Solo Canoes

I’m looking for a solo canoe that is lightweight, durable and reasonably priced. At this point my research is pointing at a OT Pack. Any thoughts on “Pack” experience or similar canoes would be appreciated. Experience related to river current, lake chop/waves, speed (or lack of it)and fishing is of interest. I did review the Pack info available on the Product Reviews section, but I was looking for anyones info they cared to share here.


Most solo canoes tend to be more high-performance, and are favoured by experienced users. Some are dedicated to whitewater, others to going fast, and there are a few tripping boats.

The pack is a different sort, being kind of slow, wide, and much more stable. If you are looking to put it in the water, go fishing for a day or two, and aren’t concerned about making many miles, it should do well.

If that is the case, though, you might also consider a small tandem. More versatility, more seaworthiness, and only slightly heavier. Wind would be a greater hassle, but may be worth it.

Good luck with your search.

Try a Bell …

– Last Updated: Jan-04-07 6:49 PM EST –

Yellowstone solo. I have one,not real fast,but manuverable,44# Roylex,tracks fairly well. Did some class II to II 1/2 and beginner me survived.Good all around boat.Under 1K new when I bought,some 06 models maybe lower now. I have seen a Pack,and they are short,and wide = slow,but stable.

Happy Paddling billinpa

pack canoe
Please try out the different models you may be interested in…that’s really the only way for a beginner to make a purchase he will be happy with. And remember this tip I got when starting…a better canoe (more advanced design) will make you a better paddler…that assumes you want to become a good paddler. If that is not of interest to you and you’re only interested in recreational time on the water that’s fine too. Have to agree with the yellowstone solo comment…I have the laminate version (Bell Wildfire) and find it to be a great all around hull. It will take you wherever you want to go and an advancing skill level won’t outgrow it.

Yep forget the Pack
it is a pond boat and a real slug if you need to make tracks. It is the rec boat of canoes. Plenty of other better boats out there. You may need to spend more money unless you can find a used canoe. There are several good ones in the classified ads on this site including 2 Wildfires a Wenonah Rendezvou, and a Swift Osprey and more. (the Swift would eat the OT Pack of lunch)

I’ve got a Pack
It’s a very inexpensive, lightweight boat. It is, however, a slug. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time with my Pack. It did day trips in the Boundary Waters, some flat water rivers, and lots of fishing trips. I used it as a demonstrator in paddling classes, and it was the only boat that I had people tip over in! It feels really tippy when you first get in it, though it didn’t bother me after the first 30 minutes. The tippiness could be resolved by lowering the seat an inch or so, but I was never bothered enough to do it. BTW: It was a great boat to use with my daughter in the bow from the age of 3 to 7 or 8.

I finally bought a Wehnonah Vagabond, not a speed demon but a handy boat for me. I was going to sell the Pack, but my daughter said it was her boat and I couldn’t sell it!

As to whether a Pack is the best boat for you, you can better decide that than we can. It isn’t fast, it isn’t efficient, but it is amazingly lightweight. Whatever you get, have fun.


Royalex solos
I admit I come at the solo canoe choices from a river fishing angle…Class 1 and low class 2 rivers, Royalex canoes (since they are quiet and reasonably lightweight), platforms stable enough to fish from without being real slugs to paddle.

Basically, for those purposes, you only have a few real choices. Mohawk used to make some excellent solos for the purpose, including the Solo 13 and Solo 14, along with the Odyssey, but since they seem to be out of busines or sold or whatever, their boats aren’t as easy to come by. Of the mainstream companies who sell good solo canoes for river fishing, you have the Old Town Pack, Wenonah Sandpiper and Vagabond, Bell Yellowstone, and maybe the Mad River Freedom.

What I want in a river fishing solo is a boat that tracks well and has a bit of speed so I can paddle through the dead, flat water areas to get to the good fishing spots, be able to paddle upstream without too much effort, and also, the better tracking, speedier designs also make the boat easier to slow or stop in current (as long as you keep it parallel to the current). I’m not as interested in maneuverability OVER tracking ability, since any solo canoe under 15 feet is maneuverable enough. I’m not interested in canoes that will handle heavier whitewater, since there aren’t all that many whitewater rivers in my part of the country. I want a bit of length, mostly to carry more camping gear for overnight floats, and especially to make fishing rod stowage easier.

So, ranking the available canoes, I’d put the Mohawk Odysseys and the Mad River Freedom in the category of leaning a bit more toward whitewater and less for my purposes. The Old Town Pack, Wenonah Sandpiper, and Mohawk Solo 13, are serviceable designs, especially for smaller streams where maneuverability might be more desirable, but they are too short for my purposes and they don’t have much speed or tracking ability (I’ve actually owned the Pack and Sandpiper, and paddled the Solo 13 several times).

That leaves the Mohawk Solo 14, Bell Yellowstone, and Wenonah Vagabond. They are all comparable in length (14 to 14.5 ft.) and weight (40-25 lb.). The Bell has more rocker and higher ends, so it would probably get the nod if I was on more Class 2 or low Class 3 rivers. The Vagabond is similar to it in dimensions, but with lower ends and less rocker. It is affected a little less by wind, tracks a little better, but is a wetter ride in heavy waves or moderate whitewater. The Mohawk is kinda in between those other two.

My present solo…the Vagabond.

Solo Canoe Part 2
Thank you all for the generous info. I wonder if I would really wish to have a 33lb vs a 43lb canoe in several years (I’m 50ish)? The Vagabond sounds like an improvement over the Pack in speed, tracking and in windy conditions (which are frequent in the Midwest). Another question, the Missouri river has a 3 or 4 mph current on a normal day (I think). Would either of these 2 canoes do okay on this type of water?


We had one on our rack for several years. #2 Son had it and put a lot of miles on it fishing. I paddled it maybe 50 miles or so; floating down the Oak Orchard Creek/River. It is a great short solo for fishing in creeks, small rivers. It is stable, easy to position in current one handed, very open for fishing gear access; and being Royalex, very easy to clean up after fishing.

It oil cans too much and is too wide to be an efficient paddling hull, but it slips across rock riffles, submerged logs, and other obstacles without much fuss. Where you can go with the current and where fishing takes precedent over traveling, it is a great little canoe.

If you can find one at a good price, it will do what you want to do, and you can sell it later without taking a big loss if you move up to another type solo. Marc often wishes he had his back for solo creek fishing; my Mocassin takes too much effort to paddle one handed while fishing.

Grumman’s 129 solo is another choice, its biggest drawback being aluminum is the noise factor. Some carpet or closed cell foam inside will quiet paddler movement and tackle box noises, but scraping over rocks will be noiser in an aluminum hull than royalex. It does paddle well, is light, and will last forever with no maintainence.


My 2 cents worth

– Last Updated: Jan-05-07 12:38 AM EST –

I am from the midwest.
I own/paddle a variety of solo canoes.
I have owned, or currently own the Mohawk Solo 14, Mohawk Odyssey 14, Wenonah Vagabond, and Mad River Freedom.
I've done trips of over a hundred twenty miles on the Missouri River.

The sections of the Missouri I canoed averaged well over 4 mph; sometimes as high as 8 mph.

I consider the Old Town Pack a "pond" boat; I wouldn't take a Pack out on the Missouri River. Most ponds don't have 8 mph current, wing dikes, bridges w/huge strainers, barges, and in some places, an eighth to a quarter of a mile swim to shore. Have seen a 25 foot long, 20 inch diameter log pop up 5 feet out of the water on the Missouri; never saw that on a pond.
You wouldn't be the first person to get jerked out of their boat on an untended/abandoned limb line, or get tangled up in untended/abandoned jug lines & drown either.

I own a Wenonah Vagabond; so does my wife. Nice recreational canoe. I wouldn't take it out on the Missouri River.

I would go out on the Missouri in something a little more substantial; a Mad River Freedom Solo, or a Mohawk Odyssey 14.

If you are, in fact, a beginner; I suggest you don't go out on the Missouri River at all, unless you have some other, more skilled paddlers along with you.
Yes, it can be done safely, but there are most definitely hazards on that river; especially for the beginning paddler. Not a river for a beginner to be paddling solo, or paddling in a newly purchased boat!


P.S. I don't know if they even make it anymore, but having paddled/poled a friend's Old Town Pathfinder, I think it might be a decent boat to use to fish/trip on the Missouri River. Durable, hauls a good load w/ lots of freeboard, can be paddled either tandem or solo, and has great stability, and fair manueverability. Would be a pain in the butt to load/unload by yourself.

another Vagabond owner
I was seriously considering a Pack a year ago, as you are now. I didn’t get a chance to paddle it before I jumped on a Vagabond and went with it after reading reviews and considering my intended usage. After 200+ miles in the Vagabond I’m pretty pleased with it. The extra weight hasn’t been an issue with me as I have no portaging to do, usually less than 50 feet from vehicle to water. I carry it on one shoulder.

I use it mostly on moving water, 2-4 mph current, no whitewater, but go both up and downstream with it. I fish out of it occasionally, prefer my SOT kayak for serious fishing though, and have replaced the rear thwart with an ash board with holes to accommodate three fishing rods. It doesn’t detract from the appearance at all with a similar finish to the existing thwarts and is handy for bungeying down a jacket or anything else you want to keep out of the bilge.

Just for reference/comparison I’m 6’, 190ish lbs and usually carry 20 lbs of gear. I feel it could handle another 20 lbs of gear before it starts feeling a little sluggish. Though I’ve paddled with more than 250 lbs between me and my nephew, trim was an issue.

Argosy? and Mohawks
It seems like the Argosy doesn’t get much mention anywhere? I paddled one a while back a LOVED it. You might want to look into it as well.

And if you check Mohawks website, they do have some boats for sale. I believe these are newly made boats during their training period before they moved the shop to Arkansas (yeah!).


Swift Osprey which is my choice having owned Bell Merlins, MR Indies. This is my favorite.

Depends on usage, paddling style and willingness to learn new tricks. The Pack could be a frustrating ride after a brief honeymoon.

For what it’s worth
I bought a Pack for the same purpose you are considering: flat water, slow rivers, fishing. The Pack served well but was slow, crowded and somewhat effected by wind. So I upgraded to a Wenonah Vagabond - more speed, better manuverability, larger but a bit (not much) more tender and heavier but not noticably (I am soon to be 60!) Then I started tripping in the Vagabond and decided I needed more speed and lighter weight so I could single portage. I bought a Bell Magic - faster still, still manuverable, more space, very light (32 pounds in Kevlite) but even more tender.

I have since sold the Pack, kept the Vagabond for those lazy fishing days and shallow rocky streams and the Magic for tripping. Now I am happy however I still covet a Hemlock Peregrine or a Souris River Tranquility. You can never have too many canoes!

What you hear about the wildefie or yellow stone solo are true.not right for every one but no boat is. the skill comments are on the has taken time but i have slowly gotten better in the wildefire. but still feel comfterable when i try to grow in the skills department.(thats despite the fact i am heaver and bigger, than some would recomend for this canoe).

the mohawk canoes are pretty good to and worth looking at.

I’ll second that
I know I have had to learn a lot with my boat. It has made me a better paddler.

Almost brought one myself
They are well priced, well build, easy to paddle easy to maintain and lightweight. The problem I had was with the Beam. The center seat makes all the hydraulics of the solo happen. To come off center is to change everything about the boat. I just couldn’t see trying to paddle solo from the center of such a wide boat. A narrower beam was also better for running rivers and rock gardens which what I do most.

Had one…
fer a year. Sold it de next. Didn’t like it one bit.


First thing I did when I got my Pack was move the seat forward so the front edge of it was just about centered in the canoe. It really wasn’t bad paddling it that way as far as the width of the canoe was concerned, and it really helped the tracking characteristics of the canoe. Tracking was terrible with the seat in its factory position, farther back. It was still not good after I moved the seat, but it was a lot better.

In fact, I also moved the seat forward about 4 inches on my Vagabond.

OT Pack & Yellowstone Solo
I have and love both, but for much different purposes. The Old Town Pack is my short-trip fishing boat. Due to the width and flat bottom, it has great initial stability. When fishing, I can turn and face in any direction much easier than in the Yellowstone. And it is so short I can cram and tie it quickly in the back of my pickup. Short and light makes it easy to carry thru the trees to my secret fishing spots also. I use it on lakes and slow-moving rivers when I don’t have far to go. It is a poke-around boat, not a traveling boat. You could travel downstream and even negotiate mild rapids, but that’s not what it’s primarily designed for. My Yellowstone solo is my multi-purpose boat that I use on most river trips. At only 14’ it is not as fast as longer boats, but it still tracks reasonably well and it can handle everything up to light class III rapids.