorate under UV if stored outdoors upside down. Avoid ice-split keel seams due to being stored right side up, heavy and dented boats, and especially rentals.

I’m relatively new to the canoe thing myself and I have a slightly different take on this than most.

I would almost rather have two shorter canoes and put one adult in each and maybe have dad with the son in say a 14-15’ Tandem and mom in a 12-14 solo.

Then you could mix and match how you went out and when all together the added safety of a second boat.

We started out with a tandem canoe last year with just the two of us and it quickly became apparent we each wanted our own boat. We stay together 90% of the time on the water and when it comes time to load or unload we can help each other loading a smaller boat.

Just an idea.

Thanks Bud16415, my wife probably will not want her own canoe, but she has been talking about a paddle board I think they are called. Curious if anyone recognizes this model of Old Town. The seller is not familiar with the model. I have asked to locate the serial number. It says Adventurer on the side where the model name would be. Says it’s an all fiberglass canoe. When I search Adventurer it comes up with Old Town kayak.

We had a similar situation where I wanted a canoe and thought a tandem might get us out together. She had been going with some of her friends and borrowing an OT 10’ Rec-kayak and liked that a lot and didn’t care for paddling tandem at all in a canoe. So I was lucky the OT canoe I bought was only 14’7” and I converted it to a solo kind of a hybrid pack canoe and we bought her a new OT 10’ Rec-kayak. It worked out pretty good actually as she can load and go on here own with her car and when we go together my car is set up for both boats and I have room for hauling any gear we might bring along. We have two boats so if one of us happens to go for an unplanned swim the other boat is a lot of help to have along.

That canoe looks like an older OT and they have a lot of names that they no longer make. I googled it and it looks like OT maybe uses that name now for a rec-kayak. I’m pretty happy with my OT guide I bought used. It is heavier than I would like on land and fine in the water it seems pretty indestructible.

That may be a version of the Old Town Discovery, which came in a 158 and 169 version. These are a triple layer poly plastic, not fiberglass and will weight 80 or 85 pounds depending on size. It may be that OT used the Adventurer name when they made the Discovery model for large dealers like L. L. Bean and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Mad River has done that with their plastic canoe, the Adventure 14 and 16, which they renamed the Discoverer when they produced it for resale through big box sporting goods stores (I believe that was a ploy to avoid price shopping by customers when the big box store discounted them.)

If it is an an old Discovery under another name that was a “value” model with simpler outfitting (like the solid plastic seats that are apparent in the seller’s shot) and the cheaper plastic hull (instead of Royalex.) Here is the OT catalog from 2008 where you can see the specs for the Discovery models and could compare dimensions and weights to see if that’s what that one is. Their fiberglass canoes tend to have more deluxe seats and outfitting.

I called Old Town. Incredible customer service. They told me in ‘78 and ‘79 they called the Carleton the Carleton Adventurer. Just thought I’d share with those who are curious about the boat.

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For tandem paddling the longer the boat the better. Shorter boats with the heavier paddler in the back (usually the man) are more likely to be out of trim. I have seen some 15’ boats with couples on board that look like they are doing “wheelies”.

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My first canoe was an Old Towne Camper.
Still have it.
If that thing could talk! Raised 2 children in it, and have taken many adventures with it.

I’ll never get rid of that canoe. I love it.

with the balsa wood core and flat molded swats that is a fiberglass hull from the 70s, not a plastic or Royalex hull. it does not have a yoke so this was a budget version of another model that probably came with cane seats and a yoke. for under $500 it would be a better buy than a Discovery model. Better paddling and lighter. the advice to stay with a hull longer than 15’ is sound. kids learning to fish need room to safely cast. pulling fish hooks from flesh is a painful job for all involved.

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