Need canoe buying advice

Hi there. First time poster long time creeper.

My wife and I are looking for some advice on our first canoe purchase. We’ve tried out the Wenonah canoes and really like how they handle. Are the Old Town ones pretty much the same? There is a used (10yr old) one for sale in my area for $500. Is that a good price?? It’s a 14’ pathfinder. Looks good in the pics, but should we wait for something cheaper, different material, etc… We will be paddling on lakes and slow rivers mostly.

Any opinions are appreciated.


Different manufactures/ different design on the boats. I don’t think wenonah has any design close

to the Old town path finder. Good basic boat though. It all depends on your primary paddling goals

careful there!
They are not similar. Test paddle before you buy. There are big differences in canoes. stability, manouverability, speed, capacity, durability, behavior in the wind. Talk to other paddlers, try their boats, read reviews that compare varrious models. Good luck

A 14’ canoe is not likely to make a
good tandem craft for flatwater. Some possible tandems in the 15 foot range that might appear on the used market are the Mad River Explorer 15 and the Bell Morningstar.

But if you get into overnight camping, or carrying kids or large dogs, go for a 16 or 17 footer.

Good tips so far. Anyone have experience with either the Wenonah Prospect or the Old Town Pathfinder? Which company has the better quality?

What kind of paddling will you likely
be doing in the next 3 to 5 years? You mention lakes - are you thinking that you will be sticking close to shore and paddling in calm water only? Or will you be doing lake crossings or will you sometimes be out in rough water?

If this is your first boat - I think buy something used is worth considering. You need time and experience before you have a clear idea about what you want in the long run.

I second these comments
Dear cheesehead,

If you and your wife are average sized people or smaller you might get away with a 14’ canoe for a while. But if you are are larger folks or if you have intentions of ever doing any overnight trips in the canoe, or bringing along a child or dog you’ll be better off with something 15 feet long or larger. You’ll appreciate the additional room and carrying capacity.

Buying used is a good way to get started and since we are now entering the colder season you have some time to look for the right deal. You might want to check with any local canoe dealers or outfitters in your area.

The outfitters may still have some used rental boats that they want to sell before the season begins in earnest. If you talk to your local canoe dealers explain that you are looking for a used canoe to get started.

They may have customers looking to sell or trade their present boats in order to upgrade, and they will often put the two parties together to facilitate the sale of a new boat.

Good luck,

Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

Both companies have been building
quality boats for a long time.

Do not buy anything you cannot try. Do not spend too much effort and angst on your first purchase. It likely will not be your last as your proficiency and needs change.

Any Prospector is a handful for the first time buyer. Its maneuverable, designed for rivers, deep and catches wind and requires a good J stroke.

Still unanswered is are you going to sit or kneel and what is the purpose of the purchase…to trip overnight or day trip. Also if weight is a consideration. If lifting a seventy lb boat is a chore, it might stay in the garage more than it should.

The last couple treks we made last year
were down a slower moving river then across a lake to the dock. We will be sitting, and generally sticking to the slower/flat water. I’d like to use it for fishing too, and possibly have a dog along. I need something with a 400lb plus capacity min. The ad mentioned that the pathfinder was a 14’ 10". Did Old Town make a 14’?

Thanks for the replies.

400 lbs is within the realm of almost all rec tandems.

Ergo don’t get stuck on capacity. Warning Old Town and some others use a capacity rating of the weight you can have in a boat and have six inches of freeboard left. IMO and alot of makers that is insufficient. Old Town does not publish performance ratings but IMO I multiply by .6 OT ratings to get a decent estimate.

Pathfinder / Camper
Pathfinder was renamed Camper, there are a lot of reviews on this web site for many canoes. Try before you buy. Used would be a good way to start. Good luck with your search.

Camper 15


14’ 10" / 4.5 m


36" / 91.0 cm

Width at 4" Waterline

35.5" / 90.0 cm

Bow Height

22" / 55.9 cm


13.5" / 34.3 cm


57 lbs / 25.8 kg

Max Load Range

850 - 900 lbs /

Suggested Retail

$1,549.99 USD

so the max load in my book
that allows for at least eight inches of freeboard is just above 500 lbs.

Its a decent starter boat.

Stay with 17’+ when going tandem…
even when you get some paddling time and balance skills under your belts, a longer boat on flat or slowly moving water will offer more stability and tracking…especially with a little wind. Granted Royalex is heavy, but those tandems(17’+) from OldTown(Penobscot 17), Wenonah, MadRiver are stable, yet some can be pretty efficient once in the water…for Royalex boats. Royalex is just a heavy material…no way around it. A great get would be to find a used composite by major manufacturer = a lighter to lift boat.

Cheese, The Pathfinder is a good, basic tandem canoe. It’s very stable, has good capacity for your usage and the Royalex layup is very durable and easy to maintain. It’s also a good solo fishing and small river canoe. It does get blown around a bit in the wind because of the flat bottom. It’s true that you may progress to a more technical boat in the future , but I think the Pathfinder would make a fine first canoe for you and your wife.


I did see the specs on the OT camper 15
that’s why I am questioning whether or not OT made a 14’ canoe as the ad states, or maybe he meant 15’. The Camper 15 sounds like it could meet my needs at this point for us. We would probably upgrade in the future provided we still get our enjoyment out of it, but for right now I’d like to stick to the $500 used price range.

Dont get too hung up on lengths
the length of the boat is usually measured along the top of the boat from stem to stem.

That measurement does not matter at all. What matters is the waterline length.

I disagree that seventeen feet is necessary for tandem.

Many paddlers use fifteen footers or day trips and we used a fifteen foot boat for 25 years for week long trips in Quetico and Algonquin. When the trips got longer we had to get a longer boat.

Pathfinder vs Prospector
Cheesehead - the Prospector is indeed more difficult to paddle straight than some other common designs, but so is the Pathfinder/Camper. Both are effected considerably by the wind with a light load - the Prospector a little more so. The Pathfinder will feel more stable initially to a beginner on flat water, but the Prospector will retain it’s stable feel as the water gets rougher.

Neither have much in the way of speed or glide, although the Prospector will be the better of the two.

Another model you may want to look for used - especially if you are mainly paddling flat and slow water - is the OT Penobscot. Faster and easier to paddle straight than both those mentioned above, and with better speed and glide. It might feel “tippy” to you at first if you aren’t used to a more rounded hull, but that feeling goes away with time as you learn to keep your head centered over the boat. Pretty efficient hull, for royalex, and lots of secondary stability.

Thanks to all replies. I bought the
Pathfinder. $450 with two carlisle paddles. Wish me luck.

I agree. Never understood the inclination or desire to go short. Unless you are advanced white water person.

You will probably be wanting to
replace those blister maker paddles pretty quick though they are useful backups. Certainly before replacing the boat!

Do not grip your Carlisle paddle too strongly…no death grip.