New to the water, eager to learn

-- Last Updated: Aug-09-14 2:40 PM EST --

I'm a 35 year old guy who has always loved the outdoors but never taken to the water. I'm looking to change that soon though and I'd love to learn more as I "dive in".

My first concern is in regards to what type of kayak I should purchase. I'll be starting off with some smaller, calm lakes and may eventually move up to creeks/rivers but that would definitely be at least a year away. I'm also a heavier guy (about 235) so I want to make sure the kayak I buy is suitable for me.

I've read about people taking their dog in the kayak and I would absolutely love to try that out. My dog's a little older (7) and pretty calm so I think he'd do well. He's gone out on pontoon boats with me before and loved it.

I have a 4 door Jeep Wrangler and would be carrying the kayak on the roof so I don't need something small enough to fit into a car/in a truck bed.

Does anyone have advice based on that info? I'm open to any suggestions. And if you feel a canoe is a better option for me, I'm certainly open to that too.

a canoo, Pilgrim. Definitely a canoo.

Need ah’ say more!


Many many options
I am also a bigger guy and have played around with a lot of boats.

You will probably find yourself with a few different boats which is typical of paddlers. One for rivers, one for lakes and sometimes a little bit of a crossover.

If you want a strictly lake and open water kayak you would have fun with something like a Necky Looksha 17. I had one and loved it.

If you want to run some rivers with good white water you want to look at something like the Liquid Logic Remix 79.

A Pungo 120 will be good for flat water and easy rivers with a few ripples. You can technically run a class 2 in it but you need to know how to paddle.

Sit on top kayaks are also a lot of fun. I used to have a Ocean kayak Prowler 15. Fun and super stable boat that you can take a dog on very easy.

Personally I am ditching that last of my kayak gear and moving towards canoeing. I find more enjoyment out of it, bonus is I can take more gear.

Currently I have a Wenonah Recon (had its maiden voyage today) and a Mad River Courier. I also really like the Mad River Explorer 16 for tandem paddling. Something like the Courier and the Explorer 16 can run down a class 2 easily and paddle flat water with your dog and gear.

The big down side to canoes is if the wind picks up you will hate life.

Either way you go be sure to buy quality equipment, take some paddle lessons, always wear a pfd and keep practicing.

In the off chance you are in the Boise, ID area I am more than willing to help in person.

How big is the dog
and will you be carrying on with dogs in the future ? I ask because you may not want to paddle with a dog right off. Your dog is older you said, so consider accordingly. And size of course matters, you are already 235 without the dog in the boat.

With all that said, people do like the Pungo for it’s open cockpit, friendly behavior yet also it paddles nice. I like the 140 though. The 120 I believe has a 350 lb weight limit.

I love kayaks but I love canoes even more !! Give me a canoe with somewhat classic design, good on lakes or in light white water, some wilderness and peace and quiet that puts me in heaven. And with a canoe, depending on the model, plenty of doggy space. I would agree that a Mad River Explorer 16 would do everything you are looking to do. I don’t know the weight of the lighter composites in that model. But there are others too. The OT Camper I believe comes in a 15, I love my 16 it’s been a great boat. But these boats are not everyone’s first picks in a solo boat since they are tandems that can be soloed. I’m thinking of fitting the dog in.

New to the water, eager to learn
If you have an older dog, or a dog at all, you might also consider getting a doggie PFD. I think, being in a boat, some people forget the extra effort current adds. If you toss them overboard and have them swim against the current, they will understand more.

There was a suggestion to buy quality gear - but understand that the boat/s you start out with will most likely not be the boats you end up with. However, if you have a good “on the water” community, then selling gear and buying something else might not be too difficult and it what you are selling is good quality, it will sell easier. Just understand that the “expense” doesn’t end with buying a boat.

There are Hybrids - kayak type profile but open cockpit like a canoe. Some say they are the best of both designs. Some say they are the worst - not a good kayak, not a good canoe. But I’ve met people who really like them.


– Last Updated: Aug-09-14 5:28 PM EST –

It's sounds like a canoe is the way to go for me (and my dog). He's about 65 pounds and I would definitely have him in a pfd (along with myself, of course) I can't imagine life without a dog in it, but definitely understand that I should learn to go by myself before adding any possible distractions.

I really appreciate the model recommendations too. One question, would you advise against the Old Town Saranac 146? I ask because the price seems really good - maybe too good. I thought it might be a good starter canoe, but I'm not against saving up for a few more months to get one of the recommended models if they're be considerably better in the long run.

Old Town
I haven’t personally paddled that canoe. However I love Mad River and I think you would be happy with that boat. You seem to be on the right track with a canoe considering you want to take a 65lb dog.

The best thing you could do at this point is watch some basic paddling videos so you get a understanding of the strokes and feel more comfortable (youtube). Find a local shop or group you can do a few demos with. Then you can make a informed purchase.

If you do not have a local shop that does demos you can always toss a ad up on something like craigslist or here and see who has access to what boats in your area. Do not fear craigslist. I have bought and sold from there with no problems. Recently I wanted to demo a Bell Prodigy that was for sale on it. I never even met the guy and he let me take it from his house for almost a week.

While knocking out a few demos you can build up bigger funds for the new canoe.

Where are you located?

I would get a canoe
I would probably not get the Saranac.

You will not encounter the “fit” issues with a canoe that you might with a kayak. Although people do take their dogs in kayaks, yours is not a small dog and would almost certainly be more comfortable in a canoe than a kayak, even one with a large cockpit opening.

The dog will doubtless knock a kayak out of trim. Most kayaks have limited facility for compensating for a bow heavy trim. It is generally much easier to adjust for trim in a canoe.

The Saranac is a single layer polyethylene boat. Single layer polyethylene is not a great material for a canoe this long because it has too much flexibility. The maker gets around this by using molded in seats, including a molded in center bench with risers that extend to the hull bottom to afford the canoe a modicum of rigidity. But the position of those molded in seats cannot be adjusted, and if they are removed the hull will become very floppy. You can’t sit backwards on the molded seats either. Sitting backwards on the front seat of a tandem is one method used to paddle the boat solo.

Never paddled one but with the design of the Saranac comes almost 80lb and is all about primary stability. FWIW.

The Mad River Explorer
Appears to be out of production according to the Mad River site I visited last night. But there are plenty of other options out there. And incidentally a Royalex version the best I can determine is 65lb if you can find a used one.

We bought our OT Camper in 1996 at the Old Town Factory outlet. It’s a blem ( has a thin spot in the bow where you can see the blue under layer about an inch long and that’s above the water line). We paid $699 for the Canoe and pricing isn’t all that different today. My kid ( some kid at 40 years old) and his wife just bought an OT Camper 16 as well on sale, also a blem at LLBean and it wasn’t much more than we paid for ours considering the times. End of summer and fall deals will be showing up at the retailers ( already are around here), don’t be afraid to ask about blem pricing when you find something with a scratch in it or minor defect of any type.

A number of people in my club that paddle with dogs have gone to canoes that they can paddle with a double blade.

Nice choice would be a Rapidfire:

Here is a Packboat, but that might be a little small for you:

Great boats, but not inexpensive. (hope you can see these on Facebook)