Old Town Pack canoe

I’m a kayaker, don’t know a single thing about canoes but have been curious about them.

What is a reasonable width for a canoe? As a kayaker I have a hard time imagining paddling something 32" wide.

I assume it’s not possible to paddle a canoe that wide with a kayak paddle?

What do you think of the Old Town Pack canoe?

Such width is no problem

– Last Updated: Mar-31-12 11:41 PM EST –

I started solo canoeing with a 230-cm double-blade paddle, and nothing about it was awkward or difficult. I didn't like the water dripping on me all the time, and most solo canoers who use double-blade paddles use much longer paddles to alleviate that problem, but the manner of boat handling becomes entirely different in that case, and that method really only shines as a way of going really fast for moderate distances or toughing-out a strong headwind. Anyway, my use of the double-blade was only a stopgap measure to make me reasonably competent on the water until my single-blade skills reached the point where I could reasonably make the boat go where I wanted it to while traveling at reasonable speed as well. There's a pretty long learning process to that, if you avoid common methods of cheating, which are improper but easy-to-learn shortcuts for making the boat behave. Oh, one other thing about a canoe is that you sit higher, and you are much higher if you kneel, so the sides of the boat are much lower relative to your body than the coaming of your kayak. You'll notice that racing canoes really have the gunwales tucked in close though.

Anyway, with the single-blade paddle, getting a vertical paddle stroke isn't too difficult despite the extra boat width. Of course it's easier to NOT paddle vertical (using a moderate sweep stroke), but it's just not that hard to avoid being lazy and do it correctly either. With boats not designed to track well, the hardest thing is getting the "feel" for interaction between boat and paddle and thereby noticing what the boat is about to do before it actually happens. When single-blading, it's common to paddle a perfectly straight line and have no two consecutive strokes be exactly the same. The whole process is one of continuous reaction to water, wind, and boat. To me, that's part of what makes a single blade so much more fun (well, that and the fact that you can make the boat do really handy tricks). Anyway, I guess my main point is that when the boat is paddled "as designed", you won't think twice about 32 inches of width.

What I've noticed when the average rec kayaker gets in a canoe for the first time is NOT any feeling that the boat is too wide to be paddled easily, but a strong feeling of uneasiness that it will tip over without warning at any moment. Most canoes are very forgiving in that regard, but apparently when a person is used to sitting with his butt at the water level, things feel awfully tippy and top-heavy when sitting in a canoe for the first time. At least, I've seen that happen enough times to believe it's probably a common experience. It doesn't take long at all to realize that the boat is perfectly solid beneath you though.

As far as what I think of the Old Town Pack, based simply on its specs, it is an okay boat for what it was made to do. It's easy to carry, and nice for poking around on small waters. It's not fast and won't cruise nicely when carrying a big load, but it works for well enough in its own niche. It won't make you think it's about to tip over when you hop in for the first time either.

canoe beam

– Last Updated: Apr-01-12 10:35 AM EST –

"Reasonable width" for a canoe will of course depend on its intended use. It also depends on where on the hull you measure the width.

Manufacturers often state several different widths. Width at the waterline (usually 3" waterline) is probably most important as far as a canoe's performance is concerned. There is also the width at the gunwales which will determine how easily you can load something (like a big paddler) into the hull, and how easily you can reach out over the gunwale to plant your paddle and execute a stroke. Maximum beam might be the same as gunwale width but is often greater, and is usually greater than waterline width.

Solo canoes, even performance ones, have to be wider than sea kayaks because of the paddler's higher center of gravity and the fact that water enters the hull if it is healed too much. A fairly sleek solo canoe might have a waterline width in the 26"-29" range. Some solo slalom racing OC-1s have a waterline width as narrow as 24", but they are hard to keep upright. Tandems and expedition tripping canoes are usually wider, as are many "pack canoes". Shorter canoes typically have to be wider to provide a comparable degree of stability and buoyancy.

Hull shape has something to do with it as well. If a boat has a continuously flared hull, it can be quite narrow at the waterline, but will "firm up" when heeled. But flared hulls make for greater gunwale width and can make paddling more difficult. So many modern designs have shouldered or recurved "tumblehome" in which the hull flares out to a "shoulder" some inches below the sheer line (hull top) and then recurves, or tucks back in to the gunwale line. The maximum beam of these hulls is typically right at the shoulder, and these boats will continue to firm up when healed until they are healed past the point of the shoulder.

Boats with a true tumblehome hull configuration have what appears to be a curved "bubble" on the sides amidships that projects out just above the waterline. The maximum beam of this type of hull may be only and inch or two above the waterline. If boats of this type are overloaded, or are heeled beyond the widest portion of the tumblehome they lose secondary stability very abruptly.

Thank you!
Very educational so far.

I have actually paddled a canoe before, sporadically for 20 years before getting a kayak, but I really didn’t know much about paddling and nothing about the canoe itself.

I’m looking for an affordable, small, light canoe for spontaneous trips close to home on ponds and small lakes, calm water. A grab-it-after-supper-and-go canoe. No camping (I use the kayak for that). I’m thinking 40 lbs or less and 12-14’, which led me to a used OT Pack.

"ponds and small lakes"
is just fine for the OT Pack. It’s not an inspiring hull to paddle, but certainly fills the bill for what you say you will do. It’s very light and quite durable. If you want to go lighter, look at pack style canoes from Hemlock, Hornbeck and I believe Swift has one also. They are composite and will require a bit more care but can be in the 20-24 pound range. In a pack canoe you sit on the bottom, similar to your kayak and you use a double blade paddle.

You can double blade an OT Pack as the seat is set further back than normal in a solo boat, thus the width at paddling station is narrower.

Again, not inspiring, but eminently practical for what you want to do…and it’s fun to be able to pick up your boat with one hand and carry over your shoulder!

You see, I didn’t even know a canoe could be inspiring to paddle, although I know what that means in a kayak.

I would like a canoe to have good glide—good distance traveled per stroke for least effort. What characteristics will yield that?


– Last Updated: Apr-01-12 12:28 PM EST –

As with kayaks, longer canoe hulls are "faster". But this might only be a consideration for you if you actually intend to paddle those hulls up to speed, which can take considerable sustained effort. A long hull typically has greater wetted surface area, and if you let the speed drop off, it may take more effort to accelerate back up to speed than it would in a shorter, "slower" boat.

For a paddler intending to move along at a comfortable, sustainable cruising speed, sometimes a shorter, smaller boat will feel "quicker", especially if you are making stops, starts and turns.

Rounded bottom hulls have the least amount of wetted surface area for volume of water displaced and are thus faster, but less initially stable than flat-bottomed hulls. The extreme example are the Olympic OC-1 flat water racing canoes which have a very rounded bottom and require great skill just to remain upright.

Most performance canoes that are not full out racers have a shallow arch bottom, which is faster and glides better than a flat bottom, or a shallow V bottom hull.

Composite canoes glide better than Royalex or polyethylene ones. Part of the reason is that they flex less under power, but they can also be constructed with very sharp water entries at the bow stem which the plastics can not.

The waterline length to waterline width ratio will give some indication of hull speed. Performance canoes tend to have a L/W ratio of greater than 6. Two hulls can have the same L/W ratio however, and one can have much more fullness toward the ends. The one with more fullness will tend to be slower.

Highly rockered boats tend to be slower. The rocker reduces waterline length and increases the draft amidships. The more hull sticking down into the water the greater the resistance to forward movement. Highly rockered boats also track less well (but turn more easily) so they require more attention and energy be devoted to correction strokes. A modest amount of rocker, especially in the bow does not tend to slow a boat down, however.

If there is any wind at all, the height of the sheer line or windage will play a big role. Canoes are much more adversely affected by wind than are kayaks.

If you are paddling in shallow waters, "swedeform" hulls which have an asymmetrical water footprint with more fullness aft of center will be faster than an asymmetrical canoe since it will resist "squatting down" which canoes tend to do at speed in shallow waters. An example of such a hull is this Wenonah Advantage which is a fast solo boat: http://www.wenonah.com/products/template/product_detail.php?IID=261&SID=a3276cfadb96eccc8452f7068ad09982

"Fishform" hulls which have more fullness in front of center tend to be slower in just about all conditions (other than paddling backwards).


– Last Updated: Apr-01-12 1:52 PM EST –

A couple minutes ago I started to address this question, and decided to quit before I got far. Good thing I did because Pete covered everything in the meantime, including a couple of points that I would not have thought of. One of my overall points was the how the feel of "efficiency" can be contradictory between different boats, depending on what details you really pay attention to. Pete addressed the way short boats often move through the water with far less effort than long boats, and I have a nice illustration of that.

I've used this as an example many times, but it really makes the point. I have two rowboats that look vaguely like canoes. One is 12 feet long and the other is 15 feet. Rowing the 12-footer feels pretty effortless as long as it's kept well below hull speed. At the cruising speed of an average paddler, 3.0 to 3.5 mph, the effort to keep the boat moving could be sustained all day long and then some and there'd never be a bit of fatigue (a bad case of "boat butt" and the need to move my legs around would keep me from going so long without stopping, but rowing effort at that speed is practically zilch). It moves through the water so easily that it can actually accelerate from a dead stop to 5.0 mph in a single oar stroke, and accelerating from a dead stop to 4 mph in one stroke can be done quite easily. This responsiveness sure give the impression of great efficiency. The boat is not as fast as it "feels" though. 4.0 mph is a good speed, and though the boat can be forced to go close to 5.5 mph, 4.5 mph is approaching the fastest speed that you'd want to go if traveling a long distance because there's a good bit of effort required at that speed. So the 12-footer is not fast, but it certainly "feels" fast if you don't try to force the speed too high. The 15-foot boat takes noticeably more effort to keep moving, and no speed feels as "effortless" as the slower speeds do in the 12-footer, but the extra effort required is well worth it if you have very far to go. While 5.0 mph is on the ragged edge of sustainable speed for the 12-footer, I can make the 15-footer go that speed for as long as it takes for "boat butt" to set in and create the need for a rest. The 15-footer can actually stop and start pretty darn quickly as boats that size go, but its reaction time is slow compared to the shorter boat.

Is a picture worth one-thousand words? Here's a video of me paddling my Bell Merlin II upstream on a flooded river.


The Merlin II is a compromise between speed and agility. It's my hardest-tracking canoe but it's nothing like a hard-tracking speedster. The efficiency isn't too bad though, and I think you can get a feel for it in the video. Since the boat is going against a fairly brisk current, a better indication of speed is to watch the water go by rather than watching fixed objects, but take care to not be fooled by the perspective provided by the lens, which is fairly wide-angle. This was faster than a relaxed pace but not at all difficult, yet a 12-foot canoe would not have kept up, unless perhaps using all-out effort with a double-blade paddle (and probably not even then).

This is going to take some study
Thanks again pblanc and guideboatguy for taking the time to teach me about canoes. Many of the principles described above are familiar to me from kayaks.

Guideboatguy, given your comments on length and ease of paddling, it seems like 12’ would work for me. I don’t want to maintain a high rate of speed. I want each stroke to be easy. I stop constantly to look at things. Ease rather than speed is the priority.

About Royalex, I thought it was a relatively stiff material, no?

So does it sound like the OT Pack might be right for me as a light beginner’s canoe on small bodies?

PADDLE: I use a 220 cm kayak paddle. Will this work with the Pack, which is 32" wide>

I forgot to mention that another goal is easy entry. I can find a light, short kayak, but not with the right cockpit. Hip arthritis has compromised my exit from a kayak. I don’t intend to give up kayaking, but I’d like to increase my days on the water with a light canoe.

Royalex is fairly stiff

– Last Updated: Apr-01-12 4:55 PM EST –

It will be plenty stiff enough for your intended usage, but the virtue of Royalex (apart from the fact that it is somewhat cheaper than a composite hull because manufacture is less labor intensive) is that Royalex does have significant give. This is why it has been a favored material for river canoes. If a Royalex hull hits a rock, it will flex and be less likely to crack than a composite boat.

Some thinner Royalex hull will have visible flex of the hull bottom while paddling which some people call oil-canning. This really won't have much impact on the type of paddling you intend to do. A racer would find it highly objectionable, though.

Like Eric, I have paddled canoes at times using a double bladed paddle with an overall length of 230 cm and didn't particularly care for it because of the paddle drip off the high blade into the hull. It did work, but if I were going to do much double bladed canoe paddling I would opt for a longer paddle. You might find your paddle satisfactory. A take apart paddle is definitely desirable and I would take a single bladed paddle as well if you anticipate any river paddling as double bladed paddles are not as good in tight spots or where there is overhanging vegeation. In such places you might prefer to break down your TAP and stow it in the hull and switch to the single blade.

Pack Canoes
There are two manufacturers using tumblehome in their pack canoes which will allow use of a 220 cm stick; Placid and Swift. All theo ~30" wide at the rails pack canoes need 240-260 cm paddles. Seating height is a contributory factor; wider the rails, lower the seat; longer the paddle needed. Of course. The horizontal stroke induces yaw, which requires compromises in turning to develop a hull design that tracks adequately; less rocker, especially aft.

I don’t consider RX stiff enough to be a usable material for canoes. [That said, I have a couple myself for particularly abusive conditions. They are the only hulls I loan out to friends.] Composites are always stiffer and lighter, which seems to be a good direction.

I maintain a list of all pack canoe manufacturers specs including L/W ratios I’d gladly forward in electronic format if desired. email charliewilson77@gmail.com

Order a double-bladed canoe paddle
from Mohawk and you’ll be all set.

Old Town Pack

– Last Updated: Apr-01-12 3:21 PM EST –

I think simply having a seat that's so much higher than that of a kayak might make getting in and out a lot easier. If you are already sitting at that height (or perhaps kneeling with your butt against the seat), simply swinging one leg over the side and shifting your weight to that leg as you stand up is likely to pretty easy, if that's a reasonable type of motion with your level of mobility. I think a true pack canoe, where you sit practically on the floor, would be nearly as difficult to exit as a kayak if hip problems are a concern. I'd expect that to be true unless you haven't been trying large-cockpit kayaks. That's something you'll have to figure out for yourself though (I can't presume to know for sure where the difficulty lies).

You won't find the Pack to accelerate as quickly or achieve the same speeds as the 12-foot rowboat in my example, because rowboats have some unique abilities when it comes to speed and rapid changes of speed which canoes can't match. However, you WILL find the relationship illustrated by the rowboat example to be true when comparing the relative ease of paddling a short canoe compared to a long one. Whether the Pack or some other 12-foot canoe is a good choice will be affected by other things too, including paddler size and weight, but I suspect you won't be too far off the mark if you choose that boat.

No More Mohawk Paddles
I heard that Mohawk stopped selling paddles quite some time ago. I don’t see any paddles on their website, but let me know if I’m mistaken.

Practically any solo canoe can
be paddled with a double blade.

I have been out canoeing most of the past month and put on some three hundred miles mostly with a gasp double blade and a thirty eight lb 15 foot long canoe that is 28 inches wide.

Being a former kayaker I have a forward stroke that I have worked very hard on and it induces no yaw whatsoever in my Nomad (related to the Merlin II) and 15 feet long. It got an honest 4.5 mph over 100 of those miles (measured with GPS)

But empty sitting on a high seat might not feel the most stable for you if you are daytripping with an empty boat. You can take a seat in any solo cane and make it lower till you do feel stable.

I too find the Pack uninspring for performance…Its too round shaped! But perhaps inspiration for you is derived more from where the use of a light boat allows you to go.

Exiting a pack canoe is not a problem even with a low seat though swinging your legs over the side is not my method of choice…having done that from time to time and often falling in as the boat skids out. I just rotate in the boat to on my knees and exit one foot at a time. Not elegant but it is secure and it works.

Mohawk paddles vs Mohawk Canoe
Mohawk paddles are not sold by Mohawk Canoe. They are sold by Mohawk Paddles.

I haven’t tried to order anything from Mohawk Paddles for years, but their site seems to be alive and well:


OT Pack
The Old Town Pack is the canoe version of a short recreational kayak.

Good to know
Years ago, Mohawk canoes and Mohawk paddles were sold by the same company. They used to have about the best rock-bashing paddle for the price (for those who want such a thing, like university outdoor clubs and rental outfits), so it’s good to know they can still be purchased.

Its funny that
the op and i are exactly reversed. I paddled a canoe all my life and now paddle a kayak. I can’t imagine choosing a kayak for tripping and camping unless I’m paddling huge lake crossing or in the ocean. The canoe is so much more comfortable and holds so much more gear. You can really live pretty well on a canoe trip. Not at all like kayak tripping.

So my current use is Kayak for day tripping and canoe for lengthy trips. But from your description of what yo are looking for I think I would be looking for a kevlar hull - maybe 15 or 16 feet. But, that is just me. The pack is a specialty canoe - not versatile.

I see your point about the volume
I have done canoe camping in the past. Keeping things dry and in the canoe was a challenge. You don’t have to worry about that with a kayak.

I wouldn’t want to be solo paddling a loaded canoe in rough conditions. For that I feel more secure in a kayak. I’m a backpacker and although my kayak has low storage volume for its length due to low ends, it’s still more than twice as large as my backpack, so to me that’s luxurious.

I wish I could afford kevlar but I can’t.

What do you think the speciality of the Pack is? I do want it for special conditions. The kayak will be for everything else.