BWCA 3 person canoe or double and solo? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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FindHim
member (18)member
 
11/13/2021 08:09PM  
My two sons (18 and 21) and I will be taking a 4-night trip next summer. What are the pros/cons of using one 3-person canoe or taking two canoes?
 
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Hockhocking
member (21)member
 
11/13/2021 08:32PM  
Three person canoe will make portaging easier. More
PAddle power to handle wind if necessary. The whole moving part of your trip may be easier. But, the double plus solo gives you a chance to switch off and get some practice solo paddling. Do you want the practice? Do your sons? Likely the tandem will spend some of the time waiting for the solo, especially if fighting wind. What canoes do you have to work with? I say paddle what you have! If you’ll be renting anyway, rent a big canoe.
Michwall2
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11/13/2021 09:00PM  
It depends on the trip. I have done trips both ways. Here are a few observations:

Are you mostly traveling or mostly fishing? Mostly traveling and need to cover lots of miles, use the 3 person. Mostly fishing and want to cover more shoreline? Use the tandem+solo.

How large are you all? How much gear do you carry? We have done 3 adult person trips in a 3 person canoe. But we do mostly traveling, pack as light as we can, and are looking to cover miles. If you are carrying a lot more gear, need fishing platforms, and are not worried about a little wind, then I would use the tandem+solo.

What entry? Mostly bigger lakes? Mostly smaller lakes? More river travel? Bigger lakes and wind are easier with the 3 person. One person in a solo can tire easily in a long wind blown paddle. Smaller lakes with little wind/waves effects, the tandem+solo should be safe. River travel will be a lot easier in the tandem+solo set up.

Which 3 person? Some are made for traveling. Some are made for fishing. The Wenonah Minn 3 is a 20' battleship with a straight keel. It tracks great and can really cover the miles. On the other hand, some people find it jittery and hard to fish from. Taking it on a meandering river requires a lot of coordinated paddle strokes from the front and back. The shorter and wider Souris River 18.5 three person is a slower boat. It has some rocker and will turn a little easier. It is still long enough to require some fancy paddling on meandering rivers. It is a better fishing platform though. The Northstar canoes are a nice compromise between the two.

If you are doing a lot of travel into less visited areas, the longer 3 person will present problems fitting into some of the smaller portage ends. Someone usually ends up getting out in some deeper water (And/or has to fight the brush and branches reaching out from the shore). Low water (think drought) brings more rocks into play as you approach some portages as well. The longer boats can be problematic in those situations.

On the other hand, bringing 2 watercraft means an extra trip across the portage for someone. More storage headaches in camp, etc.

Generally, I prefer the 3 person canoe. But, my sons are older and like the option of heading off without Dad. I find myself in the tandem+solo scenario a lot more.

Hope you have a great trip.
billconner
distinguished member(8139)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
11/14/2021 06:30AM  
Don't overlook the three solo option. :)
FindHim
member (18)member
 
11/14/2021 04:08PM  
Thanks! We are from the Gulf Coast in Texas (and have a good amount of paddling experience in kayaks) but will be renting our canoes from an outfitter. The plan is to fish in some more isolated areas and really want to keep it just the 3 of us.
11/14/2021 05:41PM  
Hook up with an outfitter for advice and rentals. I'd recommend Deb at Seagull Outfitters.
11/14/2021 07:41PM  
I have done 6 fishing trips in a 3 person canoe.

With my wife and kids, with my dad and my brother and with a buddy and his son. A solo would have ruined some of the fun and camaraderie we had on those trips.

Doesn’t mean a tandem and a solo or three solos isn’t a better option for others or you just depends on what you want out of the trip. Michwall2 had a good write up of pros/cons.

A 3 man Bell Northwoods, Souris River Q 18.5, Seneca or Champlain with 3 seats would all be roomy enough in my opinion.

T
11/15/2021 07:32AM  
I've done several 3 person 2 canoe trips. I was the one who took the solo as the other two had no experience using a solo. The person who using the solo will definitely expend more energy and inevitably fall behind. It really wasn't a problem for me, though. We also did a lot of fishing and I couldn't imagine all of us fishing in a three person canoe. If you're trying to do some father son bonding I'd I go with the 3 person.
Banksiana
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11/15/2021 09:20AM  
I've done lots of trips being the solo with a tandem. Never had any difficulty keeping up, usually I have to wait for the tandem. Having the solo is nice when at camp- anyone can go out on their own.
11/15/2021 10:37AM  
Or use two tandem canoes and have more room for gear. Get the "solo guy" across the portage first, loaded, and launched. The double canoe will catch up by the next portage.

11/15/2021 12:26PM  
There's no right answer..But I'll throw my vote in for the 3-person canoe. For the comradery alone, I think this is the best option. However, your boys might like the idea of having their own tandem and leaving you to a solo canoe.
11/15/2021 12:45PM  
I vote the 3 person and a northwind 18 or wenonah seneca are my first choices for canoe to ask about.

You have one less canoe to portage, one less canoe to tie down at night, etc. But if you're not planning on going very far from the entry point or not planning on doing a lot of actual traveling then the 2 canoes is a good option too.
RedLakePaddler
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11/15/2021 12:53PM  
I agree with Banksiana. Having a solo canoe along would be great. It would give them the opportunity to try out both and would bet there will be arguments as to who gets to paddle the solo.
I am old and have no problem keeping up with my daughter and grandson.
I have a MN 3 which hangs in the garage, I will always choose the solo over sitting in the middle of the MN 3.
Carl
ScottL
senior member (58)senior membersenior member
 
11/15/2021 04:34PM  
I have done both as well and concur with Michwall2. It really depends on your personal preference and the style of trip. When we traveled with two adults and a teenage boy in a 3-person canoe where we were setting up a basecamp and fishing we had a lot of gear and it was cramped for the person in the middle. The next year we did a similar trip and took a tandem and a solo and the gear fit better between the two canoes. I paddled the solo and it was the tandem that had to keep up with me most of the time. Having two canoes gave more flexibility to fishing but the person fishing in the solo did not have as much interaction with the two in the tandem. But either way you will be in a gorgeous setting enjoying nature so it is hard to go wrong.
Gaidin53
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11/16/2021 03:38PM  
I’m planning a long 2 week trip with two 17 year old boys and myself and I’ll hopefully be under 250 lbs. by that trip and hopefully way lower. That being said I was told I should be in a Northwind 20 with 3 seats or the B19. I’m sure other manufactures have canoes with similar high optimal weight loads.

I’m trying to keep portage trips down so the 3 person is a no brainer for this trip and we need that higher weight capacity for the gear and food we’ll need to have. I’ve aso tripped with these same boys with Northern Tier and have experienced why a 3 person canoe with single portaging is awesome!

Your trip is different though with it being shorter. Gear needs and wants are relatively the same but you have way less food. You are coming from a long ways away so I’m going to recommend a longer or more night trip but hey it’s your trip. Also yeah you should just keep it to the family group.

Ryan
11/17/2021 10:08AM  
If it was me, I would go with a three person canoe. one or two can easily fish from it and leave someone behind. Unless that person left out would also like to be paddling elsewhere at the same time, then it wont be an issue. I myself, prefer to hang out in camp more than most others, so it would work fine for any 3 man group I am in.

I have also fished solo from my MN3 and appreciated the additional stability of the bigger boat while fishing.
TominMpls
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11/18/2021 09:50AM  
I own a 3-person Northwind 18 and have used it for three adult men several times now. I've also done plenty of three-person trips with a solo and a tandem (as well as using my triple as a tandem). I'll say that for me and my normal crew I'd almost always choose one three person canoe over a two and a solo. With a 2+1 the pair will usually be waiting for the solo paddler, even if the soloist is the strongest paddler. The solo never gets a break, and I've found it really hard to get into a rhythm that everybody's happy with. Portages are a hassle. By contrast, three adults in a triple are shockingly fast, differences in paddling strength or ability are irrelevant, and portaging is a breeze.

If you're planning to cover ground, the triple wins every time, hands down. If you're planning to basecamp and fish, the flexibility of a 2+1 might be worth the hassle when you're moving. If you just have personal interaction reasons to consider the 2+1, you might also consider the three solos somebody else mentioned, as that would give everybody a level playing field in terms of speed and effort.
scottiebaldwin
member (46)member
 
11/18/2021 06:33PM  
TominMpls: "I own a 3-person Northwind 18 and have used it for three adult men several times now. I've also done plenty of three-person trips with a solo and a tandem (as well as using my triple as a tandem). I'll say that for me and my normal crew I'd almost always choose one three person canoe over a two and a solo. With a 2+1 the pair will usually be waiting for the solo paddler, even if the soloist is the strongest paddler. The solo never gets a break, and I've found it really hard to get into a rhythm that everybody's happy with. Portages are a hassle. By contrast, three adults in a triple are shockingly fast, differences in paddling strength or ability are irrelevant, and portaging is a breeze.


If you're planning to cover ground, the triple wins every time, hands down. If you're planning to basecamp and fish, the flexibility of a 2+1 might be worth the hassle when you're moving. If you just have personal interaction reasons to consider the 2+1, you might also consider the three solos somebody else mentioned, as that would give everybody a level playing field in terms of speed and effort."


This is great advice.
Banksiana
distinguished member(2472)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/19/2021 09:09AM  
scottiebaldwin: "TominMpls With a 2+1 the pair will usually be waiting for the solo paddler, even if the soloist is the strongest paddler. The solo never gets a break, and I've found it really hard to get into a rhythm that everybody's happy with. Portages are a hassle. ."

This is great advice."


Except I've never found it to be true, just the opposite in fact. As soloist I'm almost always waiting for the tandem.
11/21/2021 09:54PM  
Banksiana: "scottiebaldwin: "TominMpls With a 2+1 the pair will usually be waiting for the solo paddler, even if the soloist is the strongest paddler. The solo never gets a break, and I've found it really hard to get into a rhythm that everybody's happy with. Portages are a hassle. ."


This is great advice."



Except I've never found it to be true, just the opposite in fact. As soloist I'm almost always waiting for the tandem."


I think the difference here is experience. It seems those with a different experience have less experience in a canoe and more specifically minimal experience paddling a solo canoe. I have no doubt an experienced solo paddler can out distance a tandem…I’ve seen it…but more often than not it’s the opposite.
Syd1419
 
11/28/2021 08:48PM  
This past summer I took my girlfriend and a buddy up to the BWCA for a 5-day trip. This was my gf's first trip and buddy's second. We used a 3 person canoe and it worked really well for us. The only thing I did not like about the 3 person canoe was fishing out of it with all three of us. That is too many people in one canoe trying to cast and fish. The canoe and portaging portions were really easy and we flew across the lakes. If you all want to fish a lot, I wouldn't suggest a 3-person canoe. If you just want to experience the BWCA and have an easy trip, a 3-person canoe is perfect. Just my two cents.
12/01/2021 09:53AM  
Here's another 3-person option... :-)

Reke0402
senior member (78)senior membersenior member
 
12/02/2021 10:30AM  
Our group loves the 3 person canoes, you can really fly across the lake, gives a person a little rest while the other 2 paddle and usually easier to portage.
FindHim
member (18)member
 
12/05/2021 08:07AM  
Definitely some great advice! My boys have decided to go with the tandem and solo. I'll let you know my thoughts afterward.
12/05/2021 08:29PM  
FindHim: "Definitely some great advice! My boys have decided to go with the tandem and solo. I'll let you know my thoughts afterward. "

You might think about a kayak paddle for the solo. It's better for covering ground on big lakes. Also have a paddle in there for fishing and navigating creeks. Just make sure the kayak paddle is long enough. I use a 260 cm double blade in my solo and I'm 6 ft. If you are already used to kayaks then this would be the way to go in the solo boat IMO. You can "bungy deelee bob" it inside the canoe when portaging.
Savage Voyageur
distinguished member(14081)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
12/06/2021 11:17AM  
Be sure to rent or bring a kayak paddle for the solo canoe. Makes it so much easier to paddle.
jillpine
distinguished member(740)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
12/06/2021 01:01PM  
+1 on the tandem plus solo
+1 on the kayak paddle
It was a blast; we're doing it again next summer.

Banksiana
distinguished member(2472)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
12/06/2021 01:14PM  
I'm not a fan of the kayak paddle in a solo canoe- the increased yaw creates inefficiencies in a straight tracking hull; but if it's what you're comfortable with by all means go for it.
12/07/2021 07:49AM  
FindHim: "Definitely some great advice! My boys have decided to go with the tandem and solo. I'll let you know my thoughts afterward. "

Have a great trip!
 
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