Solo Caneo Newbie Wants to Step Up

Hello, Newbie here to paddling and I’ve got about 300 miles on a used Vagabond and want to make a step up. Looking for a solo canoe a little faster and a little lighter. I’ve done extensive research on the web and on My paddling ambitions are really modest, Michigan rivers and lakes for the most part, maybe some BMCAW, nothing whitewater. So it has to have maneuverability for the narrow Michigan rivers. Still I want downriver and lake speed improvement over the Vagabond. Mostly day trips, but an occasional short 2-4 day overnighter. An essential requirement is back comfort. I have a history of sciatica/back pain. I’ve tried kayaks but my back can’t tolerate that type posture. (The legs straight out are the killer! I use my Vagabond with a portable backrest seat I got from Eddie Bauer). I’m at the stage in my life where I can put some savings to use, so money is not really a limiting factor, up to $3K is in range. Pursuing the back support question, would canoes designed for 2-blades (e.g., Rapdifire) give adequate back support and remove the leg extension factor compared to a kayak, Or are they too similar?. What are opinions here on suitable solos such as (but not limited to) PBW Rapidfire, SR Tranquility, Hemlock Peregrine, Wenonah Wilderness and Prism, Scott Sunset and of course others not mentioned. Thanks for any and all opinions!

Size, stance
To help at all we need to know how tall you are and what you weigh. Then we need to figure your best stance in the boat.

I’m gonna bet that RapidFire isn’t much better on the lower back than most kayaks, although a seat 3" high is somewhat better than one 1.5" high.

Classic touring stance, sitting higher with legs out, feet on footrests may not be much better.

What works best for me, also with lower back pain[s] is kneeling, although I prefer a boat in which I can sit occasionally.

Kneeling requires a pretty comfortable pad to cushion the knees themselves and provide bone to boat force transfer. On the otherhand, there are folks who cannot kneel for a wide variety of reasons.

Kneeling –
I agree - the ability to kneel is the best thing. I have never gotten any relief with a back rest on a canoe seat and in my opinion if you use a back rest you lose the ability to develop a paddle stroke that used the big muscles of the torso. This results in arm paddling which is terribly inefficient and in my experience contributes to back pain.

I have the same problem, in…

– Last Updated: Jan-14-12 4:44 PM EST –

a kayak, so I stay with a canoe.

Unlike the others, kneeling isn't the solution for me with the arthritic knees I have. I've found that the bucket seat and foot brace setups in the Wenonah Voyager and GRB Classic XL are confortable and present no back problems for me.

Edit: Not sure the two boats I mentioned would be suitable for your use. It really depends on your skill level, it takes some leaning to get either of them to turn.

Back band
Waterbearer outfitted his Wenonah, Voyager, I think, with a back band for some back support. If you can raise him (try a post about adding backbands to a canoe) you’d likely get the details.


Height and Weight
Yeah, forgot this important info–5’10" 180lbs.

Also , current stance is seated with added back support seat, as mentioned. I have the height adjustable seat in the Vagabond, I use it at the higher setting. Footrests are adjusted to slightly bent knees, I’ve gone 10 hours in a day with this seat/stance configuration with no problems, but I can’t go 1 hour in a kayak. The problem really comes down to, I think, the angle of the back to the legs, 90 degrees just doesn’t cut it for me. Not sure I want to go the kneeling route.

kneeling is good back posture & comfort
I’d try it before writing it off. Some can’t do it because of their knees.

Canoe Saddle aids performance

– Last Updated: Jan-15-12 12:32 PM EST –

If you have never paddled using a canoe saddle
give it a shot, its wonderful for control.

The Shiawassee River headwaters in Oakland County are narrow,
very , very twisty and demand tight control of a canoe, especially after heavy rainfall.
As it flows into Genesee County it opens up a bit.

More thoughts on kneeling
You say you are not sure if you want to try kneeling. Without knowing any other information, that makes me think you’ve never tried it, or maybe you didn’t try it with the right seat angle and a good pad on the floor. If that’s what it means (rather than knowing you have bad knees and can’t even do it), I think you should try it for two reasons. The first reason has been stated already. Lots of people find that nothing is better for eliminating back discomfort in a canoe than kneeling. It also offers a very good “connection” to your boat, and it’s by far the most stable stance and the method that allows you the most control over leans (which means you won’t tip over as easily when you get tossed off-kilter). The second reason is another issue with comfort. If your boat is set up for kneeling, with a forward-slanted seat, you have another great option for resting your knees, which is to go back to sitting part of the time, but with a footbrace. You already sit with a footbrace, but have you tried that with a forward-sloping seat? I had a boat set up that way (a Vagabond, actually), and it was MUCH more comfortable than using the footbrace with a level seat, and it also “locked” me into position better. Of course, I only used that configuration when taking a break from kneeling, but I think it would have been good for all-day paddling too (for me anyway). You might be able to try that right now with your adjustable seat. In any case, whenever anyone talks of needing back support in a canoe, my first thought is always that they should try kneeling instead. It works for a lot of people.

The best back support I’ve run across is the one that Chosen Valley Canoe Accessories makes for Wenonah. Wenonah shows it as a bucket seat backband, but it can be used on a bench seat. I’ve used one in my Swift Osprey for three or four years now.

I bought mine from Chosen Valley and told them it was for a bench seat. They sent it with the hardware and instructions for mounting on a bench seat, although I had to wait until the back bands came up in their production cycle.

2 things
First people unfarmiliar with “kneeling” think it means putting a lot of your weight on your knees,which if the seat hight and angle are properly adjuster,isn’t necessary at all unless youchoose to when manovering. Second,I paddled with a back doctor once who explained that the position when kneeling in a canoe is very much like that of the back comfort office chairs that he perscribes. My back wouldn’t take a kayak either.


Faster,lighter,manoverable- Colden Dragonfly? Swift Osprey?


Just another thought,
I suffer from some of the same physical problems,

My main canoe is the Wilderness with the adjustable foot brace. I find that even a minor change in foot extension and/or angle often gives me relief to continue paddling a little longer.

That being said I also paddle a Tarpon160 sit on top kayak, the open deck allows a lot more movement for the legs than a standard kayak and I have almost no back pain when paddling.

Your body’ll tell you what works!

A yak friend encouraged me to maintain
a forward leaning posture with my Wen Vag w/tractor seat and footrest, using a Greenland Paddle (and single blading in heavy cover). Has worked very well for this 70 yr old back on day trips with yak pals. Have read where back rests can limit torso rotation, leading to more arm fatigue. Have avoided them so far, but may try one mounted to help keep my posture forward (with Advil as a backup :-). Just thoughts. R

I understand the pros of kneeling. Intuitively I can see how that posture can relieve back stress . Also that you’re not really putting weight on the knees, but rather on your butt on the slanted seat. Still–I guess I may have an unfounded fear of the stress on my knees. I will give it a shot at my earliest opportunity–the Huron river is still open near my house (all lakes frozen!) That said, what kind of knee pad should I use? A pad that is attached to my leg like a roofer’s knee pad? Or a pad put on the bottom of the canoe? Finally, does kneeling rule out the kayak paddle, RapidFire-type canoes with their bucket seats?

Did the Shiawassee from Holly to Bryron Center in September. Loved it! That is my idea of canoeing, and close to home, too. There were a number of downfall blockages that required short portages west of Linden.


– Last Updated: Jan-16-12 1:43 PM EST –

I understand that the method that gives you the strongest "attachment to the boat" are glued-in knee blocks, but those are mostly used by whitewater boaters.

The usual thing for "regular" canoeing is a foam pad on the floor. Bell used to sell a nice floor pad, and Cooke's Custom Sewing pads are nice. Any kind of padding will work. You could buy the kind of closed-cell foam pad made for placement under a sleeping bag, and cut it to proper size. I find that under really strenuous maneuvers, the pad will slide on the hull, so I install a few non-slip strips on the floor of the boat.

I tried kneeling pads once, but they were not nearly as stable as a foam pad. My knees were able to "wander" a little bit, since they were only percehed on a narrow contact area of padding so the pads could roll slightly beneath me. Still, cheap kneeling pads would a a quick way of trying the method to see how it feels.

People generally use a higher seat height for kneeling than for sitting, and of course the seat needs to slope down toward the front, I think about an inch or inch-and-a-half (I'd have to measure the slope on one of my seats to be sure).

Oh, regarding kayak paddles and bucket seats. I don't think kneeling would work well with a bucket seat, but if you have a seat that lets you kneel, you certainly can use a double-blade paddle. I started out using a double-blade paddle because the method is so simple, though once I made the commitment to become halfway proficient with a single blade, I learned to truly dislike the feel and manners of doubles. There can be legitimate reasons for using them, and there are a lot of people who simply don't want things to be any more complicated than pointing the boat in the right direction and going. It's a personal choice. There's no reason you can't kneel and use a double.

Wrestling Knee Pads
I’ve used for years of WW canoe paddling. Neoprene, very nicely cushioned and flexible. Easy on, easy off and if you splay your thighs out to the side you can wedge yourself into a fairly stable connection to the boat.

Also nice as a little safety edge for scrambling around wet shoreline rocks.

Found mine at Sports Authority

Long time kayaker, but just bought my first canoe - a Rapidfire. This is a little embarassing, but what is a “canoe saddle”? I looked at the web site and I still couldn’t figure out what it was.