Newby looking for canoe

Newby here. I am looking to purchase a canoe around 16 feet long and suitable for 2 people. Interested in one that is stable and won’t tip easily. Wider the better. Will probably fish some but will be used mainly for recreation. Which is best, alum or glass? What are some of the things I need to look for? Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks.

Where to begin
Where will you paddle? New or used ? what have you paddled before? Is there a dealer near you that can let you test paddle a few? is there a rental place that sells used boats after the season?

I have 2 canoes both old town both made of royalex.

the old town discovery is a pretty standard entry level all around canoe but a bit on the heavy side.

you might want to read reviews of that just as a starting point then compare to othe manufacturers.

You asked aluminum or glass? I say royalex

Royalex may be dead, forever.
Right now, we’re poring though existing retail stock, while canoe makers are working through their last pile of “raw” Royalex sheets.

new canoe

– Last Updated: Dec-05-13 8:01 AM EST –

You will likely get lots of advice here and anywhere else you go. You can try googling something like "beginner canoe" and end up being more confused than ever unless you consider most of what you read as background before forming your own opinion.

However, i do recommend starting at one place, John Winters page:
and especially consider answering the questions on the "priority list" of the "how to buy a canoe" link.

Most beginners first thought is to get something wide so that it is stable. I would say don't put too much emphasis on this. You will soon learn that the right amount of "tippiness" in a canoe can be an efficiency advantage. You will learn to handle it. Unless you get into racing canoe designs, don't worry too much about it.

Learn about initial (or primary) and secondary stability, and you may decide that the canoe with the highest amount of primary stability (wide and "stable") is not what you want at all when you are reaching over the gunwale to net that fish, and poor secondary stability suddenly fails you.

Nothing beats actually trying out several canoes under the guidance of a knowledgeable outfitter. I caution not to form an opinion too early after you start paddling. It can take a while for the boat to reveal itself to you before you can make the best decision.

Doubt its going to die -
but if so, all the more reason, get a royalex boat now while you can. I recommend an Old Town Tripper. Used is fine. They last forever. I’ve been paddling longer than I’m willing to admit and I just bought a 20 year old used tripper and its great. The reason I recommend it is because it is very stable and very rugged and very little maintenance is needed. I prefer 17 over 16 personally - more room and more room for error when the family is aboard.

Yeah, I had one, good ww, great poling
canoe, though rather heavy. Because of its 80+ pound weight, I would not recommend it to most people. But for anyone who has “the system” down for getting heavy canoes to and from the river, I can’t think of a better alternative.

Remember, though, a newbie is not
going to be able to judge canoes accurately by trying them out. If an experienced professional is there to interpret newbie’s expressed needs, resolve contradictions, and help newbie understand that some quirks of a canoe are actually strengths, that may make a demo session meaningful.

Because I’m very large of body and foot, demo sessions are usually uninforming or impossible. I have bought all but two of my 12+ boats without trying them out, and I have made very, very few mistakes. I’m the sort of person who will have read John Winters and several other sources before selecting a boat.

Demo sessions are certainly worth the effort, even for the ignorant. But it is possible to get along without them.

First: canoes don’t tip !
People tip them!

There are too many on the market for someone to recommend one for you.

Your best bet is to get to some pond, lake or river where there is a rental place and try different ones out.

Get the make of one or more that you like, and then come back and ask here about it, and you will get better advice.

We have fifteen canoes, (Kevlar, roylax, carbon fiber and poly) but I would never recommend one for you.

We rented some aluminum ones last year and they were fairly light weight, well built and right now I am looking for a used one.

Jack L

Don’t over think
the decision. There is no such thing as a perfect canoe. Every one has strong and weak points, but they are all somewhat adaptable. If you buy a used one and find it unsuitable after a while you can sell it and narrow in on the boat you really want. The important thing is to get a boat and start paddling.


something with some rocker in its ends
…although I think that’s pretty standard, always check for some rocker(ie lesser than straight keel line). Width isn’t the end all factor for stability with some efficiency.


Great forum. Thanks for the input. I really do appreciate it.

Check the used market in your area
Composite canoes made using some type of resin impregnated fabric or fabrics (fiberglass, Kevlar, polyester, carbon fiber, etc) are generally going to be lighter than most aluminum canoes of similar size. Most folks these days prefer a well-made composite boat to aluminum.

If you anticipate doing mostly flat water paddling I would choose a composite boat over a Royalex boat since the composite will generally be lighter and stiffer. But I wouldn’t rule out Royalex.

There is nothing wrong with aluminum and it is the most maintenance-free material by far, but designs are limited in number, the material gets hot in summer and cold in winter, and it sounds like a hammer banging an oil drum if anything hits the boat.

As was said by Jack and Peter, don’t get hung up on particular models to look at. There are so many models of versatile tandem canoes that you will be overwhelmed if everyone offers you their favorite choice. And many models might fit your needs very well. You really won’t be in a position to know what would really suit you best till you do some paddling anyway.

New composite boats are very expensive, but generally speaking a serviceable used tandem boat of good construction can be found if you look around. Craiglists for cities that you are willing to drive to is a good place to start. If you come across something that looks attractive to you, post another thread asking if it would be suitable for your planned use.

Wenonah website
The Wenonah Canoe website has a nice guide to chosing a canoe that you may find useful.

Read this

and this

before you begin shopping in earnest. You didn’t ask for a specific brand, but IMO you could do a whole lot worse for your purposes than a Mad River Explorer. It meets all the criteria you stated and many you didn’t, and you’ll likely be able to find one in decent shape used at a good price. There are many others that will serve you just fine, but I thought I’d throw that out there in case you run across one and wonder if it will work. Happy hunting.

save money and have fun
My advice is… check craigslist and local classifieds. Buy a cheap used canoe and go paddling. anything that floats and is in reasonable shape. Join a local paddling club or make some friends on the water. Ask to try out there boats. Spend time on the water to learn if this is something you really enjoy. Learn through experience and research. After a while you will learn what your preferences are. Most important get out there and have fun. Good luck!

36" beam, lightweight, used
Look for a canoe with a 36" beam, which is maximum width in the middle, in a 16’-17’ length. This should be stable enough.

I’d buy used because you can get a lot more value for your money, and still get a canoe to last your life.

Finally, I’d get the lightest weight canoe you can afford, which means a composite canoe with Kevlar or carbon as one of the laminates. A heavy canoe will be an unused canoe.

a heavy canoe will go unused

– Last Updated: Dec-19-13 1:58 PM EST –

I am starting to see that. We started off with a fiberglass used canoe, then went to an 80lb osgaian (which we still have).

Don't get me wrong, it's a great canoe to strap a motor on and load up the family, but it's a pain in the butt to manoeuver on land, put on and off van, lug up to camp site and we never explore any surrounding lakes.

Maintance free, great for cottage or if you leave it out all year, but I wish we had invested in a composite from the get go. This of course, after we spent a year with a used canoe and realized it was something we wanted to continue doing and enjoyed.

The advise for checking used, local craiglist, kijiji or message boards at MEC/REI is something I'll second and recommend. I am constantly checking and have seen some great deals out there.