River Solo Canoe for 200 pound paddler??


I have a Swift Osprey solo for touring and am looking to add a shorter royalex boat for river use, river tripping, and light whitewater. I want something that is maneuverable and playful and capable in CL II with some gear.

I weigh about 200 pounds and short height at 5’8 (short legs) which may affect the choice of boat for me.

I picked up a Mohawk Oddysey 14 cheap and really like it. Paddled it for the first time last night and liked the boat, but found that it was wider than I would care for.

I found that the boat seemed too wide while kneeling. It felt like I really had to spread my legs wider than comfortable in order to engage the sides and that I lost a little control because of this. This is with 1 inch foam already installed. (Mind you that I can easily sell this boat back to the original owner because she was very reluctant to sell it in the first place)<br />

I don’t feel this way with my Osprey which is narrower. It seems like a good fit for me and my shorter legs and provides a good connection with my body.

So….I started looking at other options….Bell Yellowstone and Wenonah Argosy. Both seem like perfect candidates as they have about the same dimensions as my Osprey, but have been told by the dealer that I might be heavy for these boats if I want to do tripping and light whitewater.

She recommended the Mad River Freedom solo or Bell Rockstar. But they are wider boats just like the Mohawk, and from what I understand the Mohawk and Freedom solo are very similar boats. On the other hand I did read one review that indicated that the Mohawk did not do well with heavier paddlers despite it’s high volume….

What do you think? Am I too heavy for the Yellowstone and Argosy?

Going to the Mad River Freedom seems to be of little change from my Mohawk. Is the Mohawk maybe a good match for me if I foam it out a little more?

Seems like wanting something that is a snug fit for my short legs and still a good match for my weight may make my choice of best boat more challenging, but maybe I am wrong.



The most important fit

– Last Updated: Apr-17-09 1:32 PM EST –

is as you have found knee spread. If you can spread your knees wider than you can in the boat comfortably chances are the boat is too small for you. If there is more boat than your knee spread, its too big.

Few dealers seem to be aware of this. Some are.

For the life of me I cannot see why the dealer thought either the Argosy or the YS would be too small for you. The YS will carry two weeks of camping gear unless you plan on taking an entire RV in the boat. Bell lists optimum load at 250 -550 lbs. I wouldnt want to test that at 550 in whitewater. But you are going to have to take a heck of a lot of junk to go over 300 lbs!

Friends who top 225 do fine with 75 lbs of gear for two week trips in an Argosy.

Ah’ be about yer size…

– Last Updated: Apr-17-09 1:35 PM EST –

5'9", scrapin' 200 lbs. an' truly like de Mad River Guide (now called de Freedom Solo). No problem wit knee spread - ah' too gots short legs. 80% o' me paddlin' on rivers be in de Guide. Edges nice. Heels overs nice. Decent trackin' an' great toynin' ta boot. Great canoo.


True enough
Throw in the class II WW and it’s bailmania

I think the man may be in a bad spot, size wise, for what he says he wants to do. He may have to pick between best fit and dry ride.

A Couple Comments
Flexibility probably plays a part too. Lots of people have very little range of motion in their hips which limits knee spread, and having short legs would amplify that situation when trying to fit a wider boat. I don’t know if that might be a factor here or not. If it is, gaining flexibility is like gaining strength or endurance - make up your mind to work on it and it happens.

One boat I paddle is a Novacraft Supernova, which depending how you look at it, could be defined as way too big for someone of my weight. Still, I love the way it handles. The boat I paddle most is a Mohawk Odyssey 14, and it really is a very playful boat, but not quite so much with more than 200 pounds on board. I think it has just enough rocker for quite good manuevering with a light load, but a heavy load sinks the stems more. If you are good at heeling the boat, that helps, but in whitewater I think it’s best to be able to pivot quickly without relying too much on boat-lean.

Based on my experience in the Supernova, I wouldn’t be surprised if you can do very well in the Mad River Freedom Solo as a boat with “oversize” dimensions (for someone your size) but good handling characteristics in spite of that. That boat will be a lot drier in whitewater than the Bell Yellowstone and is just about as maneuverable (and even more maneuverable when it comes to anything involving reverse motion).

I agree…

– Last Updated: Apr-17-09 6:55 PM EST –

I am generally in agreement with guideboatguy.

I have owned & paddled the Argosy, Mohawk Odyssey, and a Mad River Freedom Solo.
I currently own a Wildfire(royalex)aka Yellowstone Solo, and a Mad River Guide.
I also have an Osprey.
I weigh about 207 lbs. I am 8 inches "taller" than the original poster.
A 200 pounder is not too heavy for an Argosy or a Yellowstone Solo.

The Guide/Freedom Solo, in my opinion, might be a good choice for you. It will stay dryer than the Argosy, or the Yellowstone in high class 2 water, and with a good paddler aboard, it can deal with some low class 3 water. The Guide can easily handle high class 2 water carrying a 200 pound paddler & a hundred pounds of gear. It is a fun boat to "play" with when empty, or carrying a light load.

If I were going to be doing class 2 or higher on a regular basis, my second choice(after the Guide) would be the Mohawk Odyssey. I've done some class 3 in an Odyssey. It is not ideal for that application by any means. No matter what you do, it will ship water when going over big drops, and in large standing waves. The Yellowstone & the Argosy would be full of water & wallowing around in/under the river in the similiar circumstances.

The Rockstar is not going to be as manueverable as a Guide, Odyssey, Yellowstone, or Argosy in my opinion. Probably a better tracker & capable of hauling a larger load, but you said you already have an Osprey.....so what's the point in getting a Rockstar?

Don't expect a Guide/Freedom Solo to track like it's on rails; it won't. If you want to be able to do multi overnights, and haul a load it will.
If you want to carry a light load & "play" on class 2 it will.

All those who say that they regularly do class 3 in a loaded Yellowstone or Argosy; "please" post photos, so we all can see.


But the OP wanted a boat to run

– Last Updated: Apr-17-09 4:49 PM EST –

Class 1 and 2..

Where did 3 get into the discussion?

I have a Swift Raven for those long laden with two weeks gear trips..just going downriver in heavy water..no play per se. Because its a way big boat for me it is dry..but having short arms, I have to work to get those cross plants. So it would be with a Prospector be..

its a matter of finding that imperfect line..how far do you want to push the rapids? And how much stuff is accompanying you..

Per se the YS and Arogsy work fine for class 2 and below fot the two hundred lb crowd. If there is lots of gear, consider the unseen to me Rockstar..

And if your trips are way north and might involve big water and big lakes, toys like the Argosy and MR Freedom (guide) and YS are too little a cork.

Till we know the total burden involved its hard to make comparisons.. I wont tell my 225 lb friend that runs the Dumone and the Noire in his Argosy that he should sink under his traditional gear.

Look at the waterline comparisons on the YS..it takes some considerable weight to go from 3 to 4 inches displacement. But the performance factor must be much less.

I am not planning on class III. Class II, but not often. Mostly class I and just playing around. Capable of tripping, but I don’t make a lot of trips anyway and being a backpacker my packing is light…maybe 30 pounds max.

Most of the use will be playing around and on class I maybe class II.

I don’t necessarily need a boat capable of carrying 2 weeks of gear down a class III river. I will never do that.

My concern with weight is largely that I might not be getting optimal handling from the boat if it is designed around a lighter paddler. Also concerned about the fact that it would suffer worse when loaded / and or in whitewater.

Sounds like the Mad River is a good choice for WW and tripping, but not sure if it is still a better choice than the Argosy and YS for what I will use it for most of the time. I would not want to sacrifice general performance just to get a Cl III capable river tripper which is more than what I really need.

Mostly, I want a sweet handling boat that I can get the most out of in terms of maneuverability, playfulness and fun that can also handle the occasional river trip with a light load .


A picture tells a hundred gallons

– Last Updated: Apr-17-09 5:06 PM EST –

160 pound paddler, no gear whatsoever


The Yellowstone Solo completely floundered after this shot was taken. Could he have taken a slightly better line? Maybe, but despite what the picture seems to show, not by much. The picture doesn't show what is out of the frame to the right.

I think a lot of people claim Yellowstone Solos are capable of things, that in actuality, they avoid and take sneak routes through. Especially at all loaded. That might be fine. But not every solid class II has a sneak route, especially on smaller bodies of water.

Yellowstone Solo
Formerly Wildfire (Royalex). It’s a fun canoe, I’ve owned one for 8 years now, but in big water I use other canoes. My personal experience and my observation is that it’s a wet ride beyond Class I. In Class II expect to pull over and bail often & expect to get completely swamped in big waves. With its narrow quarters and low stems it plows right in… Add that to the fact that it’s cursed with annoying differential rocker which hampers maneuverability & only gets worse with load. It is exactly what it was designed to be: a fine little beginner’s solo canoe - easy to paddle straight and appropriate for mild water. My 2 cents. RK

If the OP wants to play
its time for a whitewater boat…and none of the suggested ones have full enough bows to play uninhibitedly.

Bell but Prodigy X. (Dont know that boat real well…have better access to Esquif)

But he didn’t say that Kim
Just like he didn’t say he wanted to do class III.

He said he wants something “playful.” By that description, I wouldn’t, for instance, suggest a Solo Plus.

Mad River Guide/Freedom will run
rings around the Odyssey. As for your knee spread, that is an outfitting problem. You probably need support on the inside of your thighs via knee blocks, as well as support on the outside with proper knee cups.

As for your original goal, you want a boat that is playful with some gear in it? You’d better get an Esquif Zephyr or a Mad River Outrage X. If you load a Mad River Guide with gear, that cancels out most of the playful behavior. But I carried six days worth of gear in a Mad River Synergy, a full-out whitewater boat, and I was still able to surf waves and nail small eddies.

yes…but am willing to sacrifice that playfulness when loaded. I meant playful in general. Most of my paddling with the boat will be unloaded.

So far it sounds like the Bell is not an ideal boat because it sounds like it may get too easily swamped…with or without gear.

Sounds like the Mad River is a good boat for my weight, will handle CLII okay with some gear. Not sure about the fit though. Seems like it may be a wider boat like the Mohawk. Mad River does not list much about its dimensions. Only lists width but not say if it is at gunwale, waterline or max. Also no info on its rocker.

Not sure about the Argosy though as not a lot of posts about it. How might it compare to the Mad River in terms of fit, ability to handle CLII, ability to handle a light load, and maneuverability/playfulness?

If I knew the rocker on the Mad River I might be able to make some guesses.



You want dry, you gotta have volume
… you want playful, you gotta have relatively short. Therefor, the only place to gain volume is width.

I don’t think the Guide is too wide for you. I think it’s the best you’re going to do. And that’s not to suggest that it won’t be a great boat. I think it would.

As g2d said, you can make it fit you better in the legs with outfitting. If you have concerns about the width above your waist, you’ve got to learn to kiss your bicep on your top hand’s arm.

It’s all good.

Class 3

– Last Updated: Apr-18-09 12:19 AM EST –

Where/how did class 3 get into the discussion?

Getting into class 3 was NOT something the OP mentioned that they were interested in doing.
My point was; different boats have different capabilities. The Yellowstone Solo & the Argosy would have problems doing every thing you can do in a Guide, but the Guide can do every thing the Yellowstone Solo & the Argosy can do.

References to class 3 preceded the points made about way north trips, with big lakes & big water..........
Did the OP say he was going way north, with big lakes & big water? NO.

Every boat mentioned so far can handle class 1 & 2.
Every boat mentioned so far will carry a 200 pound paddler, and all the gear a reasonable person needs for multi overnights.
All would work ok for a day float.
Which is better?
Ask different paddlers, and you'll get different opinions.
The perfect multipurpose boat hasn't been made yet in my opinion.
That's a good excuse for owning multiple canoes.

The Guide might be a good one to start with.
I love my Guide.
I'm not going to sell my Wildfire.
I did sell my Argosy.......

Max Widths: Guide 30"
Odyssey 29"
Yellowstone 30"
Argosy 30 1/4"


P.S. I owned & paddled an Outrage x for nearly 5 years. That boat would most definitely be a pain in the ass on class 1 & 2.

AC/DC Millbrook
I haven’t paddled the AC/DC Millbrook


and it might not be the answer at all. What I have heard is it can be used as a solo, handles rough water and is long enough to be able to tour with it.

You might also post you question over on

http://www.npmb.com/cms2/e107_plugins/forum/forum.php \

You already have it

– Last Updated: Apr-17-09 9:25 PM EST –

In my opinion all of the boats so far suggested are inferior to your Osprey for the use you described. Doesn't come in rubber though. Kinda wish it did.

Mad River Guide is not a wide boat.
It is only a smidge wider than my Mad River Synergy, which is 28". The gunwales are pinched in a bit too, which makes it easy to keep the paddle close to the side.

I do agree that the Osprey is a great boat. But…I do want a royalex boat for river use. And although it is a great boat I would like something just a little more playful and maneuverable.

It is a maneuverable boat, but more of a balance between tracking and maneuverability in my uninformed opinion.