BWCA Solo lightweight canoe...length? Boundary Waters Gear Forum
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member (34)member
11/23/2021 12:04PM  
I have a MR Explorer Royalex 16 and it works well in terms of carrying my gear, but it's just about 75 pounds and I'm not getting any younger. As I look to do longer trips with portages, the weight factor is making me cringe.

I'm thinking about getting a lightweight solo boat for 5-14 day solo trips. I am probably middle of the pack in terms of gear weight. I'm not car camping in a canoe, but I'm not an ultralight gramma either.

Many of the ultralight solo boats I am seeing are in a 10-14' length. Obviously, I just need to get all my typical gear together and put it into a 12' or 13' boat and see how it fits and how the boat performs. Since I can't do that yet, I'm interested in opinions on lightweight solo boats in terms of length.

Is it better to stay with a 16' range boat or make a shorter boat work for one or two week trips?

Thanks in advance.
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11/23/2021 12:16PM  
Longer boats carry more, but the advantages include go faster, straighter and handle bigger water better.
member (34)member
11/23/2021 12:22PM  
bhouse46: "Longer boats carry more, but the advantages include go faster, straighter and handle bigger water better."
Agree, and if you are getting a 15'-16' boat down in the 30 pound range, seems like that's a pretty sweet spot. These smaller solo boats seem to be extremely popular. Just trying to sort out the options before laying money down.
member (34)member
11/23/2021 12:24PM  
For example, Slipstream Watercraft in the Adirondacks makes a 16' boat.
30 pounds and barely over $2000!

Inspire 16

$2,195.00 KC Hybrid @ 30 lbs. (Kevlar & Carbon)

$2,345.00 IBKC Hybrid @ 30 lbs. (Innegra, Basalt, Kevlar & Carbon)

$2,545.00 Carbon @ 25 lbs.
distinguished member(2009)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
11/23/2021 02:22PM  

Since you are on the east coast, I am not familiar with Slipstream Watercraft. However, I know of Placid Boatworks and they have the RapidFire which is the boat I personally would get. However, I don't know what you are budgeting either so that might make selection more nuanced.

Here in Minnesota, we have Northstar Canoes and Wenonah Canoe, both with excellent choices. From Northstar I would probably be looking at the Magic:
Northstar Magic
and from Wenonah, the Prism is a popular choice: Prism

All those canoes are in the 16' range.

My solo, which comes in at 42 lbs and 14'6" long, is a Wenonah Vagabond in Royalax. It fits me perfectly, but I am 5'10" and 160 lbs. I typically stay out for upto two weeks. If you are looking for a slightly longer, the Wenonah Wilderness in Royalax can still be found used on various for sale sites at 15'6" in length. Don't know it's weight though.
distinguished member(1208)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
11/23/2021 03:33PM  
More questions need to be answered to give an opinion on a good solo canoe to fit you.
What experience have you had in a designed for solo paddling canoe?

Where do you want to trip in the canoe? Big waters or smaller waters with minimal fetch?

Single blade paddling only or possible paddle with a double blade?

Do you plan on doing rivers with rapids?

Have you thought what general hull shape characteristics you think would best meet your desired paddling style?

How much weight do think your tripping load will be?
member (33)member
11/23/2021 03:49PM  
With the selection of Kevlar and Carbon boats in the 16' (+/-6") range, you should be able to find one to suit your tripping style. My SR Tranquility at 15 1/2' weighs in at about 34 lbs. and my Grasse River Classic XL, made not to far from you in upstate New York, at 16 1/2' comes in at just under 25 lbs!

Currently for a long trip with a bunch of gear the SR gets the nod, but the Classic XL does well with a 35 lb. pack. I have not tried any more weight in the XL, but with a 26" beam I'm still getting used to such a narrow boat. It is fast though. I'll be loading it a bit heavier during some trials and southern lake trips this winter.

I don't know your timeline for a purchase, but the Western Pennsylvania Solo Canoe Rendezvous in June might be a good place to test out a variety of solo boats. It looks about like a ten hour trip for you, but I hear that it is a fun weekend.
distinguished member(2960)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
11/24/2021 07:26AM  
Ultralight Prism (16'6") or Advantage (16'6") or Wilderness (15'4") if you're a soloist. I've not actually paddled the Wilderness but always thought it would be a good fit for me. The Advantage glides so very smoothly on the water. The Prism has a bit of attribute of canoes that excel for an all-around tripper but excels in none of those attributes. Neither has rocker to assist in quick turns or s-curves (Hog Creek!).
The tumblehome of the Advantage and the Prism will cause you to flip quickly if you don't keep your torso centered. Neither are 'squirrelly' canoes in terms of initial or secondary stability. Just gotta keep your shoulders inside perimeters.
Piragis website is a good place to compare makes & models specs at a glance--at least those they sell/rent.
11/24/2021 10:29AM  
There are a lot of considerations besides just length as I understand it - width, shear, optimal capacity, hull design, etc.

I have an older Curtis solo canoe that fits me and suits me well, but might not be what fits you. I take 2-week trips and my load besides my 145 lbs. is about 60 lbs. including paddles, yoke, PFD, food, everything else. That canoe is 14' 8'' long, 25.5" wide, relatively low shear line, and efficient load of 125-250 lbs., which me and my gear at 205 lbs. fit comfortably. It is somewhat similar to Northstar's Magic or Northwind solo - both of which I've paddled on trips - but is closest to Hemlock Canoe's Kestrel. If you and your load are 320 lbs. you can probably fit in it, but it won't be efficient. On the other hand I've paddled solo canoes that were way too big for me and got blown around like a sail. Getting one that is properly sized is important.

Hemlock Canoe has some good information about choosing one.
distinguished member (152)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
11/24/2021 02:29PM  
Length of the trip is less important than what Dan Cooke said: the kind of experience you are looking at, the expected load etc. Extra week in the woods will add maybe 10 lbs to your load - not a big deal, especially if one weighs north of 200 lbs, like myself. Ditto on Hemlock canoes value and Dave Curtis expertise. I paddle Curtis canoe that is 35 years old, it's a terrific boat and still in good shape despite all abuse.
11/24/2021 04:48PM  
My go to BW solo is a Wenonah Advantage around 33lb 16.5 ft. It will easily carry a mid range load, stable and fast. You can go lighter (mid 20s) with a Savage River Blackwater which is similar to the Advantage, but you will pay a premium price
distinguished member (407)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
11/25/2021 12:08PM  
You must be looking at Adirondack pack boats if you're seeing boats in the 10-14 foot range. Personally I'd recommend a solo in the 14-16 foot range to give you room for gear and decent performance and seaworthiness. If you tell us your weight and what you consider light maybe we can offer more suggestions, for example the Northstar Trillium is a highly capable solo if your load fits it's capacity and you can get one around 25 pounds. There are a lot of good choices in the 14-17 foot range depending on what your priorities are for the boat. Of course if you want something smaller and super light there's nothing wrong with that either.
distinguished member(719)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
11/26/2021 08:07AM  
Keep in mind you can get a kevlar tandem to meet your needs as well. I like to carry a 120 litter pack, have a fixed yolk, and paddle from just off rear center. A 15.5 foot tandem converted to solo allows me to do all this. Northstar has shouldered flared tandems that are 32 inches at the widest point, less at the paddling station. I can use a single blade or double. All this for 37#! Very stable for fishing out of as well. Bought and sold 4 solo boats before realizing I had the perfect solo boat all along:)
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