Solo paddling canoe

I would like to find a canoe that I can paddle solo yet carry an 80 pound Golden retriever and a large drybag containing tent clothes and such for weekend trips.A retained or built-in cooler would be nice too. I paddle mostly on small rivers and lakes. I am mighty partial to the NJ Pine Barrens.Due to submerged logs/trees the hull must take a punch. Any suggestions? My Cobra Explorer SOT can handle myself and the hound plus a small cooler but is lacking tent sized underdeck storage without some big hatches cut into it.Fully loaded it feels like I am paddling a cement truck.I have an aged fiberglass Old Town sailing canoe but turning it in close quarters requires Tug boats and a River Pilot.


not sure about your weight, but
most short solo canoes won’t be able to handle a person, a dog, and a bunch of gear without performance degrading alot - say 14’ and shorter.

You could try a wenonah solo plus - a little long but the royalex version would be good, and it would have the capacity that you would need.

Or try to find a small tandem that has a small beam or a lot of tumblehome for solo paddling:

Mad River Horizon 15 *

Bell Morningstar *

Nova Craft Bob Special

Mohawk Odyssey 15T

*(a couple are assymentrical, so you wouldn’t want to just turn the boat around and paddle bow backwards, you would have to install another seat)

i use
a wenonah solo prism in kevlar on our journeys and i think i have about the same in gear… im 250+lbs, my dog is 50lbs who sits/lays between my legs and i have gear broken down into two cheap drybags w a 5 gal water jug.(i use a third small drybag for dogfood n cookies) it handles the weight just fine. i also use a mowhawk $40 doublebladed canoe paddle and have had no problems.

Dagger Reflection
15’x32’'at55# in Royalex works for me under those conditions.

What’s your total load?

The RX Morningstar turns nicely for its length and is very solid when leaned. I put in a kneeling thwart and have enjoyed learning to solo ours, both with and without the 80-lb dog.

I weigh 175. Gear would be 50-60lbs 80lbs of hound and maybe 20lbs of cooler/water jugs.Maybe 10lbs of rods and tackle box. I think I will leave the partridge and the pear tree home!

Penobscot 16 too.
My Old Town P16 solo’s very well. Better with a load. The other guys mentioned better boats (wenonah and Bell) but if your budget restricted like I was, the Penobscot is a great boat for teh price. ($899.00 was my price I think). Sitting in front seat paddling backwards when loaded. Sitting in middle “solo” seat that I added when unloaded.

Ultimate solo freighter

– Last Updated: Mar-17-04 10:36 AM EST –

IMHO I've found the Wenonah Encounter to be the ultimate solo freighter. In my experience I've found that it has the capacity to not only haul your stated load plus, but true to its lineage it covers distances with speed, ease & comfort, (even when heavily loaded). With a practiced paddler this 17 footer can be maneuvered and on those rare bumps, its expedition layup proves its merit.

The boat has traveled over mild rock gardens, through big swamps, been slaloming through cyprus knees, and distance triping on big open waters. Each presents a different challenge but the boat has proven well capable in each case.

The boat does favor larger and stronger paddlers, and if caught out in wind when unloaded it can be a bit of a bear to control. However once loaded with sufficient balast, the boat should behave well for most practiced paddlers. At your stated load, you may wish to include "the kitchen sink" as you'll probably find this boat to seem to be quite lightly loaded. Only a test paddle would tell for sure.

Loads of volume, secondary stability to spare, a tough layup and all in only a 40 lb hull...

You need to talk to
Tom (alias Whitewaterweenie) from Ann Arbor. Tom always paddles with his dear canine friend. He has fluctuated through a series of nice solos and seems to have found 15’ feet to be a nic round number. He’s enjoyed a Blackhawk Ariel, Swift Osprey, Hemlock SRT, and is currently paddling a Bell Merlin II. I’d start out with a 15 foot boat. All of these will turn very well if healed, but will move out well on the flats. A 15’ solo canoe seems to be a nice all around boat… it won’t run whitewater real well, it won’t trip for two weeks well, but for general usage… it’s a good compromise that gives up very little in enjoyable paddling. I’ll let Tom give you the gorey details…


Swift Shearwater
Its sixteen feet long and 26.9 inches wide, making it user friendly as you wont have to heel it to make efficient strokes. My experience with Golden and heeling a boat is the dog takes that as permission to jump in the water.

I have a 15 foot solo boat and there is no way the Golden and the cooler and a big drybag will fit.

So you’re pushing 350 lbs. total. That’s more than a lot of solos will handle comfortably.

Shearwater dimensions
Thinking that the 26.9" sounded too narrow (to be true) for an outside width … I just went out and measured mine (it has ash gunwales) and it is 28.75" wide!!! The large wood outwales apparently make for a considerable difference in paddling width which might be a significant impediment for those who are not of large torso and/or limbs (I’m 6’4" with a long torso). Maybe the aluminum gunwales actually measure 26.9" outside. BTW, the Shearwater is a BIG solo best suited to tripping rather than just fast daytime cruising. It’s waterline width varies between 27" (lightly loaded) and 29" (tripping load). It’s max width is about 30" up very high at the tumblehome break.

I would say don’t forget …
that there are quite a few tandems that fit the bill and make a very nice solo boat if you load them right. Sounds like your dog and gear weigh as much as an adult passenger.

Souris River Quetico 16 Solo
is the one I would suggest. I have one, in fact it is my second one. Sold the first one. A year later I paddled one again. Realized how good of a boat it was and how much I missed it. Bought the second 16.

These come set up as tandems or solos. Handle very well either way. Can be set up as a tandem or solo combination.

Carry a “ton” of gear. Well actually “Payload is 850 lbs. with a good working load of 400 to 650 lbs.”

Mine were all Duralite, tough as nails! I have had three.

Happy Paddl’n!



350 pounds huh?
The Hemlock SRT is rated to carry 400 pounds “efficiently” so I think that’s the only true solo out there that will shoulder your load effortlessly. I’m Tom from Ann Arbor and my total load with dog and a light day pack is a touch under 300…and an SRT handles it like a light and effortless load…and the boat will be way more efficient and fun that any tandem like a Mornigstar or Penobscot or whatever (I had a Penobscot and have paddled Morningstars)…although the tandems are really fun and mellow on quiet water and generally surprisingly efficient. I also had a Shearwater and I think it’s more effortless and a bit more efficient than the SRT since it’s made for lakes while the SRT is really designed as a river boat. My Shearwater took my 300 pound load easily and I think it’s rated to handle 350 pounds efficiently so you would be right at the top of it’s range…but most boats are still very comfortable there so a Shearwater would probably work great for you too. I’d get the Expedition Kevlar lay-up…my lightweight kevlar boat was a bit flexible for my tastes. Both boats are beautifully made but the Hemlock boat may be the best quality available…strong and light and very nicely made.

solo with dog in Pine Barrens
You have had some great advice from a bunch of experienced paddlers, but all have missed the point of your main destination being the Pine Barrens. On the water that each of the advisors calls home, and on most canoe routes, either river or lake, the mentioned boats are all great choices depending on load and desired efficiency.

But in the tight, convoluted, narrow creeks of the Pine Barrens that have been optomistically, and incorrectly been labeled rivers, most of the otherwise great solos would be a real struggle to corner loaded. I spend a lot of time paddling these streams in the summer with the Philadelphia Canoe Club, and on Cedar Creek, the Tom’s River, the Batso, the Oswego, The Great Egg Harbor River and others, a long narrow efficient solo is a tank. The locals paddle short rockered whitewater canoes on these trips and the paddling is more corrective and steering strokes than power strokes. The Mohawk Solo 13 and 14 are very popular, though seldom paddled with as big a load as you describe.

15 foot would be the maximum length advisable in current in such tight quarters, and a lot of rocker would be helpful. Tracking is of minor importance in the Pine Barrens, there is seldom any open water greater than 5 acres of cranberry bog or ‘lake’ as many are labeled.

Your load requirement will mean a full hull, again a whitewater hull will give you the capacity in a short length and still be narrow enough at the rails to be controllable from the middle.

Going to my reference line of Wenonah, their only solo that fits the bill is the Rondevous, it pushes the max length that i set earlier, but is heavily rockered and will turn with a load. In Bell, (the others may correct me but here goes) the Wildfire would be the best paddling hull in the tight stuff, but you will need to try it with your specified load to see if it gets too sluggish or runs out of freeboard. Waves are never a problem in the Pine Barrens, but draft sure can be in the summer. The Novacraft Bob’s Special was mentioned and it is a viable choice, not very deep in open water with your load, but it will turn, if you can handle its width. Their whitewater oriented Supernova might be a better choice, it has the volume for your load, is rockered enough to turn quickly, and is narrow enough to be comfortable solo.

In Old Town, the old 14’Hunter would be a choice, or the 15’ Penobscot. Any of their other short tandems are just too wide at around 38-39" for the 12 and 14 footers.

In Merrimack, the Baboosic, will fill your requirements with a great looking solo, it is normally a boat i do not recommend since i find it too rockered and full to be an efficient solo, but in the Pine Barrens it shines, and since it has 22" deep ends and is full, it will carry a load. My dear friend Gearwoman brings everything but the kitchen sink on day trips to the Pine Barrens and is about your size, and handles the tight streams with ease in her Baboosic. Six or seven years of scraping the gravel shallows has not damaged the bottom of what is normally regarded as a light fiberglass layup.

I hope this adds some suitable choices for you.


Ever consider a Mohawk?
I understand the Solo 15 to be solid for gear without sacrificing too much performance. I don’t own one (yet), but have asked around.

Good luck. Hope you find it.


Thanks Bill
You are correct the Pine Barrens really does pose choice challenge.An all-around canoe is not an option there. I never thought about a whitewater style but that makes perfect sense. I am going to try intstalling an “A” hatch in the bow of my Cobra Navigator and see if I can make use of the belowdeck storage.I am kina leery about buying a whitewater canoe JUST for the Pine Barrens as I have no intrest playing in the “rough stuff” with my dog. If he cant go paddling with me he gets a real attitude.

Many thanks


For What It’s Worth
I’ve been using my OT 158 for a few years now solo, loaded with gear and dog and it works great on small streams and that thick hide can take a punch and then some. It’s a heavy boat but for tight turns the flat bottom makes it nice for pivoting around them. The cost is low and you can probably find a used one for even less. Not as nice as some of the canoes listed but it is rugged as hell and will last for years.


A joke ?
This sounds like a joke.

I have large dogs, I canoe solo.

Sorry, I can’t think about such amongous loads.