Hi everyone this is my first post, and I need some advice. I’m in the market for a solo canoe, seeing as how I just sold my kayak. The kayak didn’t cut it because I bowfish and flyfish and bowhunt from my boat, and the yak just wouldn’t work. I’m interested in the smaller solos, particularly the Old Town Pack, and the Wenonah Fusion. There are millions of reviews on the Pack, but only about 4 for the fusion. My local shop has both, for around the same money, and I’m hoping to test em out this weekend and come home with one. The Fusion definitely has my interest, so does anyone have any input, reviews, or just blatant statements on it? I’m all ears to any observations, I was just hoping to get some opinions from you knowledgeable folks before I go forming my own. Thank you for looking…
No, but I’d consider another option
Do you plan to bowhunt for deer with this canoe? If so, you will find out that neither boat has room for a deer and a paddler. Remove the main thwart and probably the seat too and it might be possible (as long as you are not a very big person), but do you want to paddle with no seat and with no bracing in place to maintain the boat's shape? A 12- or 13-foot canoe looks pretty roomy until you sit low to the floor (pack-canoe style) with your feet out in front of you and notice that the wide part of the storage area behind you is only about three feet long, and that farther to the rear as well as in front of your feet, there's no room for anything except a very small pack. Even on a bigger solo canoe, the thwarts will really challenge your ability to carry a whole deer, unless it's really small so you can stuff it under one of them. For bowhunting and actually carrying a deer back with me, I'd use a 14-footer. I might be able to put the deer in front of the seat if it were small enough, and paddle from behind the seat while kneeling (maybe while straddling a little six-pack cooler) for the trip home. Most likely, even with my Mohawk Odyssey 14 which is fairly high-sided as solo canoes go, I'd still have trouble getting one end of the deer beneath the front thwart, so if the deer were more average in size it would still be best to remove the seat for the trip home, and in that case it might be possible to paddle kneeling while straddling the deer.
I've gone to and from a few deer hunts by boat, so even though I haven't yet had to carry a deer that way, I've certainly planned the method.
I owned a Pack…
for a long time. Haven’t paddled a Fusion but you can learn some things just from the specs.
The Pack is a serviceable fishing craft. There are better solo canoes available but it’s kinda fun to paddle. It handles better and is a little more stable feeling if you move the seat forward to where the front edge of the seat is about even with the center of the canoe, front to back.
The Fusion is longer, narrower at the waterline, and comparable as far as the height of bow, stern, and sides are concerned, and it has slightly flared sides, so that would tell me that it would feel a little more tippy, but would actually have better secondary stability than the Pack. It would probably be a little faster and more efficient to paddle. I wouldn’t like the seat, personally, especially for the uses you want to put it to…I want to be sitting higher for a better vantage point. And the biggest drawback is the weight…the high 40s in poundage for a Royalex solo that isn’t any bigger than the Fusion is rather heavy.
I’d have never thought about the possibility of having to carry a dead deer in the thing, but the above post is surely right, it ain’t gonna be doable in either of those canoes.
Thats a good point about hauling the deer.. It would be very rare or maybe even never something I'd have to do, but it does bring into perspective how small the boat actually is. I'm mostly a turkey/small game hunter. Fishing would be my primary use for the craft, and maybe an overnight float trip with my buds who run kayaks. Something like a Vagabond may be a better choice all things considered, but it's stretching my budget to the max. 43 pounds for the Fusion does seem rather heavy but It would be worth it if it seemed more sturdy. As for the Pack, I love it on paper. I'd have a hard time paying the 900 for a real Pack versus the 400 for the plastic copy (guide 119) even if it adds ten pounds. But I'm over plastic boats so I guess I'll suck it up haha. Do you think the Vagabond would be noticeably less manuverable in still and moving water than the little boats I mentioned? I had a 17 footer polyethylene monster previously and I don't want anything close to that again for going solo in. Thanks for the help guys I like this site..
Royalex is plastic.
It's just a different kind of plastic (better, IMO) than that in the Disco 119. If you want the best performance of the given boat, you want one of the composite lay-ups - like Tuf-weave if it's Wenonah.
I haven't paddled either boat in the OP, but I might throw some light on the subject. You didn't mention your size. It will make a difference.
You did mention bowfishing. Everybody I've known to do this does it standing up. Standing in a solo canoe is possible, but it takes a lot of attention to balance. I stand in tandems all the time, including while flyfishing - and I'm pretty skeptical about the idea of doing similar in a real solo canoe. Standing to paddle or pole is one thing, but aiming a bow is something else. Not saying it can't be done, but it's gonna take a lot of practice and your probably going to swim some in the process. It didn't take me any time at all to get used to standing in a 16' tandem. I've tried standing in a 14'x30" solo, and that takes a lot more concentration.
It seems to me that maybe you need two boats. One to bowfish out of and one to paddle with your kayak buddies. Any possibility you could find something like an Old Town Penobscot on the used market? Spend about $600 or less for that and then start saving for a fast solo canoe (or kayak)? You can solo the Penobscot - it just probably won't be as fast as your friends' kayaks (depending on what they are).
Otherwise, you could forget the bowfishing (and hunting) for now and go with the solo - and sit while fishing. In that case - if you're not too large for it - the Fusion would be fine (I'd take it over the OT Pack). But I think an average size guy will be happier in a Vagabond.
Narrowing the Choices
Okay, if you won't be deer hunting, the small boats you listed might do the trick. However, Steve made some good points, one being that a lot depends on your size. A Pack or Fusion won't be nearly as comfortable for a big guy as a small or medium-size person. I haven't paddled the Pack or Fusion, but I often use a 12-foot rowboat that is similar enough in shape to a canoe that most people are fooled into thinking it is one, and I wouldn't like it much if I were a big person.
Manueverability means different things to different people, but I get the feeling your definition of maneuverability has more to do with "managability" than the "elegance and grace" that many people on a website like this would think about. In terms of "managability", the Vagabond is fine. It won't ever make you feel like you have too much boat to handle, but it will require more effort for sharp turns and pivots than the little boats. In swift current it will take some finess at times, but it will get the job done. On the other hand, you won't be cramped for space, and the most-comfortable cruising speed will be noticeably faster than the Pack, and a little faster than the Fusion (yes, I haven't paddled either of them, but that statement is based on a couple of fundemental principles which affect speed. I got severely flamed by a guy who loves his Old Town Pack about this speed issue, but once you've paddled a lot of different hulls you figure out some of the generalities in how different boats move through the water).
Have you thought about your paddling method? Most people switching from kayak to solo canoe stick with using a double-blade paddle. I used a double-blade when I first started solo canoeing, but only because I couldn't learn fast enough to paddle "properly" and well with the single-blade to have any fun at all at first. I used a fairly short double-blade paddle (230 cm) so I could "sort of" do some of the single-blade strokes, but got tired of water dripping on my legs. Since then I switched to kneeling with a single-blade, which has changed what I look for when it comes to "maneuverability". If you decide to become halfway decent with a single blade, there are other boats of the Vagabond's size that would be better in moving water. Still, it sounds like the Vagabond would work okay for you.
Speaking of kneeling, you might want to consider kneeling for fishing and archery. When kneeling, you are not only higher than when sitting, but you have much more freedom to face in directions other than straight toward the bow of the boat. That's handy for casting (seems like the boat never stays pointed in the right direction for very long) and bringing in fish, and would be good for archery for the same reason (you could raise yourself a little higher by kneeling straight up when ready to shoot instead of resting against the seat). To set up a canoe for kneeling, all you need to do is mount the seat with a slight forward slope (because a lot of your weight will still be on your butt) and lay a foam pad on the floor. You need a traditional canoe seat to do that (bucket seats and molded-in seats won't work for kneeling).
im a little guy
Pertaining to my size, I'm 150 lbs wet, and around 5' 8". I'm 24 and very active and my balance is good. I was assuming a solo would not be as stable as a tandem and I'm glad you guys could confirm it. I wish I had the money and space for 2 boats but unfortunately I can only have one. Even if another was given to me I couldn't keep it. I have a good deal of experience in standing and shooting from a 17' tandem canoe that a friend of mine had, but the solo thing is all new and I don't know exactly what to expect. As long as its more stable than my old 9 foot kayak I don't think I'll have too much trouble standing and shooting. I actually done it kneeling from the yak a few times. I'm thinking the Pack, Fusion, or Vagabond are about the only decently suited platforms in my price range. The used market in my area (Huntsville, AL) is really slim other than the usual abused and busted Grummans and old plastic Colemans so it seems I'm stuck buying new. You are correct, I meant "managability" over "manueverability". As far as my paddling, I will be carrying a double blade and a single most times I imagine. I'm fairly proficient with a single, I just figure the double will help out when trying to make tracks in a little boat. I'll see all three this weekend, and maybe be able to try em out before pulling the trigger.
Other Options in That Price Range
Good to hear that you have some competence with a single blade. I think you might want to check out some of the solo canoes by Mohawk.
I think that the Solo 13, Solo 14, and Odyssey 14 are all candidates for what you wish to do. Of these, the Odyssey 14 is best in swift or turbulent water and is the most maneuverable when not leaned (a handy thing on twisty creeks even if the water isn't swift), but on the other hand, it is more affected by wind because the sides are higher. The Solo 13 and Solo 14 have a bit less rocker so they probably don't turn as well as the Odyssey 14 when flat, but they will turn on a dime when leaned. The Vagabond does not gain nearly as much maneuverability when leaned as most canoes do, so the maneuverability advantage goes to the Mohawks in all cases. However, the Vagabond will be a little faster than all three of these models. Mohawk makes fine boats for the price. Mohawk will ship a boat directly to you. Shipping will add to the overall cost, but if you try the Vagabond and wish for something that turns a little tighter, definitely consider one of these Mohawk models.
Royalex is tougher, and I think a little stiffer than Royalite (R84), and personally I'd choose Royalex over R84 if buying a Mohawk.
Regarding the Vagabond comments, I paddled one for a few years and it's a decent boat but the Royalex version has some limitations. Composite Vagabonds have enough rocker to maneuver fairly well, but Royalex versions have no rocker at all - and I've verified this on many different boats - so they don't really "like" to turn. Also, the fact that the Vagabond's maximum width "comes to a point" at the center of the boat instead of being spread out in a more gradual curve means that the stems don't lift much when the boat is leaned to one side, and that reduces turning ability a lot.
Sounds like you could do it.
Just prepare to get wet occasionally. I wouldn’t be afraid to stand in a solo, but it’s hard for me to envision doing so while aiming a bow and getting away with it reliably. It’s been a really long time since I nocked an arrow though.
I tried poling (standing in) a MR Guide in moving water just recently. I found it do-able, but pretty challenging…and poling a tandem is what I do most. I think if you are determined to do this (bowfishing in a solo) and approach it with care, it’s worth a try - and you may find it workable. But I would go with the Vagabond rather than the Pack or the Fusion if it were me.
vagabond is a nice paddling
all around canoe. I wouldn’t think of it as a shooting platform but it would be interesting to experiment with 20-40lbs of ballast right under the seat. Maybe glue down some d-rings and strap down four two liter bottles or bag o rocks. Pack canoe is a platform for paddling out and hanging out.
I’ll give it a try.
Mohawk's factory is only 2 hours from me. I had looked at the Mohawks, and was impressed, until I called em and they didnt have much in stock. And didn't really know when they could make some in green or camo (I can't handle the red..). So I kinda scratched that one out. They look like a good boat for the money if you could get one. I just need a halfway stable small canoe, thats light and doesn't paddle like a washtub. I know short boats are far from fast, but I want something decently efficient. I won't be doing any huge stillwater distance cruising but I do need it to be able to handle paddling to my fishing spots without exhausting me. In my mind, I picture paddling the Pack or Fusion like its a kayak and all will be well as far as tracking and such. And the Vagabond would be that much better at it. I think the Vagabond would be more well rounded performance wise, but I wouldnt be dissapointed with the shorter ones either. I think I'll try the Vagabond if the dealer can get his price within my budget. If not, it will be a toss up between the Fusion and Pack. The Fusion seems to be a more refined Pack as far as handling. Just judging by the info I have acquired.If the Fusion doesn't seem overly heavy or too cramped looking, it may be my second pick. A first hand look may put all this in a different perspective though.. I appreciate your advice everyone. I know I'm looking for the miracle boat, and also understand that any boat is a compromise. Ill just have to see how it works out.
paddleswap.com. They gather craigslist and other ads in one place. I picked up a Mohawk solo 13 last year in Royalite which has proven plenty tough and versatile. You are lucky to be in the right part of the country for used Mohawks. (the camo comes in spray cans) You are likely to find used for half of retail so you can pay for a little drive to pick one up. If you can shoot your bow from a high kneeling position any of the solos mentioned should work. Check out the reviews on this site, they are all there. Good luck
I see some of the boats mentioned are bottom sitters. Rising to a high kneel to fire a bow will probably require a seat high enough to get your feet under so you will probably want 9" or so clear under a bench type seat.
the recommendation on the Mohawks. They are good boats, reasonably priced. I’m around your size, and have owned and paddled several “recreational” solos, including the Pack, the old Wenonah Sandpiper, the even older Oscoda Coda in fiberglass, and now own a Vagabond. I’ve also paddled a Mohawk Solo 14 and Solo 13. Of all those, I’d opt for the Vagabond first, with the Mohawk Solo 14 a close second. I almost never get in the canoe without planning on doing a lot of fishing; I can only remember one time in my life that I paddled for a day without a fishing rod in the canoe. I paddle and fish mostly Ozark streams, class I to low class II, with mostly easy riffles and often long, dead pools. I’ve found that maneuverability is overrated for my purposes. Any solo of 14 feet or under is easy enough to turn unless you’re in boulder garden whitewater or very, very narrow, brushy creeks. It’s a lot nicer to have one that will paddle straight with a minimum of effort. Which is why I like the Vagabond much better than the Pack and Fusion. Don’t get me wrong, either of those will be serviceable, but the Vagabond does it all better.
Hey thanks for the tip on paddleswap.com! I think I should give the Mohawks another look, I’d definitely be willing to get a used one, since it would definitely be easier on my wallet. If I like the Vagabond as much as I think everyone else does, I may have to just buck up and dump my savings haha! It seems like a solid all-rounder that no one doesn’t like. I think I’m with Al_A I’d rather have one that paddles straight without too much work. I’m gonna scour the internet again for used ones and set my sights on a Vagabond if nothing turns up. I just hope the dealer has one that isn’t red. Bluh.
But Red Canoes are Faster!
Everybody knows that.
Well they may be faster, but I need a ugly canoe to match my ugly mug!
Paddled a Fusion today
for the first time. Went about 6 miles on a small river with very little current. I have paddled Vagabonds (Royalex and composite) and lots of other canoes, but never an Old Town Pack.
The Fusion is very definitely a pack type canoe with a low seat, low sheer line and short length. It does not track very well at all which is normal for this type of canoe. Even though it does not have much rocker, it has a fairly flat bottom and it spins quite quickly so it feels pretty nimble. It was actually quite stable heeled, even in a sitting position.
I found Al_A’s comments regarding the seat position in the Old Town Pack interesting because I felt that the seat in the Fusion could have been placed a few inches further forward. I liked the canoe better when I shifted my weight to the front edge of the seat.
I suspect that the Fusion is considerably faster than the Old Town Pack and I would certainly choose it over that boat if it came to a choice between the two. I noticed that Wenonah offered a rudder option for this boat and I can see why. To paddle this boat in a straight line with a single bladed paddle without switching sides will require a fairly pronounced “C” or “J” stroke on every stroke. This is definitely a boat geared toward paddling with a double blade or sit and switch with a bent shaft paddle. The boat has a low sheer which is a blessing if you are paddling in an adverse wind.
Pack canoes are not really my thing. If I want to paddle a boat that turns easily, tracks poorly, and is not very fast I have a number of whitewater canoes that I can pick from. If I was planning to paddle any distance at all, I would be much happier in a Vagabond than I would be in a Fusion.
To say that pack canoes do not track
well is an overgeneralization.
The Shadow tracks like a bullet and RapidFire is not far off.
Most short pack canoes need cheeks and pinched ends to keep course. But not the SpitFire.
I have paddled a Rapidfire and now a Fusion. Let’s just say that the Fusion tracks quite poorly compared to a Rapidfire.