Pack Boat?

I’m in the market for a new flat water solo canoe that I can double blade, though not 100% of the time. Definitely want light weight. Not adverse to the pack boat designs, but most seem to have small weight limits. I’m 6’3", 210 lbs, and will need to carry camping gear from time to time. Wife and kids are all in kayaks, and I want something fast to keep up without working too hard, but I’m a canoe guy. Have a great river boat already, so don’t need that capability. Suggestions???

An important factor is; do you want a high hung type seat,or sit on the bottom type? This will narrow down the choices a lot.


Your budget is another important factor. There are plenty of light, fast pack boats out there (Swift, Placid, etc.), but they ain’t cheap.

Budget is in place to get what I want, expecting to fork over $2-3K.

Seat position is a challenge, needs to be lower b/c I don’t really like to kneel, but not sure how paddling single blade would work from the bottom. I like Swift’s low slung kayak seat available for the Osprey, seems like a good compromise. Wonder if it would work in the Keewaydin 15 too?

PBW Rapidfire - Seat Position
We have two Rapidfires in the family and a slection of stock seats: “low”, “medium” and “high”.

Both “medium” and “high” seats can be taken on and off over the “low” seat that is permanently mounted to the boat.

In addition I have seen several custom seats types in his boats.

Suggest that you contact Joe Moore at PBW:


My first solo canoe was a 13’ Mad River
Compatriot, about 30" wide. Not quite a “pack boat”. I found that while it could carry overnight camping gear, even with light backpacking gear, it was too loaded down. I think you’re wise to look at solo canoes up to even 15+ feet long, because they carry gear better, and they’re fast enough to keep up with kayaks adequately.

If you want to sit, you can make a seat that holds your butt a few inches above the bilgewater.

I use an 8’ double blade (a bit over 240 cm) with a high angle style in my canoes. I’ve found that low angle paddles, like my Werner Camano, don’t work properly for high angle, and my 240 Camano is too short for low angle, even sitting. I suggest that you just accept a high angle style. If the blades drip, concentrate on a sharper, more forward, catch. For some reason, proper paddlng seems to cut way down on paddle dripping.

With a truly fast hull that tracks well, you may do as well or better with a bent shaft and “hit and switch.”

Coldfeet might join in on this but he weighs roughly the same as you and when we paddle/camp he uses his Rapidfire. His concept of traveling light is restricting his gear to weighing somewhere around the 50 to 60 pound range. I’ll let him expound on our paddle where we decided to bring in a load of fire wood adding another 50 pounds or so of weight during a five mile lake crossing. Bottom line is I’ve seen him in the Rapidfire loaded with 300+ pounds and while it slowed him down the boat was fine.

I paddle my RF with a normal camping load of 25-30 pounds so the boat is hauling a little less than 200 pounds. At that weight I can keep up a normal cruising pace with most paddlers in 16 ft. kayaks.

So I wouldn’t rule a Rapidfire out in your search. They’re not cheap and it’s doubtful you’ll be able to find one used but if you’re looking for a high quality pack boat you won’t go wrong with one.

Rapidfire, Vagabond
You can paddle many if not most canoes with a double bladed paddle if you want to, but if you want to keep up with folks in sea kayaks you are going to want something fairly narrow and sleek.

A Rapidfire would have the load capacity and is one of the fastest canoes out there that is not an out and out racer. But it would cost you a bit over $3K new. You might find one used in the $2-3K range, but there doesn’t seem to be a big used market.

The Wenonah Vagabond a boat that a lot of folks who like to use a double blade seem to favor. While not as fast as the Rapidfire, it is reasonably efficient, can carry a load, weighs 38bs in Kevlar Flexcore and 30 lbs in Kevlar Ultralight, and is about $1K less than the Rapidfire new.

Placid is certainly a very nice boat
But another one to consider is the Hemlock Kestrel. That puppy is fast! And Dave Curtis can build you a custom one really light. He built my paddling buddy one that weighs a mere 26 lbs. and is a real beauty.

Pack canoes

– Last Updated: Jan-03-13 9:44 AM EST –

and small weight limits do not go hand in hand in all cases. Longer ones of course haul more.

Archimeded principle works on a hull shape, not outfitting. Rapid handles a bundle of gear. Mine has been out to Isle Au Haut, on the northeast coast of Lake Superior and three times to the Everglades. All on ten day trips. I am packing for the fourth. I don't recommend everyone load 400 lbs into Rapid but it works without sacrificing speed if you get going and keep going..(have to remember f=ma)

Look at the PPW website for displacements at the various waterline levels. A similar sized hull will have the same displacement like the old Curtis Vagabond.

While you theoretically could double blade any canoe from a very low seat, the sheer on pack canoes is an inch lower and a little different shape to allow double blading. Now I do have a tall friend that is almost your height and she purchased a Curtis DragonFly that she added a very low seat to and paddles successfully. For you not familiar with the DragonFly, its a deep whitewater travelling boat.

Shorter pack canoe designs of course are subject to Archimedes principle so you dont want to go with an eleven footer.

Now for single blading from a low seat. FoxWorx Paddles make such a tool.

If you are looking for a more traditional boat that could be set up for low seating, I would suggest the Hemlock Peregrine..the big bro to the Kestrel. Its faster if you have the hpp to drive it because there is another law of physics..theoretical hull speed= 1.55 the square root of the waterline length. (Not LOA0

My experience
I had a Hornbeck for 2 years of tripping. A great boat,but I wanted to kneel. I bought a 15# Savage River Wee Lassie set up for kneeling. I carried me and my load(180#+35#) Ok and was built well,but stability was marginal. Now my “pack Boat” is my 25# Colden Flashfire. I am a little lighter than you and don’t have “the need for speed” so… If you can tolerate or want to sit on the bottom a Flashfire sounds good. My Kestral(kneeling seat) is my fastesr boat. I refuse to sit on the bottom any more!


Sticking to what I know,…

– Last Updated: Jan-03-13 2:42 PM EST –

... you could consider a Wenonah Vagabond, but make it a composite version to get the light weight that you are looking for. That'll be cheaper than a lot of the "nice", so-called "pack canoes" that are available in somewhat larger sizes than the true pack canoes (and I agree, the true pack canoes are probably too small for you when carrying camping gear, except perhaps on small, quiet waters). The Vagabond is not exactly "inspiring", but it moves along pretty darned quickly. With a double-blade paddle you'll keep up with any normal kayaker. Short, true pack canoes will not be nearly as fast.

Placidboat was my choice
The reason my gear weighs so much and waterspyder’s doesn’t on paddle/camping trips is that he eats those freeze dried dinners with boiled water and I use my “iron skillet” and cook up a feast on every trip. But of course that’s why I’m overweight and he isn’t. But after looking at him the other day he did gain a few lbs and his boat probably weighs over 200lbs now even with his mountain house dinners.

Joking aside the Rapidfire has been an awesome boat to paddle on day trips and with gear. Sounds like there are many different boats to choose from but I’m so glad that waterspyder turned me onto Joe’s boats. It’s probably best to try and rent some of these boats out and haul your overnight gear in it on day trips to see how it handles. Placidboats has a pond outside his place to test them out. Joe is a great guy and it’s made in NY!

Using single blade or double blade?
One of your posts above suggests that you prefer single blade.

You can use both in RF
and use a variety of pop in seats…of varying height. I have a low seat and a high seat that nests over it.

Rapidfire w. single blade, hung seat
The tumblehome on the Rapidfire hull facilitates using a double blade paddle when paddling sitting on the bottom with a double blade (gunwales narrower-less reach). That same design feature makes the Rapidfire sides unable to support a hung seat. They weren’t designed to do so, as it was designed to be a longer and faster pack canoe, not a kneeling solo canoe. It’s a superbly designed Pack Canoe!

Joe has built a few Rapidfires with extra fabric in the sides near center to support hanging a seat for paddling while kneeling. It would have to be a special order and one would have to contact Joe for info/price.

As a bottom sitter, I’m quite I’m happy with the lowest seat and the mid seat. The lowest seat tilts me back slightly, placing me against the backband on the days that my old back wants support. The mid seat moves me off the back band, giving me a more efficient stroke when the back is feeling good. While the lowest seat gives slightly more stability, the Rapidfire feels very stable to me with either seat and I choose between them based on a comfort vs. efficiency choice for that day, or bring both seats with me. Additional seats are available: a high height seat and adjustable seats. I have limited experience with them so I’ll refrain from any comments-See Placid site for info on those seats.


pack boat or cruiser

– Last Updated: Jan-06-13 8:37 AM EST –

If you really want a pack boat, look to the Hornbeck type design. My definition of a pack boat is one meant primarily for carrying to remote ponds... although I have done just fine on plenty of big and rough water with my Hornbeck. I paddled the entire NY section of the NFCT in my 10.5' Hornbeck and it did very well. The disadvantage is you are stuck with a double blade paddle with the Hornbeck bottom seat design. The route I took started considerably west of the official start of the NFCT in Old Forge, so i put on 185 miles in 7 days. That distance includes 62 miles of carries. Now that is a pack boat.

But if you want a boat that is designed more for open water that will let you maintain a good cruising speed all day, then go to something like the Rapidfire. While you can use a RF as a packboat, its length is really not the best design for that - too long to efficiently bushwhack through dense forest. And it is nearly 10 pounds heavier than a Hornbeck.

Regarding RF seats, I originally had all three - low, mid, and high nesting seats. I told Joe that I wanted something higher, so he installed a high rail mounted seat. I love it, especially for single blade paddling, which is my preferred mode of travel. The RF with the high seat is very responsive to body motion, as an aid to making the boat do exactly what you want it to do. And it is just plain fun to do with single blade. I have no trouble keeping up with others in tandem canoes or kayaks, even when loaded with camp gear.

I've paddled the 90-Miler Adirondack race for several years in the RF. Unfortunately (IMO), the rule for the class that was created for that boat requires a double blade paddle. But I can still out-maneuver most other boat classes in the tight winding river parts of the race. I have also paddled the RF several times in the Cannonball-90, the unofficial all in a single day version of the 90-miler. No rules on the cannonball, I prefer a single blade. I don't think the Hornbeck would get me to the finish in less than a day.

Yeah, go see Joe. Go see Pete Hornbeck too - he has several new models to play with.

Wenonah Canak
Consider the Wenonah Canak, at 16 feet not a pack canoe but only 39lbs. Easily paddled with a single or double paddle, fast enough to keep up with kayaks, good maneuverability and will carry a pretty good load of gear. Not a kneeling boat but a great sit and switch boat.

You can use a single-blade paddle?

– Last Updated: Jan-05-13 11:16 PM EST –

That boat has a floor-mounted seat. I tend to agree with other posters who've commented on paddle choice for boats with floor-mounted seats. The Prism, the hull on which the Canak is based is a good sit-and-switch boat, but it has standard-height seats. I tend to think that a double-blade is the only practical choice when sitting virtually all the way down on the floor.

Also, the website says the Kevlar version is 42 pounds, which is almost ten pounds more than an ultra-light Kevlar canoe of that length ought to weigh. Can't speak for the original poster, but I bet a "canoe guy" like him wouldn't like paying a few hundred dollars more (than the deck-less canoe) to get "the worst of both worlds", in terms of the unnecessary deck and its weight, and the impracticality of reverting to single-blade paddling when so desired.

Canak seat is not floor mounted.
But, I don’t think it’s as high as the Advantage or Prism.

My understanding is that most paddlers use a bent shaft canoe paddle with it, not a double blade kayak paddle.