hornbeck boats

Is anyone out there familiar with the Hornbeck boats- canoe

www.hornbeckboats.com They are made in the Adirondacks family owned company

I met a couple with a couple last time I paddled. They seemed happy with them-very light!

I have a friend that has a Hornbeck. He, too, loves his boat. He is a smaller guy and has taken it on trips to the BWCA and Woodland Caribou PP. I don’t know that I’d recommend it for everyone, but it works for him.

Of course he uses a double blade paddle and covers it with a spray skirt. In that way it is very kayak-like. He packs backpacker-light. Single portages.

appreciate the feed back.

Lost Pond
There are several reviews of the Hornbeck Lost Pond (mine included!) on the product review page. Like everything, these pack canoes are compromises. They can handle significant wind and chop (even loaded with someone my size (~200 lb)), but they are by no means a “blue-water” (or whitewater!) boat. Being such small boat, the ride gets pretty bouncy in choppy water as the boat rides up and over each successive wave. A kayak paddle works well in most situations, but in tight spots I wish I had a regular canoe paddle. The open top of the canoe makes it easier to enter and exit and load gear, and makes it lighter. But you will get some dripping from the kayak paddle into the boat (and on you), even if you properly install the drip rings on your paddle and use a low angle stroke. My Lost Pond takes little effort to paddle, but is not fast (true of any short boat), and I occasionally wish I had a bit more top-end speed in my Lost Pond. Peter has other designs in addition to his Lost Pond series; I greatly enjoyed talking with him when I visited. Other folks in New York that make similar pack canoes are Dave Curtis (Hemlock Canoe) and Lake Placid Boatworks. Travelling to each of these builders and learning about their canoes would be a very pleasant way to spend a few weekends!

What they are and are not

– Last Updated: Nov-23-05 10:15 AM EST –

All boats if designed well are good at some things and less good at others. I have used all the models and so have my fellow paddlers.

In our generous and non-dogmatic opinion, the boats are fine for being very light weight and place a premium on portability thus enabling you to bring the boat to many otherwise inaccessible places in the Adirondacks.

Objectively speaking, and this is difficult as loyalties develop between paddlers and small business builders that obscure the merits and deficits of a particular boat. So, objectively, the Hornbeck boats are just fine if one

DOES NOT PLACE IMPORTANCE on stability and efficient hull speed. In other words the boats work fine to poke about in small areas, fish, take some occasional photos, etc. But frankly there are some other boats that are close to the Hornbeck weights that are significantly more stable, travel further with considerably less effort, and are close in ease of getting the boat in and out of inaccessible places.

Our advice to people looking at Hornbecks is to first prioritize their intended use of the boats. And then proceed. You may find replies here or from folks who have the boats telling you rubbish they are stable and fast, that they use them for all sorts of things. In our opninion this is either lack of perspective, or hyper-loyalty obsccuring the objective review of the boat.

Our experience with Hornbeck as a terrific person, a quality buidler, and someone who stands behind their product. If you primarily need a boat to take professional or serious photographs from, or want to travel more extensively there are other designs that may not have the "cachet" Hornbeck has become but you will enjoy the ride better.

thanks again
I appreciate all your vast knowledge as a new- comer to the field. I retire this year, young enough to get lots of time in tryin new stuff.

Your points are well taken TomD and Evans.

lighter weight composite canoes

– Last Updated: Nov-27-05 9:30 PM EST –

Evans, I'd be interested in hearing your opinion of the other brands that could be a better choice than the hornbeck. I was thinking about a hornbeck too. I would like to support the smaller independent self builder if I can. I'm in Maine are there any independent high-tech composite builders in Maine? Are these other models your talking about are they by the larger companies? Are the price ranges comparable?

Hornbeck boats and options
Hornbeck Lost Pond boats are ideal for going on small ponds with carries between them. They are slow but easy to paddle within their slow hull speed.

Alternatives are:

  1. Lake Placid Boatworks “Spitfire”; stronger, heavier, more expensive, quite a bit faster than Hornbeck
  2. Bart Hauthaway design, Rob Roy, built by Cal-Tec in MA, slow, stable, partical decking at ends so paddle drip from double blade is less, easy to paddle within its slow hull speed
  3. Curtis boats- have never paddled them but have heard good things about them.
  4. canoe from Upper Deck Boatshop in VA- excellent price and paddles like Hornbeck/Hauthaway
  5. Compass Canoe- was less impressed the one time I paddles it.
  6. Bell Canoe Pack Canoe- stable and able to carry more weight
  7. Bell Rob Roy- at 15’ it is not directly comparable to 10’-12’ canoes but a great design.

    If you want to make your own, I suggest the Sweet Dream design by Mark Pettingill, made out on plywood. There are a number of other good ones also.

Nice reply

– Last Updated: Nov-27-05 10:38 PM EST –

I agree, nice reply, fair and balanced. The Bell pack canoe is a good example, not the only one, but a good example of a boat of better stabiiity and more efficient hull design. If one wants and needs those qualities like for photography or longer travels these alternatives may suite significantly better. Hornbecks are fine for small ponds and many carries where stabilty and efficiency really matter less although imo still nice.


Hornbeck, but not Lost Pond
I think when most of us talk about Hornbeck canoes, we think about his original Lost Pond series. But I see that he is also making some larger hulls (have a look at his website) that might address the questions of hull speed and suitability for “bigger” water.

Evans, I completely agree with your comments about the speed (or lack thereof) of pack canoes, but am puzzled about your statement that they are less stable?? Once I’m in mine, I find the primary stability to be quite good… can’t say I’ve really tested the secondary. Perhaps you can elaborate/clarify your position?

Hornbeck boats and options
In my post above I didn’t emphasize the very light weight of Hornbeck canoes and most of the other small builder 10’-12’ canoes. They are 1/2 to as low as 1/3 the weight of the plastic canoes sold cheaply in the big box stores.

Peter does build longer canoes as noted, and for the record, he is also starting a very light Kayak series. I don’t own any of his boats, but have stopped by his shop and paddled them on the small pond behind. Would have bought one if I didn’t already own two similar ones.

As is often mentioned, you should paddle as many similar canoes/kayaks as possible before buying. For sure paddle the one you are considering for a few hours. While most demo days don’t allow this long a trial, a few vendors will allow a loaner or rental. Support such vendors with your business if you find some.

Hornbeck speed

– Last Updated: Nov-28-05 12:04 PM EST –

I have frequently paddled the Hornbecks and ultimately the pack canoe I acquired, a Bell Bucktail 12 foot/28 pounds (now discontinued). In short, my personal logic in choosing:

If canoe weight were more important than hull efficiency, for portaging long distances to backcountry trout ponds, I would have purchased the Hornbeck.

If paddling efficiency were more important than weight, the Bell design was clearly faster and also leanable.

If you can find a used Bucktail, I highly recommend them. I was not impressed with the Hornbeck speed when trying to get from Point A to B efficiently. If I were just floating and trolling for fishing, it would have been ok.

stability with respect to paddler
You are right, it is the secondary not the primary. The fact that one sits on the hull or close to it is what makes the primary decent. But for medium to tall paddlers, the Hornbeck secondary stability is less than several other options.

Remember I am not in any way disparaging the Hornbecks, simply trying to get at some factual comparisons and separate our loyalites to this good and competent builder. martin’s comments also reflect the tenor and tone I am trying for here.

So if one is tall and depending on your priorities consider the Hornbeck secondary to be less than one might wish for, at least this is my and a couple of handfulls of other Hornbeck happy owners thoughts. Most of them were more mid sized folks and it all worked fine for them.

These are a nice series of posts, because we are more interested here in providing some viewpoints and frameworks and then each paddler heads out and tries the boat to see how it works for them.

Great way to end up with a boat the provides the 85% rule, that is the boat’s best qualities match what you want to do in it 85% of the time.

thanks, Evans
I understand better your comments about pack canoe stability. I’m not particularly tall (5’9")or heavy in the upper body, so I think that explains why my perception of stability differs from yours. Even when I take a wake broadside or bounce through a chop, my weight is between the gunwales, so I’m not pushing the secondary stability of the design. The water here is turning colder and harder, so I think I’ll wait until next year to try leaning the boat over.

In Praise of Hornbecks
Assessing Hornbeck’s Lost Pond boats can be challenging, especially for those not familiar with pack boats. Based upon extensive experience by me, my wife and brother-in-law, my advice is that their capabilities should not be underestimated. The Hornbeck’s aren’t for everyone, but they are not just for poking around the cabin, despite what some folks think.

My wife and I have been paddling small Hornbecks since 1995, including what now amounts to more than four months of paddling in the BWCA. The past several years, we’ve included canoe camping trips lasting 12, 13, and 14 days and covering more than 70 to 80 miles. We try to avoid some of the big lakes, but have managed adequately even on them when we’ve had to. If we’re a bit pokey, well that’s a small penalty to pay for light weight. Neither of us has ever taken on water once we’ve settled into our canoes, though getting in and out gracefully took some practice.

OK, we’re on the small side: I’m 145 and carry 70-80# of gear in my 10.5’ Hornbeck. My wife is only 82# and carries about 40-45# of gear. For the past couple of years, we’ve used a Cooke Custom Sewing cover, but mostly to keep out the wind and rain. They haven’t been needed to keep out the waves. After 10 years of pretty hard use, the boats are holding up well, though I have touched them up where fabric has become exposed after rubbing on the BWCA granite.

We’re not alone loving the Hornbecks. My brother-in-law has had two Lost Pond 10.5’ models and one 12’ model (which he traded for a smaller one). He paddles as many as 300 days a year and owns an extensive fleet that includes a Bell Wildfire, Bell Magic, Bell Rob Roy, and Grasse River XL in addition to the two smaller Hornbecks. He is not small – more like 170# – but still loves paddling his Hornbecks, even on BWCA trips.

Other folks are making small pack boats now also. The best of them are Bell’s Bucktail (larger, heavier, and probably quicker), Dave Curtis’s Hemlock Nessmuck (won’t carry quite as much, but maybe a bit quicker) and Nessmuck XL, and Placid Boatworks Spitfire (larger, heavier, quicker, a bit more rugged, exotic looking).

Still, Peter’s boats are well made, priced nicely and have made lots of folks happy, including us. I sometimes long for a slightly longer and newer packboat, but I’d rate my 10’ Lost Pond 9 of 10. My wife would rate her 9’ (11#) Lost Pond as a 10, maybe even 11. What else can an 82# senior carry comfortably?

Hornbeck boats and options
Like Evans, I am impressed with the respectful tone on this series of posts. 14 posts and no one has trashed anyone! Could some of this be due to respect of Peter Hornbeck by those of us who met him?

DADoc has hit on the most important factor for selecting small solo canoes, paddler weight. While important, it’s not our personal impressions of hull speed or hull stability that matter most, it’s the design weight to padder weight match; The paddler weight must be within the design of the hull.

The designs of many of the small solo canoes are inspired by Rushton designed solo canoes. They were designed for George Washington Sears, who used the pen name of “Nessmuk” when writing about his adventures in the early 1880’s. More to the point, Nessmuk weighed about 110 lbs. during the time these boats were built for him. Two winters ago I built a fiberglass canoe from a Bart Hauthaway mold. It is a very close copy of a Rushton Bucktail, built for Nessmuk in 1884. It’s 10.5’ long, 26" wide and weighs 22lbs. the same as Rushton’s Bucktail, although Rushton’s wood canoes are far more attractive. At 6’ and 220 lbs, I can paddle it but there is far to little freeboard to be useful. I asked a 140 lb. woman to try paddling it and it was perfect. She is within the design weight (110 lb paddler plus 30 lbs of gear.) The canoe was perfect with her weight! (Nessmuk did write about the Bucktail that “she is able and lively with a freight of 225 pounds.” Take that as poetic license, not fact.

Hornbeck Lost Pond canoes are fine craft for their designed use. A experienced paddler can, as DADoc noted, stretch the suitable use. I have taken my Bart Hauthaway Nomad (a Rushton inspired canoe, like Lost Pond) designed for heavier paddlers, into Long Island Sound many times.

Were I choosing a small solo canoe today, if I didn’t already own a few, I would choose the Lake Placid Spitfire and change the deck and thwart to less garish wood. The Spitfire accommodates my weight, is faster than the others and built stronger. The only negative is price. Since my fleet also includes a carbon/kevlar Bell Rob Roy, I haven’t bought a Spitfire, but I am very impressed with it.