Help with canoe choice?

So… it is time for my family to get a proper touring Canoe. We would like a canoe that can hold 2 adults and a couple kids plus overnight gear. Figure 500-600 pounds once the kids grow a bit. I would prefer to go as fast/far as possible, and have the boat be as light as possible. My wife would prefer stability, durability and affordability. Yup. Polar opposites.

This has lead us to two canoes on opposite ends of the spectrum. I have my eye on a Minnesota 2, which seems to be the top choice for lightweight speed while still carrying a respectable load? On the flip side, the durable cheap boat would lead us to a Discovery169 or Penobscot 164/174.

So… what do you folks think is the cruising speed difference between them? Enough to justify the big difference in price? How annoying are those 80 pounders to get onto and off a car? We go on a LOT of afternoon couple hour trips… so lifting a lighter boat might be worth a bit.

Also, how easy can an adult get back aboard after jumping off on a warm day?

Thanks for your tips!


So…let me start with your last question. It is near impossible to get back into a canoe after going for a swim. It is a recipe for sending the rest of the people in the boat into the lake also. Paddle to shore, swim from there and then get back into the boat.

I would spend the money and opt for the Minnesota II. It will clearly do the job, be easier to load and hold its value.


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These boats are good for rivers, but not large enough for what you proposed. Wenonah makes some good big canoes now. The Minnesota 2 is a great choice. Maybe a Champlain. You need something big. Those canoes have long water lines giving them speed.

Yep, the MNII is by far the superior boat here.

Im young and strong and can barely handle a 80lb boat solo. 60 is still a bear but doable. Kevlar UL layups at ~45lbs are much much much nicer than 60 or 80. If you go out a lot, a 45lb UL layup will quickly show its value.

As mentioned, the Champlain or Itasca are also worth looking for.

A trick with Wenonah boats if you want more stability - you can drill out the rivets holding on the seats and move the mount from the top of the bracket to the bottom. This lowers the seat by ~1" and helps stability more than the relatively small distance may lead you to believe.

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Sounds like a MNII is the best choice. Woohoo! Thats the one I wanted. I have dreams of chewing up a good chunk of Lake Chelan or Ross lake in a single day…

How tough/durable are these Kevlar UL boats? I am going to be delicate with it and avoid most whitewater but the reservoirs around here are full of submerged tree stumps and I’m sure we are going to thump one eventually.

What car rack might you recommend? We have a subaru forester.

Also, anyone have any recommendations for a good retailer in the Seattle metro area to get the canoe from?


The way to avoid gouging up any canoe in the relatively benign environments you describe is to “wet foot” it. That means wearing footwear that can get wet, floating the boat in shallow water and entering it from the water. Get out of it the same way. Any other technique will wear down the ends of the boat.

The stumps you worry about are a concern, but if you go slow through the areas where you know they are you will minimize the damage if you hit one. Stumps are not as hard and sharp as rocks.

A cannot recommend a rack for a Subaru, but I will simply say you only need a set of crossbars set as far apart as possible with straps holding the upside down canoe on. And, if you are going to be driving at highway speeds, you ought to have a set of bowlines to keep the thing from yawing, especially in a crosswind or when alongside trucks. You can make tie downs using nylon webbing that is anchored with a fender bolt under the hood. When needed the straps are run out from under the hood and the hood is then closed on them. Two 2 foot pieces of webbing doubled over will usually do the job.


Car racks: we have a 2015 Forester and use Thule racks. Thule rather than Yakima because when Thule had a mount for the 1996 Taurus wagon back then and Yakima didn’t. All of our canoe/kayak/bike stuff fit the square bars and not so much the round bars. Now Thule’s stuff seems to be designed for their “Areo” bars with the square bars as an after thought. I’m not fond of their new canoe clips on my square bars. Have had wind load twist them.

Hi, thunderchief,

Wenonah makes some great canoes for traveling fast on big water. I have a Wenonah Odyssey (discontinued) which is similar to the Minnesota II and have done a bunch of canoeing on Lake Chelan and the Columbia River. Just be aware that waves can get pretty big in a hurry so always keep the weather forecast in mind.

We have a Crosstrek and use a Yakima Timberline rack system with round bars and gunnel stops. The price has gone up a lot since we bought ours but they do work well and seem to be durable. I’m assuming the Forester has similar side rails but check to be sure.


I paddled an Odyssey for years. It had no rocker making it a crummy down river boat. Some of the Wenonahs are lightly built and do take even a mild capsize in rivers very well.

They are fine on lakes though.

The Minn II is a fine touring boat, as it seems like that is the direction you’re now leaning, but there are a bunch of other options. I don’t really want to complicate your decision-making process but before dropping that many bucks make sure you’ve checked out some of the other options, if you haven’t already. Northstar, Souris River, Swift (Keewayden 18.6?), (and others may have other possibilities to add) are surely worth looking at.
The affordability is entirely dependent on how much you use it - true of any boat. An expensive boat that you and your whole family uses and enjoys often for decades to come is a better value that an cheaper boat that sits in the garage. It’s the keys to the kingdom for you and yours.
The Wenonah folks sure do have one thing exactly right though… “If you’re lucky enough to be a paddler, you’re lucky enough.” Welcome to the community.

I love my Minn II. It is an UL model, and it’s pretty tough. It’s been from the Boundary Waters (as a rental no less) to the Everglades, Baja, the Suwanee, Okefenokee, Green River (UT), the Missouri River, and a lot of places in between, and I’ve never babied it. A couple years ago I hit a piece of rebar in a local river with a decent current and a decent load, and while it gouged it pretty good, I was amazed there was no penetration.

While it has little to no rocker, with a decently skilled bow paddler it can handle down river runs just fine. Yes, you’re turning an 18’6" boat but it’s just not that hard, and doesn’t have to be that complicated. A good bow draw (or cross-bow draw or rudder) goes a long way towards turning it and are easy strokes to pick up.

It’s a great boat, but PJC is right and that there are some other good options if you’re having a hard time getting your hands on one.

I also have a MinII, as do many of my friends. It is a popular canoe for amateur and stock canoe class racing, such as in the Adirondack 90 miler. A few have taken theirs on the 440 mile Yukon River Quest race, and even the Yukon 1000 mile race. It is a good performer and stable enough with a large capacity. Wenonah also makes a slightly larger version called the Monarch with flatter bottom and a little more carrying capacity, It paddles just as fast. But it may only be available through sale from outfitters, which is where I got mine. I really don’t notice much difference between the Monarch and the MinII.

I avoid rocks at all costs (when I can). I have a few unavoidable annoying scratches, but no real damage. Kevlar bounces off stumps, but they can capsize you if you get perched on top of one (been there, done that).

I carry my canoes on a subaru Forester. I used to have an older Outback, but the newer models have that stupid unadjustable roof rack, so that I why I now have the Forster with Thule racks. I even carry smaller canoes directly on the factory cross bars without the external Thule bars. I always have bow lines attached to under hood side straps. I’ve even carried a 23 foot long C4 to the Yukon and back, starting from the Adirondacks. Very windy conditions on the plains made me very glad to have a good bow tie down system.

Kevlar vs fiberglass. The Kevlar will be significantly lighter, but also considerably more expensive. Since I do a fair amount of solo paddling, the Kevlar was worth it to me as far as getting the boat on and off he car and to the water. While you can hole a fiberglass boat and possibly sink it if it does not have flotation, with a Kevlar boat you may co considerable damage to the gel coat, but it is highly unlikely you will put a hole in it.

Unless you are really flying along with a heavily loaded boat, stumps are rarely a problem, although they may tip you over, it’s more things like rocks that will severely damage a boat…

Thanks everyone for all the tips and advice!

How reliable is the shipping from an outfit like sherpers? Local outfitters might not be able to get a new kevlar canoe until fall.

Check out the nova craft canoe , i see them a lot on utube videos look sturdy & move threw the water nicely

We did find a northstar northwind 18 nearby… seems fairly similar to the MN2. Maybe a touch slower? Anyone have opinions on that boat?


-Matt C

I think the NW18 is one of the best big canoes out there. Yes a bit slower than a MNII but still exceptionally efficient, extremely seaworthy (can handle big/rough water easily) and much more maneuverable than it should be for such a large boat. It can also take your load easily. If I was in your shoes it’s the boat I’d want…but I do prefer boats that can turn well as well as travel efficiently. The sides are more rounded than a MNII which means waves from the side will pass under it easily without upsetting the boat plus you can lean it and it will remain totally predictable.

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Oh I would definitely look at the Northwind. I have a Northwind 16 that I solo and it is a very good tracking canoe, but also very maneuverable when needed. Tom L described the hull very well. After years of paddling a Penobscot 16, mostly solo, I purchased the Northwind to have a similar performing hull but drop 20lbs in boat weight. I much prefer the handling of the Northwind to the Penobscot

Getting back in the canoe can be quite a challenge. However with 2 canoes, one of which is upright, with a little technique it can be accomplished. Upright canoe supports offside gunwale while swimming paddler scrambles back in from the opposite side. Heel hook move can help less athletic folks get back in. Emptying the canoe of water is another major obstacle. T rescue to empty and flip the canoe upright. All of this is worth taking the better part of a day, playing in the water, trying it on a calm body of water near the shore. Every rescue effort you make takes some strength away from everyone, especially the swimmer. Best to know what you cannot do to avoid expending energy to no end.

In one of my first outings in the Northwind I was on a blackwater creek in coastal NC. Very calm, slow moving creek, very twisty and turns in spots. I happened to be near the tip of one tight turn when I heard a boat motor at high throttle and getting louder…coming my way. So I backed the canoe into the safest spot near one side and waited, preparing for my big water event. The operator couldn’t see me until after his boat generated a big wake wave. I angled the bow into the wave, held the paddle ready for a brace if needed and the rounded hull edge just let the waves slip underneath. My paddle never touched the water, the hull design did all the work. Gave me great confidence that it could handle big water,