Buying a canoe, dream come true .. BUT .. need suggestions (size, material etc)

Joined
May 10, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
4
Hello everybody. I am a new member here! My husband and I are hoping to buy a canoe (most likely 2nd hand but possibly new ..). We are overwhelmed with what will work best for us so hoping some of you pro's can give me a hand. The confusion starts with the fact that we need a multipurpose canoe: we do multi day flat lake backcountry camping (so need something that can hold gear and also not be a killer weight for portages), and will also spend a lot of time paddling on Lake Huron (big lake!), and lastly would like to be able to use it to paddle the Saugeen river (rocky, shallow, generally flat with some small rapids). Any suggestions on Size? (is a 2 seater 14' too small? Is a 17' too big?) and material (Royalex? Kevlar? Fibreglass?). I realize everything in life is a compromise but hioping someone can STEER me (excuse the pun) in the right direction. If I am missing the obvious please let me know! Many Thanks!
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2012
Messages
3,916
Reaction score
1,592
Location
Appleton, Maine
Welcome CG. If you want to consider a used canoe, why not search sites like Kijiji, Facebook Market Place, and Craigslist to see what's available in your area, then quickly report back with descriptions and prices.
I would say 16-17' would be good for what you plan on paddling, anything from Fiberglass, Royalex, and Kevlar are all good to consider.
I would stick to the better quality canoes, Swift, Nova Craft, Mad River, etc.
A scratched-up FG or Kevlar canoe might be a diamond in the rough, that is, it's a great paddling canoe in need of some TLC at a good price.
If you buy a new canoe and take it on a rock shallow river, plan to have it depreciate greatly with every scratch you put on it.
Good Luck
 
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
630
Reaction score
498
Location
The Hereford Zone along the Mason-Dixon Line
The confusion starts with the fact that we need a multipurpose canoe: we do multi day flat lake backcountry camping (so need something that can hold gear and also not be a killer weight for portages), and will also spend a lot of time paddling on Lake Huron (big lake!), and lastly would like to be able to use it to paddle the Saugeen river (rocky, shallow, generally flat with some small rapids). Any suggestions on Size? (is a 2 seater 14' too small? Is a 17' too big?) and material (Royalex? Kevlar? Fibreglass?).

Everything in selecting a canoe is a design compromise. A fast, lightweight lake canoe may be a poor choice for a rocky river, a beamy Royalex or even glass canoe may be a beast on a portage, too little freeboard when loaded can be wave wet, too much freeboard on an empty day trip can be bobbling around cork like, a 17+ foot canoe may be a handful in winds, etc.

The best canoe-choice advice I have read is “Buy a canoe designed for what you will be doing most of the time”. That requires an honest assessment of future plans, and the future is hard to predict. See also why many of us eventually own multiple canoes.

Answering in general, unless both paddlers are small and pack light, a 14 footer will likely be to short/small for two people and a backcountry gear load.

Depending on your size/weight and gear load packing style I’d look for something between 15’ at minimum and 17’ at maximum, in a weight that you can carry without discomfort, with a max beam in the 32-35 inch range so it won’t be a pokey pig to paddle.

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there are a lot of choices in well built, well designed 16-ish foot “general purpose” canoes that do a bit of everything.

If you find something, used or new, we could tell you more about that specific model.
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2016
Messages
772
Reaction score
311
Location
Bowmanville, Ontario
Sage advice Mike ....

I would also add that with that honest assessment, as to what will be the main use, try and determine some specific values for those "needs".

Turn that "so need something that can hold gear" into a real weight, that with the occupants weights, tell you what load range you need.
Assess how you treat a canoe, if you drive it up onto shore and then drag it ... or you like to step into it on dry land .... better stick with something akin to Royalex, because it will handle the abuse.
Think about the gear weight you have, your personal fitness levels and realize that the canoe weight is on top of that .... you have to carry it all at a portage.

When you put your list of "needs" together, you want a light, tough, stable, high capacity canoe capable of river, shallow rock, small rapids, huge water, flat lakes .... it should really start to sink in, that that canoe simply does not exist. Most people have to have several canoes to meet various needs. Hence the advice, start of with the #1 type of use it will get and base the first purchase on those needs .....

You don't share your location, but a visit to one of the major dealers would likely help with what giving you an idea of what the various models are and how they could meet your needs.

Above all else, make it a priority to take the craft out before you buy, if possible rent one and take a small trip in it, everyone impression of a craft is not the same, some folks will love one boat, while others really dislike the same boat .... trying it out tells you if you like it or not, nothing worse than paddling a boat you feel is a pig.

When you have selected a few prospective candidates, there are lots of folk here to offer opinions and advice

Brian
 
Joined
May 10, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
4
Many Thanks for your response!
Welcome CG. If you want to consider a used canoe, why not search sites like Kijiji, Facebook Market Place, and Craigslist to see what's available in your area, then quickly report back with descriptions and prices.
I would say 16-17' would be good for what you plan on paddling, anything from Fiberglass, Royalex, and Kevlar are all good to consider.
I would stick to the better quality canoes, Swift, Nova Craft, Mad River, etc.
A scratched-up FG or Kevlar canoe might be a diamond in the rough, that is, it's a great paddling canoe in need of some TLC at a good price.
If you buy a new canoe and take it on a rock shallow river, plan to have it depreciate greatly with every scratch you put on it.
Good Luck
Many Thanks for your reply. I am organizing a list of the canoes I am presently looking at and will post so I can get more feedback! Really appreciate you taking the time! Cheers!
 

Glenn MacGrady

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
2,658
Reaction score
943
Location
Connecticut
Welcome to site membership, Canadiangirl. Feel free to continue to ask any questions and to post any other messages, pictures or videos in our many canoe-related forums. We look forward to your participation in our community as you continue your canoeing journeys.

I'll be more specific. Yes, a 14' canoe is too short for two people and overnight gear. I would look at 16'-17½' canoes. Any longer is not really necessary for two people. Depth also matters. You want as much freeboard as possible for gear-laden tandems on big lakes and in whitewater. So, for a 16' tandem canoe, I would go with one that is 14"-15" deep at center. A 17+ foot canoe could be a little less deep.

In general, the price of a canoe is inversely proportional to its weight. That is, the lightest weight composite canoes made of Kevlar (aramid), carbon and other exotic fabrics will be more expensive than fiberglass or plastic canoes. Even if your wallet can afford it, you don't necessarily need the lightest weight tandems available if you are young and strong enough to carry a heavier canoe.

There is no perfect compromise canoe. However, there are always many reasonable alternatives for whatever kind of canoeing you do most often. Some are a little faster. Some turn a little better. Some are more stable. If you are just starting out, some of these differences may not matter much to you. As you get more and more experienced, and more sophisticated in your paddling preferences, you may sell your canoe to get some other one, or just keep adding additional canoes for different purposes onto your fleet, as many of us have done.

Good luck. Look at the used market. Folks here will be happy to chime in on specific models.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,871
Reaction score
854
Location
Raymond, ME
There is a principle that has worked well for us.. The bigger the water the bigger the boat. Lake Huron would qualify as big water. Nope not 14 feet for two of you. We use an 18.5 foot boat for Lake Superior for two of us and camping gear and food for two weeks. Gear is pretty much the same amount if you are out for one day or one week so the variable is food. The 18.5 footer is also used on rivers and small lakes though empty it is harder to handle.

Anything less than 16 feet on Lake Huron is simply unsafe unless you will only go on flat calm.. You will appreciate good secondary stability with reflecting waves.

We have a Souris River Wilderness that handles rivers quite well and a Wenonah Odyssey ; both 18 feet and longer. Both in the mid 40 lb range. And a bunch of smaller tandems like the Yellowstone that at 15 feet and a half I would never take on a trip other than a day outing.

Here is a listing of "northern" Ontario outfitters

Also take a look at London Paddle Shop
 
Joined
Mar 8, 2022
Messages
51
Reaction score
144
Location
Indiana
I dont know if you watch much YouTube, but the following Canadian channels have excellent videos covering their trips and equipment:

Explore the Backcountry
Lost Lakes
Canoe the North
Northern Scavenger
Jim Baird, Adventurer
The Dutch Explorer

There are, of course, many more than shown here. These are merely the channels that I like and do a good job of covering various aspects of the trip without the typical self-aggrandizing tone.

You will find that most "serious" canoists have at least two boats, a flatwater unit and a river runner. If that is not an option (like for me when I started) get a canoe that does well what you will be doing 99% of the time. For me, that was rivers. So I didn't buy a watercraft designed for the BWCA, even though I knew I would paddle there. If I go on a route with a lot of portaging, I simply rent the best canoe for the job and turn it back in. It would take many years for my rental fees to equal the price of a new boat, and even with cheaper used boats there is the hidden cost of storage and upkeep.

I now have three canoes. None are special whiz-bang craft, but they are all designed for what I do the most: river tripping. Buy for what you know you will do, add as neccessary as you go.

All that said, there sure are a LOT of people using a composite prospector-style hull every year on all kinds of water...
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,871
Reaction score
854
Location
Raymond, ME
Except do not be lulled by the magic word Prospector.. Most have NOTHING to do with the shape of the original Chestnut Prospector.

Take a ride over to Algonquin Outfitters . Their store on Oxtongue lake I found handy
 
Joined
Apr 20, 2022
Messages
65
Reaction score
28
Best wishes… just went through this process… f you do use kijji(sic) Craigslist FB marketplace…. Once you buy your canoe… don’t go back looking at new offerings…. You may end up buying a canoe or two more 😂
 
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
630
Reaction score
498
Location
The Hereford Zone along the Mason-Dixon Line
It may help develop a list of some possible new and not-unicorn used canoes if we knew a little more, and I guarantee the folks here will have suggestions.

Questions:

What kind of waters/conditions you will paddle in most of the time, or at least a split lakes/moving water rivers ratio?

Ratio of hull empty-ish day tripping vs gear loaded camping?

Packs, bags, barrel volume and estimated weight of a typical camping gear load?

And, not to get too personal, your heights and weights? Petite or XXL bow and stern matters.

I have a some fairly common used canoes in mind, RX or Composite Mad River Explorer, maybe a RX Old Town Penobscot and others, but without more specifics those may or not be appropriate for your mostly use.

Oh, and the big question. Total budget?

"Total" because I’d rather skimp on a (first) used canoe and buy decent PFD’s - $100 each easy, and quality paddles - $100+/-. Two $100 paddles, and a less expensive spare, call that one $50.

Dang, I just spent $450 of your money on paddles and PFD’s. If you buy a used canoe that comes with paddle those may work for a start, but I’ve visit a real outfitter shop and try on various PFDs. I can use a crappy paddle (well, not anymore), but I won’t wear a crappy uncomfortable PFD.

When you get into tripping canoe packs, dry bags and barrels it adds up. But a quality, comfortable PFD and decent paddles will be a joy for years, other stuff can come later.
 
Joined
May 10, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
4
Wow - many MANY thanks for all the comments here! It has helped my journey incredibly in just a mere 24 hours! OK .. Here are more specifics (thanks to all this wonderful information) as I narrow things down. Though I have never owned a canoe I would consider myself an intermediate paddler (many years of 5+ day tripping/ portaging on flat lakes, also paddled the Mckenzie River from BC to Inuvik (2 1/2 months camping, over 1,500 kilometres in an aluminum Grumman !!!), and also worked on the Tatshinshini River as a white water rafting photographer (though I was rowing the river, not canoeing it!). I have NEVER paddled on the Great Lakes / Lake Huron. From all of your comments I now realize my priorities: Most of our paddling will be on Lake Huron (slightly intimidated so definitely only when it is calm and staying close to shore ... just pleasure paddling for an hour or two at a time, no gear), would manage one backcountry 4-5 day flat lake camping/ portaging paddle a year (with camping gear). Just looked at a 17' Dumoine Royalex and it was too big and WAY too heavy so I feel that 16" Kevlar is probably my best bet (not sure how heavy fibreglass is .. but realizing WEIGHT is a priority .. I am no longer a spring chicken and there will be a lot of hauling the canoe on and off the car and portages in my future). Coming to terms with the fact that I will trash a kevlar canoe on a rocky river so might have to rent (or buy a second canoe) for that reality. Excuse the pun but am I missing the boat on anything here that I should still be considering? (is there an alternative to a 16' kevlar)? I also wanted to throw 3 canoes at you that I have found for sale. All 16' Kevlar ... I have attached files with photos (prices are in Canadian Dollars). Please let me know your thoughts .... Are these decent? I have no idea! My final note (to those kind souls who have stuck through this lengthy post) is that the one canoe I KNOW and love (from renting) is Scott Prospector 16' kevlar canoe. So that is my baseline .... Please let me know your thoughts kind people if you have a moment. Am I on the right track? I really appreciate it! Cheers! (3 files attached)
 

Attachments

  • River dancer.jpg
    River dancer.jpg
    228.6 KB · Views: 17
  • 190 Cruiser.jpg
    190 Cruiser.jpg
    212.3 KB · Views: 16
  • 16%22 Abitibi Canoe.jpg
    16%22 Abitibi Canoe.jpg
    198.4 KB · Views: 16
Joined
May 10, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
4
The confusion starts with the fact that we need a multipurpose canoe: we do multi day flat lake backcountry camping (so need something that can hold gear and also not be a killer weight for portages), and will also spend a lot of time paddling on Lake Huron (big lake!), and lastly would like to be able to use it to paddle the Saugeen river (rocky, shallow, generally flat with some small rapids). Any suggestions on Size? (is a 2 seater 14' too small? Is a 17' too big?) and material (Royalex? Kevlar? Fibreglass?).

Everything in selecting a canoe is a design compromise. A fast, lightweight lake canoe may be a poor choice for a rocky river, a beamy Royalex or even glass canoe may be a beast on a portage, too little freeboard when loaded can be wave wet, too much freeboard on an empty day trip can be bobbling around cork like, a 17+ foot canoe may be a handful in winds, etc.

The best canoe-choice advice I have read is “Buy a canoe designed for what you will be doing most of the time”. That requires an honest assessment of future plans, and the future is hard to predict. See also why many of us eventually own multiple canoes.

Answering in general, unless both paddlers are small and pack light, a 14 footer will likely be to short/small for two people and a backcountry gear load.

Depending on your size/weight and gear load packing style I’d look for something between 15’ at minimum and 17’ at maximum, in a weight that you can carry without discomfort, with a max beam in the 32-35 inch range so it won’t be a pokey pig to paddle.

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there are a lot of choices in well built, well designed 16-ish foot “general purpose” canoes that do a bit of everything.

If you find something, used or new, we could tell you more about that specific model.
Thanks so much for the info Mike - I just posted 3 canoes for sale I am looking at (at the bottom of this thread) - and would love anything you could tell me about those models! Cheers!
 
Joined
May 10, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
4
Sage advice Mike ....

I would also add that with that honest assessment, as to what will be the main use, try and determine some specific values for those "needs".

Turn that "so need something that can hold gear" into a real weight, that with the occupants weights, tell you what load range you need.
Assess how you treat a canoe, if you drive it up onto shore and then drag it ... or you like to step into it on dry land .... better stick with something akin to Royalex, because it will handle the abuse.
Think about the gear weight you have, your personal fitness levels and realize that the canoe weight is on top of that .... you have to carry it all at a portage.

When you put your list of "needs" together, you want a light, tough, stable, high capacity canoe capable of river, shallow rock, small rapids, huge water, flat lakes .... it should really start to sink in, that that canoe simply does not exist. Most people have to have several canoes to meet various needs. Hence the advice, start of with the #1 type of use it will get and base the first purchase on those needs .....

You don't share your location, but a visit to one of the major dealers would likely help with what giving you an idea of what the various models are and how they could meet your needs.

Above all else, make it a priority to take the craft out before you buy, if possible rent one and take a small trip in it, everyone impression of a craft is not the same, some folks will love one boat, while others really dislike the same boat .... trying it out tells you if you like it or not, nothing worse than paddling a boat you feel is a pig.

When you have selected a few prospective candidates, there are lots of folk here to offer opinions and advice

Brian
Thanks for taking the time Brian! Appreciate all the advice - at the end of this thread I just posted in your words "a few prospective candidates" - would love any opinions or advice you might have to offer. Thanks again for taking the time to answer my previous message!
 
Joined
May 10, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
4
Welcome to site membership, Canadiangirl. Feel free to continue to ask any questions and to post any other messages, pictures or videos in our many canoe-related forums. We look forward to your participation in our community as you continue your canoeing journeys.

I'll be more specific. Yes, a 14' canoe is too short for two people and overnight gear. I would look at 16'-17½' canoes. Any longer is not really necessary for two people. Depth also matters. You want as much freeboard as possible for gear-laden tandems on big lakes and in whitewater. So, for a 16' tandem canoe, I would go with one that is 14"-15" deep at center. A 17+ foot canoe could be a little less deep.

In general, the price of a canoe is inversely proportional to its weight. That is, the lightest weight composite canoes made of Kevlar (aramid), carbon and other exotic fabrics will be more expensive than fiberglass or plastic canoes. Even if your wallet can afford it, you don't necessarily need the lightest weight tandems available if you are young and strong enough to carry a heavier canoe.

There is no perfect compromise canoe. However, there are always many reasonable alternatives for whatever kind of canoeing you do most often. Some are a little faster. Some turn a little better. Some are more stable. If you are just starting out, some of these differences may not matter much to you. As you get more and more experienced, and more sophisticated in your paddling preferences, you may sell your canoe to get some other one, or just keep adding additional canoes for different purposes onto your fleet, as many of us have done.

Good luck. Look at the used market. Folks here will be happy to chime in on specific models.
Thanks for welcoming me to the group! I have learned so much already, very kind people here! Really helped me narrow down my wants and needs (and the fact that I have to compromise lol). I just posted some models that are up for sale ... so would love any feedback or advice if time allows. Thanks for your message! It was much appreciated!
 

Glenn MacGrady

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
2,658
Reaction score
943
Location
Connecticut
Most of our paddling will be on Lake Huron (slightly intimidated so definitely only when it is calm and staying close to shore ... just pleasure paddling for an hour or two at a time, no gear), would manage one backcountry 4-5 day flat lake camping/ portaging paddle a year (with camping gear).

As to using bigger canoes on bigger water, that is a reasonable generalization. But one must also factor in cost, weight and how many canoes one has in a fleet. Not everyone has an armada.

And also, Lake Huron is not everywhere LAKE Huron.

I once drove along the entire south coast of Lake Superior with my fragile Hawaiian outrigger solo canoe and never once put in. Too scared stiff. Everywhere, it looked like an angry, storm-tossed Arctic Ocean.

But then I drove over the top of Lake Huron into Georgian Bay. I spent about five days paddling around the northern and eastern shores of Georgian Bay and it quickly became one of my favorite all-time paddling places. I don't think I was ever more than 500 yards/meters from land, because there are thousands upon thousands of islands and fractal coastline. That's where I carefully stayed and was never in danger of big water waves.

I still think a 16' (minimum) to 17½' canoe would be satisfactory for such relatively sheltered Huron waters and rivers.

I also wanted to throw 3 canoes at you that I have found for sale. All 16' Kevlar ...

I'd rule out the Sawyer 190 Cruiser. To me, it's too short (15-9), too narrow a waterline (30.5), and too shallow (12.5). Some solo canoes have specs like that.

Scott Canoe went out of business in 2013 and Abitibi bought its molds and is now producing Scott's former hulls. You say you like the Scott Prospector. Here is its manufacturer's description and specs:

Scott Prospector

Manufacturer's Description:

The Prospector 16 is the first choice of experienced wilderness paddlers. It is ideally suited for rough waters and large loads. The Prospector 16 excels at quick manoeuvrability. Its easy ride is ideal for novice and experienced paddlers alike. A true expedition canoe handling all you will find in the deep wilderness.

Specifications:
Length: 16'-0"
Width: 36"
Centre Depth: 14"
Bow / Stern Height: 21"
Weight: 67 lb. (Fiberglass)
Weight: 56 lb. (Kevlar)
Weight: 49 lb. (Exp. Kevlar)
Weight: 44 lb. (Ultralite)

Capacity: 940 lb.

The ad picture you show is of the Scott River Dancer. Here is its description and specs:

Scott River Dancer

Manufacturer's Description:

An exceptional well balanced craft, ready to carry you wherever the adventure leads. An ideal canoe for rivers and exposed lakes. The V hull design makes this craft firm tracking and solidly stable. It sheds waves for a dry ride when you need it and is easily handled, granting you the confidence to make the River Dancer your go-anywhere choice

Specifications:
Length: 16'-0"
Width: 36"
Centre Depth: 14"
Bow / Stern Height: 23"
Weight: 67 lb. (Fiberglass)
Weight: 56 lb. (Kevlar)
Weight: 49 lb. (Exp. Kevlar)
Weight: 44 lb. (Ultralite)
Capacity: 940 lb.


Not much spec difference except for the greater bow/stern height on the River Dancer and the mention of a V bottom on the River Dancer. Rocker isn't mentioned for either.

I think the River Dancer would meet your needs just fine. If it's the 56 lb. Kevlar layup, that is a heavy Kevlar layup. Probably mostly fiberglass with one Kevlar layer. That kind of layup is pretty bombproof and I wouldn't hesitate to take it down easy whitewater or be afraid of scraping or bouncing off some rocks.

The pictures of the Abitibi canoe don't say what Scott model it is. Here is the current Abitibi canoe lineup:


From the all-yellow fabric color, this could be an all-Kevlar layup, which should be much lighter than the 56 lb. Scott River Dancer. Just from the photo, it looks like it could be the right size canoe for you. I would encourage you to contact the seller to get the name of the Abitibi canoe model and as many of the specs, including weight, that you can.

That's my research and take . . . so far. Buying a canoe is a "trip" unto itself.
 

Glenn MacGrady

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
2,658
Reaction score
943
Location
Connecticut
I found those ads, CG.

The Scott River Dancer is the 49 lb. expedition Kevlar model. That's a very nice canoe. I can't speak to prices in Canada, but it looks very cosmetically good. I think that canoe may get sold quickly. New lightweight Kevlar canoes are so expensive now that the used ones in good shape get scooped up quickly, at least in the USA.

The Abitibi canoe ad doesn't say model or weight, but suggests the hull could use paint. That canoe also has a keel, which I like less than a V bottom. Abitibi also originally announced in 2015 that it was going to make several former Bluewater Canoe hulls, but if they did so, the Bluewater models don't seem to be on the Abitibi website in 2022. Maybe this is no-longer-in-production Abitibi Bluewater model.
 
Joined
May 10, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
4
I found those ads, CG.

The Scott River Dancer is the 49 lb. expedition Kevlar model. That's a very nice canoe. I can't speak to prices in Canada, but it looks very cosmetically good. I think that canoe may get sold quickly. New lightweight Kevlar canoes are so expensive now that the used ones in good shape get scooped up quickly, at least in the USA.

The Abitibi canoe ad doesn't say model or weight, but suggests the hull could use paint. That canoe also has a keel, which I like less than a V bottom. Abitibi also originally announced in 2015 that it was going to make several former Bluewater Canoe hulls, but if they did so, the Bluewater models don't seem to be on the Abitibi website in 2022. Maybe this is no-longer-in-production Abitibi Bluewater model.
Many, Many thanks Glenn .. we are going to try and see that River Dancer today (things go very quickly here as well). How can you tell it's the expedition model ??!! Laughed at your description of "angry, storm-tossed Arctic Ocean" - yes Lake Huron has those days and then has "clear as glass days". We are putting in at the town of Southamptom. Open water and no little islands. I cannot again thank you for doing the research on my behalf and spreading the knowledge. Cheers!
 
Joined
Apr 13, 2022
Messages
18
Reaction score
82
Location
Ontario, Canada
Our first canoe was a 16’ Nova Craft Prospector. It was a beautiful boat and we bought it new. Ash gunnels, Kevlar Spectra layup. We are fairly lightweight trippers and we found that there was so much freeboard with the Nova that the canoe blew around a lot. As much as we loved the boat we ended up selling it and buying a 16’ Souris River Prospector. We find that its sleeker profile fits us better. I‘m not fighting it as much as the big Nova in waves & wind. We love it.
 
Last edited:
Top