Solo options for tall paddler

Hi all,

I’m looking to buy my first canoe. Since I’ll probably be doing 90% solo paddling I thought a solo canoe would be best. I thought I found the perfect solo canoe (that’s available here and within budget) in the Esquif Echo. I just read some reviews though that say it will lose its good paddling characteristics when loaded over 200lbs and taller people may not be able to fit their fit under the seat to paddle kneeling. Both are a problem for me as I’m already 200lbs and a size 13.

So to my disappointment it seems the Echo is not for me, although I like its looks and it ticks most other boxes. Now I’m wondering…should I forget about solo canoes and just solo paddle a tandem? Or are there good solo canoes for taller people out there?

The best alternative I found so far is the Esquif Huron 15. It’s a tandem so at least it has a yoke and I can bring my gf sometimes. But I am wondering if that yoke would get in the way when using the front seat backwards and also how much more difficult it would paddle vs a solo. Could this be a good option?

I’ll be paddling on flatwater only. Mostly touring on daytrips and only occasionally 1 or 2 nights camping. Weight is important because I’ll have to get it onto and off the roof of my car by myself. I’d prefer to keep it under 60lbs. Because I’m a beginner some stability is welcome. Also good tracking, wind resistance and efficiency are on my wish list so I can see more than the immediate surroundings of where I start the trip. My budget would be max around $2000.

Any advice is really welcome!



Welcome Mark.

I’m kind of in the same boat as you (pun intended) I’m a bigger guy will paddle mostly solo on flat water and slow river floats my lady will have her sit in kayak coming in 10 days and I wanted a canoe rather than a kayak as I want to do some fishing alone and when we go together in separate boats I can pack the gear. Solos seemed a little small and tandems were mostly overkill around 16’. I came across a used Old Town Guide 147 that is 14’ 7” and I grabbed it and started in modifying it into a solo with the option of a passenger/second person paddling. Keep in mind when you sit or kneel reversing the boat from the bow seat the canoe is quite a bit wider based on the model. I shouldn’t be giving advice as I have yet put mine in the water but from what I can tell I will be ok as I’m using a good length double kayak paddle. I will know for sure soon as the water is warming around here.

I moved the old bow seat about 8” closer to the center and removed the carry yoke and replaced it with an aluminum thwart and with that length boat I have enough room to sit or kneel and my weight is placed much better in the canoe with the only problem is it being wider. I’m hoping the balance and that width equals some stability. I added a second seat just ahead of the center thwart as a place for tackle box and such and there is still room ahead of that for a big cooler or gear or both.

I think what you want to do is a good plan. You have many more options buying new to get just what you want. Mine is heavy around 80# but with a cheap canoe dolly and some DIY rigging I built for loading I can get it on and off the car and into the water pretty easy.

You could get a 15’ tandem and solo that which should work alright, but if you want a solo I would just buy on of those. You should call manufacturers and talk to them, they should tell you which products will work for you. Esquif is a quality manufacturer. Northstar, Nova Craft and Wenonah make some nice light weight solos. Silver Birch makes a 14’ solo, Grumman makes an aluminum, there are others. I would stay around 15’, if it’s a real narrow fast canoe you can go longer.

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I’m just going to get a 15’-16’ tandem tripping/prospecter style canoe and use that mostly solo. But I want a high displacement, high sided, seaworthy canoe. Those things inherently make a solo harder to handle and paddle though. If I was doing day or short trips and didn’t need a boat I could put a ton of gear in I would get a lightweight solo, probably from Northstar.

Would a tandem with maybe some modifications for solo use be better than a slightly “overloaded” solo where I’d always be closer to the max weight?

Also, are the seats normally higher in tandems than in solos? That would make kneeling easier.

I don’t think tandem or solo seat height is different, but I could be wrong.
I know anything with a molded seat has a much smaller space under it than the conventional wood frame flat bench seat.
I think you will find in a little longer canoe be it a tandem or not the space for kneeling is longer.
It is hard to buy something brand new and start modifying it. I had no trouble moving and changing stuff where I wanted it with my used canoe.

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Wenonah Voyager if you want a fast canoe made to carry a load but it is strictly a solo.
It is prone to weather cocking which can be reduced by a cover or a load.

Well I don’t need very high speed, just prefer to not be the slowest in a group either. I like the voyager but it may be a bit extreme for me as a beginner. I’d be worried about the initial stability.

Northstar makes some really nice solo trippers also. Or a used Bell Magic, Merlin, or Starfire… I’ve known sizable folks who tripped with those. Might want to try a search for those in your area as well…

There’s a nice Mad River Courier in the classifieds lol…

Paddle NL , before I got in the Voyager I heard stories about people turning them over.
You will be hard pressed to find a higher COG than mine. 6’5" , big shoulders, skinny butt.
It was exciting but I never turned it over.
After a bit, I had the seat lowered and that changed it from spooky to comfortable.

Yes a tandem would be better than a slightly overloaded solo. Either that or a larger solo. If you are getting close to the limit of a specific boat (probably over 66% of the max load) you should go up in boat size. I’ve pushed the weight limits and it’s fine most of the time, the rest of the time it’s not fine. The load limit is the max weight that it can safely haul on flat water with no mistakes. If you are intending to use it for anything other that that you need a bigger boat.

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I’m similar 6’2" long torso weight up high. Adding ballast makes night n day difference.

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@Hatchet_Jack Thanks, that’s good to know. So I’ll definitely need to find a big solo or small tandem. Probably 15ft should be a good size for me then.

@Dick_Summers what canoe do you use for solo touring? A solo or a tandem?

Mad River Courier. Old but good. Large solo but you sometimes see them set up tandem.

If you’re a solo paddler you’ll appreciate a solo canoe. The Wenonah Wilderness is big and stable and a new one may be within your budget. ANY solo can handle your weight. I don’t really understand why you’ve given up on the Echo.