Wenonah Wilderness for Large Beginner?

I’m returning to canoes after a 40-year absence - and I’m looking for advice. Things have changed a lot since the days of the huge aluminum canoe I thrashed around in at summer camp!

After looking a lots of models and talking with a really hepful outfitter (one who wasn’t pushing any particular brand), I’m thinking of getting the new Winonah Wilderness. I like its apparent characteristics, especially since (a) I want a solo model, (b) I’m 6’5" tall and © I weigh 235. The Wenonah Advantage seems like it would be a bit small for me. Does anyone out there own a Wilderness . . . or have any other suggestions for me?

I’ll be using the canoe 99% of the time for recreational paddling, fishing and bird watching on ponds and lakes (some open to large bass boats, pontoons, etc. and some restricted to smaller craft). Once in a very great while, I might take it on a gentle river float . . . but there’s no “whitewater” in my future. It looks like fun, but I’ve got some mobility problems that make it impossible for me to take on the physical challenges. Therefore, “stability” and “seaworthiness” are more important to me than speed.

Thanks for your help!

My advice…
Look at the Wenonah solo plus. Stable enough to hold a barn dance in. Goes straight really well and will turn if you talk nice to it.

I tried out one once, very comfortable boat and I make you look small…

was going to say the same thing
I would especially look at the Solo Plus if you are planning on getting royalex. The reason is the Wilderness has less of an arch than the Solo Plus. Wenonah’s Royalex specs are thin and light enough that you get some “oil canning.” Looking at the cross sectional pics on Wenonah’s site, the oil canning looks like it would be a good bit less pronounced with the Solo Plus.

Like Sloopsailor said, the Solo Plus is plenty stable and maneuverable for the use you are describing. If you were getting a composite, I’d say either hull would be a good choice. Personally, I’d go Wilderness in composite since it’s got a bit of rocker. But, the rocker will make it a little more difficult to go straight, at least until you put the time and effort into learning a good couple of forward strokes.

Sloop … where did you get your Native American flute?

I too am 6’5" and weigh around 200lbs. Though I haven’t paddled the Wilderness or Advantage, although I would like to one day, I purchased a Vagabond last February and have really enjoyed it this past year.

I like the benefits of the lower profile in the wind, and I suspect the other two Wenonah’s will be more greatly affected by windy days. It is fun to paddle with a kayak paddle and large enough for a overnight, not an expedition though.

Would I buy it again, yes. Would I consider another solo canoe now, yes. I believe there are many good choices out there, but you have to get started somewhere and the Vagabond worked great for me out on the rivers and lakes. Just make sure you portage one to ensure you can comfortably transport it.

There are lots of tips and opinions to be shared. The best I can offer is enjoy the process and happy paddling.


mobility and stability
For a beginning paddler with mobility issues the Wilderness is, at least on paper, an excellent choice and the Solo Plus is even better. On the other hand I’d encourage you to start with a small tandem and set it up for solo. It will be a better fishing platform and easier to get in and out. Several favorites come to mind but the two I like best are the Nova Craft Pal and the Mad River Horizon 15. I’ve not paddled a Wenonah Solo Plus but everybody seems to like it for going straight and working well as a solo.

Another thought is to start ‘used’ with whatever is available so you can get your feet wet. Then start “trading up” like the rest of us do:)

Solo canoeing is addictive, you can’t have just one!

Wenonah Wilderness for Large Beginner?
I have a royalex solo-plus and I’ll give you the reasoning behind why I purchased it. Living on eastern Long Island we’re basically flatlanders so I wasn’t worried about anything beyond using a canoe on ponds and what we euphemistically call rivers. I didn’t consider getting a recreational or SOT kayak since I wasn’t going to use it in the ocean or bays and have my other toys for playing in salt water. So in looking for a canoe the consideration became is it suitable for solo and tandem paddling, weigh about 50 lbs or less, stable enough to fish and mess around in and able to take abuse without me doing anything more then washing it down with a hose and an occasional 303 treatment. Secondary considerations were I wanted to keep the price reasonable and there’ll be occasions when I might want to stick a couple kids in the middle while tandem paddling. I looked at used canoes but Long Island isn’t really a hot bed of canoeing and didn’t find anything within a reasonable distance that matched what I was looking for without it weighting close to 70 lbs. My recommendation would be to first check out used canoes at your local dealers and on Craigslist etc before going to a new one, since if you’re like everyone else you’re going to want something else in a year or so.

After not finding a used canoe the solo-plus with it’s center seat for “solo” paddling matched up fairly well with the requirements I put on the canoe. In using it, the bottom does tend to slightly oil can as you tandem paddle it, but, I wasn’t looking for a fast canoe, and consider the bottom flexing a trade off for the 50 lb weight, I’ve used it for river and pond cleanups with someone leaning as far as they could reach over the side grabbing trash and never felt like it was tipsy . It’s been dragged over all kinds of terrain and the scrapes and dings give it character. It tracks well when paddling and turns about how you’d expect a barge to turn, tandem paddling, with my son, we can get it to maneuver pretty well with his providing the muscles and brains and me dipping my paddle often enough to make it look like I’m doing something. Solo paddling, think 1970’s sedan, it ain’t a sports car but it will get you there.

On the downside the tumblehome and shape of the sides makes it interesting to secure to roof racks, My original plan was to take off the second set of kayak saddles from my roof rack and add a set of foam pads (surfboard) in place of the saddles and just strap the canoe down. The idea being I could always strap down a second kayak to the pads if I needed. Chalk that up to dumb idea # 10,000. With the tumblehome being what it is the canoe acted real squirrelly while driving at highway speeds even with bow and stern lines since I couldn‘t get it tight enough that I was comfortable. So Thule made some more money off me and I bought another cross bar and a set of their canoe carriers. Now I just swap out cross bars depending on the type of paddling I’m going to do that day.

The one thing I’d watch for is the weight of the canoe you purchase. The lower the better since you mention your mobility is concern. You’ll find out quickly what seemed to be a reasonable weight to lift when you tried the boat, ends up feeling like a lot more once own the boat.

Would I buy another, the solo-plus does everything I expected it to do so Wenonah delivered on what the catalog said the canoe would do. But, and there’s always a but, I’ve never had a kayak or canoe that as soon as I put some miles on it I wasn’t dreaming of something else that was lighter, faster, prettier or just a different color. So if you end up enjoying canoeing you’ll be looking a catalogs in a year or so for something that you’ve convinced yourself is just a little bit better. Which is why I suggest you look at used boats first, if you can’t find a used one you like the Wenonah canoes are fairly good value for the price.

Solo’s work fine for beginner fishing
craft, depending, of course, on the solo.

I’m 6-2, 260# and paddle a wenonah encounter. I found the canoe a little tippy when I first got it but quickly got used to it. I have fished from it a lot and haven’t dumped it. One problem with almost all the wenonah solos is that they are light in the rear end with larger paddlers and tend to weathercock

I see no reason why an Advantage
wouldn’t be a good boat for you. I am your height, so I had the seat in my Voyager lowered 2" which really increases stability.I have a friend with an Advantage and wish I had that one.

Most performance
oriented canoes weathercock. Wenonahs, savage rivers,etc (I once saw a Bell Magic and he seemed to have an issue with the wind on Bluemountain Lake. It is a trade off. The longer water line still presents a topside to the wind.

I currently weigh in at 200 pounds and use a Merlin solo for cruising. I think for average cruising/touring an Advantage would be alright or a Solo plus.

Great Advice - and Lots to Think About!
I really appreciate the time that all of you have taken to share your experiences, insights and suggestions. You’ve brought up several models, issues, etc., that I hadn’t thought about. It’s great to know that there are folks my size (and bigger!) who have founds lots of different ways to have fun soloing.

I’ll spend some time over the holidays doing more “homework” and weighing my options. When I make my choice and have little bit of time on the water, I’ll post a message and let you know what I think of my first canoe (“first,” since y’all are undoubtedly right about it being addictive and being subject to change after a year!).

Thanks again for your help!

Happy Paddling!

pix on website

– Last Updated: Dec-18-07 12:29 AM EST –

The illustrations of the Wilderness on the Wenonah website are not correct. The bottom looks to be a shallow arch, not almost flat as it appears on the website. The website illustration also shows it as having very little tumblehome, but if you look at it head on, the tumblehome is about the same as the Prism.

Can't say how it would do as a fishing platform since I don't fish. I used to chum with the same type of gear other folks use to catch fish, but I gave it up in favor of just tossing the bait in the water - same results but a whole lot easier.

If I have time this weekend, I'll try to get some photos that will give folks an idea of what the boat really looks like.

For the other folks who have been interested in this model, I was out in one for a couple of hours last weekend. The near-freezing water discouraged me from testing its limits, but it seems like a very pleasant design. Decent efficiency, turns pretty well, wasn't bothered at all by the 10 mph wind (measured on a Kestrel). Didn't have big enough waves to get any kind of feel for how it would handle them, other than that the 6-12" ones didn't make me feel at all uncomfortable. Turns pretty well flat and faster (as one would expect) with a little bit of heel. It's pretty easy to put it up on edge from both the seated and kneeling position, and you can rock it back and forth from edge to edge with ease. The rear thwart is pretty close to the back of the hung multi-position seat, close enough that it gives you some lower back support whether you want it or not. Build quality on mine is top-notch, same as with all the other Wenonahs I've had. I doubt I'll spend any more time in it until spring thaw, but it made a pretty good initial impression.

Or, you may begin collecting canoes.

canoe choice
Just a followup, I read that the Wenonah Wilderness paddlers could paddle a Vagabond, but there will be Vagabond paddlers who would have difficulty paddling a Wilderness. This info came from Wenonah.