Decide Which Canoe is Best for You

Important canoe concepts to understand:
Any canoe is a displacement watercraft. They displace a volume of water that is equal in weight to the sum of the canoe/kayak and its load. All displacement boats have some common characteristics.  The most important characteristic common to all displacement boats is the rule of compromise — for every hull design benefit, there is some performance compromise. For the purpose of this article, we will talk about four concepts of canoe design. At a basic level of understanding (which is all we need to make an informed purchasing decision), most canoes can be understood in one of these four categories: recreational canoes, tripping canoes, whitewater canoes, and sporting canoes.

No canoe or kayak performs great in extremely varied paddling conditions; however, there are versatile hull designs that paddle good in a variety of conditions. These canoes are referred to as recreational canoes. Recreational canoes will be in the 13’ to 15’ length range with a 33” to 40” maximum width. Often they will have a center-seat installed for paddling solo. The hulls will only have slight rocker, chines will be soft and the bottom typically has a slight arch. These boats do well in class one rivers, ponds and lakes.  They make great family boats and can be used for weekend camping trips.

Longer canoe hulls track straighter, travel faster, glide farther, and carry more weight than shorter hulls of similar design and width. Long, narrow canoes are designed to travel over large bodies of water in the most efficient manner possible. These displacement boats are called tripping canoes. Usually the bow and stern are significantly different (asymmetric) with the bow being taller and more exposed than the stern. This helps the canoe to handle high wind conditions better and to thwart choppy waves you would find on large bodies of water.

Whitewater canoes are designed exclusively for river use. Design features that allow a canoe to be durable and maneuverable are the most important elements to this type of canoe. These boats are usually 9’ to 15’ in length and almost all whitewater canoes will have extremely rockered hulls. Rocker reduces the amount of wetted surface on the hull, and specifically in the bow and stern, which allows the boat to maneuver easier. Most whitewater canoes are built with a material called Royalex for durability.

Shorter, wider hulled canoes are typically more maneuverable and have better initial stability. Often they have flat bottoms with a harder chine which makes them perfect for small ponds and protected waters.  Typically a boat with high initial stability does not have adequate secondary stability to handle anything but very flat, calm water. Canoes of this design are referred to as sporting canoes. Birding, hunting, and fishing are typical activities that can best utilize a sporting canoe. Because of their high initial stability and poor secondary stability, a sporting canoe is a poor choice for rivers and large lakes where waves, currents, wind may be present.

Most customers will look for one boat that can be paddled with ease in different environments. For example, you may want a canoe that can be paddled both tandem and solo. You also may want a boat that can handle large, open lakes and whitewater rivers. Furthermore, you may decide you want a boat that is stable enough initially to make it a good hunting and fishing canoe. Your challenge is to start asking yourself questions about what type of paddling I really want to do and where will I PRIMARILY use my canoe. Keep in mind that one canoe CANNOT do it all. Make your selection based on where you will PRIMARILY use the boat and in what capacity. Our job at Great Outdoor Provision Co. is to help you find the best canoe for your primary use and to make sure you get the best value for your purchase.?