Pack Canoe

Looking for recommendations on the various pack canoes out there. My wife has found that when paddling her Tarpon 140 with a kayak paddle her arthritic wrist doesn’t hurt unlike when paddling with a canoe paddle. I hate lifting that Tarpon up on the truck, so I’m looking to get her a pack canoe for her birthday.

She is 5’3" about 1… (she’d kill me if I put her weight on here), just let me say she’s medium build. We paddle mostly slowing moving rivers, small lakes and marsh areas near the ocean, so we do see some waves and wind.

Mohawk Solo 14
I thought I wanted an Old Town Pack, tried one and didn’t like it. It was very slow so I decided on a solo 14. I LOVE this canoe. I paddle with a double blade and have no problem at all keeping up with my friends and their kayaks. If I had to get rid of all of my boats and just keep one, the solo 14 would be the one I would keep. Just my 2 cents

Placid Rapidfire.

Pack Canoes an Overview

– Last Updated: Jun-23-10 9:05 PM EST –

Pack canoes developed here in the Adorondacks as minimal watercraft; the paddlers sitting low to improve seakindlyness while keeping weight to a minimum to ease the carries. The pack category has developed since.

Several companies continue to make small, ~ 10 ft, very light hulls with minimal outfitting. Weights can be as low as 12 lbs. Hornbeck is the best known, but GRE, Hemlock and Savage also continue this tradition. All these hulls are a little fragile compared to industry norm.

Several builders have chosen to to make slightly larger hulls a little more ruggedly with enhanced outfitting. Bell, Vermont Canoe and Wenonah all have 12-13 ft models that are faster more seaworthy than their smaller kin, more river worthy, and more comfortable due to enhanced outfitting; footpegs, back bands, better seating. But they weight ~ 25 lbs.

Swift and Placid kinda take the thing to another level with integral foam rails that infuse with the hull to keep weights under 20 lbs with deluxe outfitting. Placid adds significant tumblehome, foam thwarts and five seating options.

Placid has longer, higher performance hulls of similar construction. Hornbeck also has longer hulls, with construction and outfitting as per their focus on minimal weight rather than ruggedness.

One caveat, it one sets out to build anything lightweight, they are soon faced with the dichotomy between fragile and expensive.

Foam cores are always an issue. They stiffeb the bottom wonderfully and reduce sidewall weight because everything from that stiff bottom is stiffer too, but once the core is holed, the repair bill approached the price of the boat.

Racers accept that cost/ eventuality, most recreational psddlers will not.

Solo 14 is a big boat
I found the Solo 14 a little large for me, at 6’0" and 220 pounds. Presumably a 5’3" person would find it huge. Even the Solo 13 might be too big.

I would steer the OP to one of the dedicated pack boats, assuming the paddler can sit on the low seat comfortably. I’m happy with my Placid RapidFire, but it may be more boat than needed. Maybe the SpitFire or one of the other small canoes? There are several out there, from Bell, Vermont Canoe, Hemlock, Hornbeck, and probably others I can’t think of. I don’t know how to choose among them.


Thanks, CE. Very clear summary.

Solo Canoe
I have an Old Town Discovery 119 (11’9")which only weighs 48 lbs.

Dicks has a Guide 119 (same thing exactly) for 399. now. It is tough and handles well. The seat needs to be adjusted with new dowels so it is about 1" hicher in the front. I use a mohawk 102" kayak paddle most of the time and keep a single handy for tight places. I don’t do day trips and have loaded this canoe with enough gear foe a 5 day trip with no problem.

I have a pickup truck and slide it in the bed, I bought an extender from Harbor freight for 39.00 and stick this in my receiver hitch, tie the canoe down with a couple of straps, throw my gear in and I am off.

I did build a rack thet slides in the truck, but it was to high to be comfortable so I came up with the exrension idea.

Vermont Tupper
I’m 5’ 3 1/2" and paddle the Vermont Tupper. It weighs just 25 pounds, which is greatly appreciated. Fast and very maneuverable and downright pretty. I can’t think of a sweeter birthday present.

skin on frame canoe
I caught this on the builders’ forum this morning. There’s building info out there, somewhere, for canoes.

Poke Boat
The so-called pack canoes, which to me are actually undecked or partially decked kayaks, are fairly tippy as well as being light. This includes all the manufacturers mentioned by CEW.

OK, OK, they aren’t “tippy”; they are “high performance”.

But it’s all relative. If the OP’s wife is used to a wide, stable SOT, she may feel tippy in the high performance pack canoes.

The Poke Boat, in addition to being light, is very stable because it is wide with a flat bottom. There is a thread on CCR about them, and I just met two guys yesterday who were paddling them. They have had them for 15 years and love them.

Here is the website:

A faster option
A Rapidfire would be faster than a shorter boat. Which may be important depending on what you are paddling.

I understand your point…
however the SOT isn’t the only thing she has paddled, and I don’t think she’d have any problem with a less stable boat. Matter of fact, the enhanced performance would be a positive for her, as I said that Tarpon is heavy and takes some muscle to get to speed.

I’ve come across a great deal on a new graphite Vagabond. Does anyone have experience with this boat, and would it work for the purpose stated in the OP?

Not a bad boat at all

– Last Updated: Jun-24-10 11:27 PM EST –

I had a Royalex version of a Vagabond for a few years. It was the boat in which I learned to paddle a canoe solo, and for my first year I mostly used a double-blade paddle. I used a fairly short double-blade (230 cm) to make it easier to do "canoe-like" paddle strokes pretty close to the hull, but most double-blade users seem to prefer a really long-shafted paddle. Of course you can spot those guys a mile away because their boats waddle like a duck, but I digress. Still, a "semi-long" blade would be a good compromise.

I was able to easily keep up with the normal pace of the average touring kayak when using a double-blade in the Vagabond. In spite of often being described here as mundane or even boring, the Vagabond is actually a reasonably fast canoe. It may not be exciting, but it moves through the water quite well. It is not really well adapted to choppy conditions, but it will handle medium waves okay, and I think it would handle chop better than any typical pack canoe (bear in mind that some of the "stretched" models mentioned by Charlie Wilson might do okay in chop too, but good luck finding one for a low price). It does pretty well in the wind too, though I found its handling in crosswinds to be counter-intuitive (it's not nearly as predictable as a symmetrical canoe when the wind is diagonal to your "point of aim"), but that little detail won't matter at all to a paddler using a double-blade.

What do you paddle?
The Vagabond would probably be faster than a shorter canoe. If the two of you paddled at a similar pace that would be a positive

Pack Canoe
Like String, I own and love the Placid Boatworks Rapidfire. However, considering the size of the intended paddler, I think the Spitfire would be a better choice for her. The PB canoes with wooden rails are a few lbs heavier, need more maintenance and are a bit cheaper. The canoes with infused foam rails will be lighter and are a bit more expensive.


diddo on placid
I also own the Placid Boat Rapidfire. I’m puny, 5’5", 115. I have the no maintenance gunwhales, and the sliding seat. It’s fast, stable and very lightweight, very tough. You need one…

Lighter SOT?
I am feeling you on the Tarpon. Nice boats, but heavy.

At 70# the 140 is one of the heaviest SOTs around.

Even my RTM Disco 14’ is only about 50#. Its a nice boat for a small to medium weight paddler, and very cheap, even shipped to the West Coast from Florida. The 20# makes a big difference.

Or if you want to spend the bucks, the Current Designs 140 Krestral SOT is only about 40#, but cost about $1,800. It can be had around here

Kayaks, especially SOTs, are a lot more popular than canoes out here. I have been watching for a light wieght used canoe for years, and really haven’t see any.

Check the PNET classified for California. Lots of kayaks, very few canoes.

Besides, the SOT leaves the option of paddling on the ocean, just in case it comes up.