Why Pack Canoes?

Thanks for bringing

– Last Updated: Jun-03-09 7:02 PM EST –

this up
"So, I finally found my Rushton biography, “Rushton and His Times in American Canoeing” by Atwood Manley, which I hadn’t read in 20 years."

Shamefully I LIVED in Canton and have not read the book.

Good excerpts..and I will look for that one at the WCHA Assembly if the antique book people come.

Disregard..its on Amazon!

Double bladed paddles
just to add something about double bladed paddles: Some people complain about getting wet, but I think their approach is flawed. You use a longer paddle, and use relaxed angles during the stroke. I use a 260mm double paddle by FoxWorx, and would love to try a 280mm as I think it would be even drier and possibly more powerful.

There is the matter of definition
Different smallish canoes are being discussed in this thread, and there is no official definition of “pack canoe” that I know of.

I have no interest in any manufacturer, but the pack canoes that are actually modeled on Rushton’s Nessmuk boats and that are the shortest and lightest seem to be made by Hornbeck and Hemlock.



I don’t know the size and weights of the Bell and Wenonah models mentioned.

Mike Galt had a miniature boat in the 1980’s that I think he called the Bucktail. I thought it was a gimmick. If you shifted your weight by 8 inches you could go from a bow ender to a stern ender.

It wouldn’t surprise me if native American Indians and backyard builders have been building little canoes for centuries. Seems like a natural thing for a craftsman to try to do, even if there is little market potential.

low angle stroke
and key the length to the width of your boat.

I use a 240 in my RapidFire. And a 230 works.

In a constant flare boat I would never be able to go that short.

There is some opinion that the longer you go with a paddle the more sweep gets into your stroke. I would think that can be counterbalanced by a shorter stroke ending at your hip.

No wetness here.

No wetness with 230cm?
I don’t know how people manage that. I guess that I use too high of an angle and too much rotation for open boats.

interesting post
Thanks for all this good information. I posted a couple of months ago that I’m considering getting a pack canoe to replace my sot. I haven’t acted on it yet but this post is helping me lean towards the pack canoe. Weight has been the biggest factor in my need to make a change. Old Town Canoe is easily accessible to me, but the others are not as far as I know. I’ll keep looking. Good topic for discussion- thanks.

Pack Canoes
Here are Wenonah and Bell



Lets add Placid for completeness
I find the workmanship first rate.

More important they paid attention to the little details like materials. Its not the what is in the boat only…its also the where and why a fabric is selected and laid in a certain way.

I am very rough on boats and my RapidFire has not been a disappointment. Its got that name for a real reason…not just a marketing come on.


Whatever one you choose it may extend your paddling travels in comfort and make possible trips you never imagined you could do.

The only sweeter pack boat I have seen is made by Loon Works and I believe it is one of a kind.

Vermont Canoe
For good measure.


Light weight winner is Hornbeck
Looking at the specs in all the links so far reveals that Hornbeck has the lightest canoe at 10 pounds.

The only canoe lighter was Rushton’s fifth canoe for Nessmuk and Mrs. K in Tarpon Springs, the Rushton-Fairbanks at 9 lbs, 15 oz. Nessmuk wrote that, in order for the canoe to “stay in a lumpy sea”, “she is to have a light cloth decking and a cockpit withal, like the able-bodied canoes of the A.C.A.”

Sorry Mrs. K, Nessmuk and A.C.A., but you all are kayaking.


– Last Updated: Jun-03-09 11:58 PM EST –

Mine can be paddled with a canoe paddle.
Watch that light.

One of Platt Monforts Geodesic Airlite boats comes in at 8 lbs. Its a sweetie.

But I wont take it to the basalt of the boreal forest.

I like Peter but he lost this one.

Hi Trish,
I remember that thread. I took the plunge and bought a Vermont Tupper, and I couldn’t be happier. I hope you have the chance to try one. You could contact Rob and see where he is going to be for demos. He seems to be going all over the northeast.

Weight was a big factor for me, too. My little rec kayak weighs 38 #, the Tupper just 25#, and what difference that makes at the end of the day.

My little canoe, fast, maneuverable, and downright pretty is just perfect for me.

Good luck; maybe you’ll be a canoe head soon.

excellent swamp access vehicle
I used an Old Town Pack canoe for 10 years for exploring southern swamps, before finally wearing a hole in the bottom of it from dragging it over logs. I replaced it with a Bell royalex Wildfire which is only 10 pounds heavier and 2 feet longer, and so can go to most of the same places. However, I’ve noticed that I’m not as likely to break new ground exploring, so I’m in the market for something smaller and lighter even than the Pack was.

One cool thing about a light-weight, tough boat is it allows a certain kind of wilderness trekking that will let a birdwatcher or fisherman get places where very few other people go, deep in the heart of southern swamps (and northern, too, I presume, although I have no experience there). The trick is the ability to get past fallen logs and low growth, which stop most boats, while still being able to cross wide wet areas, which stop most hikers. To do this you often have to get out of the boat (either up on the blocking log or in the water) and drag the boat over. Progress can be slow, one MPH or less in the rough parts, but you don’t have to go far to be totally isolated and for the immediately local environment to change dramatically.

I’ve found some cool areas a half mile from an established canoe trail, as well as within hearing of highways and RR tracks. Thanks to wetlands protection legislation, there are millions of acres of protected southern swamps, and they are located all over the place including many within easy reach of major urban areas. Good map reading skills and practice with aerial interp are useful to help identify the most promising areas to aim for, and a gps is helpful to get you to the targeted spot. Depending on where you live, buying one of these little boats and learning the required skills can greatly increase the number of good “launch spots” within an hour of your home.

And Savage River

pack canoes
One addition to the list. The late Bart Hauthaway made pack canoes in his basement near Boston for decades. Dan Sheehan, doing business as Cal-Tec, continues to make Bart’s pack canoes, as well as many other Hauthaway models and a few of his own design. Old school construction- e glass and polyester resin, but well done.

In general, pack canoes are light in weight, require a low paddling effort and have a low top speed. Great for “lily dipping” and casual paddles- Many models are a poor choice if you are planning to cover considerable distance. Some that have strayed farther from the Rushton designs, such as the Rapidfire, are longer, heavier (but still light) and much faster. Pack canoes are very stable, as when you are sitting on the bottom you’re basically sitting on the surface of the water. Easy to portage from pond to pond in an area like the Adirondacks.

Pack canoes have to be matched to your weight. The “Nesmuck” sized ones are only suitable for those who weight less than 150lbs. Longer ones( 12’-15’) and/or wider ones are suitable for considerably greater weights. I built a “Bucktail” from one of Bart’s molds. It is very close in size to the “Bucktail” Rushton built for Nesmuck. As expected, with my 205 lbs it is dangerously overloaded and paddles poorly. With my 140 lb daughter-in-law inside, the canoe is quite graceful and paddles fine.

With regard to canoe weight, Bart always said the smaller and lighter the canoe is the more it will be used. Rings more true to me with every passing decade.

Pack canoes are subject to paddle drip from the double blade paddle. At times it can be moderate and at times it can be considerable. On warm days I don’t care about paddle drip. On colder days, I wear waterproof pants and leave a sponge on the floor of the canoe in front of the seat-squeeze it out about every 15 min. If you are freaked out by paddle drip, don’t buy a pack canoe.

In my humble judgment (some reasonable people will differ) Hornbeck pack canoes win my paddler’s reports “best buy” for price/quality/light weight. Placid Boatworks wins my “best overall” for superior design and construction quality- they are also the most expensive. The many other quality pack pack canoes mentioned in this thread fall somewhere between those two positions and of course are worthy alternatives.

Try before you buy and remember you usually get what you pay for as to the price/quality factor.


pack canoes
Forgot to also mention that most pack canoes are so light that you have to consider how you will secure them from possible wind damage before you leave them on the shoreline.


hello Sissy
Good to hear from you and I’m glad you are enjoying your new Tupper. Other than the lighter weight can you describe what you like about it? Was it a smooth transition for you to go from rec kayak to a pack canoe? Anything you don’t like about it?



Bart Hauthaway, thanks …
… for that memory. I never met him, but Bart was a huge contributor to the sport. World team competitor, Olympic coach, boat designer and maker. I used to get his catalog.

I believe he was instrumental in getting Old Town to offer one of his designs as their Pack Canoe.

He perhaps should be credited as the first to market a fiberglass pack canoe.

Hound hauling pack
At my advanced state of deterioration I got an Old Town Pack last year. It’s a fun little boat that fishes well and can carry a couple of dogs for short distances.


I just wish

– Last Updated: Jun-05-09 6:45 AM EST –

I had a garage to keep it in; it would be easier to keep the wood trim looking nice if I could store it out of the weather. Aluminum rails would have been a more practical option, but I would have had to wait for one to be built and shipped---only a few weeks, but I just couldn't let this boat go. My condo is on the second floor, or I would get rid of some furniture and keep it in the living room. Seriously. If we have a hurricane this summer, it will definitely come upstairs.

With the seat on the floor, and adjustable foot braces, the Tupper is designed to be paddled with a double blade, so there was no transition from a rec kayak. It moves through the water silently, unlike the rec kayak which makes a lot of bow noise, and it is much faster.

I can carry my Nemo cart without having to take it apart to stow it. Even though the canoe is light weight, there are several places I go regularly that require taking the boat a good distance between the launch and the parking lot. When trying to get back before an approaching Florida thunderstorm, it is nice to be able to take the cart out of the canoe, strap the canoe on it, and run.

I did not have the opportunity to try any other solo canoes, so I can't say whether I would have liked the others I was considering as well. I do know I could not have liked them more. Isn't possible ;^)

The customer service from Vermont Canoe is amazing. Rob and Amy came down to bring canoes to their Apopka dealer, and wanted to do some paddling here. I demoed the Tupper for two full days, on two of my favorite streams. They have asked for feedback on the boat, which is the first Tupper to make its home in Florida, and have faithfully answered my questions.

I see you're at the other end of the east coast from me, or I'd be happy to have you try my boat.