Pack Canoe Design QuickCourse

After spending 20 yrs or so in a canoe (old town tripper) I moved to a kayak (Whistler) and now I kind of miss the canoe. Soooo, I’ve been looking at pack and solo canoes. I’ve become a dedicated Adirondack Lake paddler and have some horrid memories of trying to paddle a 17ft canoe up-wind on a big lake (which is why I like the kayak). I recently paddled a 13 ft Swift and kind of liked it, but having grown up thinking longer is better (as far as speed and tracking goes)I’m hesitant to take the plunge without doing some research. Does anyone have any experience with Pack canoes on big lakes? Would a 14’something solo be a better choice? I’m a little over 60 and a little over 200.

Work Your Way Through This Discussion

– Last Updated: Aug-25-10 5:57 PM EST –

You may/may not get some answers to the questions you have posed.

Me....I'm still sorting this all out, as the number of solo canoes and kaysks in my boat storage shed grows ever larger.

Good luck!


Pack canoes or solo canoes?
Your OP mentions both.

To me, the so-called pack canoe is a very short, very (very) light undecked kayak that you propel with a double bladed paddle while sitting on the floor.

A solo canoe is the traditional canoe propelled with a single bladed paddle while kneeling or sitting, or either.

I wouldn’t consider a pack canoe unless my primary requirement for the craft was the absolute lightest weight for frequent portages. Since that’s never been my primary requirement, none of my 15 boats is a pack canoe.

If you want to double blade a butt boat, it’s difficult for me to imagine any pack canoe that could be as safe, secure, controllable and as easy to paddle in wind and waves on a big lake than any reasonably designed kayak. The pack canoe’s open hull, higher sides and difficulty of self-rescue all make it inferior to a kayak in these conditions.

If you’re talking about single blading a traditonal solo canoe, that’s a different story and the subject of a thousand threads here.

It would help people give advice if you were more specific as to your goals and requirements.

how big a lake?
I agree with Glenn_McGrady, and I add:

I paddle a Placid Boatworks RapidFire on the Hudson at Manhattan. Placid markets the RapidFire as a pack canoe, though the boat is rather longer than the term “pack canoe” usually implies. The Hudson at Manhattan can be thought of as quite a long lake, with tides. I do fine in the RapidFire (which I paddle as a solo canoe, with a single paddle).

If you’re going to be dealing with winds over 15 mph, with distances of over a quarter mile from shore, and with significant amounts of gear, I would recommend a boat that is longer than 13 feet, or that has a deck.


Just curious, where do you put-in in Manhattan, and do you kneel or sit in the Rapidfire?

Sorry, don’t mean to hijack the topic.

Starting out

– Last Updated: Aug-26-10 12:58 PM EST –

You need to determine your preferred stance with usual paddle choice in the boat. Three groupings have developed over time: Kneeling with a straight single blade, sitting ~high with a bent paddle, sitting ~low with a double blade. You can kneel with a double blade, or use some other combination but it is not common. Pack canoe users, with a few exceptions, sit low with a double paddle.

The pack canoe was originally developed in the Adirondacks for a 110 lb guy with TB, so one can safely ignore the smaller sizes, but most pack canoes are 10-13 feet in length. I count eleven builders, with wide variation in outfitting, rocker, cross sectional shaping and build quality. Two makers offer longer, higher performance pack canoes; Hornbeck and Placid boatworks.

email me at charliewilson77@gmail and I'll return an electronic file on all the kneeling, sit and switch and pack solo canoe specs, except I haven't updated to 2010 pricing, having retired from the business of canoe building.

Thank you for your information. Your opinions are greatly appreciated. I think I’ve got what I need to go on from here (I’m going to buy a solo canoe (maybe an Osprey or MerlinII) and then use it on calmer days (and I’m keeping the kayak :slight_smile: See you later.

2nd comment on the Rapidfire.
It is barely affected by the wind;does not weathercock and the heavy one is 30 lbs.

and you can pack way
too much.

Did an Everglades trip with the usual ten days of stuff and also 100 lbs of extra…called fresh water.

Boat was still seaworthy.

I got the Rapid because though its a little long for a “pack canoe” so are my trips and I use it to keep up with a sea kayak gaggle on the Gulf of Maine. Need the extra length for some big water speed.