The killer solo pack canoe?

-- Last Updated: Oct-07-04 9:05 AM EST --


I am interested in finding a very light (less than 20 lbs, ideally less than 15) solo pack canoe. I would use it on inaccessable northern ponds and long portage routes. It should perform decently on flat water up to quick. Maximum load, including me, would be about 210 lbs. I'd like to use a single paddle, but will double up if necessary.

I have seen good thinks about the Hornbeck Lost Pond 10: 10.5', 29", 17lb, $995.

. . . as well at the Nessmuk by Hemlock Canoe:
10.5', 27", 16lb (standard Kevlar), also $995. They also have a 14lb lay-up for $1195.

Can you think of any others out there?
I really wanted to spend more like $500 than $1000. I don't really want to build it, even from a kit. Should I be finding a fiberglass boat instead of these Kevlars? It doesn't have to be real rugged for my intended purposes.

Thanks in advance!

- Tramper Al

Bell Bucktail
I purchased this after finding it paddled faster, more efficiently, and more rugged than the Hornbecks! It’s 27 pounds in fiberglass version. It is now discontinued, but maybe you’ll get as lucky as I did and find a used one . . I paid $350.00.

IMO, the Bucktail paddles the smoothest of the pack canoes!

Adirondack Canoe??
I see some reviews for an Adirondack Lil Wolf on this site, which sounds like one of these pack canoes, but at a lower cost. I have not been able to find a website for this builder, nor do I know of a dealer – lot of help, aren’t I! Grasse River boatworks and Placid Boatworks also make variations of these - but not cheap.

My wife and I have a Hemlock and a Hornbeck. I think the Hemlock version is more true to the original Rushton design, and is slightly slimmer and shallower than the analagous Hornbeck model, even though the specs are similar. Both can carry a lot more than you might think, given their size, but perhaps the Hornbeck might have a bit more capacity. Both builder’s also make a larger version that you might want to consider if you plan on carrying much additional gear.

I’ve tried paddling mine with a single paddle. Kneeling, it felt pretty tender. I don’t think paddling from a sitting position in these boats would be very efficient, as you are on the bottom of the hull and would have to reach over the gunnel with a short paddle – I’d save this only for maneuvering in tight spots.

You’re right – these are not cheap. A used one might be your best bet if cost is critical. But if light weight is crucial, I think you will feel your money well spent even for a new one once you make that first long portage.

used Nessmuk
Just checked the Hemlock website –

Dave Curtis is selling a used Hemlock Nessmuk (10’6") for $695. Still a bit over your $500 target, but a long way from the cost of new. I think he also has a Nessmuk XL for sale (demo) at reduced cost.

by Grasse River. The price be damned. 14 pounds! Bigger than the Wee Lassie. Makes this a much more useful boat and it fits your capacity requirements.

If you’re willing to do a some work…
Check out these two. This will require you to do some work, but will result in exactly the weight you’re looking for, and bring your cost in below the $500.

This boat is 14 lbs:

This boat is 20 lbs, but I believe it will perform a lot better than the first, and will be worth the extra weigth.

Hope this helps,


Savage River
Wee Lassie? A little over 1k but REALLY light.

Peeper vs. Wee Lassie

– Last Updated: Oct-07-04 4:54 PM EST –

The Peeper does look interesting, at 14lbs but $1465 (ouch).

Interestingly, Grasse River's Wee Lassie, at 10.5 feet (like the Hemlock and Hornbeck boats) is listed with a capacity of only 150 lbs. That's concerning for the other Wee Lassie 10.5' boats, mainly because I'm not that wee.

Savage River Wee Lassie
The Savage River Wee Lassie looks nice, available in 4 lay-ups, but only the Carbon/Kevlar version gets down below the Hornbeck/Hemlock weights, and for $1550 (that’s getting up there). It’s not clear from their web site how fragile that might be. Interesting too, their Wee Lassie is a 11.5’ boat.

Thanks, I did see that one. That might be my best dollar per pound (saved) price. I wonder how used it is?

Placid Boat?

– Last Updated: Oct-07-04 1:15 PM EST –

I was leafing through an Adirondack Life (or some such) magazine this morning at Borders, and saw an add for Wee Lassie type Adirondack boats.
Found them at
Looks like maybe the Spitfire is pretty close to what I am seeking.
Oh, but the most expensive yet!

capacity of Wee Lassie boats
This is a difficult issue, mainly because the term Wee Lassie is used in such a generic sense, and because Rushton made different sized versions of the same design.

I weigh 195lbs and have the Lost Pond 10.5 (Hornbeck). I’ve paddled it in conditions ranging from dead-flat calm to a windy chop of 1-1.5 ft waves, ponds and lakes to moving water (but not white water). No overnights (yet), but some daytrips and fishing. Despite the small size of the boat and the large® size of me, I have been pleasantly surprised by the dryness, seaworthiness, and stability of this little boat. Once in a while I will get a bit of spray over the gunwales, but most of the water coming in is from paddle drips.

There are many experienced and knowledgable folks out there who would say I am overloading this boat. I don’t think so, and the specs from Hornbeck and Hemlock would agree. I have ~ 5" freeboard amidships, and much more at bow and stern. For those “northern ponds”, then this should be plenty. That said, this is NOT a “big-water” boat for the Great Lakes or the ocean. It is not a white-water boat. It is quick, but not fast – I can pretty easily reach “hull speed”.

Best thing I can suggest is to try one. I wasn’t sure until I sat in one and paddled a bit. Being in such a small boat and so close to the water is very endearing. It adds an intimacy to paddling those ponds, streams, and swamps.

Are you serious ?
I am interested in finding a very light (less than 20 lbs, ideally less than 15) solo pack canoe. I would use it on inaccessable northern ponds and long portage routes. It should perform decently on flat water up to quick. Maximum load, including me, would be about 210 lbs

Here I read:

15/20 lbs canoe.


long portage.

northern ponds.

Be specific, about what you mean about:


long portage.

northern ponds.

Be specific, about, your weight, your gear’s weight, how long you’ll be in the “inaccessable” places. Where is North, and when ?

To tell, the truth, now, this looks like BS to me.

However, I’am very understanding, and ready to help.

Am I serious?

– Last Updated: Oct-07-04 6:25 PM EST –

Well, all the friendly people here who gave me help and advice about lightweight pack canoes seem to think so. I appreciate their interest and assistance and I thank them heartily. Who's the troll here?

Bell Bucktail
I recently checked wil the folks at Bell. Their reply:

“Thanks for your email. The Bucktail is back in our line for 2005. It is offered in the ultralight KevLight lamination that weighs 22lbs. The priceis $1295.00.”

Hope that helps.



– Last Updated: Oct-07-04 7:31 PM EST –

Thanks Ken (and Martin),
That does help because I am a big fan of Bell canoes (have Wildfire and a tandem). And 22 lbs is getting down there.

Read of his trips on the Northern Forrest Canoe Trail. Al is very active and none of it is BS.

Mohawk 10.5’

It’s at the bottom of the page, but does not give weight limitations or recommendations.


Check out
some of the striper sites. I built an 15foot 6 incher that came off the forms at 23 pounds(before I glassed the inside)If I changed the trim and seat I could easily have gotten it done under 30 pounds. A shorter boat could be built to get close to your wieght requirements, and the cost would be cheaper then a new store bought boat. Heck Rushton built his boats before fibre glass so all you need is a little patience and a garage.