Please define 'pack canoe'.

As in Rapidfire.

I think it is usually taken to mean a
VERY light solo canoe, usually fairly short, so as to be almost trivially easy to portage. They are often set up like old Rob Roy canoes, to be paddled sitting with a double blade. Is the Rapidfire the new 15 footer? Maybe a bit long for my fuzzy notion of a pack canoe.

Old link

Fits my definition
I could fill up one of those with my BWCA pack. No room for me, of course, but hey - it is a “pack” canoe right?


Pack Canoes hang around in, well,

– Last Updated: Jun-25-07 10:11 AM EST –

packs waiting for some poor, unsuspecting paddler to pounce upon and throw him in the water. They are wild spirited, but with patience can be tamed.

Sorry. Just could not resist that. I tried, honestly I did ;^)

So now, a pack canoe is:

A small light canoe that is a lot of fun to paddle, portage, etc. You can throw one up on one shoulder, throw your back pack up on the other, and quickly and easily portage to the next. As I understand it they were originally made for the Adirondacks of NY.

They seldom have seats mounted to the sides or the gunwales of the boat. This allows less strength, and therefore material, in the sidewalls, making an even lighter hull. Of course that means a seat on the bottom of the hull.

This seat is normally low, greatly increasing the stability and allowing an even narrower hull to be used. Again smaller and lighter. My wife falls out of solo canoes with hanging seats. She hadsnever fallen out of her 24" wide RapidFire.

They are intended to be paddled with double blade paddles, but single blade paddles work fine too, IF they are short. ie, my 48" paddle is too long for my 12' SpitFire and my wife's 15' RapidFire pack canoes.

Most pack canoes are very quick turning. The ones I have paddled track well too in my opinion. Please remember I prefer my canoes to turn well (as in I think almost all We-NO-nah canoes track too hard, will not turn, and do not like them).

Pack canoes are fun little canoes!



RapidFire is 15 footer in production
a couple of years now.



amen on tracking
I agree totally that the we-no-nahs all track too hard.

You need a "Rushton"
Like Sairy Gamp. 18 lbs. 9’LOA

More on Pack Canoes

– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 2:55 PM EST –

Mick about nailed it, but here is some history and current contact info.

Hunter canoes, 13-14 feet long; paddled with a double blade by a low seated paddler were popular in the Adirondacks in the mid 1800s. In 1880, GW Sears commissioned a smaller craft, the 10ft Wood Drake, from Rushton. Sears. who used the pen name Nessmuk, took a series of trips in the 'Daks in 80, 81, 82 and 84 with a different hull each trip; all klinker built. He carried minimal gear, weighed 105 lbs and was dying of TB. Of interest, his last model was 10.5 feet.

Replicas of those hulls were originally popularized by Bart Hauthaway, who sold his "Pack Canoe" design to Old Town. Arguably, Bart started todays rec kayak movement with his semi decked pack canoe[s].

Peter Hornbeck started manufacturing Rushton replicas he stripper somewhat wider in Olmsteadville NY in the 1980s and now offers several sizes and innovative carbon ultralights. Dave Curtis has been making Hauthaway derivitives in Helmock NY for over a decade, and the Compass Canoe molds ended up with Native in the Carolinas. All three makers retain the constant flare and cheeked stems of the original Rushton Hulls.

Bell and Vermont Canoe have, through David Yost and Robbie Frenette, come up with more modern hull designs but retain the flared cross section of the original lap strake Rushtons. I believe Placid boats is unique in adding tumblehome to the concept. Tumblehome allows a more vertical, hence more efficient paddlestroke.

We get the odd paddler who wants a kneeling seat installed. We used to add 2 carbon belly bands to support the weight but due to disagreement with our customers over what "smaller paddlers" means,[210 is smaller only in the NFL], we've gone to a much heavier reinforcement to stiffen the sides.

Also interestingly, Mad River and Native have come out with rotomolded pack canoes this year - probably not many takers for portaging a 60lb solo but they work fine for fishing and further legitimize the genre.

Sit low in a small, light open boat and use a double blade: the things are fast, anyone who can remember the left/right sequence will arrive at destination, and one can immediately tell where the lunch pack goes. Not a bad concept.

Even more on ‘Pack’ canoes
So-called currently because their most important original design criteria was ease of carrying (packing) as opposed to ease of paddling. These boats were a regional design (Adirondacks, NY) that evolved over several years in the mid to late 1800’s by mostly sportsmen who wanted the lightest possible craft to pack into remote regions for hunting, fishing or other sporting activities. The pre-eminent boat builder of the day, J. Henry Rushton of Canton, NY was well aware of the desire for ultra-light craft by a segment of his clientel and was sort of “pushed over the edge” into building a series of these boats by author George Washington Sears, pen name “Nessmuk”, as outlined in an above post by CE Wilson. Rushton ultimately put the most popular model, the 10’6" version, into production and called it the Nessmuk. He cataloged it in a new section called ‘featherweight canoes’. As CE mentioned some of us builders prefer to offer the original design as an historic replica. Others offer updated versions. Several original Nessmuks remain in various nautical museums around New York State. Most notably the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake and the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton. Several years ago we had access to two Nessmuks in Clayton from which we took several templates.

Intestingly when we enlarged the original Nessmuk to 12’ (paddlers today tend to be somewhat larger than G.W. Sears) we tried to follow the original as closely as possible so that the two would look very similar. We so noted that in our catalog and web presentation of the two and I stated I thought both G. W. Sears and J. H. Rushton would approve. Not long after I received a phone call from a gentleman who introduced himself as Carl Sears from Mansfield, PA; Nessmuk’s great-grandson! He stated he was not a canoeist, but certainly knew the family history relative to the development of the ultra-light canoes and just wanted to thank us for the way we presented that fact in our presentation of the Nessmuk xl. Needless to say I was honored and also impressed with the way this particular bit of canoeing history has been carried forward for over 125 years, and now at least as popular as then.

The best written presentation of this history is found in Atwood Manley’s “Rushton and His Times in American Canoeing”, a joint publication of Syracuse University and The Adirondack Museum. Could be out of print as I note my copy is dated 1968 but it might be available through the Museum. Atwood Manley was a native of Canton, owned the newspaper there, knew the Rushtons and was often in the Rushton boat shop as a youth. Lots of pictures of the Rushton boats and shop and several scale drawings of Rushton canoes including the “Wee Lassie” which is the Nessmuk model that now resides in the Blue Mountain Lake Museum. Atwood got the Nessmuk story directly from J. Henry’s youngest son as I remember. Atwood was very active around Canton thru the mid 1970’s. Was often at the Rushton Memorial canoe races there on the Grass River.