help choosing solo canoe?

I have spent some time in rec kayaks but I am looking to get into a solo canoe so I can take the 80lb Chessie with me. I don’t have much experience in one but I would like to get something with decent performance that I can grow into as my skills improve. In my area I have Bell, Wenonah, and MR so I can test paddle a few. I would like to keep the boat around 50lbs or less and under 1500 bucks. Is the Yellostone to small with that size of a dog? I am 6’0, 180lbs and my paddling would be 60% on lakes and 40% on rivers (mostly C1) day trips and a few weekenders. The Swifts look nice also but there isn’t a dealer in my area…if anybody in the Boise area has one I could see it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for any suggestions

260 pounds
I go about 255 lbs and was out in a Yellowstone solo one day this spring in about 10" waves. The boat handled my weight well. It impressed me and was a fun boat to paddle. But I wouldn’t be inclined to be taking 50 lbs of gear in the boat with me as well. So I think you and the dog or you and a weeks worth of gear would be fine in a Yellowstone solo. But you, the dog, and tripping gear may be pushing it.

A Wenonah Voyager will easily
handle that load.It is not made to turn very quickly though.

solo canoe
A Voyager is little long and heavier than I would like, maybe a Vagabond? Is the Yellowstone to twitchy for an 80lb dog. The paddle shops in my area don’t have to many solos and at this time of year and probably won’t be bringing any in so I’m in the process of tracking down some club people to get a chance to test paddle a few.

Yes, maybe a Vagabond.

Merlin II
I’d also consider a Bell Merlin II. At 15 feet, you’d have a little more room, although Bell lists the carrying capacity the same as the Yellowstone and Wildfire. The Merlin II is my favorite of the solos I have paddled.

My Mohawk Odyssey 14 is very forgiving
and hauls 300lbs without losing performance. I was pleasantly surprised. However, it won’t be the best lake cruiser.

Mad River Freedom solo is a better performing boat, but less forgiving and costs more.

Have fun shopping!

solo choice
Good boats gone by but can still be found. Mad River Indy in fiberglass is about 46#. Indy at 15’8" is about marginal for a carrying a pup but should work. MR Traveller in kevlar is about the same weight and is the best boat if you want to haul a pup. I have photos of my black & tan coonhound standing with both paws on the thwart with no hint of destabilizing the boat. The Wenonah Encounter is another possibility. You can haul two dogs and a 220# paddler. Glass Encounter wieghs about 56#s, kevlar much lighter. Both the Traveller and Encounter can handle big water. Looking for used boat will allow you to get into kevlar for a livable price anfd not worry about scrathes and scrapes on a new boat.

A 15’ boat is a bit short for your needs, that is pooch partner and some good efficiency/performance. The Wenonah Prism might be another choice. Whatever boat, make sure it has adjustable seats as trim is critical to enjoying a boat. I have installed Wenonah pedestals in both Mad Rivers.

The lighter the boat the more you will use it. Most descriptions you will read re canoe handling and performance are quite subjective so try out a few first if you can.

I have a Bell Wildfire
, which I understand now that in royalex it is now called a Yellowstone. I love this little solo boat but IMHO you and the 80# pooch will both go swimming unless the dog will lay down and stay still while you are paddleing. Having said that , I do paddle with my Lab in the boat at times but only on flat calm water near shore.

Swift Shearwater
Is what I paddle mostly, it is a big solo canoe at 16’6’ or somewhere there abouts. I am about Duluth Moose size, 240 to 250, and I typically paddle with my Lab, about 80 lbs or so. The canoe is stable, dry and carries good speed. It weighs in at 46 lbs in the expedition kevlar layup. I use the boat mostly on local bayous, but have used it in some local bays as well. It is an overall good performer though I do fight it in quartering winds and waves, I typically have to trim it stern heavy which helps. I also have a cover for it and that helps with the wind as well. I also like the Wenonah Prism and the Encounter. Good luck in your search.

solo cano
Although the dog is well behaved I was worried that anything under 15ft might be a tight fit. The most gear I would ever pack would be for a weekend camping trip 50lbs or so. If anybody has tried this…also, thats why I was thinking a Shearwater might be a good fit but the chances of getting to test paddle one are pretty slim with no dealer in this area

I set up an MR 14tt
It’s a cheap plastic boat that is sold for about $500 or so and works fine for me at 250 plus 50 pounds of gear. It weighs 63 or 69 pounds but that is really no trouble with the carrying yoke that comes with it. I took out on seat and moved the other a little to make the boat balance better and give more room for gear or dogs.

I don’t camp or trip from my Vagabond
, but I’d have real reservations about an 80-lb dog, no matter how placid. I would think bigger, I think.

My sheltie/beagle
bitch will lean out to see what is happening over the gunwhales. I find it disconcerting when I am paddling tandem, but can compensate. If you go solo with your pup I suggest you put her in the front of the canoe so you can see what she is doing and compensate.

The few times I took any of our dogs out solo there was no additional wieght like packs . I also suggest you pack low to help with stability.


proud “grandfather” of a beagle/sheltie and a Malamute.

Swift Osprey
is my favorite. I have owned a Mad River Indie, Bell Merlin II,Souris River Tranquility and Bell Rob Roy. The Swift Shearwater may work for you in terms of size fro a dog. The Wenona Prism may be a great choice if you plan to do mainly sitting in the boat. Lots of stability and nice speed.


you may want to…
look at the bell magic. it’s 16ft and a great lake boat and i would think can easily handle the class I’s. it’s gunwales are narrower [from the tumblehome] which would keep your dog from being able to move around as much but still have enough room. it’s stable enough but gives enough to where you will still improve your skills. on another board someone had the same situation , having a large dog, and they went with the bell magic. also, you have a dealer there. i like the magic as well as the prism and encounter but neither has any rocker.

solo canoe
Boo, in your opinion would Magic be stable enough?..and how does it paddle in comparison with a Merlin

Small tandem instead?
I am about your size and paddle almost every day with my 95 lb lab. I tried several solo canoes, which I loved when the dog stayed home, but they were just not stable enough for both of us. I have modified a small tandem and it works very well. In our case, the Bell Northstar in Kev Crystal. It weighs 37 lbs - maybe slighlty less since I took out both seats and put in a kneeling thwart. It is a bit pricy, but well worth it.

i’m by no means an expert. but, i did sleep in a… : >] actually, i have paddled the prism, encounter, merlin II, and magic. when i paddled them they were empty so take that into consideration. to me the prism has the most stability, tracks on rails and has lots of room. there is nothing it leaves to improving skills, imo. just a pleasure to paddle from the get go! but, i can’t get over the bucket seats with metal bars, which many people like, just take away from the aesthetics. the encounter i liked but really just seems like too much canoe for a solo, imo. the bell merlin II was the canoe i originally went to demo and was really eyeing it until…i paddled the magic. it seemed a bit more stable and tracked a bit easier. i was able to lean it and it turns easy enough. so, for me with a dog i’d want to compare side by side the magic and prism with the dog in the boat if dealers allow that. if you go to and do a search for the bell magic in the equipment forum you’ll find a thread on someone with a dog that ended up with the magic. i see your also in the west… canoes, especially solos, are hard to come by. hope this helps.

solo canoe
I like the idea of a little longer boat I’m just not sure about making those kinds of mods to what will be my first canoe…heck I’m even a little leary about a fiberglass layup. I sure wish Bell made a 15ft solo in a royalex layup…why don’t you fellas see what you can do about that while I hold my breath