tractor seats vs bench seats

I have no experience w/ tractor seats, such as available on most wenonah solo lake canoes and quite a few of their tandems, such as MN II.

Do they offer equal stability as kneeling off a bench seat, or using a kneeling thwart?

Thanx for any input! …Bill

Tractor seats are very comfy.
That said, I can’t imagine having the control you would with have the 3 point kneeling contact. In my Wenonah Voyager,I put minicell pads on the gunnels so I can brace in rough conditions.Not that good from a tractor seat,but adequate.

The one canoe we bought with tractor
seats had them set exactly at the correct height for kneeling. We added knee pads, and were very happy with the tractor seats. The front edge might be padded, or you might tip the tractor seat up a bit at the back so your bottom is supported by more of the front edge.

In my experience, stability falls thusly:

  1. Kneeling (however one wishes)
  2. (there is no #2)
  3. Tractor seats - sitting
  4. Banch seats - sitting

    The contours of a tractor seat do help, but don’t come anywhere near teh security of kneeling.


Depending on how they are mounted
If they are hung like a bench seat or the frame they ride on is narrow enough you can kneel quite nicely on a tractor seat. The Voyager has a narrow frame (7"?)and I can kneel quite well in that. The Wenonah J Boats have a wider frame (12"). I can not kneel in that boat.

The Sea-1 I had had an adjustable hung seat. At the top setting I could kneel comfortably in that. At lower settings my feet wouldn’t fit underneath.

Kneeling the stability is the same tractor or bench seat.

The place I don’t care for tractor seats is in wider boats. The tractor limits you to center seating. A bench lets you favor one side or the other.

I prefer kneeling but if I found sitting more comfortable I’d be looking for a way to gain some hull control. Maybe stirups on a foot brace or thigh hooks under the gunnels?


I have a Spirit II
in Kevlar with tractor seats and footbraces. My father bought it and did a lot of lake paddling with it - sit and switch with bent shaft paddles. Seats are set on rails riveted into the sides - they are too low for me to kneel under. The front seat is on a sliding rail which is great for trimming the boat when I paddle with my wife or kids - also gets them far enough forward that they can easily get the paddle out over the gunwales. Very stable, as you would expect with that boat.

I’m not much of a lake paddler, but I do have to admit, its pretty comfortable sitting in those padded seats on long trips.

And in my experience…
…(in your waltz-step hiccupped into a box-step), thusly I have fallen. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, FOUR!

There’s a futility

in stability

that washes over me


Seated, kneelin’ or standin’

oft times riparian landin’

interjects in my plannin’

and rhymes.

With my wide tractor seat

and my calves and big feet

a kneel I can’t complete

in Voyager.

But ox upon its throne

with knees locked in gunnel foam

and foot-bracin’ brings her home,

no spills occur.

Still sometimes I miss a bench

where getting cheeky in a clench

I avoid the tumblin’ drench

with a shift.

And when hung at proper height

should frothy seas impart a fright

I might kneel in prayer real tight

to brace and drift.


hmmm…I wonder…
I have an Oldtown guide with a bench seat. I put a bleacher seat with a backrest on top of that, it’s good for my back but hard on my butt. Do you think if I replaced it with a tractor style seat and a backrest it would be more comfortable?

It might be possible to raise the seats
without having to drill new rail holes. You would have to drill out the rivets. You could get a small increase in height by just inverting the side rails. To get a larger increase, you could buy new aluminum L stock with a bigger vertical dimension. Mount it inverted and re-rivet.

How much stability
do you need for your purpose? yep kneeling is more stabile, BUT, down river racers use buckets and footbraces in races. ( some use pedestals but they are not univerasal) With tractors and footbraces RedCrossRandy and I did a saltwater race where the bow and stern of the boat was in the water, the mid section was out of the water, with sun shining under it. We did not finish that race, but we did not go swimming as many of the kayakers did. With reasonable handling skills the tractor seat and footbraces will do up to 2nd class water. With good skills maybe 3rd class.

This is my opinion based on my observations and not to be construed as management recommendation…

stable tractors…
My two cents’ worth… The tractor seats can give you good control, especially if used with a footbrace. Racers, after all, aren’t paddling very stable canoes. They need all the control they can get, and they do pretty well with buckets, footbraces, and stirrups.

Footbraces alone are helpful. On solos with narrow gunwhales,you can also brace your knees up under the gunwhales. On Wenonah canoes, that works for me on the Advantage and Voyager; your legs may vary.

On tandems, I like to glue the big rectangle of gray half-inch foam up under the gunwhales, positioned so I can brace my legs outward against the side of the canoe. Helps in the rear, but also the front.

Hope that helps.


Being a paraplegic,
I don’t have the option of either kneeling or foot bracing. I’d prefer to kneel or brace but given my condition, I have to consider the merits of seating options. What works best for me are tractor seats because, unlike bench seats, they wrap around my dainty bottom and provide more seating stability than the flatter benches. A tractor seat mounted with a backwards tilt (front higher than the back) and combined with a commercially available nylon, padded seat bottom with a ribbed backrest provides enough stability for me to get moderate forward thrust, and perform leaning turns. I’ve sometimes wondered if that combination with foot bracing wouldn’t provide maximum stability for an able-bodied paddler.

“Racing” -tractor seat. = good
The tractors are nice, the smaller the better…just my $.01. Wenonah makes a “Racing” seat(ie “smaller”, more rectangular) which is a bit smaller than their standard tractor designs. Makes kneeling a snap, and doesn’t restrict one’s lateral leg movement.

Taken from the farm machinery where the farmer sits comfortable for 18 hours on his butt, thus the reason its used in paddling.

Comfort='s effieciency='s speed

Would you rather sit in something thats the shape of your butt for 10 hours or the high school blecher seat?

To answer your question simply:
No, they don’t offer as much stability as kneeling, since when you are kneeling your center of gravity is lower.

With that said, I think a tractor seat is much more comfy in touring when seated than a bench type, and a tractor seat is a must when racing.