Solo Canoe Recommendations

I’m looking for a lightweight solo canoe for multi-day tripping on lakes, some rivers, and portaging into isolated Adirondack ponds. My target is a 30lb boat and I will normally use it with a kayak paddle. I’m about 6’, 200# and on most trips will have a 40-50 lb load. I would also like to be able to carry up to 100# of cargo on non-portage outings. I may use periodically for local excercise paddling with no load.

My current fleet is a 16’ Penobscot canoe that I do use solo sometimes, and a 14’ Spectrum kayak. I often take the kayak on camping trips and appreciate the stability, and seaworthiness in rough water particularly with wind (comforting in cold water). Aside from weight, the limited protected storage capacity and the time needed for loading & unloading make it impractical for camping where a portage is involved.

I would like any new boat to be able to handle open water (Little Tupper, Lows, Long Lake) with a load and able to cover the mileage not much slower than I can in the Spectrum. Tracking, speed and seaworthiness are more important than turning ability for me. I’m used to using a double blade paddle and have no problem sitting low (no need for elevated seat). I don’t object to making a partial spray cover to prevent waves or spray coming in, but would most like a boat that doesn’t need one.

To date, I’ve considered Bell’s Merlin II and Magic plus the largest Hornbeck canoe. Recently the Yost designed Placid Boatwork’s RapidFire caught my attention in part because it is intended for double bladed use and comes equipped with footrests. I’d love recommendations on the best boat(s) to try. I will be spending some time in Lake Placid soon so may be able to test paddle boats from Placid Boatworks. I have possible access to Bell boats too. I would test with a full load. I’m willing to pay what it takes for the best boat. My dream is to wear it out someday (with normal use).

Hemlock Perigrine
Sounds like it would fit the bill, maybe the Kestral, butthe Perigrine will carry you and the gear a bit better. They are in New york state as well. I wish I lived closer, I’d love to try a perigrine as wellas t he Eagle.


I have tried out and purchased a PlacidBoats RapidFIRE. It is a marvelous boat, very stable and very fast. I also like it because I weigh 280 lbs and still have plenty of freeboard left for luggage. You need to talk to Joe and Charlie in Lake Placid. They will be happy to let you test paddle and you may even want to consider trying out the SpitFIRE.

Take care and have fun deciding on what canoe is right for you.

Mark Hagy


– Last Updated: Sep-12-05 9:46 AM EST –

im biased but i lov Wenonah ul kevlar solo prisms used with the longest mohawk doubleblade.. ive lived out of one for 6 months.

im 300# w 50# dog and 100# gear and water... and she does fine... because of the weight i carry, if i had to do over i would go with the voyager

Bell also makes excellent canoes like the Magic

new Hornbeck models
I see Peter has got some new designs that are larger than the Lost Pond series. One is 14 ft that from the rough drawings on the site appears to have a similar hull shape as the Lost Ponds, but longer (but not wider). The second is a 16 ft design that is narrower and seems to have a different hull shape than the Lost Ponds (no “hollow-cheek” entry lines). These definitely look like an improvement for extended lake travel, and looks like they would meet your weight requirements.

Dave Curtis (Hemlock Canoe) also makes the Nessmuk XL – a proportionately larger version of his Rushton-design Nessmuk.

Grass river for sale
Classic XL

Probably plenty of choices for you but if you’re looking for a fine boat the Hemlocks will do what you seek. Peregine at 33 pounds would easily do everything you want and a Kestrel at 27 would be perfect for you solo or with your 40-50 pound load but if your load is 300 pounds plus the Peregine is a better fit. Peregrine has an edge for stablity and dryness. Both give you a lot of boat for the weight…they are stiff and sturdy boats.

Or you could always buy a brand new one instead of paying $250 over list for a used one.

Hemlock Peregrine
I just got back from a 3 day trip into Upper Saranac Lake, Follensby Clear Pond, and Fish Creek Pond. I can’t recommend the Peregrine enough. It’s 33 lbs, stiff, beautiful, and seaworthy. It loves a headwind. I double-bladed with a 250 cm Werner Camano and single-bladed with a straight shaft and it was all good. Perhaps my favorite part was being able to pick it up and lift it to my shoulders and put it on my car with absolutely no trouble whatsoever. After several boats and racks, this was a first. I couldn’t be happier.

If you have read my review of the Magic here on, I would just like to add something else for you.

Since I wrote my review I have had it in some pretty interesting chop. I paddled near a large rock formation in Agawa Bay, Lake Suprior, that had 3 foot swells coming in and waves rebounding from it. I have a kneeling pedestal in the Magic and I was totally comfortable in the chop. I was actually more comfortable in the Magic than I would have been in my NDK Explorer sea kayak.

Many of the canoes listed so far are shorter and many of them wider than the Magic. I like the Magic because it is fast and stable.

You can see from this picture that my dog does not create any problem even when sitting up and leaning out over the gunwale. When she does this, I just shift over an inch or so the other direction. Although, I do make her lie down if things get a bit more challenging.


Placid Boatworks Rapid Fire
Its so narrow its speed challenges many sea kayaks. You really have to try this one. It is faster than the Bell Magic and designed by the same fabulous designer, David Yost. Plus it can carry the load and really stand up to hard use. Charlie and Joe have given alot of thought to the fabric placement for hard wilderness use yet maintaining a reasonable length.

I havent paddled Hornbecks boats save the Lost Pond with the tucked in cheeks. I found it very slow but its too small for you. It is quite wide and the sides a little high for comfortable paddling but I do have friends happy with it. It is not a very maneuverable boat, but is very seaworthy even on the ocean. I see that there are new boats available with a different design but have not tried them. I find the outfitting in the Lost Pond barebones. He does not use real foot pegs and the back support is inadequate…compared to the Placid Boatworks craft. There is quite a price difference but it is an investment in your paddling pleasure and comfort.

My friends Hornbeck boat rails and especially the paddles seemed to be susceptible to a little rot… the paddles broke (several) at the junction of blade and shaft. This might be alleviated by regular varnishing.

wenonah and kruger
The Wenonah encounter is a good solo canoe. I paddled mine on an 1,800 mile trip on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The encounter is made for long solo trips the Kevlar model weighs 38 pounds where the carbon weighs 33 pounds. The length is 17 feet. The depth is as follows bow 19 inches, center 14 inches, stern 16 inches. The width is as follows maximum 31 ½ inches, gunwale 25 inches, waterline 29 inches.

The encounter comes with an adjustable foot brace and adjustable sliding seat.

If you want the best solo, the kruger built sea wind is by far the best solo canoe ever

I have padded my sea 3,912 miles so far on my current cane trip.

John Latecki Jr

I support everything Johns said. I paddle a Kevlar (36#)Majic on 2-3 day trips in the SW Florida 10,000 island area. I paddle with a 75# Lab.

The canoe is fast, tracks straight, handles all points of wind, and the low profile is great in windy conditions.