Trying to find the right solo boat

For some years now my solo boat has been a Mohawk 14’ Royalex boat. I still love it but I’m looking for something lighter, with a rigid hull, suitable for mostly flatwater tripping with the odd Class 2 whitewater because I live where most nearby trips are downriver affairs between the serious whitewater and the ocean. I weigh 210 lbs wet, like single-blade paddles, and prefer to have the option of paddling in a kneeling position. I’d like to find a kevlar or carbon boat in the sub-35 lb range. There are a lot of options, but most of them seem targeted at the flatwater market and/or smaller paddlers, so I was hoping somebody who’s been through this stretch before could give me some tips.

You had me going until…

– Last Updated: May-03-15 12:56 AM EST –

... you got to the part about it needing to be under 35 pounds. I could be wrong, but I think at that weight your choices will be among flatwater boats (meaning, a poor choice for Class II). So, I'm mostly replying to say I'm interested in how this turns out.

Someday I’m going to retire

– Last Updated: May-03-15 6:24 AM EST –

And maybe I'll even spring for a nice composite boat - someday…

There are so many boats that fit your criteria - especially if you give yourself an extra 5+ pounds. Is this more about flatwater tripping, which I assume means you will be carrying gear? I'd probably go for something in the 15' range like the SRT or Osprey. They would handle moving water just fine.

If it is more about day trips and the occasional class II, I'd go with a 14' boat. I've always wanted a Wildfire. I'm slightly heavier than you, and I have loaded up my Yellowstone Solo for the occasional camping trip. Not ideal, but manageable.

There are lots of boats in between, some of which will split the difference between load capacity and maneuverability. Getting to paddle all the available options might be your biggest challenge. Where are you located?

GB, you need to peruse the
Millbrook site.

Go to the millbrook site and look at
the Rival and the Defiant. If you carry much gear, with your 210 pounds, the Defiant will sit lighter on the water, but the Rival is the faster cruiser on the flats and a somewhat less “edgy” design.

Also, ask Kaz of Millbrook about the Patriot, now available vacuum bagged. Similar, but better, performance than my Mad River Guide Solo. Faster than the Rival with almost the agility, plus more load carrying ability.

Swift osprey and be careful? I think the expedition layup is heaver than your limit. A good class 2 boat.


I was surprised by that
I knew about Millbrook canoes, but I thought the weights would be closer to average. I never had a reason to look closely at them before.

People in the East use them
regularly… Not surprisingly they are rarer in the Midwest/

Great boats but…
I’m not sure if they fit the OP’s use case. You can self-support Class III - IV in a Rival & have fun and, probably, do better on the flats than many all out WW hulls, but it’s not at it’s best. I’ve paddled 18 miles of Lake Superior in a loaded Rival and It worked, but I wouldn’t want to do flat water too often in it. From Millbrook, I almost think the the Flashback might suit the OP better although some of the suggestions above may make more sense.

You can probably fit a Hemlock SRT
Some heftier people are also comfortable in the Colden Dragonfly.

Wenonah Wilderness

Anything in Kevlar or carbon would be
damaged on a rocky class II. Even an expert paddler is going to miss seeing a rock now and then.

Rocky class 2…
…is where my Kev/glass Millbrook Coho gets used most. The “damage” is a lot of light surface scuffs. I dare say it’s holding up better than my royalex boat.

Not necessarily
the SRT and Dragonfly are specially reinforced with multiple layers of fabric. Including glass.

Not all Kevlar and carbon fiber boats are fragile. Not with 38 partial and full layers of fabric.

That’s not what the people who…

– Last Updated: May-06-15 8:19 AM EST –

... own these boats say. I wouldn't paddle my Kevlar Merlin II in whitewater, but that doesn't mean boats specifically made for whitewater can't be made of the same material. An extreme example would be the Kruger Sea Wind (it isn't made for whitewater, but it is very tough). A guy who used to post here a lot was known among his friends for dropping his boat on the ground rather than setting it down, and deliberately ramming rocks in swift water to take advantage of how that would "steer" the boat.

…reminded me, Eric. Here’s our friends old Flashfire before I refurbished it (LOL)!


– Last Updated: May-06-15 12:20 PM EST –

There are few dedicated solo hulls for larger guys who want to cross lakes and the odd downriver rock garden. Of those suggested above I would exclude SRT and DragonFly because both are 28.5 inches wide and round bottomed; they're pretty tender. Wilderness has no rocker, despite catalog claims, so would be very difficult to maneuver. If it has to be a Wenonah, try Argosy. The Millbrook boats are all exquisite and radical whitewater bottoms, fun but not effective crossing lakes.

Colden's WildFire, at 30" beam might please? MRC's composite Freedom Solo or Bell's RockStar might due. I've a file on solo canoe specs comparing lengths, widths, rocker, etc; email for a copy, but beware. Rocker is more a drafting convention than a real number. Designers belong to an interesting cross phyla including butterflies and cats. Attempts to establish a comparable standard for rocker have proven a vain pursuit.

Look at the pictures on the Hemlock site

I’ did not come up with that thought independently. I have a Dragonfly and it’s an old downriver racer

Your contacts ought to talk to DY and Dave Curtis.

The analogy with a Merin II is not accurate. I have wrapped one of those.

Again the lamination schedule is important.

My DF does well in the Ozarks

Look at the pictures on the Hemlock site

I’ did not come up with that thought independently. I have a Dragonfly and it’s an old downriver racer

Your contacts ought to talk to DY and Dave Curtis.

The analogy with a Merin II is not accurate. I have wrapped one of those.

Again the lamination schedule is important.

My DF does well in the Ozarks

Why did you write that to me?

– Last Updated: May-06-15 1:03 PM EST –

My reply was to the person who said all Kevlar boats are fragile. I did not reply to you at all, so I see no reason to go out on a limb and assume I was attacking what you said about the boats in your example. Can you see that I was agreeing with you that well-designed Kevlar boats are very tough?

What am I missing here?

In any case, I don't consider my Merlin II to be remotely durable. Sure you could wrap it, but without damage? I doubt it. I'll have to disagree with you here, as I don't think boats that have just a single layer of cloth in most places, and which have a foam core in the bottom, are all that suitable for rock-bashing.

What am I missing here?