BWCA Solo canoe model for me and my 80 pound Lab Boundary Waters Group Forum: Solo Tripping
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Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
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       Solo canoe model for me and my 80 pound Lab     



senior member (60)senior membersenior member
10/02/2023 08:02PM  
Looking for recommendations for a solo canoe my 80 pound Lab and me, as well as advice on how to pack the canoe when she is in the boat.
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distinguished member(1440)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/02/2023 10:54PM  
Hi Magic,

I just got back from a week-long solo and wished I had brought my 60-pound lab. My canoe is the Wenonah Basswood - very stable (my top priority in a canoe for wilderness tripping) and it would have easily accommodated my lab in front of me and all of my gear behind me. As it was, I put a drybag in the bow for balance but if my dog settles down a little bit more, I prefer to have her in front of me where I can see her at all times.

You'll get lots of recommendations, I'm sure. Enjoy the search!
senior member (60)senior membersenior member
10/03/2023 06:50AM  
Thanks for sharing. Hadn't heard of that canoe model. Will investigate.
10/03/2023 07:35AM  
SRQ 16 is very stable
10/03/2023 07:46AM  
I don't have your answer but suspect that the width up front (assuming that's where your dog goes) is very is ability to balance your trim.

I just got out of the Quetico yesterday; soloed with my 55 lb dog Cerberus. Our setup is pretty perfect for us: My one pack and her saddlebags behind me and her in front, and we trim pretty well in a Savage River Blackwater.

But my dog can just barely turn around up front. A larger dog would likely be unable to do so.
10/03/2023 08:24AM  
I trip with my close to 70# dog (trying to work dog back below 60) in Savage River BlackwaterX- the X added by John Diller who set the seat a little further back and extended the fullness a bit forward to accommodate the dog. Not easy for dog to turn around, but I don't want him to. Dog in front, packs in the rear. Fast and seaworthy.

If stability is valued a Prism, Northwind Solo and SR Tranquility will all accommodate the load and still paddle nicely.
distinguished member (349)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/05/2023 08:16AM  
I trip with my 87# German Shepherd in a Northwind Solo. I looked at the Basswood solo, the Prism, and the SR Tranquility prior.

Prism was out right away because I couldn't get my pack to sit far enough back to have proper trim, the waist of the hull doesn't carry far enough compared to the others and I am a 1-pack paddler.

I passed on the Basswood solo for a few reasons, it was significantly heavier than the NW Solo, is not available in anything but their plain aramid with one configuration, and I didn't really have any use for the versa-gunwale. Though neat, I would never haul in any of the fancy gadgets that attach to it on a wilderness trip, I figured that canoe is better suited to lake/river fishing than it was for wilderness tripping, unless of course your wilderness trip was strictly for fishing. I passed on the Tranquility because it was not as stable as the NW Solo and they were less available when I bought mine. I also already have a Souris River and needed some variety.

Basswood stability is comparable to the NW solo though the NW solo has superior secondary stability and a little less initial stability. The latter of the two is what I cared about the most because my dog likes to lean over the gunwales to drink water and he still hasn't quite figured out the mounting and dismounting at portages. You can lean the NW all the way over so the gunwale is on the water before it wants to roll. Basswood has a visually flatter hull compared to the NW which is a classic David Yost hull design with lots of tumblehome.

I'm biased of course, but my vote is the NW Solo, and you have a multitude of configurations to choose from. I personally went with blacklite and wood gunwales, and it's still 2 lbs lighter than the Basswood. Scratches on the blacklite are painful to see after each trip, they do kinda stick out like a sore thumb but I'm also not gentle with it and I bought it for tripping. In hindsight, I should have gone with Starlite and the carbon gunwales and I could have had a 25lb canoe, but the durability of the blacklite is pretty amazing and wood is so good on a canoe.

Good luck on the search!

10/08/2023 09:11AM  
I’ve soloed with my 85 LB lab in both a SRQ16 and a Northstar Northwind Solo. I own a SR Q16 because most of my trips are tandem with one of my kids. The SR is extremely stable.

I rented a Nortwind Solo for 3 trips back when we owned a SRQ 18.5 before trading it for a 16. It is very stable for a solo and paddles so much nicer than the SR. Plus it’s 10 lbs lighter so it’s really nice on portages. Crossing the initial lake from the EP the first time in the NW Solo I thought for sure we were going to dump because Echo was trying to figure out the best position for himself That canoe is extremely stable and we never dumbed. By the first lake we both had it figured out and I never worried about it again.

When using the NW Solo I have Echo in the bow and I have all of my gear in 1 pack behind me. When I use the SR Q16 I paddle it backwards from the bow seat and take out the stern seat. Echo them rides up front where the seat was taken out, my big pack goes in the middle area in front of me, and the day pack goes behind me.

10/08/2023 07:28PM  
I trip with my 70lb black lab all the time. I have a Swift prospector 14. They are a little pricey but worth it. A very stable canoe with a dog. Since she weighs more than my gear she rides behind me and my pack in front.
01/19/2024 11:25AM  
Not my first choice but I tripped many times with an 85# dog in a Old Town Pack.
I moved the seat back, put a full time portage yoke on it. I put my overnight pack and the dog up front and my day pack behind me for trim. The canoe is a little tight for us, definitely slow, but very stable.

Pic wih out my dog.
02/02/2024 11:48AM  
I'm a little slow to this thread but will chime in anyway.

I am not sure if the OP was specifically looking for a true solo boat, or was looking for a boat to solo in. I paddle an SRQ16 as others have mentioned, wanted to start by mentioning something most people overlook when comparing true solo boats to small tandems. In my tandem boat, I was able to take out one seat reducing the weight by a bit more than 1.5 lbs. For a solo, you need to add in the weight of a removable yoke, which I have typically seen weighing in with clamps and pads at about 3.5 to 4 lbs. So the net here is the difference between an empty solo and tandem that are ready to portage is about 5-5.5 lbs LESS than the difference between their stated manufacturers weights.

Some like to put their dog in the very front of the boat, some in the back just behind the seat, and a few (like me) like them right int the middle. Each position has pro's and con's.

The very front of the boat is the narrowest spot typically, allowing the dog the least amount of space to move off of the center line of the boat which means it has less ability to tilt the boat. Depending on the dog, this may limit their ability of move around or even turn. Banksiana above mentioned this as desirable, but for me personally it is not - I want my dog(s) to be able to move about and get comfortable. One possible downside of this position is that you can not easily physically reach your dog if needed. For many, especially with a dog proven very steady around wildlife, this does not matter. I personally like to be able to reach my dogs so I can swat deer and stable flies, pet them, cover them with a rain jacket or light towel to deflect heat when in direct sun. I do get the sense some dogs really like this position because they are right out front, and I think for most boats having the dog hear probably makes it easiest to trim.

Having the dog behind you gives you at least some ability to reach them if needed, but does require you to have to turn at an awkward angle. This also probably allows for easy trimming, and at least some ability to reach your dog if needed.

I chose to go with having the dog(s) right in front of me for a couple reasons. As stated, I wanted to be able to reach them and to move freely. When I got my canoe I had an 85# lab who I knew really did not like tight spaces, and I knew I would at some point add a second lab to the mix, so going with a dedicated solo didn't seam like it would work for me. Dog 2 who only topped out at 55# does fine in tighter spaces, but I would not be as comfortable with her out of my reach as she is generally steady but can get over-excited when surprised by animals. For instance she was fine watching a trumpeter swan swimming 20 yards from the boat, but when it suddenly did that fake-broken-wing thing to lure me away from his babies (I was on a narrow river with no way to move further around it), my younger dog sort of lost her composure and benefited by my getting a hold of her and calming her down. Same thing when an otter surprised us and popped up just 5 feet from the boat. And now that dog #1 is gone, at some point I will likely add dog #3 to the boat.

The biggest downside of putting the dog(s) right in front of me it is a bigger challenge to trim the boat. I have to work to get the heaviest stuff way up front, and can only put something light behind me like a camera bag and my lunch. I have managed it well so far but continue to work on gear changes and other refinements. I am also considering moving the position of my seat forward slightly to help balance the boat better and give me better paddling control.

If my boat was gone and I was in the market for a new one tomorrow, I know I would stick with a small tandem for the extra space for dogs and gear (especially helpful for late fall and/or extended trips), but I do not know if I would get the same boat or not. I'd probably look more closely at the Northwind 16 or Polaris and try to figure out how much width and stability I I was comfortable with before deciding.

Dog #1 at 85 pounds, and lots of gear with heavy stuff forward.
02/03/2024 10:05AM  
One more thing to add (like I haven't already written enough!). The SRQ 16 might not be a good choice for anyone who does want to put their dog in the very front of the boat because of the brackets SR uses to mount their seats. These brackets are mounted permanently to the boat, and stick inward about an inch. They sometimes snag my pacs, and I would be concerned about a dog being injured by them if they leaned into them or fell against them.

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