Lake vs. River canoe for second boat

The situation: I grew up paddling (fiberglass & aluminum) canoes equally on rivers and flat water and have fond memories of downriver canoe camping trips in PA and VA. My partner spent a lot of time on lakes including multi-day trips in (We-no-nah composite) boats in the BWCA, and her parents own an MRC Explorer 16 that we like but lives too far away for us to regularly borrow. We recently got rid of a 13-ft fiberglass camping/fishing canoe that was too heavy for her to manage, and are looking to replace it.
Essentially our different experiences with canoes are informing our replacement boat choice too much. (She told me that the last time she paddled a river was a spring day trip 20+ years ago with her dad during which they capsized and LOST the canoe.) Now that we are approaching 40 and settled in Vermont, we are unlikely to need a boat that can handle rocky river trips (me) or needs to be portaged 1-2k between lakes (her).
In future we are probably mostly going to be paddling on flat water or the occasional river, sometimes with camping gear but usually not. I’m leaning towards hunting down a 14/16-ft boat in Royalex such as the Explorer or Penobscot, but my partner is worried that whatever I find will be over 60 lbs and thus too heavy for her to manage on her own. Our budget is under $1000, and I’m a deal-hound so I will scour the available channels for the right used boat.

What is your budget?

You will want at least 16’ for a tandem unless you both are very small people. You will probably want a composite canoe but not an ultra-light one. New in the $3,000 - $5,000 range from Wenonah, Swift, Northstar, Nova Craft, or Hemlock.

You didn’t mention a budget, but for lightness and versatility, Pakboat’s folding canoes could work well for you. Their US dealer is in Enfield, NH (about 25 miles east of Hartford, VT) and they may still offer on site demos. Their 15’ model is only 48 pounds. Another advantage of folders is that they can be stored in a closet and transported in the car trunk as well as checked as baggage on airline flights. These are well designed and tough boats that are used a lot by hunting and fishing guides for fly-in trips to remote areas. Ally of Norway makes similar models (in fact PakBoat was founded by a former Ally designer.) Folding canoes and kayaks have been around for over a century.

By the way, I notice their phone system is down today so if you consider contacting them, wait a few days.

He said the budget is under $1K

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I am intrigued why you think that in VT you won’t be on rocky rivers… It is literally whitewater river heaven and there are rocks. The stone walls you see are an example.

The Old Town Penobscot 16 or the MR Explorer would serve you well even if you venture out on Lake Champlain…carefully. On North American Canoe Trader on FB there are quite a few of both. under 1K

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Hi, watersrising,

I moved back to Vermont about 10 years ago and got rid of my tandem and solo whitewater canoes because my then new bride isn’t a whitewater canoeist and the whitewater buddies of my youth no longer do much whitewater paddling. So I sold my tandem and solo whitewater boats (and an expedition solo canoe) and replaced them.

The solo canoes I bought for my partner and I include a fiberglass Curtis Lady Bug and a Kevlar Hemlock Kestrel for just having fun on lakes, ponds, quiet rivers, and swift water streams. We both use either canoe depending on conditions. She paddles the Kestrel if we’re out on a lake that can get choppy but prefers the Lady Bug on small ponds and gentle streams. Both are under 35 lbs. in weight so we can easily load, unload, and portage them.

We also have a tandem Curtis Northstar for much the same and a Wenonah Odyssey for touring and high mileage day trips. Both are about 55 lbs in weight so I can manage them quite easily.

It’s not clear as to whether you need a tandem canoe or want a solo canoe for your partner. If for the latter, I’d say you’re better off looking for a used Kevlar or fiberglass solo and keep the weight to under 40 lbs. The canoe models I mentioned are just examples of boats that are well suited for quiet water here in Vermont; there are many canoes with similar design characteristics that you could look for.


I would love to be canoeing on rivers during high water, but I haven’t found a good whitewater partner yet. (Honestly I just don’t have enough time at this time of year.)

Thanks for all that advice! We would love to have space to store that many boats, but I also have a sailboat (soon to be two) and we live in an apartment. I dreamed for many years of a light solo canoe, but similarly to my ski collection, I’ve realized that while I want to do all the paddling, I am mostly doing one type of paddling (flatwater overnight camping) and I should focus on getting a good boat for that first. Also, since I have much more stamina than my partner it makes sense for us to be in one boat.

(To be fair, I added that after the first two replies asked for it.)

@willowleaf for the win! Your post provided the push to reconsider a post for a secondhand (cheap and lightly-used) MyCanoe Duo, and we bought it! (Now the challenge is to get it from Boston to Vermont…). The PakBoats look awesome, and my Mom lives in Hartford, VT, so that would have been an excellent choice as well.

Let us know how you like it. I’m not familiar with that company or model nor have come across anyone who had one. Is it a division of Oru, who makes the similar kayaks?

Has a much lower weight rating than skin on frame or rigid canoes of similar dimensions so watch how you load it. With two adults you would have to be pretty frugal with your camping gear. As you probably know, the closer you get to the max rating on capacity the higher your waterline and less freeboard and it looks like the model has pretty low sides. For day tripping, it looks pretty handy.

By the way, if the seller is willing, you can have the folded canoe shipped. Could be pricey though – once a carton size reaches certain limits the price for shipping can triple. I mailed a pair of vintage Canadian snowshoes to an Ebay buyer in February and even though the box only weighed 11 pounds (which, by weight, would have only been around $15 from here to Colorado) I had to use a big flat screen TV box for the 48" long snowshoes and shipping by USPS was over $60.

I will post a review after I’ve taken it out a few times. A woman in England posted a video review of taking it out for a river camping trip that made that sort of trip look doable. The freeboard was a bit of a concern, but honestly this is a temporary solution. If going out for a multi-night camping trip I’d take another boat. I also own a Michalak Trilars which is sort of a heavy wooden canoe with outriggers and a mast and sail, so that’s in the mix for longer trips where there is a possibility of waves. Honestly this is just to fill a niche for getting out for a day paddle until we have space for a canoe, whereupon I’ll probably start a collection.

Boats, sailboats, oil tankers, canoes are all about compromises. Normally you cannot have three of three, an engineering impossibility. Two out of three is possible mostly though you choose a 60/40 or your own split. Tough (Royalex) is not light. The ‘occasional’ Vermont river will permanently destroy a nice light weight. Those two are mutually exclusive. Less than 1,000 dollars? My splash cover costs more than twice that. Find a light or ultra light Keep the boss happy. Trust me, this I know. And then pick up an old ugly Gorman for the river, cheap enough, if you wrap it around a rock you sit there and laugh about it. Make sure you peal it out and get the scrap to a recycler.

As to current available, compromises for what you describe In, just north of you, Quebec, Equip, T-Formex skins. Canoes have an interesting US/Canada exemption, no duty either way.
T-Formex does very well in the Flaming Gorge and Desolation/Gray at low water. better by far than an old Royalex skin US Canada exchange rate today is kind to US purchasers US .78 to C 1.00 Craigslist in Canada? No Kijiji

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The occasional whitewater rivers in VT have been mentioned, but there are also a lot of lakes and rivers that are pretty safe to paddle. As mentioned, you’d probably be happy with a 16ft kevlar or fiberglass model with a little bit of rocker, so it would turn well and should be light enough to handle. On-line suppliers often have late season sales of their rental fleets, and local outfitters often have sales, also. A pleasant drive to eastern NY, VT, or NH might give you a chance to do a test paddle and save a nasty shipping charge.

You’re welcome, watersrising, but I wasn’t really advocating for a garage full of canoes. :grinning:

You’ve narrowed it down to “mostly doing one type of paddling (flatwater overnight camping)” so I’d suggest a tandem Kevlar layup designed for tripping/touring. The shorter end of the range (16 - 17 ft) with a bit of rocker is a good all-around choice, especially if you’ll be paddling swift water streams. If you’re more likely to be paddling larger lakes and big rivers then adding some length (17.5 - 18.5 ft) will get you an efficient touring boat that will cover the miles and haul a multi-day trip comfortably.


So… I have made funny choices and here is what I have now:
A MyCanoe Duo (14.5’) and a 1988 fiberglass MRC Explorer (16’). Neither are exactly what we wanted, but the price was right on both of them. The Explorer is a good flatwater camping/tripping boat, and my partner’s family has the Royalex version of it. The folding canoe will be good for adventures where a lightweight boat that one person can easily carry is preferable, such as getting into backcountry lakes and ponds.

watersrising, that Explorer is a classic canoe, though a bit on the heavy side. Have fun paddling in Vermont!

I’ve noticed that prices for used Kevlar canoes are starting to come back down so keep your eyes open. Being able to easily handle a canoe while loading, unloading, and carrying makes paddling all the more enjoyable. Especially as you get older. :wink:

Complete agreement Tketcham. I tend toward longer trips and both river and flat Some rocker makes it easy to turn, length makes it easy to carry gear and supplies, and, a longer canoe is a faster canoe, easier to move. My tripping choice, flat water and rapids has 3 inches of rocker and a 20 foot length. Easy to move and turn.