Need canoe rec for DH's birthday

I’m hoping to get my husband a canoe for his birthday in April. I’m looking for something that would be a good fit for paddling (no motor):

  • one parent + one child (our oldest, 5 right now) on a lake
  • entire family (two adults, two children - one 5 and one 16 months) on a lake or the intercoastal waterway

    We are pretty able-bodied and able to lift quite a bit, although I would prefer not to lug around a crazy heavy monster. I’d like to buy used ($300-500 budget).


    Nicole (in NC)

In that budget
you are limited to a poly canoe most likely. Which means an 80 lb/16’ canoe. Check out a Mad River Explorer Triple Tuff, or a Wenonah Northfork. Check with local canoe liveries for a good used canoe.

can’t help without

– Last Updated: Mar-03-09 12:19 PM EST –

knowing what's in your area. Let us know, help will be on the way. Probably start at 16'.

Looking at

– Last Updated: Mar-03-09 12:31 PM EST –

I've been looking on craigslist and it seems like there are a number of canoes for sale each month. In the past month there have been (in my price range and over 15 feet), canoes by
American Eagle, colorado canoe by pelican, old town stillwater, old town discovery sport square back, etc....

I guess what I am trying to figure out is what weight, length, depth I need. Do I need square back or not? Any suggested materials that the canoe NOT be made of? Any brands that are recommended or definitely NOT recommended?


What is
a local canoe liverie? where would I find one?

squareback is for
attaching an outboard motor, and won’t paddle as well as a pointy sterned model. Liveries are canoe rental shops, often part of a paddlesports dealer, often on a river or lake.

what you listed doesn’t elicit a positive response. If you could find an older traditional Disco 168 or 174, a common livery canoe, you’d be good to go. heavy but a decent boat. Local shop dumps their beaters for $150, leaving paddle and lifejacket money!

you should shoot for a used canoe 16’ or longer. The #'s on the Old Town canoes (168, 174, 158, etc… )correspond to the length. A 168 is 16’8" in length. Don’t worry about weight as your budget listed will keep you in the heavier canoe market. I’d stay away from the coleman, pelican type canoes as they are 1 layer poly boats. Not nearly as durable as the 3 layer ploy canoes such as the triple tuff Mad River, or the poly link/crosslink (3 layer) Old Town canoes.

Good luck!

$300 will get you a used Grumman
It’s crazy heavy but just right for your other needs if you will be on flat water or slow moving rivers.

How heavy is
crazy heavy?

I’m hoping to head to REI this weekend to check out different models and weights, then keep looking on craigslist!

I don’t know about
Gruman’s weight, however most poly canoes are going to be in the 80 lb neighborhood. This is considered heavy by most. Royalex canoes in the 16’-17’ length will be about 65 lbs. 15 lbs dosen’t sound like that much of a difference, but it sure is nice if you are having to load it on top of a vehicle.

Yep 80 pounds is not out of the question
But if $300 is all you have… There’s always a used Grumman around for sale. For two people it’s not really that bad. I lugged mine around by myself until the middle of summer before I went to something else.

as a camper
around 9-12 years old, we paddled Grummans. Had to get them out of the river, flip them and put them on sawhorses. Always seemed easier putting them IN the river! Wasn’t so bad. Seems to me they might be lighter than a 82 pound disco, but after 40 years ahhhh…

Thanks for all the advice.

One more question - is there a significant advantage to buying new? Possible I could afford a new Mad River Explorer 16 TT with some discounts I have.

New is just unscratched
As soon as you use it, it’s used. I always try to buy used if possible. It’s kind of like the animal shelter. You are giving a neglected canoe a new home and a chance to get back on the water and be a part of your family. Ain’t that sweet. By the way, avoid Rogue River brand. They don’t sell them at Wally Marty because they are good, just cheap.

totally agree

– Last Updated: Mar-04-09 8:50 PM EST –

scratches are cool.
If you could find an older Royalex Explorer, you'd be set for life.
These guys don't mind scratches.

One main advantage to buying new…
You get to choose which model and when to buy it. That’s it. If you have a pretty good pool of used boats to draw from, you don’t need to buy new. Of course, used prices should reflect the condition of the boat.

Scratches are
character marks!

I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a used canoe. Look out for canoes that are “canned out”, i.e. the floor of the canoe is depressed inward. (plastic canoes only…)This is a sign of improper storage, or a canoe that is more used up than not.

I just bought a “used” Bell for well less than half of new price. It has been in the water once! Be patient and look around. There are some great deals in this present economy.

What I’m looking at
I found an Old Town Stillwater 16’ in my price range. It is about 15 years old, but supposedly was not used very much and is in great condition with few scratches. I think I will go take a look this weekend. Let me know if this is a horrible idea, and if there is anything I should be on the lookout for!

And thanks again for all your advice!


If the Stillwater is priced well I think it will do what you want. It will be a little cramped with the entire family in it but probably acceptable at least for awhile. Here are a couple of reviews: and here are the Old Town Stillwater specs:

At 65 pounds it is not a “crazy” heavy boat so loading and unloading won’t be too bad. It should be plenty stable yet capable of solo paddling. keep in mind no canoe can do everything and do it well. That’s why so many folks on here (myself included) have more that one boat. But let me say if I had a limited budget and your situation I would certainly consider the Stillwater.

the fiberglass to see if it is worn much at the ends. This may be a good choice for you unless you are going to paddle rocky areas. Fiberglass and rocks don’t do well together. Fiberglass is easily repairable and 65 lbs is pretty good for a 16 footer. IMHO, in good shape that canoe should run from $200-$400.