solo canoe seats

I have a Sawyer Autumn Mist with the tractor style seat, which is nice, but does not really lend itself to kneeling. I am thinking of replacing with a bench seat angled down slightly, but high enough to get my feet under when i want to kneel. I have seen some pics lately that looks like some solo canoes have a white water style saddle. So what are the solo canoers out there using for seats?

If you want to occasionally sit
I would go with the traditional bench seat angled down in the front. Sometimes it’s a nice break to sit instead of kneel. Not only that—a nice wood and cane/lace seat looks a lot prettier than a block of foam.

Solo Seats
I have the typical bench seats. In one canoe I have a webbed seat, the other a cane seat. Both have the front edge of the seat lower than the back edge by about 3/4". I mostly sit, but can easily scoot forward into a kneeling position with my butt resting on the seat.

Tractor style seats
I love them. You can probably learn to kneel with it if need be. You’re going to get a lot better stroke and more power if you sit up though. The (relatively) high gunwales on that sort of boat don’t lend themselves to kneeling. I keep my seat as high as it will go, and sit upright in all but the roughest of conditions. Take your time, learn to balance, and you’ll be better off.

That said, if you really want the ability to kneel, you should consider angling your seat forward a bit. If it is hung on rails suspended from the gunwales, it may well already have adjustments to allow for this. If it is pedestal mounted, you’ll probably have to install some shims under the rear of the seat. Increasing the angle just a bit will allow for much more comfort when kneeling as you won’t have the seat edge cutting into the backs of your legs.

Saddle substitute
I prefer kneeling, and I found that adding foam to the top of a small lunchbox cooler makes a decent “saddle” for when I want to give my knees a break.

Solo canoe seats…
In every boat I own except for my whitewater solo, I have either wood/cane, or wood/canvas seats. Have a foam pedestal in my solo whitewater boat. I don’t like tractor seats; no air circulation like cane or canvas & they catch & hold water when it rains. My preference; I’m sure they work for some people.

I raise the seat as high as necessary for my feet to easily fit under the seat while kneeling.

The front of all of them is slightly lower than the back of the seat. The difference in height varies in each canoe, but is 3/4" to 1" on average. I spend about 50% of my time in the kneeling position. When I get uncomfortable; I sit on the seat for awhile…usually on the long straight sections of river. Installing knees pads will make kneeling a lot more comfortable.


Both types
I have to kneel due to physical limitations:

Wenonah Solo+ - slanted bench

Mad River Slipper - slanted bench

Wenonah J180 - custom pedestal

C1 decked boat - foam pedestal

Tracter VS. Bench
My old Sawyer Cruiser had the tractor seats and I never cared for them. They probably did help keep us centered in the canoe. Tractor seats may be more effecient for straight ahead travel, but that isn’t really a huge issue for me. I like the bench style with nylon webbing. They are easier and more comfortable to move around on, if you want to twist sideways in the boat a little bit.

Never had a pedistal, but they seem to be more for whitewater use as best I can tell. It is nice for me to be able to sit periodically and I even sit on the kneeling thwart in my Northwind now and then just to stretch and get blood circulating.

Like Everything Else In Canoeing…
It all depends on it’s use and personal preference. I’m a WW boater and prefer kneeling for boat control and even when I trip… I find I can always sit on the saddle to stretch…though I rarely do. I also find kneeling much more comfortable on the lower back for long tripping days… but I may be in a minority there :slight_smile:

down angled cane seat…
… is what I have in my solo. I kneel probably 80-90% of the time. Partially for control (still improving my balance) but also for the previously mentioned reason-my lower back. Keeping my knees down and my feet back keeps the curve in my spine and the lower back pain away. Putting some of my weight on the seat edge saves my knees.


Putting this kind of seat in an Autumn Mist would be akin to kneeling in most kayaks. This canoe was designed for a low slung tractor seat coupled with footbraces. By kneeling you’ll raise the center of gravity and lose alot of the canoe’s stability.


thanks for the replys
I am still experimenting with the seat arrangement, tried to do some paddling this past weekend, but winds 20-30 mph weren’t much fun. Thanks again.

another option…
I wanted the most versatility I could get, so kept the web seat that Mohawk uses. I sit most of the time, but get down on one knee when necessary. We are working on a kneeling arrangement that may allow me to kneel on both legs. I rest my rump on the edge of the seat when on one knee. I have the seat level, since I sit most of the time. The seat is about 6" off the bottom of the canoe and allows just enough room to get my feet under the seat safely. I have adjustable footbraces (Yakima)and I’m working on a backband arrangement. If we can’t get me set up for kneeling on both legs, then I’ll add hip/thigh blocks to give me a better connection so I can have better control.

Try different stuff to see what you like. My neighbors drilled extra holes in their tractor seats in their Sawyer Cruiser and Oscoda. Helps with drainage and ventilation. Also added a padded bar at the front edge of the seat to lean on if they want to kneel. They have footrails on the bottom of the Cruiser. Most of their canoeing is done on our local river and the BWCA.