hornbeck vs. placid boats

if someone has tried both can you compare the hornbeck 10’5,LP12,16’ to the placid spitfire and rapidfire.I am interested in comfort,stability and speed and price value if all that is possible…thanks.

I find the Placid designs and
construction to be in line with the best knowledge of canoe design. Hornbeck boats are clever in some ways, but neither their designs nor their construction are up to scratch.

Hornbeck vs Placid boats.
You get what you pay for and you can’t have superior design and construction (Spitfire and Rapidfire) at a bargain price (Hornbect). All are stable when you get used to them. While comfort is very subjective, if you like sit-on-bottom double paddle canoes, you should be comfortable in both lines. I like the Placid seat better, but one can change pack canoe seats easily.

The shorter Hornbech canoes are Rushton designs and have a very short waterline caused by the pinched ends. They are almost effortless to paddle slow but do hit a wall soon and hard if you try to paddle fast. Great for lilly dipping, poor for covering distance. Light weight to very light weight, low price for materials used. Not as strong as Placid canoes but very acceptable for use (slow lilly dipping paddles.) More seaworthy than they look.

Spitfire and Rapidfire are very modern designs, not derived from designs over 100 years old. They are much, much faster, especially the Rapidfire (it’s also 3-4’ longer so it should be somewhat faster). The construction is also stronger and while heavier they are still light weight.

I have been unimpressed with the longer Hornbeck canoes.

In summary, the Hornbeck canoes are a very good value if you accept their limitations (slow, not as strong as placid boats but quite acceptable for lilly dipping, not as attractive. The Placid canoes are much faster, stronger, better looking, and are considerably more expensive. Both are fine canoe lines in their respective niches, but they are not equivalent. You get what you pay for. If you are usually going to take short, slow paddles (lilly dipping), buy the Hornbeck and save some money. If you plan to take longer paddles and like to go fast, buy a Placid boat; the Spitfire if you are small/light or a Rapidfire if you are larger/heavier. At 6’ 205 lbs I love my Rapidfire. I also own some Rushton derived canoes, so I know both lines.


I agree

– Last Updated: Apr-24-09 8:20 AM EST –

Having paddled both and previously owned the Bell Bucktail, I agree with what's been posted. The Hornbeck's greatest strength is off the water, for portaging or for slow paddles for fishing or perhaps nature photography. I found the design too slow for efficient paddling to cover any distance at an acceptable pace. I would also not want to be in any significant wind or waves with the Hornbecks.

Another alternative
you might consider:


I’ve not had the chance to paddle a Placid boat (out of my price range, anyway) or a Hornbeck, but I’ve told the world I’m thrilled with the Vermont Tupper I bought yesterday. Vermont Canoe and Kayak is a relatively new company that you may not have heard of. I have the first one sold in Florida.

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Wenonah Wee Lassie
Wenonah has the Wee Lassie in this category, 24 pounds, half price of a Spitfire.

Look at Hemlock Canoe Works offering

– Last Updated: Apr-24-09 2:57 PM EST –

They make two sized pack canoes the Nessmuk at 10'6" at 16 and 14lbs and a larger Nessmuk XL at 24 and 22lbs. They are well made and paddle nicely. I have seen them and these canoes are constructed with great craftsmanship as all Hemlock canoes are. Might be worth a look or even a test paddle if you are in upper NY. (www.hemlockcanoe.com)

Yeah, Hemlock uses a good layup
and their craftsmanship is good also.

Comparison sheet

– Last Updated: Sep-21-09 9:31 AM EST –

I've a comparison sheet including every pack canoe currently made. Email me if you're interested.

Basically, the smaller boats, Hemlocks, Hornbecks and Heritage/Compass boats emphasis the portage rather than on water performance. They are all somewhat slow, as predicted by waterline length, somewhat fragile, and have minimal outfitting. GRE and Savage offer the best designs, by Newman and Dillard, and engineering, wet bag and infusion, in this category, but all have minimal outfitting; seat often a foam pad, fixed backrests and no footpegs, all to minimize weight and improve cartage.

The larger units; Bell, Vermont Canoe, Wenonah are faster, more seaworthy, more rugged and have enhanced outfitting; all have adjustable back support and footpegs to improve comfort and control at the expense of portability. Bell's Bucktail is an older Yost design. Bell and Wenonah wet bag, Vermont's Tupper, a Robbie Frennete design, was to be infused starting this spring but it seems they are still wet bagging.

The Placid product pulls out all the stops: the sole tumblehomed pack canoe from a top shelf designer, Yost, and top construction, infused Carbon/Kev, in a larger unit with full and customizable outfitting and minimal weight, with CobraSox rails, but all these features are pricey, roughly proving there are no free lunches.

The interested can compare tracking by dividing waterline length by waterline width in the same units. The higher the number the better the boat will track.

Forward speed potential is a bit tougher, but roughly multiple the square of the waterline length by 1.55 to arrive at theoretical forward speed. I'm using a constant that isn't over the range of pack canoes, and the L/W ratio effects the amount of wave-making drag, but close enough for this discussion.

For a free lunch, portage fast and
raid the food packs of another party who’re on the portage.

And Charlie isn’t prejudiced at all.


– Last Updated: Apr-27-09 6:49 AM EST –

I bought a Hornbeck last year and I love it,It's nice and light and it paddles great.The best part is that it will fit inside a Dodge Caravan.

Now String;

– Last Updated: Sep-21-09 9:35 AM EST –

I was a principal at Bell for most of a decade and a principal at Placid for five years, but both stints with those boatbuilders are over. I retired this winter.

As a builder who has hired and fired designers, developed lamination schedules, some of which worked pretty well, and worked with hand lamination and wet bagging with bell and developed a workable infusion process when with placid, and adjusted lamination schedules to work within those very different constrains, I probably have broader pack canoe experience than many builders and most buyers.

I do have my biases. I want a seakindly hull that paddles well, including good forward speed, good tracking and good turning ability. As boats get shorter, it is increasingly harder to achieve top ratings in all four performance categories.

Consequently, I prefer larger hulls, and want to reduce weight with sophisticated engineering and construction. This tends to increase price.

I also won't live with marginal outfitting. Not that I'm a softy, it just prays on my mind that the paddler on my left, or right, might be more comfortable than I am.

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I am very satified with my RF and when
all the yakkers get out moaning ang groaning, I often spend breaks comfortably sitting in my boat.

Comparison sheet
I was researching light carry canoes and came across your post regarding a comparison chart you populated. I’d appreciate it if you could send me a copy to David.kirchhoff@ge.com.

I’m looking for a single man maybe a 2 man for 1-5 mile carries for ADK trout fishing.


Hornbeck finds itself in good company with Martin Guitar and the Orvis fly rod. Everyone compares themselves to you and then consigns you to Lilli Dipping. I’m heading to the adirondacks soon. Think I’ll schedule a demo at Hornbeck.,

Not at all… But some of their older designs were quite slow. The sharp skegged bow and stern had a pronounced cheek… Water is not on social media and doesn’t care what your opinion is… The truth is cheeked boats are read by water as shorter than they really are.

New Tricks are a modification and its funny that the hull designs look more like Placids now.

That said they do have a market and fit some paddlers needs well. Yes go try. Also go up the road to Placid on Mill Pond in Lake Placid NY,

And Adirondack Canoe Co in Mineville
And Slipstream in Broadalbin

Everything written about both boats above is true.

I have a first generation Rapidfire (heavier with wood gunwales). I had an elevated seat on fore/aft rails installed in my RF because I did not like sitting on the bottom, even with the highest of three molded drop-in seats available. I detest using a kayak paddle and much prefer to use a single blade canoe paddle in this canoe. I have raced it several times in the Adirondack 90 mile canoe race and have done well with it. Unfortunately, to be competitive in this race, and by the race rules, a kayak paddle is the necessary tool.

Otherwise I am a single blade paddler 100% sitting high in my seat. When I cannot train in other boats with my racing team, I can be seen single blade padddling solo many miles in my RF on near home lakes and rivers. The RF is relatively easy to carry with a well fitted yoke (five miles total during the 3-day 90-miler), 10 miles total during the Cannonball-90 (the original 90 route all in a single day, done for “fun” and training).

If I had the choice to do it again now, i would buy the newer lighter faster PB Shadow instead. The Shadow was created by Joe at PB, IMO, for him to beat out all of the older Rapidfires that were becoming common during the 90-miler race and as a group they have always done so handily in the Shadow.

However, a few years ago I had the desire to paddle a diagonal across the Adirondacks from my home to my daughter’s home, at the time partially across an arm of Lake Champlain just beyond Plattsburgh, NY. It was the year before the NFCT opened, but I knew the route well from experience on the 90 route to Saranac Lake and beyond from early NFCT reports.

I knew my RF was not well suited for that task. So I visited Pete Hornbeck to purchase a much lighter weight 10.5’ Hornbeck that carries on top of my full weight backpack. Turned out to be a sleek black new hybrid carbon/kevlar model, the very first one Pete had just completed building. True, not the fastest boat, but it carries easily and takes rough weather and wind blown waves well (I made a spray cover to fit) and although it does require using the dreaded kayak paddle. I completed the 185 total mile trip with total combined carries adding up to 65 miles by the time I finished during a hot dry low water 7 days in July. I crushed the cheeks between rocks on the bony lower Saranac River and scratched the heck out of the bottom. Peter later fixed and reinforced the crushed cheeks at no charge.

A dear friend gifted a 12’ Hornbeck to my daughter which she uses and likes a lot. I found a 14’ pristine carbon Hornbeck on Craigslist from a guy heading out that very day, moving to FL from not far away. I picked up that boat for $400, about 1/5th what it could have gone for. Others in my family have used that boat, but it does not take the place of the Rapidfire that I train in every day.

My observation was not about boats so much a rhetoric.would you agree that referring to a well loved boat as suitable for LILLY DIPPING or whatever was a tad demeaning? I was amused that repeatedly the Hornbeck is referenced on these sites, that’s all. Good place to be in. How fair is it to compare boats when one is double in price. And so you know….a Takamini is not a Martin. I paddle an Aerolite SOF 13. Darn kids wanted to go to college. I’ll get a Hornbeck for $400.00 from Craigslist. I check everyday.,

You can’t go wrong with either one. Placid’s will definitely be a faster and more efficient paddle. They are also almost 2x the price.