I recently bought my first canoe and thought I would share some of what I learned with other members who might be considering a canoe purchase.
There are hundreds of good canoes out there to choose from. Mad River, Old Town, Wenonah, and Dagger are just a small sample of the brands available. The most important thing in deciding which canoe to buy is to first define what you want out of it. What this means is simply answering questions like:
- Who will be using the canoe? (One person, married couple, family)
- Where will it be paddled? (whitewater, small streams, lakes, ponds)
- How will it be used? (fishing, hunting, camping, racing, family outings)
After you’re comfortable with these answers and what you want to spend, then you can weed out the contenders from the pretenders and make the best canoe choice.
For example, what I wanted most from a canoe was versatility. One that could be paddled in lots of different waters — streams, ponds, lakes, etc. Versatility also meant a canoe that paddled well either solo or tandem, was stable enough for fishing, was lightweight, turned easily, tracked fairly fast, and had enough capacity for an extended trip. This list may sound a bit farfetched, but there are plenty of canoes that fit the bill.
Other folks will have different needs. Wilderness trippers will probably want a longer (faster) canoe with greater gear capacity. People who often fish without a partner, or also duck hunt might want a solo canoe, or a tandem model that is shorter (more portable) and wider (more stable). Whatever your needs, there’s a canoe design that will work for you.
A variety of materials are used in canoe construction: aluminum, fiberglass, polyethylene, royalex, kevlar, and wood. Each material has its pluses and minuses. Kevlar’s selling point is its combination of strength and lightweight. The price of kevlar is the negative — you could pay twice as much for a kevlar canoe that weighs 20-30 pounds less. If you can afford it or plan to do lots of paddling and portaging in wilderness areas, then Kevlar might be your best choice. Otherwise, fiberglass, royalex or other plastic materials will probably suit your needs just fine. A 16-17 footer constructed of these materials will weigh in at 55-75 pounds and save you hundreds of dollars.
What about aluminum? Aluminum canoes are very durable and relatively inexpensive. They’re fine in lakes and ponds, but if you plan to do a lot of paddling in streams you’ll soon discover their lesser qualities. In comparison to other hull materials aluminum is heavier, noisier and hangs onto submerged rocks like smallie lips on a crawdad! Those of us who dragged aluminum canoes down Ohio Brush Creek a few years back will tell you how bad it gets! Non-aluminum canoes are nearly as durable, weigh less, and most importantly gently “kiss” those rocks that grab and hold aluminum canoes.
There’s lots more to learn before you invest in a canoe. If you decide to buy be sure to contact a reputable canoe dealer who will answer all your questions and perhaps even let you ‘test paddle’ a model so you’ll be totally satisfied before you buy.
Have fun afloat!