Solo Canoe wisdom

I am looking to break into the solo market after paddling mostly tandems throughout my career. I have a Wenonah MNII, which I luv. My use cases would mostly be occasional BWCAW, Quetico, Woodland, and day-tripping around home, (Madison, WI).

Thanks in advance to all the experts on this board for any collective wisdom that can be brought on this query.


In order to solicit some sensible suggestions, provide your weight, height, anticipated maximum gear load, and whether you need a canoe that is good for river use.

Oh, sorry. Of course.

– 6 ft / 180 lbs
– load: 50-75 lbs.
– 25% river / 75% flat

Thanks for yours (and everyone’s) wisdom.


You might start by looking at these…
Northstar Northwind
Colden Nomad
Swift Keewaydin 15

And Placid Boat Works Rapidfire.

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I see you’re in Madison. Its a good place to look for a canoe in. I’m guessing you’ve already seen that Rutabaga has a used Blackhawk Combi for $750. It won’t glide like your MNII, but its a pretty decent general purpose solo canoe. If you’re thinking of doing a lot of Quetico/Woodland type trips you might want something with more capacity and a better glide though.

You might also want to give a phone call out to Carl’s Paddlin’ in Lone Rock. With the virus and all he might not be manning the shop all the time, hence the need to call ahead, but he has a pretty nice selection of canoes both used and new. Its not a long drive… and there might be something there that appeals. Test paddle if you can.

Mad City Paddlers quite often has used boats for sale by members in their newsletter or one can attend a meeting (First Thurs of month, 6:30pm, - coming right up.) and ask around. I haven’t attended a meeting in quite a while mostly due to covid and injuries last year, so I don’t know how they’re handling meetings nowadays. I doubt they’re keeping up with the traditional pot lucks… better contact someone in the club via their web page about their current best practices. But it might be a way to find your best solo… and there’s a lot of nice folks there.

Carl’s is my favorite canoe shop.

You didn’t mention whether you are on a budget.

In the Swift line I agree that the Keewaydin 15 is worth looking at. In the Northstar line the Northwind Solo is worth looking at, the Trillium is a very special boat that impresses me a lot, and I suggest that you also try a Magic. The Magic is sort of a “go fast” traveling boat kind of like your MN2 but it does turn reasonably well and would work fine for big rivers like the Wisconsin near you. All the boats mentioned so far are versatile but biased towards lakes, if you will be on fast water where you need to dodge rocks then there are other boats to consider but all would be worse for lakes and traveling.

You might look around for a nice, used canoe. Certainly the Bell Magic would be worth consideration if you come across one.

Some other potential candidates:

Wenonah Advantage: You are still within acceptable efficient weight capacity for this boat with a load of up to 75 lbs although that is pushing it slightly. This hull began life as a downriver racer so it can handle a few waves but it is quite efficient on flat water.

Wenonah Prism: If you need a bit more capacity than the Advantage. This boat is somewhat similar in dimensions and handling to the Magic although I have a slight preference for the Magic.

Swift Osprey: Nice handling hull with good capacity and decent efficiency for a 15’ boat.

As for new canoes if you want maximum efficiency and are willing to pay the price I would consider the Placid Rapidfire already mentioned or the Savage River Blackwater.

There are some great solo canoes around now. Compared to a MNII you will be in a different world. Since you live in the Land of the Paddleheads, find some demo days and paddle everything you can get your hands on. Compare lots of boats. They are all different.

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