Lightweight canoe recommendations for small paddler

Not being able to paddle due to injury is dangerous to my wallet. I have recently begun toying with the idea of getting a lightweight solo canoe while I continue to look for / decide on a kayak. A 20 year old kevlar Bell Magic just listed for sale not terribly far from me. It’s had multiple repairs and they are asking $950. Before I get into what it’s worth, is it even remotely appropriate for a very small paddler? I’m light, narrow and have a very short upper body (long legs). I’d use it on quiet water, and would love to take my 75 lb Golden Retriever with me in it, unless that’s a terrible idea. I’ve only occasionally paddled canoes and not for decades. I don’t know enough to have preferences.

Magics are nice; I paddled mine today. Efficient load range is 160-280 but a little below or above is fine. They are quite stable and friendly. I had no trouble taking my 60+ pound coonhound mutt.


That optimal load range might be a problem. I’m 110 lbs and wouldn’t want to HAVE to take my dog. I’ve asked the seller for higher res photos of the repairs and bottom anyway.

Do you kneel or sit to paddle yours? I have both knee and low back problems, so I’d probably want to mix it up.

Well they sold the Bell Magic. It was probably not right for me so I am not sad.

If anyone wants to recommend specific models of lightweight canoes for a small paddler, I’m all ears. Ideally one I can paddle solo at my weight but also take my dog with in it. I’m thinking I want something narrow for ease of paddling, but stable since my dog is a spaz.

I believe I figured out that I will have to set up a canoe for either kneeling or sitting, not both. Is that correct?

Find a paddling group near you and try some out. Off the top of my head, a Northstar Firebird might be a good fit. A Curtis Ladybug, too. Maybe a Hemlock Kestrel. Are you near paddling groups or stores or manufacturers where you can try some out? I sold my Ladybug to a close friend and I regret it every day. But he’s here in West Michigan and I’m sure he’d let someone test paddle it if they were looking. The 13-foot Oscoda solos come to mind as well. You’ll want kevlar, but these smaller glass boats run around 40 pounds, so very manageable.

I took the tandem seats out of an OT Canadienne 15 footer. I moved the new single seat back a little to account for my 60 pound Border Collie that is always in the bow.

This canoe has more glide than any boat I have ever seen. 48 pounds in kevlar.

Yes it would be great if you could test paddle a couple boats with your dog. I agree that the Kestrel, Firebird, and Ladybug would be great choices. Or a Northstar Trillium or Swift Keewaydin 14. I sit in my Magic. Generally you set a boat up for either sitting (low seat) or kneeling. With a higher seat set up for kneeling you can still sit occasionally but it’s less stable. If you’re flexible you can sometimes kneel in a boat set up for sitting. Swift offers an option where the seat can be placed either high or low. You’re right in that the Magic is big for you…it takes more effort to paddle than smaller boats with less wetted surface area. Overall I’d recommend a Northstar Trillium since it’s a fantastic, versatile boat and a good value. My friend has one set up for kneeling but I’ve also paddled one set up for sitting…both are very nice. Stable for a smaller boat and super effortless to paddle.

I taught my canoe dogs one extra command, “settle down”. There are occasionally times when a wiggly dog could be a problem.

Hopefully a petite paddler from Florida will see this. She uses light weight canoes but don’t think she takes a dog.

If your pockets are fairly deep you might see if you could order a June Bug from Savage River: June Bug

String, you talking 'bout me? When are you and Castoff coming back down to Florida. Sorry I missed you last time.

Pru, you might consider a pack canoe, which is paddled with a double blade same as a kayak.

My Hornbeck Blackjack New Trick 12 only weighs 13 lbs, but I don’t think they’re available at this time. My Hornbeck New Trick 11 is prettier, delightful to paddle, weighs 15 lbs—but it is small and would definitely not accommodate a 75 lb dog.

Their Classic boats are wider and a lot of folks with dogs seem to prefer them.

Take a look at the New Trick 12. I think you and your dog would be very happy with this canoe, at 18 lbs.

I also have a Placid Boatworks Spitfire, ultralite, 18 lbs. Fancier, and pricier, and I love it, too.

I have a bad back, too, and getting these ultralite canoes will, I hope, extend my paddling enjoyment for many years.


Although I never paddled one, I was going to mention Hornbeck if I hadn’t already elsewhere. I think his boats are beautiful. I had been reading about Peter Hornbeck and he sounded like a great guy. Sad to hear of his passing last year. I understand they are still in business and in capable hands.

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Yes, Josh Trombley, who is CEO, is doing a great job. I can’t say enough good things about their responsiveness, their customer service, and my New Trick 11 that I so enjoy.

For anyone who owns or is thinking about owning a Hornbeck canoe, there is a very active facebook group, Hornbeck Boat Lovers. Members are generous about answering questions, and everyone believes the Hornbeck model they have is the very best one ever. I sure do.

Living in Florida, I haven’t (yet) been able to visit their facility to paddle every boat they make in their pond, but Josh was able to advise me and help me select the boat I needed over the phone.

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Sissy, I knew you would be great for lightweight canoe questions although it seems like years since I’ve been down your way.
No plans for coming but schedules are very flexible.

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Thanks, Sissy, and everyone!

It’s important that you take your paddling skills (and those of you dog) into consideration. If your solo skills are weak (I suspect that from your original post) the stability of a slightly wider canoe may be warranted. I’m guessing that your dog hasn’t spent much time in a canoe either and it may take a bit of time/training before he/she settles down. An otherwise appropriate canoe (someone mentioned a June Bug) may be too lively for comfort. Moving up to an Illusion or similar sized boat may be a lot more comfortable.

M…my dawg attended a lot of canoe Symposia. Not one of the instructors could teach her how to paddle! She did master the bow exit!


My dawg holds my beer while I paddle. On his head. He has great balance!

Pru, I’ve zoned out on where you are located (i believe you told me in our former exchanges). I’ve got a Curtis Lady bug I bought two years ago and agree it could be a good option for you. But I seem to recall you live too far away from me (in southwest PA) to be able to try it out.

Lady Bugs do regularly turn up around the Northeast for around $900. I can easily carry and load the 34 pound canoe over my head by grasping the gunwales. And the narrow beam and tumblehome are well proportioned for shorter arms.

Honestly, I am debating at this point whether to keep the Bug or not myself. It’s a lovely little canoe but I just have not used it all that much and am trying to take a more realistic look at my absurdly large armada of boats and the limited number of years I am apt to be able to use them. I sort of have this existential fleet crisis every Fall when I have to clean up and store them all.

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Did you have to arrange the shipping?

I’ll PM you.