Pros and Cons of Aluminum Canoes

Aside from portability issues (i.e., weight) what are some pros and cons of owning an aluminun canoe?

I’ll bite.

Heavy (compared to modern composites)

Cold to the touch

Noisy if you are fishing

Sticks to rocks in rivers


Lasts forever even if stored outdoors


Relatively high initial stability


The great virtue of aluminum canoes is that you can leave them out in the sun, snow, and every other kind of weather for years with no damage. Most plastics and composites should be stored under cover to protect them from UV exposure.

Used aluminum canoes are also relatively inexpensive.

Disadvantages are that they’re noisy, cold in cold water, and heavy. They will stick to rocks instead of sliding over them.

theft a bigger problem these days
The price of aluminum has made aluminum canoes a target for scrappers.

Aluminum can be made quieter and more comfy by putting foam or light rubber pads on the floor. Also, pipe insulation on the gunwales helps.

I rest my case.

Pros and cons
Agree with above but also (and I am talking about Grummans and Alumacrafts only - don’t have much experience with stuff like the Beaver Super Aluminum racers or anything like that)


Carry big loads without a lot of degradation in handling -partly because by many modern standards they don’t handle that well light either.

Don’t draw much water

Can be used as heat reflectors for a campfire when cold weather camping.

Flat bottom makes a decent supper table at campsite.

More flotation when swamped than many newer boats.

Most dings can be repaired with a rubber mallet.

Very good initial stability for kids and dogs.

Due to the different tones produced when hit in different places, you can do a pretty good “drum circle” with one aluminum canoe and several drummers. Especially effective under bridges that produce echos.

That’s a good thing, right?

Difficult for a thief to steal quietly.


Don’t ever “taco” one around a rock. You’ll never get it right again - IF you can ever get it unstuck.

Have to learn to stroke without touching your paddle to the gunwales (prys in particular) or you’ll have to revarnish your paddle shafts every other trip. And you’ll never sneak up on wildlife, or anything else, until you learn to paddle that way.

Makes a mess of the paint on a roof if you car top and load clumsily.

Weight makes them easy to load clumsily.

Nicks in keel wear out straps quickly.

Con: shiny in sunshine
Wear your sunglasses.

And they are slow. Heavy and darned slow.

there is cons to owning one?
I am looking for one for a beater boat. I love em.

More Thoughts

– Last Updated: Apr-17-10 8:35 AM EST –

I used my 17 foot Grumman as my Quetico tripper for over 30 years. PJC has an excellent list, but here are some more.

- You don't have to stake an aluminum canoe down in a wind storm.
- They serve as an excellent source of loud noise to help scare bears out of camp.
- They are the very definition of flat bottom hull. Any 6" wave you have to pay attention to rolling with the exaggerated motion of the canoe. It's a darn good abs workout keeping you nose over your bellybutton out paddling in quartering waves. And that rocking feeling will last for hours and maybe days after you are done canoeing.
- I'd much rather trust my fate in a forest fire to being underneath an overturned aluminum canoe floating in the water than in a canoe that would melt or burn away.
- An aluminum canoe is sure to announce your arrival at the landing after every portage. Kind of comforting to your friends in composites that are already at the next portage 2 miles down at the end of the next lake.
- You are sitting high in the stern throne in one of these babies. The seats are at least 11" off the bottom. An if you need a more commanding view, just sit yourself down on the stern deckplate, but you'll need a traditional length paddle to reach the water. Darn near stand up paddling.
- Lost the portage? Not to worry. The multitude of aluminum canoes passing before you will have clearly left their mark. Just look for the aluminum streaks on the rocks. Who needs a map!

- When traveling in a group of composite canoes, you will either be exerting much more energy to pace with the group or you will be barely noticeable on the horizon.
- An aluminum canoe over ones head while portaging is an echo chamber. Kind of an early warning system for mosquitoes, but the source of unearthly screeches and scratches going through brush... kind of like amplified fingernail scratching on a blackboard.
- A beastly burden when portaging uphill or longer than a quarter mile.

Good summary
A couple of excellent summaries.

I would add, as has been alluded to, that aluminum might be a decent environmental choice, as even though it is energy intensive to produce, it is completely and fully recyclable. Recyclable only if it is damaged beyond repair, though. With careful use, I expect one could last hundreds of years. I believe Royalex is much more toxic to produce and when it gives up the ghost (much shorter life, as it is soft) not much can be done with it.

Sportspal 16’
I bought a used 16 ft Sportspal for certain rivers that love to scratch the gelcoat off my We-No-Na Spirit. Paid $300 for it and actually enjoy using it. The inside is lined with some kind of insulation to keep it quiet and it only weighs about 58-60 lbs. I also don’t mind loaning it out because I’m not worried about anyone scratching it. It’s not perfect but it serves a use for me.

They make an excellent outdoor
washtub, planter for a raised garden, compost container (wont melt!) and lobster cooker.

I used to have a 15 foot Grumman and we travelled many Quetico miles in it. Somehow. It didnt change but we did.

One more pro
Our horses like the sound it makes when they kick it.

They are rented in the park near me…

Pro… You can hear them coming.

Con… You can hear them coming.

Good point
Good point about being recyclable.

There are few choices for aluminum canoes.

The manufacturing process seems to have a limitation in shaping them, though Grumman canoes look okay.

If the seats have flotation foam built into them, kneeling becomes impossible.

They paddle so horribly that they really are only useful for rentals and unskilled entry paddlers who will not be portaging. Yeah, they are also way heavy, but they do have an advantage over any other material.

When the thing starts to leak at the rivets, just cut it up and feed it to the Golden Goat. You’ll get enough quarters back to buy another!

An advantage of aluminun canoes

– Last Updated: Apr-20-10 7:59 PM EST –

(sorry about the lame spelling of aluminum in title)

My late Aunt and Uncle took my cousins and me on a two week Adirondack adventure in the mid 50's. We camped at Racquet Lake and paddled there as well as about 6 other lakes. Our canoe on those ventures was a huge 18-20' Grumman. All that has been said about demerits is true and I'll add that they can get very hot in strong sun. However, there is one attribute that no other canoe material can match.

When my cousins hit high school they lost interest in canoe camping. My aunt and uncle changed their focus from canoe camping to weekend sailing and bought a sailboat. The grumman was relegated (abandoned) to the back yard for 40 years, gradually becoming overgrown with weeds and brush, finally so overgrown it was hidden from view.

When they sold their home (NY) to live near their daughter (CA) in their old age, they cut the abandoned grumman out of the brush, cleaned it, buffed it up with a power polishing machine and sold it for more than they had paid for it many years ago.

Not Horrible
I wouldn’t consider “not horrible” a glowing endorsement, but I have found the shape of Grumman’s to be not too bad, really. They are indeed worse than many other boats, but far better than Coleman/Pelican canoes, and for someone not in a hurry who likes a bit of initial stability, they do just fine.

In fact, I bet 90% of people who canoe occasionally wouldn’t notice that they are going a bit slower than they might, or not turning quite as fast.

I like the aluminum canoe for what it is. When I can pick up a used kevlar boat and refurbish it for less than aluminum price, I won’t own one. However, I would much rather go on a canoe trip in a Grumman than not go in something better.


makes a great ice chest for family parties. The aluminum will get really cold when you toss in ice and fill with beer.

Cheap: You can get a used one for about 200 bucks.

Can smash the hell out of them and pound them out with a hammer.

CONS: Make a great lightning rod!

When bashed into rocks the zillons of rivots pop and the boat will leak a lot. Some rivers out where i live you are not allowed to bring an aluminum because of the rocks and consequnces.

Cold feet and feel. The metal is nice and cold in the mornings and you cant sleep in your boat like other ones…very cold.

I believe the sound is closer to BOING.

Just sayin’