Which canoe would be best?

Hello all!

I am currently looking into getting a canoe and was wondering if anyone could offer some input. I want to use it mainly for whitewater and for expedition trips. I would also want it to be a 2 paddler canoe. Any suggestions on a good type and brand??

more data needed
What level of whitewater?

Are the expeditions going to be on moving or flat water?

How big are the paddlers, and how much gear will you be carrying?

Everything’s a tradeoff. A boat for serious whitewater will be a slug on flat water. Boats that turn well generally don’t go straight fast. Big boats that swallow a lot of gear can be difficult to paddle empty.

What canoes have you paddled that you liked?

I know two
Mad River Explorer in royalex

Old town Penobscot in Royalex or poly

If you can avoid most rocks…
there’s a great deal in the classifieds:

(IL) Wenonah Spirit II canoe Tuf weave 17’ Tandem An excellent all around boat in excellent condition very stable 63 pounds $1600 new asking $900 excellent Christmas gift!

Not for serious whitewater, but if you’re thinking of rivers with occasional class II rapids it’d be fine.

Good thread here on material choice:


It would probably be class 2 - class 4 whitewater. We might put 3 packs in the canoe. I’ve gone on trips with an Old Town Penobscot. Do you think it’s a good canoe to purchase for this sort of thing?

Big stretch of difference…
…between class 2 and class 4, and between the boats suitable for each. Can’t think of any canoe I’d want to use for tripping and for cl4.


– Last Updated: Dec-02-09 4:36 PM EST –

Has a great reputation as a do-it-all design. Not the most maneuverable in whitewater but they've been used to win downriver races. For two + packs you'd want the 17.

They're now made in polyethylene as well as Royalex. The poly boats are less expensive but 20 pounds heavier.

But Class 4? Many folks would say that you'd want a dedicated whitewater boat, fully bagged, for Class 3 and up.

I am having a hard time equating
the words Expedition and Class 4. Thats over the limit for most open boats. Especially with three packs in the middle of nowhere, its portage time.

If you are contemplating such a trip you might look at the Esquif Prospecteur 17. Its not light though but well built.

I find the question a little odd…by the time you are running class 4 loaded you ought to have tried many boats…As always the try before you buy approach is best.

Where might you be going…the Moisie River comes to mind to me.


– Last Updated: Dec-02-09 5:50 PM EST –

If you're going to be doing class IV whitewater in "any" tandem canoe; you're going to need quite a bit of flotation. So where does the gear go?

If you were going to run class IV whitewater, tandem, "without a load of gear", I'd suggest trying to find a used Dagger Caption.

Might take a look at an Esquif Canyon?

If I "had to" (no option) do such a trip; I know what I'd to........I'd find me an "old school" Blue Hole Starburst, bag it out & try to travel light.

I hope you plan on having some paddling friends along on this expedition that would be capable of assisting you & your partner if necessary.

Sound like an adventure for sure.
Good luck.


Minor points but…

– Last Updated: Dec-02-09 6:11 PM EST –

Airbags are primarily used to displace water... and if you displace that same volume of water with lashed-down packs then you achieve much the same end. Also, whilst the OP mentions class 4 and expedition... that doesn't necessarily mean expeditions on grade 4 water - and "3 packs" can mean anything in terms of additional load: depends on the size of pack and type of kit!

Sure, any weight of the kit will sink the hull lower in the water and ain't going to help handling... but the additional weight is in the centre of the craft (optimally placed) and for river running (rather than larking around) a 17' craft with light paddlers and lightweight kit need not be overloaded for truly competent paddlers.

Yes, the OP is certainly a tad curious... and I'd certainly expect anyone ready to run class 4, laden, in a traditional open canoe to be pretty clued up on what he/she wants... but benefit of the doubt and all that - many of us buy for the paddling we think we may go ON to accomplish rather than for the paddling we're ready for at the time of purchase!

How about forgetting the oddities: there's a worthwhile discussion to be had about what traditional open canoes might fit the bill.

Oddities & minor points…

– Last Updated: Dec-02-09 6:43 PM EST –

Your profile states you are an advanced paddler, and you do whitewater in canoe.

I didn't see any suggestions for canoe model.

What canoe do you suggest for the lady & her partner?


P.S. While packs correctly tied into a canoe will most certaily displace some water; the packs will most certainly weigh more than the air bags, no matter what amount of water they displace. The packs, no matter how much they weigh, no matter where, or how they are tied down, do not replace the need for flotation. Also, tying down packs in any canoe that may be used on class IV whitewater, offers additional opportunities for entrapment of the paddlers. As you stated; the canoe will have less freeboard if there are heavy packs aboard. The canoe will be more difficult to manuever when unright, more difficult to retrieve if capsized, and in all liklihood, be more prone to catch & wrap on obstacles in the river if the paddlers abandon the canoe to save themselves.
If the center section is filled with flotation(paddlers at bow & stern) that leaves only the bilge area to the front & rear of the paddlers for their gear. I personally never liked the idea of tying down gear anywhere near my feet, for what should be obvious reasons.

If the boat is going to be used for class IV with light gear, or long trips (non class IV whitewater) with a good load of gear.....I agree, that changes things quite a bit. And that may be the case.
I can't imagine anyone who is experienced/skilled enough to do expeditions on class IV whitewater in a tandem canoe needs boat suggestions.

examples of III-IV
Sofgirl, can you give some examples of what class III-IV rivers you have been on or are considering? I think the reason you’re getting some of the less helpful answers you’re getting is that there seems to have been a change in recent years in what is considered to be class III and IV rapids, with a general trend of deflation (arguably because of a prior trend of unfounded inflation).

Adding to the confusion is the tendency of local guides to give somewhat higher ratings to their own rivers than to others. Also, there is a difference in whether to describe a river segment by it’s most difficult single rapid versus what predominates.

Thus, today, some people would argue that a true class IV river is generally considered to be one that is so difficult that you would not normally consider carrying along any other gear than what you need on the water - hence the perceived contradiction between a boat that is good for class IV rapids and one that is good for expeditions.

I’m guessing that what you are really looking for is an expedition boat that can handle some fairly serious rapids while fully loaded, up to an occasional isolated class III-IV rapid. Does that sound about right? On the other hand, it may be that you really are looking for a boat that can be configured for serious whitewater and that can handle a long chain of continuous class IV water on one trip, and that can also be configured for a week-long expedition on somewhat milder whitewater on another trip. If so, that would result in a different set of recommendations.

Class IV - no way in a Penobscot
and no way tandem, unless you are a expert!

With that said, I have a Penobscot and enjoy it tandem with my wife in Class I, Class II and occasionally III when we feel brave.



I think you need to read Cliff Roberston
and his discussions of running long rocky class 3 in the wilderness. He helped design a canoe for such conditions. I don’t recall the name, maybe the “Alaskan,” but you can go to the Bell canoe site to see it.

Running rapids in a loaded tandem canoe is very different from running them solo in a WW canoe full of float bags. You ARE NOT going to run class 4 tandem with a boat full of gear, and often you will portage, or at least portage the gear, to run class 3. It’s not just a matter of skill level, it has to do with being way off in the wilderness where swamping, wrapping around rocks, etc., are not funny. You just can’t risk those things.

Floatation and Gear Storage

– Last Updated: Dec-02-09 7:19 PM EST –

Actually, there are people who stash their gear packs beneath their floatation bags. P-net's ericnyre has posted about this a few times, and apparently it works pretty well. In any case, don't underestimate the floatation that's supplied by normal packs. At 5330 cubic inches, a standard #3 canoe pack would need to be loaded with more than 190 pounds of gear before losing buoyancy. Since the normal load in such a pack is quite a bit less than half of that, you can probably count on getting well over 100 pounds of floatation from a single pack, more if it's "loaded to the gills" (since the volume is expandable by means of the adjustable top flap). On the occasions I've see loaded packs end up in the water, they float with about one-quarter, perhaps sometimes one-third, of their volume below water, indicating that they would need to be three to four times heavier to sink. Float bags being as big as they are, and packs being reasonably buoyant, stashing loaded packs beneath float bags would not subtract a very large amount from your overall floatation. Oh, putting gear under the center float bag only makes sense, since no one would REALLY want to stash their gear anywhere BUT the center of the boat. Putting extra weight too far from center will greatly increase angular momentum, making the boat plow into waves and resulting in much more effort being needed to change the boat's heading, either for turning or just momentary pivots. Putting extra weight at the center changes the boat's angular momentum by much less (of course, most canoers already know this, even if more by "feel" than by understanding).

What you say about extra weight and handling the canoe is certainly true, though. Maybe ericnyre will post again on this subject, this time addressing boat-handling. I don't suppose he paddles Class-IV with loaded boats, but I don't really suppose the original poster "really" will be paddling Class-IV either, simply based on the nature of the original question. Finally, as has been pointed out by others, the "normal" procedure when loaded AND far from civilization would be to portage rapids that are Class-III or higher.

Cliff Jacobson?

– Last Updated: Dec-02-09 7:30 PM EST –

Cliff Robertson is a lot more famous, but does he know anything about canoeing? ;)

Misfired again! Although a PT boat
might make a good wilderness cruiser on larger rivers.

my picks sofgirl619 …


Both those canoes are proven expedition class canoes .

amen NM

Old Town and the Amount of Rocker

– Last Updated: Dec-02-09 10:35 PM EST –

I think it is very odd that Old Town provides no measurement of rocker in their specs. I understand that some people have devised some really peculiar ways of measuring rocker, so the measurements don't always agree from one builder to the next, but some indication of how much rocker is present would be helpful.

Looking at the photos of those two boats, it appears that the Appalachian has a fair amount of rocker (could easily be two or 2.5 inches, from the looks of it), and I suspect it maneuvers pretty well on account of that. The Tripper, on the other hand, has a shape that is "weird" at each end, strongly resembling the shape of a boat that's been hogged (damage that causes reverse rocker). I DON'T like the look of those stems that hang a lot deeper in the water than the adjacent parts of the hull. Having paddled boats with that shape (due to damage, not design), I'd expect the Tripper to be an unresponsive dog when sharp turns are attempted. It might be a good straight-line "tripper", but a river runner? I have serious doubts. To further discount it as a river runner, note that the seats cannot even be modified for kneeling (not even Wenonah, the company that loves the tractor seat and sit-and-switch paddling, would commit such a sin when building a semi-whitewater boat). Again on that score, the Appalachian wins in any comparison between these two boats. Maybe someone out there knows first-hand how the Tripper paddles, but it appears to be marketed toward the "Discovery" crowd.